I meet him on the street outside. I spot his hat first, set at a jaunty angle, as he emerges through the gloom. We walk in, past the sandbags, and down into the cavernous space below. Union jack bunting is strung between the arches. The women are wearing tea dresses and seamed stockings, lips painted bright red and hair carefully pulled into victory rolls. The men are in braces and caps, or military uniform. We pause at the bar, and Tom, dashing in his RAF uniform, orders the drinks. A French 75 for me, a Rebourne for him. Drinks in hand we move over to the dance floor. Swing music is playing, and couples move in and out of the smoke, jitterbugging, skirts swishing, feet flying. Then the siren sounds, search lights sweep the floor, and a four piece band takes to the stage. The trumpet kicks in, and the floor fills up. We join the masses, taking our cues from a very accomplished couple next to us, and dance. And then dance some more. Four hours later, legs sore, brows sweaty, and scotch eggs tucked into our pockets we emerge back out onto a Shoreditch side street, and lurch forward 60 years. I’m bitterly disappointed, I never wanted to leave. Read more
I first drafted this post back in January when EVERYONE was chatting about Tinder. Even the Guardian ran an article on it, which in the words of one of my dates made it ‘like totally legit’. Nine months later and, according to The Debrief at least, the app has already lost its mojo. Yet while I can see their point (one of my girl friends said to me recently: ‘I think I’ve swiped left on every guy within the M25), whenever I have poked my nose into it in recent months there are still plenty of new faces to pause over. Plus Jimmy Fallon has just created a profile for Britney Spears. Although I’m not sure if that is an argument for or against the Tinder cause. Read more
If you chat to anyone about London street food certain names are bound to crop up: Kerb, Street Feast, Broadway and Maltby are the headliners. Yet while they might be the ones attracting attention, for me the surest sign of the rude health of London’s scene is the number of smaller markets popping up in their wake; meaning you are never too far away from a delicious lunch!
Kettners has upped its game. A month ago I couldn’t even have told you where it was, and now I’m pretty much a regular. After the fantastic cocktail masterclass a couple of weeks ago, I was invited back for two very different events in the same week. One took me all the way to Havana with the aid of a Cuban passport and a couple of bottles of rum; the other, back in time to the decadence, and well, down-right naughtiness, of the restaurant’s glory years. Read more
You know what really gets my goat? People who say they’ve ‘done’ a city.
On my way to Copenhagen last year I sat next to two American students on the flight, whose conversation quickly turned into a competition over how many European cities they had each ‘done’. I sat quietly, biting my tongue, until one advised the other to only spend 24 hours, ‘if that’, in Venice. What? 24 hours? In a city stuffed to the brim with history and culture? Apparently there ‘wasn’t much to see’. Did you go to the Jewish Ghetto? See the coloured houses on Burano? Explore the Rialto market? No you didn’t. You saw the Basilica di San Marco, then sat in the square drinking an obscenely expensive cup of hot chocolate. You haven’t ‘done’ anything. Read more
It’s the worst rain storm in two years and I’m lying inside a tent that is not only the smallest the world has ever created, but also one that it’s becoming increasingly apparent is not entirely waterproof. I put my hand on to the tarpaulin floor and it sinks into a puddle of water. Great. So I pull my rucksack and other belongings on to the end of my inflatable mattress, and ignoring the cramps in my legs, curl up in a corner. Yep, my mattress is now a raft. And then, just when I think I might pass the night staying almost dry, a massive blob of water falls from the tent apex onto my hand.
God I hate camping. Read more
I learnt to make cocktails before I really learnt how to drink them. On my gap year I worked in a fairly fancy restaurant and was given a crash course in how to make most of the classics, although at the time the only cocktail I had probably seen the bottom of was a Bloody Mary; if you don’t count the ‘punches’ thrown together at teenage parties out of a mixture of the cheapest available spirits and what could be snuck out of our parents’ cabinets. Which I don’t, by the way. Read more
While we were all busy complaining about the sweaty tubes and chatting about the hottest summer on record, autumn seems to have quietly snuck up behind us and set up shop. There is a definite nip in the air, especially first thing, and when the sun does make its way through the clouds it is only for a half-hearted attempt at warmth. Yet as much as I love autumn, and its promise of snuggly new knitwear and mugs of hot Ribena, I’m not quite ready to give up on summer just yet. I’m doggedly still wearing my sandals, despite constant wet toes. Read more
“Inside. Funny place. Like being back in India. x”
This was the text Joe sent me just after he had arrived for our dinner at Roti King, and I was still making my way along Euston Road, battling with shoes that were viciously cutting my feet up. And he had a point. Down a back alley a few steps away from Euston Station, and occupying a fluorescent lit basement with dark brown tables and linoleum floor, it was hardly the most stylish of venues I have suggested we meet up at. Read more
Glowing reviews can be both a blessing and a curse for a restaurant. They obviously provide an influx of customers, a welcome blessing in London’s competitive restaurant scene, but these customers then come armed with very high expectations. Something of a curse.
No accolade is this more true of than being named ‘National Restaurant of the Year’ as Gymkhana, an Indian restaurant in Mayfair, was a few months ago. With a label like that you don’t go expecting a ‘nice’ meal, you go expecting something of an exceptional one. A bar that high is tough for any restaurant to consistently reach. Read more