London

I love London. I sign things London. London is the key to my heart – it deserves some writing.

beer afternoon tea
As far as London’s prosecco postcodes are concerned, Hyde Park is at the top of chain. It would have been the last place I expected to find a beer afternoon tea.

Truth be told, the idea filled me with dread. Afternoon tea has always held a place in my heart as an opportunity to sip bubbles and feast on crustless finger sandwiches. An afternoon on beer, on the other hand, has always become a meal in itself. The combination hardly seemed a peanut butter and jelly kind of match

Nonetheless, I put faith in the inclinations of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park and headed for some weekend indulgence in their Rosebery Lounge. Can an afternoon tea ever be had?

No. Not really. But it can be unexpectedly wonderful. As it was here.

The hotel restau’s new offering pairs unique beers from the UK, US and Belgium with their prestigious afternoon tea treats.

We’re talking sushi-style sandwiches (slow-roasted turkey with cranberries & sage butter, Cotswold egg & black truffle, confit tuna with sweet piquillo peppers, black olives & oregano, et al) with Thornbridge Chiron (a spicy and balanced Pale Ale with a deliciously juicy malt). We’re talking hand-made maple snow balls and Mandarin mont blancs with Kriek Boon (a Lambic almond-tinged beer fermented with 400g of whole cherries per litre of beer). We’re talking infallible freshly-baked scones (plain & cranberry with Devonshire clotted cream, strawberry jam and rose petal jam) with Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (a moreish Brown Ale made with Rogue Farms hazelnuts).

Struggling to find a last-minute Christmas gift for a beer enthusiast? It doesn’t get much better.

beer afternoon tea

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la soiree
The first ‘non-essential’ I bought myself when I moved back to London as an adult was a ticket to La Soiree. Trading a week of caffeine-dependent sanity for nose-bleed seats to a modern circus no-one had ever heard of felt like a risk at the time.

Eight years later, it has become an essential annual ritual.

Be it from laughter that has you clutching the seat in front of you or the physical reaction required when seeing act after act defy death, La Soiree simply takes your breath away. Each act – be it this year’s raucously inappropriate Daredevil Chicken Club or blindfolded cradle act from The Chilly Brothers – is mischievous and magical by equal measure and only heightened by their well-deserved arrival at the West End’s Aldwych Theatre.

The Olivier Award-winning phenomenon is neither circus nor variety show nor dive bar nor burlesque act. Yet all of them, all the same. Though their cast changes annual, the show always feel like home. A home where people fly through the air, strip, and sing the most politically incorrect songs you’ll enjoy all year.

So, you know, normal Christmas vibes.

Do not miss out this year. But do watch out for the bananas.

how to make sushi
After four hours of OCD disquietude, my naive ‘how to make sushi’ Google sinkhole resulted in force-feeding my frustrated and starving eighteen-year-old self a bowl of hard rice, unripe avocado and inconceivably expensive Ahi.

It foreshadowed a decade of failed sushi attempts.

I took sushi for granted from my very first mouthful of maki; the demanding rice recipe process, the art of the roll, the balance of flavours. Sushi is, unequivocally, an art. Then Hashi Cooking changed everything.

Owner and teacher Reiko Hashimoto is not only the first Japanese chef to teach sushi in the UK but has been doing so for 17 years in London. If anyone could turn my incompetence around, it would be her.

With desperately low expectations for myself, I headed to The Club at The Ivy for one final attempt at successful wok and rolling.

For the afternoon, Reiko was joined by Oliver Hilton Johnson (sake educator and director of Tengu sake) and 19 other sushi chefs in the making.

To make a long story short, I can genuinely make sushi now. I know the tips. I know the tricks. I know the tactics and I understand them in a way my previously fruitless Googles couldn’t teach me. I can inside out roll, create beautiful omelette nigiri and sake pair my creations to perfection.

I even left with enough sushi to gift a friend for his birthday.

If you have ever considered a crack at the fine art, Hashi may be just what you’ve been looking for.


how to make sushi
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w london perception bar
I have treated W London‘s Library and Room 913 as a makeshift members club for over five years. I frequently danced myself into the next day under its titanic disco ball, made my way through a myriad of martinis while people-watching over Leicester Square, and nestled into back rooms for private film screenings with loved ones.

But I had never consumed more than an olive on any visit.

In all fairness, hotel restaurants typically hold little clout when I’m looking for somewhere to eat. Especially in Central London. With every cuisine conceivable available within a five minute walk, the W had little chance to enter my laundry list of must-eat adventures.

Then they decided to get all gastronomic on me.

This month, the W unveiled their face-lifted bar (now called The Perception) alongside a new dining series set to introduce emerging chefs to gourmands both local and en voyage.

The series has launched with the delicious genius of Magnus Reid (owner of C.R.E.A.M and Legs – the latter of which gained a Bib Gourmand after just four months of business). Magnus has long debunked any misconceptions that culinary success requires qualifications – having none – as one of the most unconventional and exciting chefs in the city. And his residence at The Perception only further proves it.

The sharing-friendly menu is a twisted Mediterranean-European triumph. It pairs burrata with chilli jam and fried garlic (addictive), celeriac carpaccio with buckwheat and gremolata (trust me on this one), and mussels with nduja and fennel (some of the best I’ve had anywhere in Europe).

In my presence, the pasta (see: pappardelle with crab, chilli & breadcrumbs and tagliatelle with sausage/fennel ragu & parmesan) has also been multi-Italian approved and the dessert (the chocolate pot with mint granita, in particular) turned a dessert-hater on his head.

If my Granada Gunpowder (Woodford Reserve, Campari, Disaronno, Carpano Antica Formula, Angostura Bitters) idée fixe wasn’t reason enough to return, this luxury dining experience at a Hackney price tag sealed the deal. I can’t wait to see who Team W London decide to champion next.

w london perception bar
w london perception bar
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mercante supper club 1
I am a little bit indecisive when it comes to ordering food.

Little bit in the way that Donald Trump is a little bit awful.

It’s not so much that I’m a picky eater but that I’m someone who suffers from culinary FOMO on the daily. When I eat out, I want my choices to not only be better than the versions I could make at home but better than everything else on the menu.

Mercante have developed a rather magical way to do both.

This month, the authentic Italian restaurant launched a monthly ‘no menu’ concept supper club to showcase the seasonal delights of la dolce vita del cibo.

Head Chef Davide D’Ignazio’s evolving four-course menu is revealed to guests on arrival and plays heavily on his home country’s regional specialities.

At the supper club’s nativity, we enjoyed a plate of truly succulent pork cheek (with opaline crackling, porcini carpaccio & celeriac puree), delica pumpkin risotto amaretti with parmesan crumble, sea bass (with a shockingly tasty fennel, olive & caper salad), and a pomegranate gel panna cotta. Each cooked at our side by David while we indulged in perfectly paired wines.

The recipes of which I would also sell a kidney for.

(The ‘no menu’ Mercante Supper Club experience is priced at £55 per person for and will run on every third Thursday of the month at 7pm. Advance booking essential.)


mercante supper club
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