Union Street Bar Takeover

Every time Alex and I go away on holiday, we always end up chatting about how we need to spend more time away from work, just to hang out and use London a bit more. As both of us are freelancers, we find that work can just get on top of us and before we know it, we haven’t been out to do any of the exciting things that are on offer around us.

Unfortunately, after we’ve had that chat and return from our travels, we generally tend to fall back into the same work, eat, sleep routine – major fail on both our parts. Useless! After our trip to NYC the other week I was determined that we would follow through and at least get out of the house a few times over the Easter weekend. Luckily for us, we’d been invited along to the Union Street Bar for their Takeover launch party the very next day – Who could say no to cocktails on a Thursday evening? Nope. Not me.

Union Street Bar is found below Union Street Café in London Bridge. Both are part of the Gordon Ramsey empire, so its  actually quite odd that I haven’t been, because I’m quite a fan of Ramsey, what with our recent visit to his London House restaurant and memorable visit to Maze some time ago.

The bar itself has a a cozy feel about it, but is quite spacious, with great decor and low lighting. We drank tequila three ways – paired with flavoured popcorn, then with popping candy and finally with the scent of an Old Fashioned, in the form of a vapour, which bought out the citrus notes of the spirit. We then moved on to Ketel One Elderflower Martinis, which were my favourite and ended the night on Apple Mustard Sours. These weren’t really to my liking as I’m not much of a Bourbon kinda gal, but I gave it a good go, all in the name of research! We were also offered canapés, but alas they were made with celery… I mean, who eats that stuff?! Blergh. 

As the jet lag set in, we considered popping upstairs for a meal, but decided to save that for another time (we’ll definitely be back) and hopped on the train home so we could rest up and take full advantage of the weekend – We did actually take some time off and get out a bit more. Good times.

Forgot the camera… Sorry.

Union Street Bar Takeover

Union Bar Takeover

Ketel One Takeover

If you like Ketel One Vodka then you still have time to get involved this month…
They will be at the Union Street Bar with food and drinks pairing all week, afternoon ‘Hi Tea’ on the 25th, a DJ night with a trolley of mini-martini tasters on the 26th and Bloody Mary taster weekends on 19th-20th and 26th-27th.

Then after that it’s the turn of Don Julio (5 – 11 May) and then Bulleit (9 – 15 June).

Head to the site for more details and get involved: http://www.gordonramsay.com/union-street-cafe/union-street-bar/

 

 

The London Gin Club

It’s fair to say that Alex and I have built up quite a collection of different gins in our house over the past six months. I used to be an avid wine drinker, but found that the after effects were a bit too much to handle, so moved onto gin, which seems to work much better for me. Mothers Ruin? Not in this house! We love a glass of gin every now and then, or a few gin cocktails over the weekend. Gin, gin, gin… I bloody love the stuff!

I follow a few gin blogs and am not sure why it has taken me this long to get involved and become a member of The London Gin Club. This marvelous club was launched in March 2012 and is located at The Star at Night bar in Soho. You don’t need to be a member to go and drink there, but who wouldn’t want to be part of this club?! You also don’t need to like gin, as many other drinks are served there. I’m not quite sure why you would want to go and not sample some new gin flavours though, but that’s easily said by a gin lover of epic proportions!

Alex and I went along to the Star At Night for the first time on Friday evening. We booked in advance and it was a good job we did – The place was buzzing and people were being turned away at 7.30pm. Things quietened down a bit later, but I don’t think there was an empty table for more than 10 minutes all night in the upstairs seating area. The bar itself stocks over 60 gins and they serve them in large balloon glasses (which opens up the flavours), accompanied by huge chunks of ice. They also serve platters, olives and small pies of which we ordered most of whilst we were there. The food took a long time to come, but the staff were doing the best they could and we had our gin to keep us company anyway.

We opted to try both of the tasting menus on the night, and boy was this a good decision! These menus change on a monthly basis and you get four different glasses of gin, each one falling into a different taste category (dry, sweet, floral, savoury etc). It’s best to have each gin with the same tonic, so you can compare the flavours and each comes with a different garnish. I now see gin in a totally different light. Unless I have a cocktail, I always just pour gin into a glass, add tonic and ice and drink it. This is great, but adding a garnish takes it to a whole other level!

I have to say this night out was one of my favourite for a while. The service was very attentive from the off, and the atmosphere in the bar was just perfect. The Star at night is a tables only bar and I love to sit down and drink. None of that standing around and get bashed about whilst people push passed you. Perfect!

Unfortunately. I failed to get any good pictures to show you because the bar is quite dimly lit and I forgot my DSLR. I have however, dragged out all my gin from behind our bar for you to take a peak at. I am yet to decide which is my favourite now we have started to add garnishes to the mix, but I’m known to ask for Beefeater 24 and Hendricks more frequently than the others.

 

 

Drinks we tried on the night…

Tasting menu 1  (£21 – £18 members)

25ml gin & Fever Tree tonic

London No 1: orange and blueberry
Adnams First Rate: thyme & olive
Colonel Fox: Lemon & raspberry
Sacred: grapefruit & rosemary

Tasting Menu 2 (£25 – £22 members)

No 3: Sicilian olive
Williams: pear
Geranium: orange peel
209: grapefruit

I also tried a Seventh Heaven cocktail, which was made with The London Gin Club’s very own gin (more info HERE).
Seventh Heaven is a very sweet gin made with vanilla syrup, lemon juice and plum bitters.

 

 

If you love gin and live in London, then I urge you to go. You can register to become a member in advance online here:
http://thelondonginclub.wordpress.com/contact-us
– Membership is free and if you remember to get your card stamped, then you get your 10th drink for free. What’s not to love? Sadly, we didn’t get the membership discount on the night, as the waitress thought that we wanted to register on the night and signed us up all over again. A bit of miscommunication that lost us a few £s, but for such a wonderful night all will be forgiven.

I loved it and I can’t wait to go back!

 

The London Gin Club & Bar – The Star at Night, 22 Great Chapel Street, Soho, W1F 8FR

 

 

The Ultimate Chocolate Martini

The other week, I had my first chocolate martini, after having consumed an exceptionally heavy pub lunch. It was lovely, but a little on the sickly side –  So, I thought why not find a recipe and have a go at making one myself.

I’ve had Paul Young’s Adventures With Chocolate book for quite some time now, but never actually made any of the recipes from it. This man can create incredible things with chocolate and luckily for me there happens to be a recipe called ‘The Ultimate Chocolate Martini’ in his book.

Last night I had a go at making this rather remarkable drink and it did not fail to impress. Using real chocolate instead of liqueur gave this drink a much crisper taste and it tasted divine. More of a grown up chocolate martini, which I’ll no doubt be making again!

Here is the recipe… Why not have a go at making it yourself? I used William Chase vodka for my drink and in the name of research, will try it out with gin next time!

 

THE ULTIMATE CHOCOLATE MARTINI


Makes 2 large Martinis

For the chocolate liqueur

100g 70% dark chocolate
100g golden caster sugar

For the cocktail

Crushed ice
4 x 25ml of gin or vodka
2 x 25ml vermouth
cocoa powder for dusting

Method

To make the chocolate liqueur, put 150ml water, the chocolate and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over a very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and allow to totally cool.

Place 2 martini glasses in the freezer for an hour.

Half-fill a cocktail shaker with crushed ice, then add four 25ml measures of chocolate liqueur and the other liquids and shake well. Pour into the frozen glasses, dust the top with cocoa powder and serve.

Enjoy and let’s just ignore the calorie content for this one!

 

Grey Goose Taste By Appointment

Last Monday I was lucky enough to win a fabulous treat via the Grey Goose vodka Twitter page. I simply had to post a message saying who I’d like to take out with me that night and I was picked to be the lucky winner of a Taste By Appointment event at Rhodes Twenty Four.

I’ll be honest, I was considering not actually going as I was pretty tired, but Alex persuaded me to get myself dressed for the night and off we went, without much of an idea of what I had actually won!

We arrived at Rhodes Twenty Four at 6.30pm, seated ourselves in a spot with spectacular views over London and were handed a delicious Grey Goose Le Fizz – A cocktail that was made up of Grey Goose vodka, elderflower and Perrier water. Now, you all know I’m a gin drinker, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Grey Goose Vodka, as I’ve only ever bought it for DJs that I’ve booked in the past. DJ riders eh?! I was genuinely surprised by how much nicer it is than Smirnoff, which I used to consume by the truck load before I became a much more civilised drinker!

While we waited for all the guests to arrive, we were offered an abundance of superb canapes… A few cocktails down and we were seriously getting into the swing of the Grey Goose taste, but it was time to be escorted into the private dining area, where our host Joe McCanta chatted to us all and gave us a very informative introduction to taste. Meanwhile we were still being plied with more cocktails –  Now, that’s my idea of a good chat!

Next up our tastebuds were to be challenged by a serious of taste experiments, where we learnt how to identify our  own personal taste. We each had a tray in front of us, as well as a taste profile card and worked our way through the taste tests covering bitter, salt, sweet, sour and umami (savoury) flavours.

 

 

Time for more taste testing… Don’t let the look deceive you though; these flavours were not what they seemed!

During the night, Rhodes Twenty Four Head Chef, Andrew Barkham, discussed his own personal taste preferences with us and we had the chance to ask him questions as well as taste a cocktail that he had specifically created alongside Jo, our host. Unfortunately this was one cocktail that my taste buds did not approve of, and I was left red faced with a burning mouth. The cocktail was pretty hot (due to the chilli) and I appeared to be the only one unable to consume it. Apparently the layers of flavour in the drink took you on a taste journey, but my mouth wasn’t having a barr of it!

Once all the testing was over, we were left to our own devices and given the chance to mix up our own cocktails (with a little help) based on what we had learnt about our personal tastes.  Over the last hour, we were whisked off to a bar in pairs, where Joe made us our own bespoke cocktails. Very merry by this point, we were relieved to be offered even more delicious canapes.

What a fabulous night we had! On top of all the food and drink we also met a lovely couple who were just fantastic to chat to. They had traveled to London for the evening and were delightful company. An inspiring couple that made me more clear of what I want from life in the future.

Now, that’s what I call a successful evening!

The Grey Goose Taste By Appointment Events will set you back £75. I certainly think it’s worth the money if you are thinking of treating someone, but if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have initially thought about doing it before winning the prize. £75 for a Monday night out is a bit steep, especially as it appears to have been £15 last year. (Id’ say we consumed about £50 worth of drinks). We however loved it and if you are looking to impress, then this is certainly the one. Our location unquestionably won us over…

Jamie’s Italian Stratford

About two and a half years ago we went to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in Cornwall and came away less than impressed. Service was shoddy, and some of my food was sent back… Needless to say, I lost my faith in Jamie and never returned.

Since then, Jamie has been an exceptionally busy boy and his Italian style restaurants are popping up left right and center. I decided it was time to give him another chance, so on Friday, we popped into Jamie’s Italian Stratford (in Westfield) for the big taste test.

We arrived about 2pm and the place was packed. The host told us that we could be seated within ten minutes, so we just nipped into John Lewis for a quick shop to fill in the time. No Drama. No fuss.

As a big gin drinker, the cocktail menu seemed a bit vodka heavy to me. I asked if they could make me up an elderflower gin cocktail and the waiter suggested we try one of their gin, apple and blackcurrant specialties. So that, we did – It was delicious and the whole experience just got better from there.

There was not a hint of shoddy service in sight. The waiter was lovely (to look at) and as soon as we had finished our water or emptied our plates, we were seen to right away. The food was delicious and superb value. The only small thing that may have let it down a bit was the restaurants choice of music. Now, I’m a fan of drum and bass in the right setting, but it’s not what I wanted to hear during a relaxing lunch out! Luckily, there were only a few banging tracks during our meal and then we had to suffer some dubious pop music. Each to their own.

Gin, apple and blackcurrant cocktails – £6.95 each

CRISPY SQUID  – £5.75
Fried squid with garlicky mayo, lemon & chilli
This was my favourite part of the meal. It was absolutely delicious!

WORLD’S BEST OLIVES ON ICE – £3.75
Large green olives, black

I’m not a fan of Olives, but Alex said these were pretty close to being the world’s best olives.
He loved that they didn’t just come in a bowl alone and that they came with tapenade.

SEASIDE RISOTTO
£8.95/£15.95
Clams, mussels, prawns, cockles, gurnard, chilli & white wine

I opted for the small size, which was more than plenty with my starter.

WILD RABBIT TAGLIOLINI £6.75/£10.95
Slow-cooked ragù with garlic & herbs, mascarpone & Amalfi lemon

Alex had this and the portion was massive. The thing I like about Jamie’s Italian is that you
can order smaller portions and opt to eat a few different things. This is something Alex did not do!

We also had a side salad and a coffee. There was no pressure to order bottle water, which was great, as some places can be rather snotty when you ask for tap water.

I’d certainly return to Jamie’s Italian. The total price of our meal for two was £48. If you forget about the cocktails, then you can make it an even cheaper lunch out… However, I would always suggest a cocktail over lunch darling!