London

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

I’m a proper adult. πŸŽ‰

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Nights out in London don’t get much more memorable than tormenting strangers in an adult ball pit with your loved ones.

Better yet, tormenting them a ball pit bar.

In that and many other senses, Ballie Ballerson is the best answer to nostalgic deviance Shoreditch has to offer.

The bar and their world-famous balls draws a crowd of fun-loving millennials happy to spend their hard-earned cash pretending to be children. And that, my friends, creates one electric atmosphere.

To maximise your time at Ballie, I would advise booking your time slot in the ball pit an hour or so after you arrive. There are plenty of cocktails to try, songs to shake it to, and new friends to make in the interim.

The pit itself was deep enough to swallow all three members of my girl gang at different points of the night. You don’t want to miss out on recovery quests with a buzz, I promise you.

(It was also large enough that a man in a plastic crown was able to crowd-surf into the pit. Before he stuffed a few balls down the back of my bodysuit.. .no, there was literally no better way to phrase that sentence.)

Between trips to the pit, we took advantage of Rascals – Ballie’s adjoining restaurant andthe world’s first waterproof dining room – to fuelled for further frolicks.

Though I have yet to figure out why a restaurant would require precautions for aquatic exploits, Rascals’ food and cocktails surprised me. It came across as the sort of thing Kylie Jenner would serve at a dinner party.

On a Rob Kardashian price tag.

The value of the tapas-style dishes was incredible. Β£6 Cheeseburger spring rolls (a revelation), Β£6 burrata with basil pesto & a parmesan crumb, Β£8 truffled mushroom risotto with parmesan foam…every dish was infallible and perfectly complimented by a small menu of innovative cocktails.

Cactus Margarita Β£10 Reposado Tequila, Mezcal, Cactus, Lime, Buzz Button Tincture, Szechuan Salt /
Yuzu Pretty Β£10 White Brandy, White Rum, Yuzu, Matcha, Lime, Whites /

My favourite was Tonka The Plonka (Solera Bourbon, fig, tonka bean, and black walnut) but the Yuzu Pretty (white brandy, white rum, yuzu, matcha, lime, and egg whites) and Cactus Margarita (Reposado Tequila, mezcal, cactus, Lime, buzz button tincture, and szechuan salt) were close seconds.

We spent the rest of the night dancing around Rascals like it was the school disco of collective dreams long after our time in the pit was up.

We had a literal f***ing ball.



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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,Β 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) idΓ©e 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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