Posts Tagged With: Fitzrovia

Cocktails and shenanigans: Fun times at London Cocktail Club, Goodge Street edition

Copyright of The London Cocktail Club. Sourced from The London Cocktail Club website

Copyright of The London Cocktail Club. Sourced from The London Cocktail Club website

Cuisine: Cocktail bar

Address: 61 Goodge Street

Area: Fitzrovia

Nearest Station: Goodge Street

Tel.: W1T 1TL

Website: http://www.londoncocktailclub.co.uk/

Pricing: Medium

Good For: Showpiece cocktails, Good cocktails, Raucous night, Being friends with the bartenders, Hip hop dancing, Buzzing atmosphere

Being friends with some borderline alcoholics (ha! Joke lang – they’re really full-blown alkies and on their way to cirrhosis) does have its perks sometimes, such as being introduced to fun and exciting places like the London Cocktail Club on Goodge Street.

I can’t quite remember the first time I went there, but I do recall being quite intrigued as I’d heard positive things about the place – interesting cocktails, electric vibe, fun and mixed crowd etc. What I didn’t quite appreciate at the time is how off-the-walls crazy it can get: the last time I was there, the place erupted as it was the birthday of one of the bartender’s best friends – people were dancing on the bar, the guys behind the bar were doing shots, cocktails (and the bar) were being set aflame… the good times were in full flow.

Everyday they're shuffling - it's a mighty expensive habit, mind. Photo courtesy of a friend!

Everyday they’re shuffling. Photo courtesy of a friend!

So what is it that seems to create a fun atmosphere at the LCC? (The first thing I would say is that if I were to pack in my day job and become a bartender (or do they call them mixologists there?), I would like to work at LCC. Those guys look like they are having an absolutely smashing time, and it does make me feel just a wee bit jealous.

Why the jealousy? Well, change management consultancy most certainly does not involve any of the following: making wicked looking cocktails, looking awesome whilst doing so, partying at the same time and generally being the most popular people in the room. I mean, I could try it out tomorrow at work, but I’m not so sure the client would fully appreciate it (philistines).

What else makes LCC such an enticing concept? When my friends and I want to throw some wicked shapes on the dance floor that put everyone else to shame, I generally like to do it to some heavy hip hop stylings, and the guys at LCC seem to agree that playing Busta Rhymes, Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’, early Snoop Dogg  and other hip hop classics is a guaranteed way of setting an atmosphere conducive for dancing pleasantries.

But let’s not forget the reason that LCC exists: it’s a cocktail bar and it makes cocktails. Funky cocktails. Intriguing cocktails. Flavourful cocktails. Smooth cocktails. A whole gamut of cocktails. And generally they’re quite good, thankfully. Otherwise, calling themselves the London Cocktail Club would be a bit of an unfortunate misnomer.

I’ve been trying to work my way through their gin section, as I think gin is what classy gentlemen drink (note: I do actually quite like gin), and because, as I’ve just found out whilst writing this review, the Goodge Street branch of the LCC is described as their Punk Gin Palace. So far, I have not had any misses and have quite enjoyed the crisp and refreshing tastes of their gin creations, such as their take on the Pegu Club. Alas, I’ve always been having far too much fun to take any snaps of the drinks, except for the lonely one below. That is a cocktail in that golden syrup can. And yes, there was golden syrup in there. It was a spiffingly scrummy dessert cocktail. Mmm.

Sweet nothings

Sweet nothings

Whilst I would wholeheartedly encourage you find that non-descript stairwell on Goodge Street leading down to this basement gem (and ask you to take me with you), I would have to say that there are a few caveats that you must accept if you want to really enjoy things:

  1. It can get quite busy in there and it is quite narrow and cosy, so this is not the place for people who fear personal space invaders
  2.  You can end up waiting some time at the bar trying to order your drinks – it helps to either be a friend of the bar or a very pretty girl who’s good at getting attention (thankfully my friends are both – I love you guys!!). I always tend to order two drinks at a time, but suggest that everyone else doesn’t so that I don’t have to wait so long the next time around
  3. If you don’t like bars where they pump out some loud tunes, this place is not for you
  4. The place closes at 12am (say what????)

So, bearing all that in mind – when are we next having a drink there?

VERDICT – A good place. I very much like the atmosphere, the crowd, the drinks and the music, and every time I’ve been we’ve always had a smashing time. And with a drinks menu that extensive, I’m sure that there will always be reason for us to keep on going back for more and more.

Currently listening to: Reuben – Parties Break Hearts

Categories: Cocktail Bar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A shanty down by the shore: Seafood shackin’ at Bonnie Gull

Copyright of Bonnie Gull. Sourced from Bonnie Gull website

Copyright of Bonnie Gull. Sourced from Bonnie Gull website

Cuisine: British

Address: 21A Foley Street, W1W 6DS

Area: Fitzrovia

Nearest Station: Goodge Street

Tel.: 020 7436 0921

Website: http://www.bonniegull.com/

Pricing: High

Good For: Fresh seafood, Fresh ingredients, Seasonal menu, Place for romance, Smart-casual dining

“It’s okay to eat seafood, as fish don’t have feelings”, roughly goes the little saying scrawled along the top of one of the walls in Bonnie Gull. Surely a sentiment that some of our vegan friends may not share, but I’m not one to quibble with a restaurant that is all about the seafood; they must know what they’re on about, right?

Me and my friend (check out her blog, Stuff I Love to Do, it’s rather lovely) were quite excited about the prospect of some top-notch seafood and so had come with stomachs prepped after respective hard days of work. However, as the menu is extremely seasonal and dependent on the day’s catch, I was a bit hesitant about what would await us: whether the dishes would be tantalising (think scallops, crab, lobster, tuna, meaty fish etc.), or just frankly a bit beyond my limits (think jellyfish, razor clams, sea cucumber, abalone, dancing squid… *shudder*).

Scallops and stuff

Scallops and stuff

Imagine my excitement then when they had Isle of Man queenies as one of the starters. Accompanied by new potatoes, samphire, crunchy bits and other things that escape my non-photographic memory, it was a fairly straightforward dish that allowed the tenderness and juiciness of the scallops to speak for themselves, with their sweetness enhanced by the sea saltiness of the samphire. Samphire was just made to go with the bounties of the sea, despite some protestations from my friend (which she eventually overcame). It was a great start to the meal, and certainly built our appetite.

We were further excited to see both lobster and crab on the menu, but our enthusiasm was dampened when we were informed that the crab had been sold out (this appeared to be a lie, as a table that arrived after us managed to obtain some of the delectable crustacean… rightly or wrongly, we wished that table the illest of our feelings that night, boo hiss). And so, instead of constructing a purely shellfish evening for ourselves, we had to invite turbot to the table.

A rather fishy piece of culinary art

A rather fishy piece of culinary art

It ended up being a rather inspired choice. I had turbot in a herby crust was served with a stuffed deep-fried courgette flower, courgette tempura, samphire and cockles, and was set upon an artful display of pea purée. The turbot was cooked so that it was meltingly soft and still meaty; the herby crust that accompanied it added some contrasting texture and some delightful earthy flavours that made me feel that there was a bit of ‘surf and turf’ going on here – a theme perhaps reflected in the dual use of courgettes and samphire…? The pea purée went well with it all and was good mixed in with the cockles (which were rather grittier than ones I’ve had previously). Overall, a good meal.

Lobster and chips - as good a shot as I'll get (sorry I didn't stand on my chair to get the aerial view)

Lobster and chips – as good a shot as I’ll get (sorry I didn’t stand on my chair to get the aerial view)

As for my friend’s lobster – well, she is a Happy Lobster Girl, and she was pretty satisfied with what was placed in front of her, so I’ll trust her judgement. She did compare the portion size a bit unfavourably to Burger and Lobster, but I don’t believe the quality of the lobster nor the preparation were up for dispute.

Well-fed and well-watered, I found Bonnie Gull to be pretty good fun and a wonderful insight into some of the great seafood surrounding this little island of ours. Considering that I had a pathological (and unexplained) hatred of all things fishy and crustacean-like for most of my life (I really, really don’t know why), I think that’s a pretty big statement to come from my lips.

VERDICT – A good place. Whilst Bonnie Gull didn’t quite transport us to the British seaside (a cheap and cheerful chippie/cockle and whelk stall would probably do that for me more effectively than a high-priced concept restaurant), we got a fine taste of good, fresh, maritime produce in deepest driest London. Dishes that let the seafood speak for itself – not much more is needed.

Currently listening to: Twin Atlantic – Eight Days

Categories: British | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Go East! A more inclusive Pan-Asian experience at East Street

Copyright of East Street. Sourced from East Street website

Cuisine: Pan-Asian

Address: 3-5 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HJ

Area: Fitzrovia

Nearest Station: Tottenham Court Road

Tel.: 020 7323 0860

Website: http://www.eaststreetrestaurant.com/

Pricing: Cheap-Medium

Good For: Lunchtime fix, Introduction to new foods, Casual dining

Filipino food is unfortunately rather scarce to find in London – not only are there very few Filipino restaurants around, but most pan-Asian places seem to peddle the idea that Asia consists of only China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. Not East Street though. Walking down Rathbone Place one nippy October day from a lunchtime meeting (at a Filipino restaurant, coincidentally), I’d spotted the brightly-coloured signs announcing its presence on this rather non-descript road, and being the curious cat I am when it comes to checking out new Asian restaurants, I took a couple of seconds out of my day to study the menu. Although the menu was packed full of the typical pan-Asian favourites, I was rather impressed that they took the time to note where each dish was from and – oh, what’s this? Chicken adobo?? From the Philippines??? Really?? Is it any good? Methinks I’ll have to swing by another time to try it out…

Copyright of East Street. Sourced from East Street website

And so I eventually got the chance to pop in, some weeks later. The first thing that struck me was that this was not a run-down pan-Asian canteen (Chop Chop springs to mind – not that it matters hugely, as I love Chop Chop’s cheap and cheerful offering); in fact, what with the neon ads hanging from the ceilings, the sharing tables, the open-plan kitchen, the food products dotting shelves here and there and the plastic condiment baskets on each table, East Street was definitely going for the hawker centre feel. Only cleaner, better ventilated and with higher-quality fittings. And a more multicultural staff, as befitting a cosmopolitan city like London.

It was like these guys had gone on a gap year (their website does explain that “we’ve travelled all over East Asia to bring back our favourite dishes for you to try”), liked what they saw, brought the idea back to London and sanitised it. They went for a finer feel for their long-established Tampopo restaurants, but for East Street they’ve gone full-blown ‘street food’ and hawker centre. It’s different, it’s kitschy and it’s fun, even if the whole hawker centre atmosphere and pandering to ‘street food’ trends is a bit forced.

Nevertheless, it’s a refreshing take that makes it stand out in my mind. But what impressed me the most were the place mats, which doubled as educational tools – a map of the area with the featured countries highlighted alongside brief explanations of what characterises each country’s cuisine (see the online version of it here). Spreading the knowledge about the multi-faceted face of ‘pan-Asian’ cuisine – now that’s really refreshing to see.

They just need to hire this guy to help out with spreading the good news.

But as a half-Filipino, I decided to try what I like to think I know best – the sole Filipino dish on offer, chicken adobo. On their place mats, East Street defines Filipino food as “Chinese-influenced noodles and spring rolls and Spanish colonial ingredients, often with a tart sharpness to the flavour the dishes”, a description I would say is a good shot but not quite spot-on (I feel there needs to be more of a reference to the fact that three cultures – Chinese, Southeast Asian and Hispanic – mixed and borrowed from each other to create what we know and love today).

Bright and contrasting colours make for a pretty-ish meal

East Street’s Chicken Adobo with a serving of rice

And I would probably offer the same judgement on the chicken adobo. It’s an attractive dish, very well-presented with the bright colours of the broccoli, coriander and sweet potato crisps contrasting with the deep brown of the adobo – but it’s not quite there. If you are Filipino, you may have already spotted something a bit different about it – I have never seen coriander garnish adobo; it is not a flavour I associate with the Philippines, although its addition is not a problem for me. And as for the broccoli, yes it’s a great vegetable, but perhaps beans (sitaw), squash (kalabasa), aubergines (talong), kangkong, okra or other more indigenous vegetables may have been a better fit. Oh, and if you are going to serve sweet potato (camote) crisps, it’d be good if they were fresh and crispy.

The adobo itself on the other hand, was flavourful and reminiscent of what adobo should be like. Although on the sweeter side, the soy sauce and vinegar mix was present and pleasing – and there was enough of it to really mix into the rice, the way I like it. The tender chicken was a bonus, ensuring that the adobo sauce was accompanied by substantial meatiness.

But again, it’s a good shot, but not quite spot-on. Hopefully newcomers to Filipino cuisine will find it pleasing enough that their interest will be piqued, so much so that they will either demand more Filipino dishes from East Street, or want to go 5 minutes down the road to the only actual Filipino restaurant in central London and try everything else that las islas Filipinas can offer. However, I do think that East Street merits another visit – so you guys heard me, you’d better make sure your char kway teow and Singapore noodles are up to scratch!

VERDICT – A good place. I like the way that East Street have approached the pan-Asian concept by trying to shed light on the differences between the respective cuisines, and for that I salute them. Their food is not bad either, and I am willing to go back and try something different. Granted, the fact that they even deign to include the Philippines in pan-Asia may be colouring my judgement, but in my books that already suggests a bit of a more thoughtful approach towards the diversity of cuisines in the region.

Currently listening to: Circa Survive – Living Together

Categories: Pan-Asian | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment