National Pasta Day

Today is National Pasta Day. Pasta in my opinion is the ultimate comfort food. Its also one of the first things I learn to make, but I have to confess I used ready made pasta sauce from a jar. But times have moved on and I can just about make a decent pesto sauce from scratch. 

The best pasta dishes need to be fresh, wholesome and made from scratch. And Canova Hall in Brizton delivers on all three.  A restaurant where the chefs use the best ingredients they can, cooking from scratch and focusing on each dish delivering 12/10 flavour.  From their House Tagliatelle, with stracciatella, pink peppercorns and gremolata to Smokey Rigatoni with smoked scarmoza, pistachio pesto and rosemary, there’s something for everyone.

So why not head over to Canova Hall and eat some of the best pasta in London. If only everyday was National Pasta Day. 

 

Canova Hall

250 Ferndale Rd, Brixton, London SW9 8BQ

www.canovahall.com

 

 

 

The Quintessential Gent’s Most Wanted

Launched in 2013, Richard Brendon is known for bringing together contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship;  to create timeless collections.

Richard Brendon has partnered with Gleneagles to develop his new hand-crafted crystal collection, Fluted. Reminiscent  of the iconic and decadent culture of the roaring 1920s, it fits perfectly in the American Bar at Gleneagles.

Mouth-blown by master craftsmen in Bohemia the hand-crafted crystal coupe by Richard Brendon combines just the right amount of traditional and contemporary elements to create a progressive yet timeless coupe. 

Perfect for any cocktail lover.

For stockist please click on image or visit www.richardbrendon.com

 

 

The Quintessential Gent’s Guide to London Pop-Up Bars

Londoners love to drink. But going to your local boozer or some trendy bar just doesn’t cut it anymore. We are a city that is easily bored and are always on the lookout for something unique and innovative. So, of course, Pop-Up Bars are ideal.   Usually, open for a few months before disappearing.  Over the last few years, London has become a haven for pop-up bars across the city. 

So for those people who haven’t got their finger on the pulse, here are my top 5 pop-up bars to look out for this summer. Blink and you might just miss them.

GQ Bar at the Rosewood Hotel

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The Rosewood Hotel in Holborn is by far one of my favourite hotels in London.  Not only do they have one of the best hotel bars in London, Scarfes Bar but also it’s Holborn Dining Room. Home to London’s best-stocked gin bar, offering over 400 gins and 27 tonics, so of course, it’s only natural for men’s lifestyle magazine GQ and Tanqueray No Ten to open their first ever pop-up bar at The Terrace. Described by Gary Robinson, Conde Nast International’s Director of Restaurants as a “ space for modern urbanites to come together in an environment inspired by the magazine.”

Offering cocktails, wines and champagnes and food created by Gary and Holborn Dining Room’s head chef Calum Franklin.  Drinks will include a white Negroni garnished with grapefruit and the Daisy Sour made with gin, chamomile, lime and green chartreuse as well as GQ’s signature Manhattan made with orange-soaked barrel-aged bourbon and vanilla bitters. A GQ Bar Burger by Gary is exclusive to the pop-up and comprises a tower of char-grilled wagyu, caramelised onions, watercress and peppercorn umami in a brioche bun, complete with garlic-salted fries.

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GQ Bar will run from June to September and will be open from 7 am until 11:30 pm (Sunday 10:30 pm).

The Botanical Bar at the Floating Pocket Park

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Opening just in time for World Gin Day, the Botanical Bar is a new pop- up bar by the team from Lockhouse at Floating Pocket Park on the Grand Union Canal.  A newly developed urban ‘green space.’

So it’s only fitting the green-fingered team from Lockhouse have created a menu where all the drinks will have a botanical look and feel, featuring handpicked herbs and essences along with a fresh and colourful garnish to reflect their surroundings.  Serving an eclectic range of gins and gin cocktails such as ‘We’ve Got The Whole World Gin Our Hands.  And for you spoilsports there are mocktails.

The floating Botanical Bar provides the opportunity for Londoners to re-connect with the canal and enjoy this newly developed urban ‘green space’; the perfect setting to watch the sun go down with a G&T or enjoy a warm summer evening with a cocktail in your hand.

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The Botanical Bar will run from on June 10th, and then every Thursday & Friday from 12pm to 9pm until  August 19th.

 

El Bandito at the Victory Mansion

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El Bandito, already a hugely successful tequila and mescal bar based in Liverpool, it was only a matter of time this bar was going to move to the capital. With the pop up making its way exploring around London and now taking up residency in the basement drinking den of the Victory Mansion in Stoke Newington. Taking inspiration from Asia and South America, you can expect to try cocktails such as frozen watermelons margaritas to Kale Mezcalarita.

The brainchild of business partners John Ennis and Matt Farrell, El Banduti aims to educate and introduce guests to rare and high-quality tequilas and mezcals, including a first for the UK, tequila from the famous El Pandilo distillery.

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The El Bandito Pop-Up will run from May 21st. 

The Dead Rabbit at Claridge’s Hotel

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Although we have to wait till mid-august, Claridge’s one of the capital’s most iconic hotel will be playing host to a week-long pop-up to New York bar The Dead Rabbit. Having won World’s best bar 2016 and the pop-up at Claridge’s Bar will recreate the second floor ‘Parlor’.

Serving several of its signature cocktails including Irish coffee and Psycho Killer, along with favourites from their food menu such as lobster deviled eggs, Cumberland sausage rolls and Irish lamb stew. With its familiar ragtime piano soundtrack and comic book-style cocktail menu, the pop up will be bringing a little bit of Manhattan to Mayfair.

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 The Dead Rabbit Bar will run from Tues 15th – Tues 22nd August 2017.

 

Pitch Black at No Such Place

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Dubbed the ‘Dans Le Noir’ of the drinking world, Pitch Black as its name would suggest 90-minute blind tasting experience in ‘pitch black’ darkness.  However don’t panic, the evening doesn’t start in complete darkness. The experience begins with a glass of bubbles in a dimly lit room, where you can familiarise yourself with your surroundings before the lights go down.  You are then given two inventive cocktails, a palate-cleanser and two wines, with lots of witty banter from your host.

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The ideas behind the Pitch Black is that by depriving us of our sights, our other senses are heightened leaving us to concentrate flavours & aromas of what we are drinking. The evening ends with your drinks revealed to you so prepare to be pleasantly surprised.

To book tickets https://pitch-black.designmynight.com/pitch-black 

Click on the images for more information including how to book

London’s latest pop-up dessert destination: Dolce by Ferrero Rocher

When I think of Christmas I think of Ferrero Rocher. The ultimate chocolate with its cocoa-roasted hazelnut in a praline mousse, a ganache ball rolled in wafer, a chocolate dome topped with hazelnuts, a ganache-filled chocolate. Just thinking of it, is making my mouth water. So when I heard that Ferrero Rocher, had opened their first ever pop-up dessert destination called Dolce in St Martin’s Courtyard, London of course I had to share it with my quintessential readers.

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Dolce, can only be described as multi-layered dining experience will take customers on a delicious journey of the classic after-dinner chocolate. Guests will enjoy a tasting plate of five mini hand-crafted desserts, curated by respected chef Paul Hannagen – owner, director and head chef at Cuisson, the luxury gastronomy company

After the tasting plates the experience will finish with a delicious Ferrero Rocher to demonstrate how the elements of a whole hazelnut; rich, smooth chocolate; crisp, wafer shell; and gently roasted hazelnut pieces – all wrapped in gold – come together to deliver its unique multi-sensorial taste.

Sessions last 45 minutes: £10 for walk-ins and £15 for pre-booked slots (includes a glass of Prosecco).  But hurry the pop is only open for 10 days.  And like the famous chocolate, tickets will sell out quickly. Like gold dust.

For pre-booked dining and for more information visit: www.dolcebyferrerorocher.co.uk or click on the images. 

Q.G

 

 

The Diplomat Experience

In my humble opinion everyone should have a regular bar, where the drinks are well made, the bartenders are well dressed, and your drink is waiting for you at your favourite seat within seconds of walking in. My regular bar, which is pretty much my second home, is the Rev JW Simpson. So when I heard that one of the charming bartenders was hosting an event called ‘The Diplomat Experience’, nothing could keep me away.

An evening where, for a slight moment, we were all transported to the heart of Venezuela, a country some called “Land of Grace.” An evening of drinking Diplomático Rum based cocktails, (the Maracaibo cocktail by far the best of the night) and gorgeous Venezuelan food that I couldn’t get enough of.

Apart from the canapes and drinks, one lucky person (alas not me) also had the chance to win a vintage bottle of Diplomático, with all the profits being given to ‘Behind Bars Akademia’; a charity which is the brain child of Stephanie Simbo, one of the excellent bartenders at the Reverend.

‘Behind Bars Akademia’ has been set up to help rehabilitate and provides skills for former inmates, battered women and individuals willing to start a career within the service industry. Upon release from prison, these women will have a chance to learn a trade skill and secure a job using the new skills they have acquired.

 

The project, which will be starting in Cape Town, South Africa, in association with NICRO (an NGO specialised in rehabilitation), is all about giving women a second chance. Stephanie believes that every single human being, regardless of what they have done, deserves a second chance and believes that it is society’s job to push and inspire these people to take this second chance. Stephanie grew up in a rough neighborhood, where most people never finished school or were in and out of prison and felt getting a second chance was wishful thinking. She believes that her life could have been just like this, but after her own brother went to prison and no one would give him a chance, she decided she wouldn’t become a statistic. She studied hard and went to Law School, pulling pints in the evening. Although she struggled with law, she realised that being a bartender was less about pulling pints and more about being a therapist, a friend, a matchmaker, a chemists, and always done with a smile.

With these skills and of course her amazing cocktail-making skills she felt she wanted to be the change she wants to see in the world, and to give these ‘statistics’ a second chance.  A second chance where Behind Bars Akademia, with the help of donations, send an ex-inmate to school in their Hospitality Rehabilitation Program.

To find out more about the Reverend JW Simpson or about Behind Bars Akademia or donate to their fight click on:  www.revjwsimpson.com or www.behindbarsakademia.com

Before Gin – The Story of Bols Genever

The Reverend JW Simpson is possibly London’s best kept secret. On the rather busy Goodge Street and behind a unassuming black door lies a place of worship, where the worshippers come to pray at the altar of deities known as cocktails . Having been here a number of times, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend and sometimes with the other sort of ‘friend’ I can honestly say this one pilgrimage that all Londoner’s should go and see.  One of the few bar in this fine city where the bartenders are true artist who know delve in to history to create beautiful mouthwatering cocktails.

But like all religions even these fine establishment has a story. The story goes that the venue was once home to the very same man of the church who gave the bar his name, before it changed hands to become a less-than-legal gentleman’s club, a brothel.

My personal pilgrimage to the Reverend JW Simpson was by accident, having been stood up on a potential date (the usual line ‘I’m sick’), and trying to escape the rain, I took shelter in the doorway of the Rev JW Simpson. Curiously I could hear music so I followed the noise downstairs and realised I was in small speaksey bar. Intrigued I walked down the stairs where I was greeted by one of the bartenders who whisked me to a small table and explained the drinks menu. The rest of the evening can’t be described as a blur. It was an experience filled with beautifully made cocktails, and bartenders who invited me to join them in drinking shots till closing time.

Having been there another of time it was obvious I was going to attend the Rev JW Simpson’s  Spirited Sermons (basically an Spirit tasting events). I decided to take my friend Sarah, to educate us on the origins of  Gin. We arrived at Rev and were each given a detailed special menu for what was going to be an interesting evening. Our lovely well dressed bartender Jim, (what can I say any man wearing a hat always gets a smile from me) explained what we would be doing that evening, apart from drinking we’d be making our own cocktail and also be given an extensive history lesson of the origin Bol Genever. Each of the drinks we were told were carefully selected and created by the charming bartenders at the Rev.

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Our first drinks of the evening were obvious. I chose the strongest which was the Bol’ s Cherry Party. I was told this was a twist on the traditional Manhattan cocktail. Sarah chose the First Word, which we were told was the opposite of The Last Word, a popular cocktail from the 1920s.

When we finished our drinks we were invited to take part in making our own cocktails. I chose to make a Kopstutu,  and added to much beer, Sarah chose to make Never say Genever and didn’t add enough wine. Its safe to say that our cocktail making skills were pretty abysmal.

The final part of the night was a detailed Sermon on the Origins of Genever, by John Parsons. To understand the rich and decandent history of Gin we need to understand and finally give the respect due to Bol Genever, who without it we would have no Gin. And more importantly it would mean my life would have no meaning.

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So here’s to Genever; the Grandfather of Gin. Gin Gin

Q.G

For further details about Rev JW Simpson’s next Spirited Sermons visit Billetto

Rev JW Simpson 

Bols

Billetto 

The world’s first anti-ageing gin has arrived

So a few days ago I decided I was going to give up alcohol till August, which included my beloved gin. So imagine my shock and annoyance when I heard that there was a new gin on the market called Anti-aGin, which claims that drinking this gin will reduce your wrinkles. Now I’ve always been told not to swear but what they f**k?

According to makers Bompas & Parr,who created this gin with hotel chain Warner Leisure Hotels the gin has been distilled with pure collagen and contains a mix of antioxidant and ‘skin-healing’ botanicals including green tea, witch hazel, nettle and gotu kola – which the bottle claims can help reduce cellulite and sun damage.

Regardless if it works or not I guess my gin ban is ending before it began.  I’m already thinking of recipes.

 

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The new gin is on sale for £34.99 at all thirteen Warner Leisure hotel locations in the UK and online at drinksupermarket.com.

 

 

My second favourite cook.

My friend Savi is one of my oldest friend and also my second favourite cook, the first is my mother (sorry Savi).  Having lived with Savi during our time at University I used to look forward to her cooking days. While my idea of cooking was a pasta with some tuna, Savi’s was a lot more adventurous.  Cooking would be bean burgers from scratch, in fact everything from scratch.  After we finished University,  Savi and I  both moved to London and although we didn’t live together I would always make sure I was free (including cancelling a date once) when Savi invited me to her’s for dinner.  Unfortunately real life gets in the way and those dinners are rare, so when Savi mentioned she would be the resident chef at  the Bonnington Café on Easter Monday, I was the first to reserve a table.

The Bonnington Café began in the 70s as a communal kitchen serving only vegetarian or vegan food to the many squatters that made up the local neighbourhood. Over the years the Bonnington Café has only changed slightly. The squatters have long gone, and instead a rota of cooks each take a different night to cook,  paying a rental to cover the upkeep of the café and keeping any money they make. Would-be cooks can join the rota at the monthly meeting and try and prove they are dedicated cooks.  Its become so popular that there is now a waiting list.  The décor of the Bonnington can only be described as quaint, with bare-bricked and peach painted walls, mis matched tables and chairs. But thats part of its quirky charm.

To make sure I was totally unbiased I invited my friend Edward with me. Edward has never met or tried Savi’s cooking so I thought he would be the perfect guinea pig. For starters Edward tried the Carrot, coriander and coconut soup while I tried the Hummus and baba ghanoush with bread.  My starter was light and refreshing and  I could have spent the whole day just eating that, Edward enjoyed his soup but couldn’t really taste the coriander. Our main course we had a choice between a Thai green vegetable curry or a butternut squash & spinach lasagne, as we both wanted to the lasagne we both argued who was going to get it. In the end both of our stubborness one and we both chose the lasagne. The lasagne I have to admit was gorgeous and never would have thought to have add butter nut to lasagne. The only downside was the portions were extremely large and it meant we had no room left in our bellies for dessert, which consisted of chocolate brownie or a rhubarb, apple and stem ginger tart with custard. Which was pretty devastating because Savi’s desserts are gorgeous.

Having said that I’m hoping Savi will make me some chocolate brownie when I see her next.  In fact I’m looking forward to when she is the resident cook again at Bonnington. And as for her future I hope she opens up her own little restaurant one day.

 

Q.G

XOXO

The Bonnington Cafe, 11 Vauxhall Grove, London SW8. For details of who is cooking when, and how to book, visit www.bonningtoncafe.co.uk

Pictures courtesy of Khälid Siddiqui.