Fu Manchu, Clapham

2 years ago

The Vibe

Clapham is a vixen. Naughty Clapham!  Fu Manchu, the new late night cocktail bar and dim sum restaurant is going to fit right in to Clapham’s cheeky little scene.  A stone’s throw from Clapham North tube station yet not that easy to find – it’s located under the railway arch as you turn right out of the station.   There’s an underground feel to the space, which only serves to add to the minxy vibe. There’s a long, incredibly well stocked bar the length of the left side as you walk in and the rest of the space is flanked around the edges by high tables and chairs .  The lighting by Louisa Smurthwaite is neon then soft then gone and back again, there’s a big painting of Fu Manchu (for the record, he was a great big homicidal maniac – eek) on the exposed brick wall looking down at us all with a Machiavellian smirk almost encouraging bad behaviour and the bar staff are ferociously shaking and stirring, and looking hot while doing it. Things are going to get messy. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The Order 

The dim sum is delicious (despite what Grace Dent says).  All of the favourites are here: har gau (king prawn in translucent wrapper), sui mai (prawn and chicken open dumpling), gow choi gau (prawn and chive dumpling) – the list is properly endless.  Big shout out goes to the salt, pepper and chilli broccoli, da healthy nibbles…Ah so what if it’s fried?  Get ’em down ya.  The menu doesn’t stop there either; there are salads such as the hot and sour rare beef, soups, set menus too and a selection of Jing teas.  The cocktails are tasty (made from Asian spices and Chinese tea infusions) and potent: lethal combination.  Try the Green Tea-ni (Bombay Sapphire gin, green matcha powder, sugar syrup, apple and lime juice or the Manchu Mind Control, which is a moreish blend of secret recipe grog shaken with guava, mango and lime juice.  Served in tankard of Fu Manchu’s face.

The Game

Foodies: invite your squeeze for an amazing Sunday lunch spread, enjoy some carefree cocktails and chat about travel, food, sex and mystery.  Go for a walk on nearby Clapham Common afterward to walk it off.

Players: it’s Friday night and you’re looking for a hottie to hold.  Fu Manchu is likely to be buzzing with fellas and gals looking to have a good time.  Make a play for the bar at around 11pm and sidle up to someone who takes your fancy. Give them a smile.  Ask them their name.  Buy them a cocktail.  Get them on the dancefloor and lose yourselves to the night.

The Faults

It gets sweaty in there.

Sex Factor

4.  Easy there, tiger.

Chotto Matte, Soho

2 years ago

The Vibe

Chotto Matte takes reservations. If you’re anything like me, someone who’s spent ample time queuing in Soho, you’ll understand the sheer joy this elicits. Frankly, waiting outside would be a waste, considering how invitingly sleek the interiors are. Think concrete walls – the good kind, the chic kind – burnt cedar cladding, and a bar made of carved lava stone.

The Order

I applaud a commitment to a theme and Chotto Matte doesn’t disappoint. Nikkei cuisine is at its heart, with Japanese-Peruvian flavours pervading the décor, menu and cocktail list. If stopping by for a quick drink, good luck – the Cuatro Uvas, a happy marriage of pisco and sake, simply must be drunk in multiples; it’s that good. Do not, I repeat, do not leave without nibbling (or more likely, wolfing down) the impossibly delicious yellowtail yuzu truffle tostadita. This will be the highlight of your evening, no matter how beautiful or charming your date.

The Game

Glamour pusses will feel right at home basking in the light of the UV artwork by Tokyo-based artist Houxo Que (although it doesn’t render well in selfies, annoyingly). It’s scene-y enough to rival Nobu but with prices suitably reasonable to justify a few more rounds of Chotto Bellinis before you rejoin Old Compton Street’s motley crew.

The Faults

I know it’s arty and stuff, but subtly marked lavatories get my goat. A combination of fancy electronic sliding doors and lack of obvious ‘man shape’ or ‘woman shape’ signs make the loos (albeit dreamily art-worked) a little confusing to navigate. You may not want to waltz in on your date using the urinal; then again, you might. It takes all sorts.

Sex Factor 

5.  Talk about sexy. The blemish-eclipsing mood lighting! The audaciously sultry curves of the bar! Hell, even the messy tostadita-gobbling feels like foreplay. It’s likely the rest of your night will be just as tender as that truffle-laced tuna sashimi.

5cc, Exmouth Market

4 years ago

The Vibe  

Here are the vital statistics on 5CC. The name stands for ‘5 Cocktail Club’ (well I’m 90% sure this is the case, I can’t find anything online that confirms it).  It’s hidden away on the top floor of an English pub called the Exmouth Arms, and would be hard to stumble across if you weren’t ‘in the know’. It’s also the sister venue to a bar of the same name, which dwells beneath the Well & Bucket in Bethnal Green.

Despite this, it could well be related to the sexy Scotch club in St James. Both share an affinity for leather armchairs, taxidermy and Paul Raymond-esque neon lights. The key differential is that 5CC is more likely to be playing Dizzy Gillespie over 90s dance remixes, which means it’s perfect for a night of civilised conversation.

The Order

I was told that this bar ‘wasn’t really about food’, but then I looked at the menu and saw Oysters wrapped in smoked bacon, creamed leeks and crushed hazelnuts (£14 for 6). To be fair to my source though, all other food plates were just upgraded pub snacks like smoked almonds (£4) and olives (£4). Don’t bother with wine or beer here, you can do all that downstairs. This bar places a focus on cocktails and ‘vintage’ creations, as many of the liquors are sourced from specialist suppliers.

The Lavender Fizz cocktail (£9) had more of a kick to it than its unthreatening name would suggest, the Rhubarb and Ginger Cooler was refreshing and the Mary Pickford (rum, pineapple and grenadine) tasted like a Caribbean holiday. The Kiwi Margarita was described as ‘a harmonious blend of tequila, mint and kiwi’ which intrigued me since I would have never pinned the word ‘harmonious’ next to Mexico’s deathliest distilled export. It was tangy and delicious though. For those after something harder, the vintage liquors will do the trick. Try The Boulevardier, a concoction of bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari.

The Game

Your date will not expect to see a cocktail bar on walking into a pub, so why not play that to your advantage? Agree to meet her at the Exmouth Arms for a glass of wine, lead her straight past the bar, up the stairs and surprise her with a considerably more sophisticated night than she would have prepared for. If you’re feeling confident, you can delay the surprise by getting a few beers in first. If you get hungry, stroll across the road to Morito, one of London’s best (and potentially only) Moorish tapas bars.

The Faults

There’s not much to fault here, though it can be little quiet towards the beginning of the week. Opt for a Thursday or Friday.

Sex Factor

3.

Radio Rooftop Bar, Holborn

4 years ago

The Vibe

Nothing attracts a young, summer crowd faster than a new rooftop bar, especially one with Instagram-able views. Hot off the heels of chichi sister restaurant STK, Radio Rooftop Bar is the latest offering from ultra chic Spanish brand ME Hotels, with a reception as sleek and shiny as the express elevator’s twinkling LED lights. Located on the tenth floor, this is a city dweller’s escapist haven. The nucleus of this intimate yet spacious venue is a hi-tech bar, which houses slick bartenders and a vast array of spirits. Step outside and experience the wow factor of the wrap-around terrace, which boasts a spectacular city panorama and incorporates the grand art deco edifice of Marconi House, where the first BBC programme was broadcast in 1922. Take your pick from one of the Ibiza-style white sofa tables that line the rooftop parameters, complete with ambient candles, lanterns and outdoor heaters, which will be on 365 days a year – except for during the annual two-day British heatwave.

The Order

Look no further down the cocktail menu than Radio’s twist on Pimms, served with a large sprig of mint, slice of cucumber and topped with blackberries and raspberries – an ideal refreshment after a long day at the office. Impressively attentive waiters will ensure you and your date are well looked after (and the drinks keep flowing) while you’re busy taking snaps. Radio’s surprisingly reasonable menu offers ‘global tapas’ options, so share a few dishes that will line the stomach, such as the scotch eggs, Wagyu beef sliders or mac ’n’ cheese, priced between £6 – £10.

The Game

This swanky venue is perfect for a ‘spontaneous’ summer date. Book a few weeks in advance (but don’t tell her that) and arrange to meet straight after work to enjoy the sunset views. With anticipation building in the express elevator, head straight to a round sofa table (remember to pre-reserve to avoid disappointment) and treat your date to a champagne cocktail. This serves as a fantastic opportunity for a ice-breaking game of London themed I-Spy. From the Gherkin, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Shard, down the river to the IMAX, Somerset House and across to the London Eye and Big Ben, you’ll be dazzled by the bright city lights and eclectic European crowd. Although the vibe here is low key elegance, don’t be fooled. This is a slick, Sex-and-the-City-style bar attracting polished model types and European bankers who have pitched up to see and be seen. If dressing up, shmoozing over cocktails and partying in the sky is up your street then this is your destination. If not, Radio’s cool, rooftop bar is the ideal summer lounging date worth a visit just for the view, and to make you feel like excited tourists for the night.

The Faults

It may be tricky to orchestrate a spontaneous ‘let’s pop in for one drink’ kind of date, as when busy, front of house are reluctant to let drop-ins up to the roof. If you forget to book in advance, some gentle persuasion to just ‘take a look upstairs’ may be required to pass go and collect your £200 (bottle of champagne, that is).

Sex Factor

4.

The Luggage Room, Mayfair

4 years ago

“ He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Luggage Room Stairs view

The Vibe

Oh Fitzgerald. With all this noise about the new film, I forgot what a Panty-Dropper your prose could be. If we can leave Baz Luhrmann’s world of high-octane action, big name stars and hip hop tracks for a moment, let’s reconsider the 1920s as a place where the rich, when not flapping around on Egg Island, were hanging around in polished hotels and cutting loose. Theses joints were as wet as the speakeasies, but a little more exclusive.*

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The Luggage Room is not the place to visit in costume after having watched the movie. It is a place to go if you are unaffected by the proliferating prohibition bars in East London and would rather play house in an Art Deco hotel bar in Mayfair, making an elegant nod to the era. Leather banquettes, stiff drinks, polished mahogany, marble floors, luggage studded trimmings, lots of champagne, cobblers and punches. So goddamn classy – with the concurrent price tag of course. And for a date? It offers intimacy, perfect acoustics for whispers and giggles, and a healthy dose of fancy escapism.

The Order

It’s only the best for the lady. Whether supping on the rich hug-in-an-expensive-glass Malbec, going for an ‘heritage’ cocktail or just taking a double shot of Mezcal straight up, you’ll adore the drinks. The Penicillin is fantastic for whiskey lovers – Johnnie Walker, lemon juice, honey, ginger and talisker. The Pisco Sour should be sampled as it’s so en vogue right now (been to Ceviche or Coya?) and an Old Fashioned ordered for style points. The best thing about these sorts of bars- and by ‘sorts’ I mean pricey, old school and residing in hotels- is that the cocktails are punchy, no scrimping on booze. Unless, like my companion, you want to lose all feeling in your legs and trip straight out of there, give up on spirits after two rounds and move on to wine. This is also a kind consideration to your bank balance (only marginally though). Miss out on the bar snacks – the refillable nuts and vegetable crisps are good enough, but the pork pie or anchovies are one to avoid on a date night.

The Game

The game is very much focused around said order. If you get that right, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be pinning them down on the leather couches by the end of the evening. There are darkish corners and the place does not heave with crowds, all the more reason to be inappropriate. One thing I will say is dress the hell up. What’s the point of living the high life if you look like a tramp. Guys, this calls for the slickest of your shirts, a new suit perhaps and some strong cologne. If you want to mack on all night, you had better make sure your face is smooth and your mouth tastes of butterscotch (How? I don’t know). Ladies, resist the call to flapper dress this up, themes spell death to a first date. But do embrace the desire to wear your heels high and your dresses short, with racy lipstick, lots of Coco Mademoiselle and a slinky little shirt draped over your shoulders to feign modesty. Chat, drink, touch, laugh, really stretch this out. And split the bill please, it’s a bitter burden for one person to shoulder. Very hard to leave but it’ll spit you out at 1am, so have that cab ordered.

The Faults

It ain’t cheap and you may be the coolest/youngest cat in there.

Sex Factor

5. You came, you stayed, you drank and spent way to much. I think the effort’s been put in darlin.

*Sooo Interesting: During prohibition, wild columnist Elsa Maxwell held a barn dance party in the Waldorf-Astoria featuring real livestock, fake trees and liquor from a life-size papier mâché cow, “which squirted champagne from one teet and Scotch from another”. Heaven.

Dirty Martini, Hanover Square

5 years ago

The Vibe

This is the first date spot for those of us who haven’t forgotten how much fun an old school happy hour can be. I’m not talking buy one Pisco Sour and get a free cicchetti on the side; I’m talking good old-fashioned two for one martinis and

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champagne cocktails, maybe a side of Slippery Nipples to really kick things off. It’s a place full of blinged up couples who, just for a night, want to let their hair down, imbibe Cosmopolitans and gyrate to Rihanna. It’s fun, it’s silly and it’s unpretentious (despite perhaps wanting to be). Dirty Martini is somewhere that makes you nostalgic for your former days of central London bars that embraced hip-hop and house music, dark corners and reflective surfaces, normal cocktail glasses, flaring barmen and flame-curled orange peels. Classic.

The Order

Martinis, prosecco cocktails, bottles of wine and champagne discounts. Happy hour is from 5pm-8pm- get in, get out.

The Game

Let’s walk this one out. You met your date last week at one of those new all-day-drinking brunch parties and you can’t quite recall their vital stats. They suggest an equally boozy and commercial hotspot so as to get you back to the cocktail swilling moment you first met in, as soon as possible. It’s a Saturday date and it starts at 6pm. Primed for the night, you pass a Prêt just by Hanover Square and decide to wisely (and quickly) line your stomach with a demi-sandwich and an espresso. You then have a mint and head next door where you meet at one of the bar’s low tables in ‘the Tunnel’. The drinks (prosecco cocktails) have already been ordered- it is two for one afterall. You proceed to work your way through the menu at some pace and before you know it you’re smooching and dancing, talking to people on the next door tables and planning where to head next. Be warned, it all gets a bit ‘on the pull’ later so exit after a couple of hours and head to a nearby watering hole for more- Barrio Central is ideal.

The Faults

Engagement parties, fun as they are, may cringe a newly dating couple. Gets a little ‘hip hop hoes’ later on in the evening.

Sex Factor

4. This is pure central London sexy fun- you can do it ironically or with proud gusto. This is where we only dreamed of getting into when we were carrying STA Travel IDs and high hopes for alcohol and glitz. We may now have become spoilt by choice and the rise of the prohibition bar but you’d be a serious square not to have fun here. Plus, hate it or love it, Rihanna and David Guetta make for far sexier dance moves than experimental electro. Fact.

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