As British Summer time beckons and the sun descends over London tonight it is finally time escape the conventional B.S.T. and embrace the delectable ‘A.N.T.’ – also known as – ‘Alternative Notion of Time’. Tonight in London’s Kings Cross the peculiar team of poets, alchemists and nonsense-mongers at Hendrick’s Gin have unveiled a spectacular contraption that flips the nation’s notion of time on its head.
Bang on the forecourt of King’s Cross Station, the Time Inversion Instrument invites curious Londoners to break free from our usual time constraints and open their eyes to an Alternative Notion of Time.
Ahead of the clock-change this weekend, the Time Inversion Instrument will instantly shatter long-held time perceptions with a single glance. Placed at precisely 51° 32′ 9.78″ N Latitude and 0° 07′ 30.47″ E Longitude, to face St Pancras Clock Tower, intrepid guests will be able to climb up the spectacular 12-foot-tall structure and gaze through its mesmerising crystal amplifier. Instead of seeing the iconic clock tower as you know it, the architectural masterpiece will appear upside down!
Don’t panic – this will be done by the mastery of science. Light, time and space will conspire to alter visitors’ perception for a moment of profound unusualness.
Those who climb the steps and challenge the conventions of the clock shall be adorned with arose and cucumber infused Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic to enjoy in their own time at the ‘Booking Office Bar’ in the nearby St Pancras Renaissance Hotel.
But why is this weird and wondrous contraption here? It marks the commencement of Hendricks’ Alternative Notions of Time; a summer of unusual experiences, theories, stories and curious cocktails to question time as you know it. And don’t we know that we are all – waiting – patiently – for summer.
“There’s the time on the clock – the one most of us live by, and try to keep up with. The domineering, mechanical, digital, soulless and unrelenting time. But there are alternative measures of time, that flow more naturally, in tune with the greater cosmos, and the depths of our own minds. No less accurate, just more unusual, and more fulfilling.” Says Head of Time, Space & Advanced Cucumber Studies at Hendrick’s Gin, Ríana Gallagher. Hey – where there’s gin and a feast for our eyes or at least something to stare, you can count us in.
Unusual experiences can slow down the pace of life, and this curious contraption is the first of many marvels from Hendrick’s set to explore alternative notions of time this summer.
The thought of a traditional safari kind of filled me with dread. 4x4s waiting in lines crowded around animals and tourists clicking away with their long-range camera lenses.
But in a bid to get off the beaten path and get a unique insight into Africa’s wild landscape, I signed up for a three-night tour in Kenya with The Luxury Safari Company.
I certainly wasn’t disappointed and my fears of being on a ‘mass safari’ were skilfully avoided.
Giraffe Manor was built in 1932 and based on a Scottish hunting lodge
For my first night, I was directed to Giraffe Manor, which has repeatedly been voted one of the world’s most unique hotels.
The grandiose lodge – built in 1932 and based on a Scottish hunting lodge – is home to a herd of Rothschild giraffes, which are distinguished by their white lower legs and uniquely dappled coats.
The place is pretty incredible and you’re guaranteed one-on-one interactions with your fellow long-necked residents.
If you’re after the ultimate Instagram selfie, then this is certainly the place for that! One lady I spotted appeared to change outfit every ten minutes in a bid to get that winning shot.
After arriving at the tucked-away spot around midday I had a lovely lunch on the manicured back patio before a swift trip to the visitor’s centre through the garden to learn a bit more about the giraffes from local guides. I even got the chance to hold a giraffe leg bone, which proved to be a bit of a workout given the weight of it!
At 5pm, I was invited to interact with the giraffes on the hotel’s front lawn along with other guests. At the same time a delicious spread of cake and tea was put out for us to nibble on.
Sadie kisses on if the resident beauties at Giraffe Manor
A giraffe cranes its head through the breakfast room
Several of us opted to accompany our sweet treats with gin & tonics. All spirits at Giraffe Manor are included in your stay and the bar features a great spread of liquor to play with.
Back out in the garden, the giraffes came forward one by one to take nibbles of dried food pellets from my hands.
Their long blue tongues – which contain melanin to protect them from sunburn – felt strangely rough and slobbery.
I stood there mesmerised as the gentle giants lowered their heads down with their big black eyes looking into mine.
I discovered if you put a pellet in-between your lips, they will swiftly ‘kiss’ you in a bid to get the snack they’re after. Everyone took it in turns to get a kiss from the giraffes and I couldn’t help think what was running through their minds. Silly tourists!
After the hour-long petting session, we were invited inside to dinner.
The night I stayed at Giraffe Manor there were a handful of other guests who are equally inquisitive about the luxury hotel, which has become increasingly sought-after thanks to lust-worthy shots popping up on Instagram.
If you stay on the first floor at Giraffe Manor, the giraffes will come and wake you in the morning by tapping on the window with their noses
Giraffe Manor has beautiful manicured gardens and an outside terrace where guests can have lunch
‘I’d seen so many photos on social media, so I decided to book but it’s definitely been worth the money. Getting so close to the giraffes is just incredible,’ one holidaymaker told me.
The great thing was, that even though I was staying at the property alone, I felt welcomed to join conversation and wasn’t left out on a limb.
For dinner, I sat in one of the main dark wood-panelled dining rooms and ate by candlelight with two lovely couples from the UK and a couple of girlfriends from Hungary.
On the food front, we were served up a fine three-course meal, with courses including corn chowder, beef fillet and a tasty lemon custard coulis.
The next morning – around 6am – the petting session recommenced and one of the giraffes tapped on the window of my first-floor room with its nose in a bid to get a treat.
Then, moving down to breakfast, the patchwork-coated animals craned their heads into the dining room windows to get yet more fodder.
Along with a container of muesli on the table, there was a pot of food pellets and I grabbed a load to feed my long-tongued dining companions.
After burning through more space on my camera memory card it was time to bid Giraffe Manor a fond farewell.
Solio Lodge is nestled away and boasts six luxury lodges
Next on my tour, I was sent to the Soilo Lodge, which required a 35-minute flight from Nairobi’s domestic airport (Wilson) on a tiny twin otter airplane.
On landing at the dinky airstrip in Nanyuki – a market town some 195km from Nairobi and known as the gateway to the majestic Mount Kenya – I was shuttled to Solio by Amos, who would be my expert guide for the next two days.
The transfer to the exclusive hotel – which is set among 45,000 acres – was an adventure in itself and after we entered the secure conservancy we went on an incredible drive through the undulating shrub-ridden landscape.
To start, we passed by half a dozen reticulated giraffes, before coming across groups of baboons and prehistoric-looking rhino.
Solio prides itself on having a healthy rhino population, with both white and blacks within the stock.
As we trundled over the tufty terrain in a sturdy 4×4 we also found a lioness with three young cubs.
Amos skilfully steered us close enough so we could get a good view without disturbing the brood.
There are six luxury en-suite cottages at Solio, which are very large
Sadie spotted a lioness with her tiny cubs while staying at Solio
Solio is home to a healthy rhino population
I sat there thinking it was pretty incredible that it was just the two of us witnessing this special sight and there was no one else around.
Eventually, after getting very distracted by so many wonderful encounters, we made it to the equally as wonderful lodge.
Solio boasts six unique cottages, which are enormous. Amos told me jokingly that my room – number one –was large enough to play basketball in and he was pretty much right.
The suite was decked out with a large king-size bed, fire place, lounge area and generous bathroom space complete with a deep tub looking out to the safari plains beyond.
Like Giraffe Manor, I didn’t feel awkward about being a solo traveller and it almost felt like staying at someone’s family home.
Ava, Solio’s hotel manager, is a wonderful lady and makes everyone feel welcome.
At 7pm everyone got together for pre-dinner drinks around the fireplace and the Dawa quickly became my new favourite beverage.
The traditional Kenyan drink consists of a heady blend of vodka, honey and lime. It certainly helped clear my head cold.
On the second day of my stay at Solio the weather closed in a little but I didn’t mind given what a fantastic first day I’d had.
Solio’s minibar comes complete with painting tools
Spa treatments at Solio take place in your room, with a fire lit in chillier weather
Taking advantage of the rain, I opted to get a full body massage after dipping into the delicious breakfast buffet.
All of the spa treatments take place in your suite with the table erected next to the fire if it’s a bit chilly.
I’ve had quite a few massages, with some of my favourites including one the Mandarin Oriental in New York and the Rosewood Little Dix resort in the British Virgin Islands, but I have to say the treatment at Solio Lodge was one of my best treatments yet.
My masseuse revealed that she had trained in reflexology in Nairobi also and I loved the way she concentrated on the head, neck and feet to release built up pressure
Feeling renewed and refreshed I turned my attention to a spot of art.
All of the rooms at Solio Lodge come decked out with art supplies and I went about trying to paint a little lion I’d seen the day previously.
With the showers outside clearing, I decided to head out on an evening safari drive with a lovely couple who hailed from the UK but were based in Nairobi with work.
It was a pretty epic evening and a group of white rhino ambled around us as we sipped on our sundowners.
One of the horned creatures was just a few metres away and appeared to be unperturbed by our presence.
The food at Solio was delicious, with local ingredients used in dishes
As darkness descended we headed back to the main lodge for yet another delicious dinner, with soup and a meaty cut of tilapia to greet us.
Sadly, the next morning my quick stint at Solio came to an end and I made my way back to Nanyuki.
Amos was unable to accompany me but an equally skilled driver managed to make it through the muddy marshlands to get me to my destination on time.
If you’re headed to Kenya I can’t recommend Giraffe Manor and Solio Lodge enough as they both offer completely different experiences. Both are part of the Safari Collection’s portfolio.
There are two more lodges which are part of the boutique hotel group and I’m told they are equally as magical.
Sala’s Camp, situated on the Masai Mara game reserve, is said to be one of the best spots to watch the legendary annual migration of wildebeest, while the Moroccan-styled Sasaab resort offers guests the opportunity to learn more about the Samburu tribe and their traditions.
I’m already plotting my return to Kenya!
The Luxury Safari company creates tailor-made itineraries to suit travellers’ needs.
Along with The Safari collection, the travel agency has relationships with dozens of other Africa-based resorts.
One night at Giraffe Manor and two nights at Solio Lodge costs from £2,506 per person including flights from the UK.
British Airways runs daily flights from London Heathrow to Nairobi with flatbeds available in business class for the late-night return leg.
Glenmorangie is celebrating the Golden Age of American Whiskey this March with the opening of Spice & Rye: a vibrant Speakeasy cocktail bar in the heart of Fitzrovia, London.
The creation of the spice-inspired, roaring 1920s-style temporary bar marks the release of Glenmorangie Spìos: the 9th release in the Highland single malt’s explorative Private Edition range. Glenmorangie Spìos (Gaelic for ‘spice’ and pronounced ‘spee-oss’) is the first ever single malt scotch that has been entirely aged in American ex-rye whiskey casks and showcases Glenmorangie’s expertise and experimentation with different types of wood.
Situated on Percy Street W1, Spice & Rye will celebrate rye whiskey’s heyday as the spirit of choice at the turn of the last century, taking visitors through a series of sensory spice and cocktail moments, whilst they are tucked away in the stunning Art-Deco style décor and furnishings.
Guests will enter the bar via an apothecary-style spice shop, where they will be greeted by a mysterious spice seller offering an array of exotic epicurean delights.
They will be invited to continue their journey by stepping through a hidden entrance in the shop to navigate their way through a secret passageway that will transport them into one of the most dynamic and exhilarating decades of the past.
Once ensconced inside the lively 1920s-style space, guests will be hosted by insightful bartenders telling entertaining tales, wisecracking hosts and a swinging jazz band elevating the atmosphere. At the bar, imbibers will be invited to choose from an array of delectable bespoke drinks, each one inspired by a time that made *whisky cocktails so significant and using a selection of spices and unique flavours.
– High & Rye: made with Glenmorangie The Original, ginger, pineapple, topped off with rye beer
– Bloodstone: a twist on the classic Blood & Sand, made with coffee infused Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban, Rubino and Cocchi Torino
– Chapel St Sour: a blend of Glenmorange Nectar D’Or, Rinquinquin, lemon and toasted coriander seed
For those wanting to explore Glenmorangie’s range of award-winning whiskies, tasting flights and drams will be available. These include whiskies finished in a range of bespoke casks: Sauternes (Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or), Sherry (Glenmorangie Lasanta) and Port (Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban) and, of course, the new Glenmorangie Spìos.
As the original whiskey used to create some of the world’s most renowned cocktails in the 1920’s, American rye then fell out of favour as Scotch became more sought after.
Now, as rye whiskey once again becomes one of the sought after dark spirits of the moment, Spice & Rye showcases the coming together of cultures: one of Scotland’s most celebrated single malts with arguably America’s most in vogue influential dark spirit.
Following the huge success of the first – English country golf club themed – Swingers, located next to the Gherkin in the City, the Institute of Competitive Socialising (ICS) are delighted to announce the opening of their second Swingers – a 1920s English seaside themed venue in the heart of the West End, in Oxford Circus.
Breathing new life and fun into 20,000 square feet of the old BHS flagship store (which closed in August 2016), Swingers West End takes all the things that guests love about Swingers City, predominantly the holy trinity that is street food, cocktails and crazy golf and reimagines them in a brand new immersive and theatrical setting.
The incredible new Swingers location reimagines the faded glamour of the 1920s English Riviera and features:
• The Bandstand Bar – A stunning all-day cocktail bar with an iconic bandstand canopy roof
• The Grand Hotel Bar – A free-standing building within Swingers that features a huge island cocktail bar and is inspired by the palm courts of the grand hotels of Eastbourne and Torquay
• The Promenade – A lamppost lined boardwalk that overlooks the Big Wheel Course on one side and is lined by beach huts on the other side. These beach huts are home to street food vendors Made of Dough (pizza), Patty&Bun (burgers), Breddos Tacos, and Hackney Gelato (ice cream and sundaes)
• The Big Wheel Course and the Helter Skelter Course – Two beautifully designed, 9-hole crazy golf courses that are jam-packed with jumps, loops and moving obstacles (including a moving Big Wheel and Helter Skelter, naturally) where caddies serve cocktails to guests as they play from the bars on each course.
• The Palm Lounge, The Sun Room, The President’s Committee Room and The Pergolas – A range of stunning private hire rooms and spaces that are perfect for groups of all sizes, ranging from 12 to 300 people. More details of these below.
• A 10 camera photo podium – Because why capture your moment of victory for social media with one camera when you can do it with a 10-shot animated MP4?
• The best bathrooms in the West End – We love a statement bathroom at the ICS and these are no exception. Just think hugely spacious, mirror balls, gold tiles and a decadent love seat and you start to get the idea…
About the street-food vendors:
Made of Dough – They started out taking their wood fired oven, pulled behind a Land Rover, to festivals around the UK. They have since put down roots with a pizza kiosk in Brixton and an acclaimed pizzeria in Peckham. Dishes on their Swingers menu include their spicy salami pizza packed with Brindisa chorizo and Calabrian salami and their mushroom pizza loaded with Portobello mushrooms, fior di latte, truffle oil and roast garlic. Athletic nutrition at its very best.
Patty&Bun – Need no introduction. They’ve been a stalwart at Swingers (City) since it opened in May 2016, churning out Ari Golds and Colin Montgomerys (created exclusively for Swingers) to guests who are famished from crazy golf. With 8 other sites across London, Patty&Bun are widely considered to be London’s best purveyor of burgers. Swingers are delighted that Patty&Bun will be
joining them in Oxford Circus.
Breddos Tacos – Will be dishing up their fresh tacos influenced by the roadside taquerias throughout America and Mexico and recreating traditional recipes with the best of British produce. Breddos soared to success serving up their popular Baja fish and masa fried chicken tacos from their taco shack in Hackney before finding permanent homes in Soho and Clerkenwell. Guests visiting Swingers West End will be able to choose from an exclusive Breddos menu featuring critically acclaimed tacos alongside a range of tostadas and tlayudas.
Hackney Gelato – Will be the first ever Swingers dessert vendor. The Italian gelato company is founded by Enrico and Sam who met whilst working at the Michelin starred Locanda Locatelli. The English twist that they added to their classic Italian recipes has led to them creating and supplying bespoke ice cream flavours for restaurants that include Som Saa and Kitty Fishers. This is their first concession and will serve an incredible menu of gelatos (don’t miss their Cherry Bakewell flavour) and sundaes, making them the perfect fit for the new Swingers 1920s English Riviera theme.
The best thing is, guests can walk in any time for food and drink, even if they aren’t playing crazy golf.
I encourage you to get into the Swingers swing of things – you’re guaranteed to have a ball!
Swingers West End is located at 15 John Prince’s Street, London, W1G 0AB
I wouldn’t have put vegan meals and comfort food in the same box but my latest dining experience has flipped that preconception on its head.
The Perception at W London has launched its latest dining series (running until the end of June) with British chef, Ravinder Bhogal, making her debut.
The culinary whizz has crafted a vegan menu in homage to her niece who became a vegan two years ago forcing her to think and cook in an original way – to design delicious dishes that were satisfying, creative and nourishing, but were incidentally vegan too.
The result is a hearty spread of plant-based foods with a colourful Indian twist.
You’re certainly guaranteed to leaving feeling well fed!
I checked into the Perception at W London on a Tuesday night and as always, the place had a great buzz.
If you haven’t popped down to the restaurant, it’s worth a gander with hip interiors, flattering lighting and conversation-friendly acoustics.
I’m not vegan but I decided to test the menu on my friend Mary Lou who turned to veganism last year and feels much better for it.
Ravinder’s menu took a little explaining, as she has injected a mix of unusual ingredients influenced by her Indian-Kenyan heritage.
‘Besan’ translates to chickpea flour, while ‘cheela’ is a type of pancake.
In the end, we went for a spread of three starters and two mains to share.
The deep-fried cauliflower popcorn quickly got hoovered up and the sprouting broccoli on a bed of spelt helped balance things out.
The weighty scotch egg-shaped beetroot and walnut-fried balls took a bit more tackling with their crusty exteriors but the burst of flavours inside got our tongues tingling.
On the drinks front, there are also two vegan wines on offer including a chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon – both from Chile.
Back to the food, we moved on to mains, with a plate of tempura-battered mung beans and a sweet caramel-glazed hunk of tofu.
Both dishes satisfied our hunger pangs and we slowly grazed on the colouful creations until there was nothing left. All of the textures worked well, with the garlic-crunch of the tofu, softened by a bed of rice. Meanwhile, the crisp tempura parcels lay on mattresses of chopped tomato.
With our tummies feeling a little weighted down by the flavoursome fried goods we were unsure about dessert, but our friendly waitress convinced us to take the plunge.
I promise you the rose and cardamon doughnut balls will seduce you. I found the syrupy morsels pretty difficult to resist and I’m usually not a doughnut person!
Commenting on her vegan offering Ravinder Bhogal said: ‘I have really enjoyed the process of working with vegetables, fruits, grains and pulses without having to rely on the safety blankets of meat and dairy. I suppose this menu is a love letter to Avneet – I always want to make sure she is well fed.’
I think Ravinder achieved her objective, with this belly-filling menu. I was ready to roll home – after the last bite of doughnut, of course!
The Perception at W London is located at 10 Wardour Street, London W1D 6QF
Airport hotels usually have the same kind of vibe; corporate, impersonal and a little drab.
But I was delighted to find on landing in Nairobi, of all places, my vision of airport hoteling turned on its head.
The Four Points by Sheraton opened four months ago and I couldn’t recommend it more as a base to crash before heading off on safari.
With the 172-roomed building being just a five-minute drive from Jomo Kenyatta Airport
airport it’s the perfect spot to land after taking British Airway’s direct flight from London Heathrow.
Far from being drab, this airport hotel is superbly chic, with clean, boutique-styled modern interiors and top-notch facilities.
On walking into the double height ceilinged lobby, I was greeted by a team of smiling staff.
Keen to get some kip, I swiftly checked into a junior suite on the third floor and was impressed by what I found on opening my bedroom door.
The light and airy room was enormous with a king-size bed, a lounge area and neat shower room.
The valet informed me that I should keep my eyes peeled for giraffes in the morning as the rooms on the front side of the building look over the national park. Certainly not your average airport hotel!
He also informed me that I would have one of the best sleeps ever, as the beds at all of the beds at Four Points by Sheraton have a patented design, consisting of plush mattresses, down pillows and duvets, and crisp 250-thread-count sheets.
The beds are also amply sized. Even rolling three times to one side, I failed at my attempt to fall off the mattress.
The valet was right. I slept like a dream but unfortunately there was no wildlife prowling outside my window in the morning.
After waking up, I hopped to the gym on the top floor with the running machines also looking out over the safari plains.
I also had a peek at the roof top swimming pool, which boasts a sizeable bar area and glass panels allowing views into the national park.
If you’re in need of a more hands-on kind of pick-me-up, over the way there is a spa with a jacuzzi and steam room area.
After a bit of a workout and a quick wash in my rain shower, I ventured down to the ground floor restaurant.
The breakfast buffet at the Four Points by Sheraton in Nairobi is on point, with an array of choices to suit all tastes. I spied plates of cheese, cooked eggs, sausages, bacon and crepes before settling on a big bowl of fruit.
Everything was beautifully fresh – unlike many hotel breakfast buffet offerings – and the papaya and pineapple were deliciously sweet.
I topped my selection off with a scoop of cashew nuts, almonds and a drizzle of Kenyan honey.
Making the most of the exotic temperature, I had my breakfast on the sweeping outside patio.
Another plus point of the Four Points by Sheraton in Nairobi is that the Wi-Fi is super speedy and I interjected my morning grazing with a bit of work.
Unfortunately, I had to dash and couldn’t make the most of the generous 12pm check out.
After my ten day-long safari session I returned to the Four Points by Sheraton to use it as a base before my midnight British Airways flight.
If you’re in the same situation, the hotel is more than happy to arrange a day room. This was perfect, as it meant I could have a shower, use the gym and have a cat nap before heading to the airport.
If you’ve got longer to spare, the concierge can also help arrange day trips to the national park and to local wildlife sanctuaries. If culture is more your thing, there are also excursions to traditional villages and markets.
Before heading to Nairobi on a ten-day trip though Kenya, I was recommended to stay at a couple of different airport hotels but I couldn’t recommend this new spot more enough.
It’s a sure way to kick your African adventuring off in style!
The Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport hotel is located at 9042/1044 Tower Avenue, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, 1939-00606, Kenya
Seeing Jubilee last week was an invigorating experience; this play celebrates rebellion and generational agency. Chris Goode, the director, has highlighted the fact that queer people of color are speaking out against the status quo collectively and defiantly. Goode’s adaption is fresh yet similar to Jarman’s film in terms of the plot… Elizabeth I – played by Toyah Willcox, eerily observes the chaotic nature of this group of militant, over-sexed punks.
The play is set in a squat and is opened with a monologue from Amyl Nitrate, (the historian) performed by Travis Alabanza. From the very start it is clear that their motive is to provoke and disrupt normal conventions.
‘Welcome to “Jubilee”. An iconic film most of you have never even heard of, adapted by an Oxbridge twat for a dying medium, spoiled by millennials, ruined by diversity, and constantly threatening to go all interactive. You poor fuckers.’
The audience was also confronted with the naked embrace of the ‘brothers’, played by Tom Ross Williams and Croig Hamilton. Their bold confidence made it hard for some of the audience members who were seemed to be quite conservative, (you could feel the tension) which I found quite funny. Another highlight for me was Crabs, played by Rose Wardlaw as she was badass yet incredibly emotional, which made her character very believable. I also loved the epic synchronized dance to MIA’s Bad Girls.
The references to class issues in the art world, underground nightclubs and the involvement of queer performance art was interesting. Political issues such as Trump and the tragedy of Grenfell were spoken about which made it feel even more real. It wasn’t a fantasy – but a well thought out piece of work based on where we are now as a country, and where we are going.
The play was interactive – as an audience, we were confronted with what the young and crazy activists of our generation are saying right now. Issues such as gender roles, violence and monarchy were put into a modern frame. with a nod towards the social and historical context of the original film. Nihilist references were used in a way that were quite close to home, issues were raised that we can all relate to as a result of living in post-Brexit Britain. But on the other hand, this sense of despair, loss and violence was positively balanced. There was an enormous sense of hope and pride, in the supportive nature of their community.
In all honesty, I’d never been to a Wahaca, although friends love the UK chain for its reasonably-priced food.
But in all honesty, I’m not a fan of Mexican – cue outcry!! I used to live in New York and there’s plenty of great Mexican restaurants but I tended to avoid them, going with Sicilian, Japanese or French instead.
With tacos and burritos, I prefer the filling to the floury cases and beans / rice make me feel like a lead weight.
However, when in comes to guacamole, I could eat this stuff in bucketfuls and tequila also tickles my fancy.
So, when I heard about the Wahaca Test Kitchen in Shoreditch I decided to step out of my comfort zone and delve into the unknown.
Well, on stepping into the new Wahaca Test Kitchen just near Old Street tube station I realised I had actually been there before.
I hazily remembered it as a pub and music venue with broken glass stuck to my shoes and condensation on the windows.
Today however, the venue has undergone quote the transformation and I felt in some realm of Mexico with sunny colours hitting my senses, bright lights shining down and palms flapping in the heated breeze.
I could also feel the warmth from the kitchen, which opens out into the venue and provides diners with a glimpse of what’s in store.
On sitting down in one corner, I started tackling the menu.
In fact, my friend and I polished off a margarita while perusing the list with the amount of choice leaving us a little baffled.
After much deliberation, we picked an assortment of dishes to share.
It dawned on me how much variety there is with Mexican food and the recipes I read all made my tummy rumble.
To start we got a portion of guacamole and tortilla chips, with an array of toppings presented to us to play with.
We opted to spice up our smashed avocados with a sprinkling of nuts, some chilli and a spoonful of pomegranate seeds.
Next up, we got stuck into some grilled baby gem topped with crab and buttermilk, followed by a bowl of market slaw and two open tacos topped with roast cauliflower.
Looking for something a little meatier to get our teeth into, we rounded our food fiesta off with a wedge of grilled sea bream and a super-charged salad, sauced with avocado and feta.
It certainly was a feast for the senses, with nicely-balanced flavours colliding in brightly-coloured bowls.
While devouring the spread of tasty tapas – no rice or beans in sight – we continued rolling with the delicious margaritas.
I opted for a chili-infused one for my second round, and the spicy kick certainly helped clear my head cold.
After making quite a mess at the table with our gleeful grazing we plumped for dessert.
The salted caramel and black coconut ice creams are must-tries and we couldn’t put our spoons down as we took it in turns to chip away at the delicious frozen balls. Unfortunately they’d run out of the dark chocolate and pecan brownies, which were our number one choice.
The whole concept of the Wahaca Test Kitchen is to experiment with new dishes, with the view of introducing them to other restaurants.
The culinary creations are described as ‘interpretations of contemporary Mexican cooking’.
It certainly helped me see a different side to Mexican.
A convert? Maybe! For those brownies I never tasted, I’ll definitely be popping back.
Wahaca Shoreditch is located at 140 Tabernacle Street, London, EC2A 4SD
FEAST Bar & Kitchen, brought to you by the folk behind The Prince and Pergola, fuses the drool-inducing fare of its summertime predecessor and puts it all under one year-round roof.
The former home of the BBC in White City has metamorphosed into a unique 5000sqft drinking and dining destination.
An incredible den of deliciousness, FEAST Bar & Kitchen boasts big sharing tables and communal seating for 300 diners, as well as a rotating line-up of the capital’s most incredible independent eateries.
The night we visited we feasted on delicious salads and grilled cheese sandwiches from Morty & Bobs, while the other pop up, Del 74, teased us with too many tasty tacos.
On just £15 we were positively stuffed from the reasonably-priced menu. The juicy calamari from Morty & Bobs is a must-try!
We washed it down with perfectly prepared cocktails, with a punchy negroni being my favourite of the bunch.
On the design front, I loved the large, open-plan space which had a great relaxed vibe.
The industrial-inspired furnishing incorporates swathes of greenery, blocks of gritty granite along with lengths of brushed steel and raw timber.
We ate in a roomy, diner-style booth and all of us commented on the buzzy music selection.
For those who’d prefer a night in, FEAST Bar & Kitchen also runs a takeaway service.
Mexican taco maestros Del 74, and Hackney comfort food kings Morty & Bob’s will be running pop up kitchens at the venue for the next few months.
For diners eating at the venue, they simply need to remember their table number, order and pay for their food at the restaurant kiosks and it will be brought over when ready.
As for drinks, order and pay at the bar – simple!
The canteen-style eatery is open Monday to Friday and no deposit is required to book for large groups.
In summer, it will also boast an additional 157 outdoor seats for alfresco drinking and dining!
So, whether you’re looking for the perfect place to sate your hunger, quench your thirst, or both at once, simply enter the warm and welcoming embrace of FEAST Bar & Kitchen.
FEAST Bar & Kitchen is located at 201 Wood Lane, White City Place, Shepherds Bush, London W12 7TU
Tuyo recently opened off Hackney’s ‘Hipster’ Broadway Market offering modern Mediterranean share plates, brunch, cocktails and wine. It’s a unique addition to the food-focused area with casual share plates but of a fine dining quality and artistic and loving presentation.
The restaurant is designed simply but beautifully with high ceilings, wicca beehive shaped lampshades and cascading plants from above. Lights pours through the glass walls and views across the canals offer floating dream light views. Our canal-side seats were complimented by blue skies, I can only imagine what a hot spot this will be in the warmer summer months!
We were recommended to get two share plates each from a range of delicious vegetarian, seafood and meat tapas. The Chef Ricardo Pimentel (formerly Salt Yard Group) has curated each dish beautifully, each dish served in a unique way such as a bright turquoise tile or hand made ceramics bowls and plates, the attention to details was touching alongside the passionate restaurant team who were serving us. They have a diverse but small list for cocktails and wine of which we tried a refreshing Saffron Aphrodisiac cocktail (Tequila, Agave, Coriander , Lime Juice, Chilli Peppers and Saffron Mixture)
Our favorite ‘nibble’ was the Picos Blue & Date Croquetas with cumin ali oli and roasted walnuts, four deviously explosive bites. The range of choice for the rest of the menu was enticing, I personally felt their veggie dishes were of a very high quality with their char-grilled Artichokes with soy beans, feta and quinoa taking the lead however the Harissa Roasted squash, olive and pepper tapenade with almond and mint dressing was very close behind and much heartier for the wintery weather outside.
Our mains were Salt cod with lime confit, garlic potato puree & coconut migas and Octopus with hummus Cumin Yoghurt. Four was more than enough; all dishes were under £10 each and were substantially portioned.
I’m eager to return for the brunch, which offers hearty and flavor- filled dishes such as Huevos Turcos (Poached eggs, Smoked baba ganoush, chilli & sumac gremolata served with bread) and Salmon Ahumado (Smoked Salmon, Eggs & Chestnut mushrooms on Toast with sumac yoghurt & Parmesan)