Wednesday, 15 April 2015

5cc - Singer Tavern

5cc

Hidden beneath a scattering of London pubs sit the 5cc drinking dens. If they're not already on your radar, they absolutely should be. You could be in the pub all evening and not realise the delights that await you just down the stairs so keep your eyes peeled for the tell tale neon sign!




5cc's can be found in:

- Harrild & Sons (Farringdon)
- Well & Bucket (Bethnal Green)
- The Exmouth Arms (Exmouth Market)
- Electricity Showrooms (Hoxton) 

aaaaannnd ..drumroll please..

Their latest venue, serving an equally impressive range of imaginative cocktails has popped up (or down) beneath grade II listed Singer Tavern on City Road between Moorgate and Old Street Station.
Three Martini Lunch.
If you visit to try this then you'll receive a set three-course, Martini-paired lunch which will be changing each week. While the best idea is to follow their pairing suggestions, you're also allowed to ignore them completely and choose your own Martinis from a selection that includes the Chartreuse-infused 'Alaska'; the Campari-based 'Vol De Nuit'; and the peppercorn, lime and celery-containing 'Salt & Pepper'.
- See more at: http://thenudge.com/london-bars/5cc-singer-tavern/east-london/#sthash.f8EtGpWa.dpuf
Three Martini Lunch.
If you visit to try this then you'll receive a set three-course, Martini-paired lunch which will be changing each week. While the best idea is to follow their pairing suggestions, you're also allowed to ignore them completely and choose your own Martinis from a selection that includes the Chartreuse-infused 'Alaska'; the Campari-based 'Vol De Nuit'; and the peppercorn, lime and celery-containing 'Salt & Pepper'.
- See more at: http://thenudge.com/london-bars/5cc-singer-tavern/east-london/#sthash.f8EtGpWa.dpuf
Three Martini Lunch.
If you visit to try this then you'll receive a set three-course, Martini-paired lunch which will be changing each week. While the best idea is to follow their pairing suggestions, you're also allowed to ignore them completely and choose your own Martinis from a selection that includes the Chartreuse-infused 'Alaska'; the Campari-based 'Vol De Nuit'; and the peppercorn, lime and celery-containing 'Salt & Pepper'.
- See more at: http://thenudge.com/london-bars/5cc-singer-tavern/east-london/#sthash.f8EtGpWa.dpuf




Trundling over for their launch was a total no brainer .. even if it was a Wednesday night (anyone up for Wednesday being the new Thursday? No takers? Yes, you're all sensible people)! After four successful locations, each feeling as though they are one of a kind, these guys know what they're doing. We were caught hook line and sinker in this slick and suave machine!




Hardly a second where we didn't have a drink in hand, the cocktail crafters were a blur of bottles, glasses, ice and charm as they served boozy but fresh martinis, smoky old fashioneds and, well pretty much anything you requested. Even 9 Negronis were whipped up without a flinch from the extensive bar, stocked with all manner of tricks, potions, magic and almost 200 different types of gin ... phwoar!



























In a unique turn of events, they are also offering the Three Martini Lunch. Settle in for a three course Martini - paired meal where the food and cocktail will be carefully matched to your martini preference be it Campari, Gin or some cheeky Chartreuse.


On the larger side of speakeasy, 5cc at The Singer Tavern is probably not where you want to be taking your significant other to gaze into his/ her eyes, however, this is definitely where you want to be with your pals to escape the corporate grind after a tough day at the office. 
Large but cosy booths surround the room and the vibe is decidedly cheery with that extra air of sexy mystery. If you're not taking a date here, my money's on you leaving with one!


As one of those fun few who loves surprises, even better if they come served in a tiny little glass 'drink me' bottle, it was a grin-worthy moment when I was handed a going home present of my very own. Now the challenge will be attempting to actually drink it instead of adding it to my family of little bottles that are just too cute to drink!
Thank you 5cc, I shall be back!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Reform Social & Grill

The Great British Brunch

Because I seem to be on a bit of a roll here where brunch is concerned, I have another one for you. I'd probably shoehorn it fully into Sunday Lunch territory but who's complaining, I'm good with either!

Reform Social & Grill in London's ever delightful Mandeville Hotel in Marylebone is offering a quintessentially British brunch experience for you to get your teeth into.

We opted for the slightly unconventional brunch time of 6.30 on a Thursday evening to have our taster of what Reform Social has in store for many Sunday afternoons to come. So to whet our appetite, we gave a warm welcome to the Old Fashioned. There are many elements to judge a bar on and this is one of mine; if the Old Fashioned is made with the care and attention it deserves, you'll see a smile on my face.

We even had the pleasure of watching our barman share his tricks of the trade with a few culprits who were willing to put themselves in the spotlight!

Who could resist a drink off this smiling fellow! As the final cocktails were shaken, stirred, poured and sipped, ur thirst was well on the way to being quenched and it was time to check out the main name of the game.


Roll up, roll up, it's brunch time. With plenty of warm red booths to choose from, you'll find somewhere to snuggle into on a Sunday afternoon while the weather is being characteristically crap outside and all you want to do is eat cheese, drink wine, maybe with a roast or two amongst all that!

We took our seats as our brunch experience commenced. The name's Roast Beef, Ella Roast Beef!

And enter the ploughman's cheese board. A superbly creamy Tunsworth Cheese accompanied by all the dipping and dunking elements you see below. There are some secrets hiding behind the cheese but I don't want to give the whole game away!

After we had wallowed in melted cheese, the roast arrived with a Yorkshire pudding the size of my face drenched in beefy gravy with crisp roast potatoes, parsnips, cabbage, cauliflower and (yes) .. BEEF! It was a huge portion so don't go watching your waistline (that's not what Sunday's are for anyway)!

If all that wasn't enough (yes, totally stuffed by this point), the dessert platter made its entrance. Baked apple and ice cream, sticky toffee pudding and Bakewell tart piled high in front of us completed our meal.




The best part, (well, a significantly great value part), all of this is £30 pp. You might even get a cheeky grin from the barman. I hear he hates valentines day so who knows, perhaps you could change his mind for next year!

And because a Little Brown Book post wouldn't be complete without a snap of my favourite interior feature, meet Scotch and Dram, the guardians of the whisky. Not half bad names either .. anybody fancy opening up a bar with me and these guys?












Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Hotbox

#BrunchClub

For the latest installment of brunch club, it's the turn of Hotbox and you're not going to regret the indulgence of a brunch here. In fact, I think you'll find it's pretty important (although not for your waistline) that you return for many weekends to come!



Hotbox on Commercial Street is your one stop shop for bottomless bloody Mary's (£25), runny eggs, smokey meat, waffles and fried chicken, pancakes, french toast, mac and cheese .. interested yet?

You can book for tables of 6 or more but there's plenty of space for walk-ins, perfect for the hangover cure, the boozy brunch, the mate date, the date date or just to drop in for a coffee and a listen to the totally fantastic soundtrack compiled by the staff.

We took our seats and turned our attention to the menu, filled with all the things one could wish for in a brunch. There's meat, there's eggs, there's avocado but first thing's first, coffee and a Bloody Mary. 




                                                                 (Menu c/o hotboxlondon.com)



Today it was going to be the 'Green,' which was apparently their best seller and after the initial shock of being served a Bloody Mary which (unless I had a spontaneous onset of colour blindness), was not your usual ruby tomato red, it was clear to see why it was so popular. A perfect balance of cucumber and spice made it refreshing but with just enough of a kick to eliminate the remnants of last night. A good 'entry' Mary for those of you who claim not to like the drink, I challenge you not to be converted by this delicious tankard.

Back to selection stations where you won't want to employ any self control. Taking into account our sadly not so bottomless stomachs, we attempted take things slowly. For all our good intentions, this didn't work.  At all.

Drum roll please for the Belgian waffle with fried chicken, truffle salt and maple syrup. The chicken was tender and the batter light and crispy. The waffle was pillowy and soft and once the whole devilish partnership was drenched in maple syrup it was all we could do not to inhale the entire thing in one gigantic mouthful.























Since sharing is most definitely caring, the skillet smoked meat hash also took our fancy, with chunky cubes of potato, tomato and a crispy fried egg on top. Just the trick.

And then we went overboard with the mac n cheese but I'd like to see you try and resist this ..

With plenty of space for groups, pairs or even on your own (take a seat opposite the window and bring a book), there's no excuse not to drop by.

After our beauteous brunch, we were fit to burst and decided it was time for mint tea (and probably a nap). As expected, we were all delighted by the little tiny teapot. 



And it was of course necessary to inspect the bathroom. To reach it, you pass by a deliciously crumbly wall, with tiny candles tucked into the spaces between the bricks. Inside out design gets me every time! 

Toilets along the lines of sardine tins with foil covered walls caused giggles with a lovely little juxtaposition of breeze block and Aesop hand care that also raised a smile and an extra few minutes hand tlc!

So there you have it, a great reason to drag yourself out of bed at the weekend. Bring it on brunch!









Friday, 20 March 2015

M1lk

#BrunchClub

On a little (massive) trip (trek) to Balham at a godearthly hour on Saturday morning, M1lk was our brunch location of choice. We were not the only ones with the bright idea, and the queue snaked outside the brightly lit interior into the chilly outside. With all its tiny dogs, flower stalls, giggling toddlers, and pretty people, Balham was in a fine mood that morning and we were about to be too.



Having eventually been seated, we grabbed our menus and stuck in. Today was a day for pancakes, poached eggs and crushed avocado. It was also a day for not having any cash and needing to leg it over to the cash point around the corner because M1lk doesn’t take cards, although considering what we were about to order, I shouldn’t complain about a little extra exercise.


Jumping off our high chairs and over to the neon signed bar, we ordered our brunch feast, being carefully observed by Jesus and his 3 wise men (12 dead butterflies)!

Flat white’s were a given and never a pair to turn down a milk bottle, we had to order a smoothie too because obviously things taste far better in novelty glassware...

While the eggs Benedict arrived in a more deconstructed form than expected, it was all that you could wish for in a poached egg with toast, bacon and hollandaise sauce.

The buckwheat pancake arrived with poached pear, clotted cream and crumbled rich tea biscuit, smothered in maple syrup. Yes, this was definitely the more indulgent option but hey, I made it south of the river and was in need of a reward!

Never one to miss the decorative intricacies, of course I noticed the suspended pram!

M1lk is a very popular brunch choice and the queue was still going strong when we left. Laid back and oozing with friendliness, even the most hung-over diner will be cheered up by the playful charm of this neighbourhood spot.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Blacklock

Chop chop

The pure beauty of the chop should never be underestimated. Amongst all this (undeniably justified) chatter about steak, the majestic chop has passed by almost unnoticed. No longer! Thanks to Blacklock on Great Windmill St in Soho, chops are well and truly back in the game and crikey they are fabulous.



As per usual, I arrived with plenty of time to spare, given that the standard Soho no-reservations policy is being adhered to and queues will snake up the stairs. Don't fret, it's totally worth the wait to scoff your chops! (If you email lunch@theblacklock.com and get your charm on, you'll probably be able to wangle yourself a table at lunch time)!




Approached by Mr Charm Oozer, I was directed to the bar to await a table. Totally fine by me and I perched in front of the bartender who was mixing up £5 glasses of the expertly selected cocktails on offer, including a sherry laced Grandma's 'spiked' lemonade. Also available were bottles of Negroni and Old Fashioned for the whole table to share (£45) - adios 'just a glass of tap water please!'





Mr Schmoozington returned to lead us to our seats, it was time to get chopping! £20 all-in got us drooling at the thought of the approaching meat feast. To whet our appetite and to give us something to nibble on while was waited, a plate of the 'filthy ham' arrived. 3 Little curls atop a crispy flatbread later and we were ready for chops!

A plate laden high with a combination of lamb, beef and pork chops steamed over to the table. Sitting atop a salty, doughy flatbread that had absorbed some of the meaty juices, it took a surprising amount of self control to resist grabbing at the plate and turning full cannibal! 

The sides were equally drool inspiring, with smoky, overnight grilled sweet potato and char-grilled kale sprinkled with parmesan. I'll be back for the charred courgettes, heritage carrots and barbecued baby gems in no time!


The meaty aromas wafted round the room from the open kitchen where the chefs were flattening the meat over a metal plate with steaming hot irons or ‘blacklocks’ (take a moment to mourn for the removal of the iron playing piece from modern day monopoly boards). The specials were scrawled on blackboard pillars around us and demand was high.


Next to us, a party of 9 were digging into a gigantic platter (note to self to return with EVERYBODY in order to be at the receiving end of a similar meaty monstrosity).

Blacklock has found a nifty little niche and it fits into Soho like a glove. With appropriately distressed walls and brickwork, exposed overhead piping and comfortably located in what used to be a basement brothel, the entire operation is a slick machine. This is unsurprising with Gordon Ker at the helm, (previously of Hawksmoor and the staff to match) who knows exactly how he wants the ship to be run. 

There's a chance it also might help that the waiters are both devilishly attractive and delightfully attentive, both really useful qualities in distracting rumbling stomachs, although that might be Negroni talk.

Since it's all about the chop, this meat cavern is probably not appropriate for those of the vegetarian persuasion, but I'm sure Blacklock will get most of you licking your chops!