It’s a pavement-and-drizzle Wednesday in London, so we’re tucked inside a 2×4 coffee roaster-cum-café with a malty Assam (me) and a proper espresso and water chaser (Fleur McCree, owner of Little Beauty).Continue Reading →
In a city awash with a cacophony of great beer it is almost impossible to pick a best in show let alone construct a top five. Though saying that, inspired by our journeys round London Beer Week this February we thought we’d muse on some of our favourites from the ever expanding London Craft beer scene. Then in the coming months we’ll pack our bags and dutifully head off round Blighty and pick some of our other regional favourites. It’s a hard life we know…Continue Reading →
Pococello started life when James meet a James, that being James Elliot, one half of The Pizza Pilgrims meet James Chase of the infamous Chase Distillery at Camp Bestival and a conversation about a shared love of Limoncello eventually blossomed in to a collaboration and rather delicious product.Continue Reading →
We’d like to introduce you to Dappa. No not an urban well dressed gent but Devon’s own and the UK’s first Grappa. Produced by the Devon Distillery the name of product comes from the fact that like Champagne the term Grappa is protected and the product can only be made in Italy. So after two trips via bureaucrats in Brussels the term ‘Dappa’ was born. Hot on the heels of the burgeoning English wine industry the Devon Distillery uses grape skins from a range of renowned English wine makers to distill their award-winning spirit.Continue Reading →
A delicious rum is always appreciated. A carbon neutral delivery method is also increasingly de rigueur….for a local dairy or jam producer perhaps, but for a rum? Just in case we haven’t got enough of a good thing with this pretty exceptional rum that Alex Geldenhuys has sourced from the Dominican Republic, she then loads the rum barrels on what is basically a pirate ship. It is currently the only trans-Atlantic, engine-less cargo vessel. Powered by good old-fashioned wind, it guarantees a massive reduction in the carbon footprint typically associated with trans-oceanic freight. Continue Reading →
To become a fixture on the mental, and physical landscape of a town or city is no simple feat. It is by its very nature generational. The long haul, over the fly-by-night or Johnny-come-lately. Yet once settled in the minds-eye, one becomes a part of an individual’s mental map. A point of reference, an anchor in a changing world. And so it is with Harveys Brewery, whose familiar features have graced the centre of Lewes for over two centuries.Continue Reading →
Stereotypes are a terrible thing. And as a Englishman who has never been east of few grand hotels in Cairo my experience of Australia and Australians has been restricted like many to rugby matches and friendly faces behind mainly Sam Smiths pubs in central London. Gin & Christmas have never been the first things to spring to mind when one mentions our Antipodean cousins.Continue Reading →
Our resident habitual drinkers Lettie Dibben & Julia Hamilton-Griffin head East to explore Dalston’s latest offering: Silk Stockings.Continue Reading →
It may be London Cocktail Week and we may be self confessed lovers of the capital (and especially it’s drinking options) but having put down the Evening Standard and turned off Capital (that’s a lie I’ve never listened to Capital in my life) we thought we’d reach out to some of our favourite bars from our drinking travels round these Isles.
We first heard of Jake’s Bar & Still a few years back when interviewing Jake Burger at their sister bar in West London The Portobello Star. Jake spoke passionately of the drinks scene in Leeds and the great time when working at Jake’s Bar & Still. So spurned on by such strong recommendations we jumped on a train northwards and the cocktails at the other end made it, despite the daylight robbery committed by Virgin Trains, well worth the trip. Continue Reading →
Spirits are in bloom. London is awash with cocktail bars and the number of drinks brands lining the shelves is seemingly ever-growing. The rise of small batch gin has seen a stagnant market propelled forward and with it a diverse range of tastes, flavours, and expressions.
Following gin, the industry – and drinkers – are busy wondering, what next? Continue Reading →
English wine is now a thing. A big thing. It’s been internationally recognised, decorated with medals and awards. It’s very tasty, especially the bubbly stuff.Continue Reading →
We last met Richard Brendon in a wine bar last year just off Portobello Road where we spoke at length about his stunning ranges of bone china and his attempts to breathe new life into Stoke-on-Trent’s historic potteries. We were certainly impressed and we featured Richard in Issue Two of our print magazine. Fast forward just under a year and Richard has turned his attention to another material, cut crystal glass. We got back in touch and decided to find out more about this new venture.
Last time we spoke we talked extensively about your variety of bone china products. You’ve now created a range of glassware – what prompted the move?
Over the last 5 years I have learnt a lot about tableware. This knowledge has been developed form visiting antiques markets and the best shops around the world. I have observed that the highest quality tableware tends to be hand crafted using traditional techniques, but as is the case with bone china the designs are often very traditional. Over the coming years we will be developing a complete tabletop collection focusing working with the best traditional craftsmen in the world to create products that are contemporary and bring a new audience to high quality hand crafted products.
This week we headed to the faded elegance of Kettner’s Champagne and Cocktail Bar nestled in a Grade II Listed building in the middle of Soho.Continue Reading →
It’s been impossible to pick up the paper recently without feeling sorry for poor Greece. Yet, over the last few years in the face of serious adversity, Greek Wine has gone from strength to strength gaining popularity in the UK alongside its Mediterranean neighbours. With this in mind we headed out to pick up something Greek.Continue Reading →
After a bottle of sassy white in last weeks Time for a Tipple, it was our creative director, Julia’s, turn to treat our wine expert, Lettie, to a refreshing cocktail in a relaxing setting. The Sun Tavern on Bethnal Green Road has been reopened for almost a year now and has built a reputation on providing fine local ales, classic cocktails, and a large selection of poitin and whiskey. As you may have already guessed The Holborn team are often found here exchanging wise cracks and jests over a couple of tall handled steins.Continue Reading →
Belfast is my adopted home. It is a strange and fascinating place and, while I can now make myself understood to taxi drivers (a mixed blessing at best) I have yet to conquer the many shibboleths it throws up to mark out we “blow ins”. But as a bon viveur and boulevardier and other borrowed French euphemisms for alcoholic I have made decisive in-roads into Belfast’s pub life. There are many Belfast pubs I haven’t been to. They tend to be the ones without any natural daylight, adorned with flags of various hues and murals of Bambi-eyed gunmen in balaclavas wanting to shoot you over some historical detail involving chaps on horses wearing wigs. The chaps, not the horses; horses have lovely hair and little need of wigs. On the very few occasions I have attempted to enter these types of pubs I have been promptly escorted from the premises by bald men with mottled blue forearms and extremely pro-active views on health and safety.Continue Reading →
Our Creative Director and cocktail enthusiast Julia is teaming up with wine expert Lettie Dibben to explore the different wines & cocktails to have out and about and at home. For the first instalment we decided to do a bit of both – we scoured the shelves of our supermarkets to find a fine tipple but rather than retreating home we headed out searching for London’s best BYOB options. Continue Reading →
A gentle stroll through London’s parks has got to be one of the better ways to bask in a fine English summer’s day, and what more of an indulgence could there be to round off time spent traversing Victoria Park than to visit the nearby East London Liquor Company. The distillery is located in one of Bow’s best-known historical sites, the old glue factory in Bow Wharf, and is a treasure trove to any card-carrying spirits devotee.Continue Reading →
Sipsmith, London’s first new gin distillers to open for 200 years, was started by old friends Sam and Fairfax. A fair few years ago they were both out working in the US, here they were witnessing the burgeoning craft beer scene emerge and an idea came to them, why couldn’t they do this back in the UK and with that most British of spirits.
London is most certainly a city of villages: whether you are loyal to the tribes of the north, south, east or west, you are never too far from a venue owned by the ETM Group, which has gastro pubs all over town. Over the past 15 years brothers Ed and Tom Martin have learnt a thing or two about adapting successful concepts to their location. The Botanist Broadgate Circle is virtually unrecognisable from its West London counterpart, with smart tweaks ensuring it suits the City clientele the new venue is already attracting in droves.
So we’ve staggered along to the polling station and exercised our democratic right. With the polls predicting electoral mayhem it is likely to be a long night and politics will become even more opaque and messy than it already is. We have a Very Holborn and quintessentially British way of dealing with this – keep calm, sit back and pour yourself a drink.Continue Reading →
Among the many joys of the sun emerging in Blighty is of course Pimm’s. For this (perhaps beloved?) correspondent at least the start of the sun-blessed season has not yet begun until he has imbibed his first glass of this very British liquor. It is a drink with a fascinating history of elitism and snobbery of the lowest sort, however it remains delicious – so on we go.
“There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.”
Nestled between the fine tailors of Mayfair and the, sadly waning, iniquity of Soho, Piccadilly’s Hotel Café Royal is a marvel of London’s opulent past. Pick your way between the marauding tourists of Shaftesbury Ave and you’ll come upon the Green Bar, an homage to that most villainous of spirits: absinthe.
Turning your back on the Sea, the final leg of our journey takes us west toward the Devonian boarder. The pretty little coastal town of Bridport has a few interesting places worth diverting for, The Tiger, George Hotel and Oddfellow Arms being particularly pleasant, while not far away the fine Shave Cross Inn sits in stately isolation under its impressive thatch. The last pub on this whistle-stop tour though is one which while not being historically remarkable, perhaps encapsulates the essence of what I have been banging on about.
The tipple on the tip of everyone’s tongues for 2015, vermouth – so-called for its derivation from the German for wermut – the rather notorious ingredient, wormwood – is an age-old medicinal tincture, newly finding its way back into fashion for its union of fortified wine and cocktail-receptive bitter botanicals…
Back-tracking through Poole at speed, one eventually clears the sprawl of 70s brutality and arrives again into something you may recognise as Dorset. Steer your driving lackey south, through Wareham (you may wish to call at the perfectly adequate Kings Arms if thirst overcomes you) and on into the Isle of Purbeck. Keep going until you hit the little hamlet of Corfe Castle. Corfe is perhaps one of the prettiest places in southern England. It is also, however, a short bus ride from the morass we have just fled. Consequently on every highday and holiday between April and the end of September, this charming little essay in rural England vanishes under a tide of coaches, geriatrics and overweight parents wearily seeking somewhere to graze their unruly brood. All is not lost though. Tucked round in a back street is a little slice of eccentric brilliance which has no truck with this wave of intrusive incivility.
Fans of Elephant Gin since its inception in 2013, we’re partial to the gin sipped on its own. Tonight, The Holborn is whipping up a classic serve, the rather timeless French 75, to steady ourselves for the weekend ahead.
Greetings once again you suitably cultivated boys and girls. Humble apologies to you all for my long spell of absence from these pages – the burden of paid employment has kept me at an uncivilised distance from my typewriter. This hiatus though has allowed me to conduct a prolonged, and frankly somewhat ruinous, bout of research into the singularly fascinating subject of the licensed trade, and I return afresh (figuratively) with a host of new pub adventures to share with you.
Easing into one of the cosy, copper-roofed booths at the Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is a sure-fire way to unwind after a long day. Even more so when it’s with a steady supply of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, pegged as the ultimate bourbon for modern whiskey connoisseurs.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged that all proper drinking jaunts must end in the corner of a darkened Soho bar. If it was good enough for Oscar Wilde then it is most certainly good enough for The Holborn. Midnight revelers, discerning drinkers and creatures of the night, do we have a bar for you.
London’s taste for cocktails is ever morphing with a great swathe of novel bars with beautifully curated menus, spread between the carefully crafted classic and the hare-brained inventions of the truly innovative few. On our travels across this fair city, we’ve encountered a smattering of bunsen burners and all too many jam jars, but one venue that is taking novelty to delicious new heights is B.Y.O.C. Camden, the third in the ‘Bring Your Own Cocktail’ concept, which has successfully set up shop with its minuscule Covent Garden outpost and rather more mighty Brighton den.
Being men of letters, lovers of exquisitely used profanity and owning drinking habits that would make Oliver Reed blush, we couldn’t not be deeply intrigued by a drink entitled ‘Suffering Bastard’ which we discover when researching what to do with one’s underused Bourbon collection in the side cabinet. The drink was reported by Time Magazine in 1950 to be ‘”Egypt’s favorite drink”, so we sat mixed up a couple of glasses of our new discovery and did a bit of research into our tipple and the man behind the cocktail.
For our ‘The Holborn Drinks’ London Cocktail Week Cocktail we wanted to find a drink that was a true reflection of both London’s drink heritage and it’s innovative present. So a tea-infused gin sour sounded like a perfect fit- especially when the gin is distilled right here in the capital. The mastermind behind this drink is Mikey Pendergast of the East London Liquor Company.
Continue Reading →
Well it is here… our World Cup, our Glastonbury, our Great British Bake Off Final. Our gin-soaked, speak-easied, exotically garnished week of inebriated joy. Calendars have been cleared, livers have been rested, and the family silver has been sold. For the fifth year running we will slip on our hardiest brogues and don our finest blazers and venture out for a week of drinking that both our doctors and mothers would disapprove of. We are of course talking about London Cocktail Week 2014.
For the uninitiated amongst you London Cocktail Week is the UK’s largest drinks festival, with over 12,000 sophisticated drink enthusiasts trying new bars and new spirits. You purchase yourself a wristband for £15 and for the whole week you can enjoy £4 cocktails at 250 bars across the capital, plus a number of rather fine masterclasses, tastings and parties.
The Holborn has not long returned from a tour around Brazil, off we went Panama Hat and linen suit delicately packed to discover the delights of Rio & Sao Paulo. As an aside a trip highlight was when a fellow traveller turned while trekking up a steep street in the hills of Rio and said ‘your dressed like a 19th Century explorer’ – oh how we blushed. Moving on though from that particular vanity, various dispatches are being formed from the many delights we discovered but we start with a discovery we as a naive Brit did not expect to come across- The Brazilian Craft Beer Scene.
Fully expecting to be drinking humdrum ice cold Pilsner for weeks, well at least when one couldn’t get a gin fizz, we discovered a strong underbelly of IPAs, Pale ales and the occasional Imperial Stout. It’s not quite London or New York yet, and those Pilsner do still abound, but it wasn’t too difficult to find a nearby hopy beverage. In particular European Bar imports in the form of Brussels’ Delirium Cafe in Rio and Glasgow’s BrewDog in Sao Paulo house both a impressive collection of Brazilian Craft Beer and beer from around the globe.
Having experienced this revelation, the task of sampling as much as we could was undertaken. Our favourite brewery after a hard few weeks drinking was 2 cabeças (Two Heads in English), and we decided to get in touch with them and find out a bit more;
Bernardo, tell us about how 2 cabeças started.
We all were home brewers, I started as a home brewer in 2009, and we were looking to launch a brand. So, we started 2 cabeças in 2012 based on the gipsy brewery model, we were one of the first companies to do that in Brazil. I now share the responsibility of creating and run the brewing operation with Maíra Kimura.
What inspired you to become a brewer?
I wanted to make and create things, instead of only buy them. Nowadays, I think that also represents a form of art, something I always had close to me and kind of had lost that as the years went by. And beer was the way I found to fulfill that impluse to create, with no commercial intent at the beginning. But then, I saw that I could make a living out of it and I went for it.
How do you come up with your recipes? Tell us about some of your beers.
I usually try a beer or some food and it either blows my mind, or I feel it is lacking something. In both situations I have in my mind how would I do that, to replicate those flavours or improve them, and then give it a shot at home. We have a passion fruit IPA called Maracujipa. I was so in love with American hops I thought: “Well, why can’t I get that delicious aroma from the fruit, instead of the hops?” And it worked out very well, hops and passion fruit.
I’m really into Saisons and IPAs, so we have a session IPA, passion Fruit IPA and a Black IPA. Its funny cause we have three IPAs, but we don’t a classic one. Now we have two collaborative Saisons. One is called Caramba!, and we brewed with Stillwater Artisanal Ales, which was a big honour for us. Brian, from Stillwater, always wanted to brew a saison with star-fruit, and had a batch test a year before with the fruit. It came out very dry, refreshing.
We also have Saison à Trois, in collaboration with Cervejaria Invicta. We had two gold medals in South America this year with that beer. Its a classic saison, dry hopped with Saaz and with a hint of coriander seed.
And also this year we release a beer with Brewdog, called Hello my Name is Zé. It is also a passion fruit IPA, a mix between Maracujipa and Jack Hammer.
What is the Brazilian Craft Beer scene like? Is their a hunger for exploring more beer outside of traditional Pilsners?
Its is changing. But most of the breweries still rely on a good yellow lager as a starting point. But we are seeing a change, even more traditional Breweries are now trying IPAs and Imperial Stouts. And the number of beer fans is growing very fast, and as they try some imported beer, the want us to have the same approach. So that is helping to grow the scene.
So, we have many German focused breweries, but also many going in the American way, using tons of hops and attitude.
You collaborated with the UK’s own Brewdog Brewery on the beer ‘Hello My Name is Ze’. How did that come about?
We all started as home brewers, so that helped us to get know and get along, when James from Brewdog was here in 2012. We love Brewdog beers, and their attitude. I still can’t believe we have made beers with Brewdog and Stillwater in 2014.
They wanted a local ingredient, and the Brazillian importer, Giba, loves Maracujipa. So, we decided to use passion fruit in a IPA, but with the Brewdog style, with loads of dry hopping. Its is a big success here in Brazil.
What is the personal experience like of creating a quality product and seeing people enjoying it?
That is probably the most important thing. Trying to create the best beer you can and see how people like that product. That is what keeps my head working, and all the 2 cabeças team! It is so crazy to see people drinking your beer and saying that one is one of best they tried in their whole life. The flip side is then having to deal with problems, bad bottles, also people not used to beer like this saying it is too bitter and therefore in their eyes not beer.
What does the future hold for 2 cabeças?
Good question! I would say more unique beers, more collaboration. Sharing beer with old friends, making new ones… that is the goal!
2 cabeças Beers are hard to get hold of in the UK – we suggested heading down to a Brewdog Bar and sampling a ‘Hello My Name is Ze’ or following our footsteps to Brazil and spending a few weeks sat in bars wearing linen suits.
Interview by Morgan Hamilton-Griffin
Behind the front door of the most inconspicuous and plain-looking building of Hipster central Hoxton Sq lies a ‘pop-up’ with a difference: Dead Dolls Club’s The Dolls House. Get passed the chap dressed in a brightly coloured cowboy outfit on the door and you’ll find yourself in a venue The Holborn now considers a true favourite. I use the term pop-up in inverted commas because it seemingly conforms to that concept while not quite doing so. This venue is temporary yes, no not for a weekend or for a week, the length of this pop-up is mildly indeterminate, though the rough estimate seems to be a year. This is so as the building itself is scheduled for demolition. Ready to be replaced by a much larger building which couldn’t bear any less similarities to the current structure if it had attempted to do so. The proposed building is by the famous architect Zaha Hadid and is causing quite a rankling amongst the Squares other residents, so it is difficult for anyone to say when this pop-up will have to pack up. This strange set of circumstances, combined with a friendly current landlord and the hard-work, creativity and ingenuity of husband and wife team Adam Towner and Katy Rosewarne, have all created a truly unique venue.Continue Reading →
Summer has really delivered this year. We are not talking about the sun but the addition of the London Craft Beer Festival to our August calendar, which sits very nicely in the same week as our usual pilgrimage to CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival. Luckily as Editor I had two esteemed colleagues with me on the epic end of week drinking quest that ensued. We welcome Richard Porter, who recently returned from sampling the craft beer scene in Denmark, to review the first London Craft Beer Festival from Bethnal Green’s Oval Space below. Then our very own Tavern Correspondent Jacob Ward reports on the Great British Beer Festival here.
London Craft Beer Festival by Richard Porter
“You’ve got some of the finest breweries in the world here, some real big hitters” breathed my new friend, as though letting me into a slightly sinful secret.
“Right…. so you go to a lot of beer festivals?” I inquired slightly warily. “Oh yes. Spent my sixtieth birthday at one” he grinned broadly. “Just done three days at the Great British, but had to try this one before heading home.”Continue Reading →
Mid- August this year not only as usual presented us with one beer-lovers pilgrimage but two. Our usual Holborn jaunt to CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival was happily followed up by a jog across town a few days later to the inaugural London Craft Beer Festival. Luckily as Editor I had two esteemed colleagues with me which allowed me to concentrate on drinking and they on taking notes (and drinking of course). So our very own Tavern Correspondent Jacob Ward fresh from his Peak District Pub Stroll reports below on the Great British Beer Festival and we welcome Richard Porter who reviews the first London Craft Beer Festival from Bethnal Green’s Oval Space here.
The Great British Beer Festival by Jacob Ward
After my wanderings around the Peaks I was called back to London to file copy and generally reaffirm my employment status with this august organ, and by a happy chance, this coincided nicely with the Holborn’s annual pilgrimage to the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival at Olympia. Once a year, this grand Victorian pile is transformed into the world’s largest pub, filled to the fine glass barrel vault with 25 different bars dispensing around 800 different ales, bottle beers, ciders and perries; the sight can prove overwhelming, to say the least. After rendezvousing with fellow Holborn members, we breakfasted heavily at the near-by Frank’s Sandwich Bar just up from Olympia station (wonderfully basic Formica-clad place, filled with cabbies and a Full English for £3.80) before lining up in the queue of fellow CAMRA card carrying beer types, sporting a row of impressive ale muscles and feverishly plotting their plan of attack.Continue Reading →
Returning to the road once again, a swift ale could be enjoyed in the near-by George Inn at Alstonfield, which though being more of a restaurant with a bar, has a decent enough ale selection and a ready crowd of Friday evening drinkers. Alternatively, a walk over to Wetton and the Royal Oak could be attempted through the delightful and endless sea of green, though this pretty little pub set in a village almost entirely owned by Devonshire Estates was a distinctly below par experience when last sampled – disappointing as with slightly more enthusiastic staff and a better choice of drink, this could be a cracking little pub.
My sights however, by now well fuelled with good ale, were set upon a haunt known and much beloved to me, a place I can confidently count as simply one of the top ten taverns of our native land. Weaving back south, the dramatic landscape suddenly gives way to the relatively mundane A52 toward Leek. Charge along, skirting the Park boundary, until one arrives at the long string of grime encrusted houses comprising the little hamlet of Waterhouses. Turning left by the dismal looking Ye Olde Crown, follow the road as it enters the somewhat incongruous surroundings of one of Europe’s largest cement processing plants. Persevere, the experience is fleeting and only serves to sharpen the contrast with the wonderful bastion which waits just up ahead on the right.
– The Yew Tree Inn
Cauldon, Waterhouses, ST10 3EJ
As soon as you set eyes on this pub, you just know it’s going to be amazing. Artfully rickety, totally unaltered, shabby and weather-beaten signage and, just to reinforce the point, an enormous and unkempt Yew Tree growing bang outside the beautiful front door.
Alan East is the second generation of his family to run the Yew Tree, inheriting it from his mother and aunt, and is in the process of training up the third. He is a man perfectly suited to his appointed task; modest yet respected, genial without being obsequious. Staining before his fine curving C1960s plywood bar, Alan will dispense superb Midland ales from his antique pumps – all for around £2 – ring up the bill on his ancient solid brass till, and offer the hungry a choice of home-pickled eggs and fresh pork pies served on proper plates with a variety of condiments. The help now being offered by younger members of his family also means the once slightly limited opening hours have recently extended, as has the choice of drink; Weston’s Scrumpy on handpull and a barrel of mild racked behind the bar.
Alan’s other great interest in life, also inherited from his mother, is the accruing and occasional dealing in antiques, curio and Victorian tat. Thus, the Yew Tree doubles as a licensed showroom for his collection – an experience like drinking in the world’s greatest junk shop; half Steptoe & Son, half Uncle Monty’s Chelsea residence. Elaborately carved high backed settles, cast iron and copper top tables, old pianos, pews, clocks, daggers, polyphones, stools and Civil War muskets litter the three interconnecting rooms, lending the interior of this pub a pleasing colour scheme of nicotine yellow, Formica red, green leather and a medley of dark mahogany and walnut. It will take you several visits to view it all.
The first time I sought out this wonderful pub, within five minutes of taking a seat in the bar I was cursing the fact I hadn’t brought a sleeping bag. By the time 2½ pints of delicious Burton Bridge Bitter had been rapidly consumed, I was all set on taking up permanent residence under one of the roomier evergreen shrubs in the tumble-down pub garden. As Orwell himself will tell you, there is no such thing as the perfect pub … but the Yew Tree comes as close to utter perfection as this correspondent has yet found.
The Yew Tree, along with a list of notable others (many featured in this column), is however one of those pubs which fills me with a growing sense of despair and intolerance towards the ‘average’ pub. Everyone reading this will know what that entails, everyone will have crossed a perfectly promising looking threshold to be greeted by the same old parade of predictable crap; the paint by numbers pub interior. Swirly carpet, knocked together rooms, pretend horse brasses, standard lager, name badges, below par beer, frozen scampi, oceans of chips, blackboards written on in chalk effect marker, inexplicably bad piped music and an overarching air of make-believe corporate rustic – a desperate and wildly inaccurate attempt to recreate the heritage interior which would have doubtless once existed, ironically long ago destroyed by the self same corporations. Their efforts though seem like a bad Disney’s version of Merry Ol’ England – done without the large budget or underlying morals – while the sheer reach of large pub companies and their dim-witted design departments mean this ‘average’ formulaic pub is inflicted like a plague across our land, stamping out originality, local vernacular and any sense of character or identity.
Then, just when you begin to lose all hope, a revelation. You happen across somewhere like the Yew Tree, like the Barley Mow, like the Tuckers Grave of Falkland, like the Square and Compass at Worth Matravers, the Payton Arms of Stoke Lyn or Blue Flame of Nailsea – pubs which on the surface run very different operations but which share the same glorious rejection of the ordinary and the average, places which make you realise a simple truth. There is no need to ever set foot in an average pub, and there is simply no excuse for their existence. People should reject these bland and uninspired abominations, until the big companies who own them realise the error of their ways or die an ignorant and fool-hardy corporate death. And then, long may these special pubs and their wonderful custodians endure, and faithfully and ardently, may they be protected by those who understand and value them.
After the prompt chucking out at the Mow and feeling exceedingly well disposed toward life, we barrelled into the National Park proper following the lanes towards the hills and passing through the little villages of Parwich and Brassington. The former houses the Sycamore Inn, a very fine little Robinson’s house incorporating a well stocked village shop with an enterprising and hardworking landlady, while the latter has a choice between the Miners Arms and the Old Gate – both are fine, but the Gate arguably has more character about it with its lovely public bar dominated by an old range.
Heading north we made for the clutch of little villages dotted around the confluence of the Manifold and Dove rivers. The tourist traps of Ilam village and Dovedale become deeply incivil during any spell of half respectable weather, but strike out just beyond the reach of a charabanc and Zimmer-frame and you will find yourself suddenly immersed in proper unassuming rural England. Continuing up onto the rolling moor and pleasant pastures, good walking country if ever there was, one finally arrives at the tiny hamlet of Hopedale and our next port of call.
– The Watts-Russell Arms
Hopedale, Alstonfield, DE6 2GD
Named after the enterprising industrialist and social climber who re-built the nearby Ilam Hall, the Watts-Russell is one of the areas more eccentric little drinking holes. The small and pleasingly plain pub is home to a long serving couple who run the venture seemingly out of want of anything else to do between the Today Programme and Newsnight – service is done on their terms, during their hours and at their speed. It is thus one of those pubs which immediately commands respect from the considered Tavernier – however naive it may seem this is a place run for the sake of it as an extension of an enjoyable lifestyle, rather than as a cold and cynical money factory designed to compromise the ethical standards of both landlord and custom.
The single bar is small and aesthetically unremarkable, but refuses to conform to received notions of ordinary pubs. The softly spoken landlord will most certainly be found seated at his usual ‘reserved’ table reading a book, and will wait at least three to five minutes to reach an appropriate break in the plot before rising to politely serve you, stepping over his Cerberus sized tethered Husky as he does so.
Once at the bar, there is a reassuring absence of the usual stable of mass produced crap – the only lager on offer comes courtesy of the local Freedom Brewery of Stafford and I am reliably informed it is very good. Sitting pride of place, the three unchallenged handpulls dispense impeccably kept libations from Thornbridge Brewery of Buxton and the Watts-Russell is the best bar I have yet found to drink their utterly sublime but savage Jaipur IPA. The food offering is similarly unconventional. No bland ham, egg and chips for £10 here – the landlord doubles as a proper chef and the menu is a serious restaurant affair utilising excellent local produce and seasonal specialities, which are cooked up fresh and from scratch with the minimum of fuss.
This is the sort of marvellously peculiar little pub which through its unique character will instantly repel the boring, the ordinary and the uninspired; it is thus ideal for those who seek deliberately to distance themselves from the crushing monotony of your average pub experience, which serves to both depress and annoy in equal measure.
We here at The Holborn love a nice spot for a beverage or a little nibble, and London is awash with options. So much so that it is hard to keep up, especially for us once we are finished with our weekly duties caressing fine tweeds and experimenting with new gin cocktails. So our friends over at Twenty Something London are going to regularly give us their favourites spots for going out in London. This week it’s the city’s best brunches, hidden terraces to escape to and authentic Italian wine bars amongst others that fit the bill.
Aqua, Bar & Restaurant, Regent Street
The discrete yet suave entrance of Aqua in Central London gives a tempting hint of what lays in wait upstairs, and certainly doesn’t disappoint when you get there. This award winning restaurant and bar sits on the fifth floor, boasting three stunning terraces with views across London and a real exclusive feel, despite Oxford Street’s continuing bustle below.
Negozio Classica, Wine bar & Restaurant, Primrose Hill
This little slice of Italy set down in London’s Primrose Hill is a fantastic place to while away a few pleasant hours on the weekend. Indeed it’s the only place you’ll get the privilege of sampling the wines Negozia Classica serve, as the wine bar, restaurant and shop is part owned by the Italian vineyard Avignonesi that supplies them.
Café 202, Café, Notting Hill
A café inside a boutique shop may sound like a slightly odd concept, but once inside Café 202 you can’t fail to be charmed by the simple, classical décor and tantalising one page menu showcasing excellent brassiere-themed fair. The perfect place to indulge in a spot of people watching and truly delicious brunch as the queue of devoted locals will tell you better than words ever could.
Paramount, Bar & Restaurant, Tottenham Court Road
Paramount restaurant and bar, hidden above central London in Centre Point is worth visiting just for the view. But the extensive and tasty cocktail menu, seasonally changing a la carte dishes and ‘highest high tea’ in London make it more than worthwhile. The perfect place to come when a fantastic first impression is required.
M1lk, Café, Balham
M1lk is a slice of Brooklyn inspired café cool that sits on the corner of Bedford Hill and Hildreth Street Market in Balham, tempting you in with its eclectic interior and smoothies served in milk bottles. Serving mainly coffee in the week, on weekends the place is full of loyal customers coming back to enjoy their delicious brunch options.
My duties in Ashbourne completed, I directed the driver east. Business (or the pretext of it) had first brought me to this part of the world, and the duration of various little projects allowed for a great deal of fecund research through the backwaters and hidden villages of the Derbyshire Staffordshire boarders. Driving out on the Wirksworth road, bare right and follow the lanes down to the pretty little village of Kirk Ireton. Once in the heart of the village, look for the impressive sycamore tree which doubles as a sign for one the most sublime taverns you will ever be lucky enough to find.
– The Barley Mow
Main Street, Kirk Ireton, DE6 3JP
This is an old and glorious pub. What a place England must have been for the errant disciple of proper drinking culture, when charming rural pubs like the Barley Mow were found gracing many a village green and dusty roadside.
The impressive 17th century farmhouse and its delightfully unmolested interior owe their survival to the labours of two generations of formidable proprietors, the late Mrs Ford and the current Mrs Short. The former notched up all her 89 years under the roof of the Mow; keeping a stubborn vigil over the place, she preserved the little pub against the tide of destruction and modernisation which swept away so many of its contemporaries. Upon her death in the late 70s, her family sadly sold most of the pub’s collection of furniture and movable chattels before placing the freehold on the market. For posterity’s sake however, the venerable Mrs Short quickly purchased the place with the express intention of restoring and protecting the pub’s unique character, filling the empty rooms with carefully chosen furniture and sympathetically redecorating. Indeed, one must cross the threshold with a truly discerning eye to find fault with the overriding impression that nothing has changed for well over 100 years, a feat recognised by its part two listing on the CAMRA National Inventory of Pub Interiors.
The public bar, with its bench seating, quarry tile floor, slate tables and impressive black- lead range is a simple rural gem and must surely be one of the most charming of drinking spaces in the civilised world. Modern intrusions are forbidden, and only the crackle of the fire and the ticking of a distant clock are permitted to compete with the gentle lull of conversation and agricultural anecdotes. The air is one of genuine heritage; satisfying and time-honoured without drifting into the realms of a self-regarding licensed museum (see the debased mess which is the George of Southwark).
Service is via a tiny corner hatch where Mrs Short will pour you fine local ales direct from the stillage and at least one real cider at very competitive prices. Be warned though, time on the luncheon session is called promptly at 2pm and is signalled by the landlady taking her seat in the public bar to bid farewell to her regulars as they finish their drinks. This is her pub, her home, and run as she sees fit. She does not suffer fools gladly – nor should she – but approach with the respect she deserves and polite and inquiring conversation will flow. You may even get a ham sandwich, if you play your cards right.
Any true pub connoisseur will appreciate the implicit challenge oft presented by keepers of amazing old taverns such as this. As their pubs testify, they are people who refuse to pander to the uninitiated and the insipid, instead requiring any prospective custom to prove they are worthy of drinking in their house – a challenge this betweeded correspondent relishes. If approached correctly, nine times out of ten initial mistrust will give way to genial banter and handshakes at close of play, one need simply adhere to the received code of traditional pub etiquette learnt over years of considered drinking.
Greetings once again esteemed Holborn readers and humble apologies for the delay in my latest instalment. For legal reasons, I cannot fully discuss the various burdens upon my time which have caused this regrettable tardiness, but I will simply say that a Herring Gull does not make for an ideal house guest.
Anyhow, on with the show. You may recall at the end of my previous dispatch I was slumped unconscious among the convivial surroundings of one of Derby’s finest and most inspirational ale houses. Well, after coming to several hours later, the remainder of that evening passed in a blur of semi-lucid conversation from the back seat of a Vauxhall, with fleeting glimpses of dark country lanes and finally the soft embrace of a pre-prepared guest bed.
I awoke in the pale morning light among the sheer splendour of the southern end of the Peak District, just north of the delightful market town of Ashbourne. This really is one of the most pleasant of lands. You can keep your tourist addled Lakes, the bourgeois Cotswolds and the (Welsh) infested Beacons – the Peaks manage to be the perfect blend of civility and honesty, remoteness and conviviality. The pleasant rolling countryside and little grey stone villages are utterly picturesque without becoming a groomed and over-kempt pastiche, the many tourist honey pots bring in money to the local economy while helpfully sucking in the clamorous masses away from the beautifully desolate moorland and craggy hillsides, and finally the native folk who still abound are friendly, characterful and unassuming.
That said, communication is poor up here. The roads are tortuous and winding while the many railways which once straddled the hills were dispensed with under the state sponsored lunacy of the Beaching Axe. This however has been the areas saving grace, a double edged sword which has perhaps materially impoverished the area but protected its old fashioned and unassuming character. People with money who wish to live here have to find work locally and integrate into the existing culture, rather than supplant it – commuting anywhere beyond Buxton or Derby is simply not an option, while London is talked of as a distant and exotic land. Thus, the hoards of despoiling, braying, horse-worrying, nouveau riche with delusions of adequacy who have already wrought their suburbanising damage on so much once perfectly lovely English countryside, have been kept at bay – for now.
Breakfasting heavily, and with a hired driving lackey in tow (an essential accessory in these parts for the gentleman of leisure) I set out on my journey. It should be no surprise that such a delightful land harbours many a fine tavern, and the southern end of the Peaks continue the high standard set by Derby, with a flat-cap and silage twist. The first port of call was down into Ashbourne itself. It fast becomes clear the residents of this part of the world share the same fondness for drinking and good humour as the folk of my own adopted Somerset, and the narrow cobbled streets of Ashbourne frequently resound to the sights and sounds of a people at play (none more so than during the Royal Shrovetide Football which occurs once a year – a sort of street rugby with a greater emphasis on drinking and brawling).
Once in town, a visit should first be paid to the Smith’s Tavern on St John Street. The extremely promising 18th century exterior sadly gives way to a slightly underwhelming modernised bar but the large rank of Marston’s group handpulls quickly restores faith, as does the use of proper dimpled jugs and the supply of homemade pork pies served with proper mustard. The landlady is a delight, always charming and friendly, and will remember your order after roughly two visits.
Heading up the hill, swerve left onto the Market Place and choose between either the Vaults or the White Swan which are run by two branches of the same family. Pointedly ignoring the dreaded ‘Ye Olde’ prefix to the name, the Vaults is an utterly honest and uncomplicated local’s boozer selling copious amounts of excellent Bass and Pedi, as well as a simple selection of delicious hot food dished up by the Dickensian named landlady, Stella Critchlaw. You will be quizzed about your life story upon entering, and be a firm friend by throwing out time. The Swan next door was recently rescued by several of Stella’s daughters when closed by the hateful Pubco who operated it, and has been deliberately pitched at the more modern younger drinker who favours fizzy beer, loud music and Sky Sports. That said it remains a pleasant enough venue to sit and watch the cricket on a large screen.
Finally, my third recommendation would have been the wonderfully named Green Man and Black’s Head Royal Hotel. Much vaunted by the good Dr Johnson who stayed here several times when it was an important stop on the London to Manchester stage, the Green Man had slowly settled into a more humble role as a shambolic but utterly charming town centre pub with rooms – the ‘Royal Hotel’ part of its name confusing some people to book expecting luxury and being disappointed by the careworn B&B style reality. Sadly, the Fawlty Towers operation much enjoyed by your correspondent, did not please enough of the right people and the immense maintenance and refurbishment cost of the crumbling 18th century building finally forced the owner to throw in the towel around two years ago.
Rumours that Weatherspoons were sniffing around during the expansion of their hotel operation never came to pass and at the time of writing the magnificent old pile, with its fine gallows sign, politically incorrect name and delightful panelled hotel bar was languishing in limbo, awaiting a second attempt at auction while accruing a massive repair bill. If ever there was a fine and historic tavern crying out to be a labour of love for an enlightened gentleman of means, the Green Man is surly it – names and nominations on a self-addressed envelope to The Holborn offices please.
London is currently awash with great bars, from pop-ups to rooftops. It is far too easy to maintain a dicerning drinking habit in our fair metropolis. Though it’s clear by now that some places simply do it far better than others, all in such a variety of different ways. One such venue, tucked inconspicuously a stone’s throw from Old Street tube Station, is The Nightjar. ‘A hidden slice of old school glamour on the fringes of Shoreditch’ is how they describe themselves, and it is tucked away which only adds to the old school, speakeasy feel of the venue.
Before even mentioning the incredible cocktails for which The Holborn finds itself here this Friday we must flag up the live music which is worth seeing in its own right. A raised platform provides the stage for regular live music including cabaret, swing, jazz, blues and ragtime. Descending the stairs of Nightjar it is easy, unlike so many others that attempt this look, to feel like you have stepped back into prohibition New York. It is a venue to relax in, to feel at home, to sneak away to with a loved one for a late night drink. Having partaken in a few late night drinks here ourselves we thought we would get hold of the man who tends the bar, the incredibly talented Marian Beke.
Where did your love of drink come from? When did it start?
When I was thirteen years old my father had a wine cellar. I used to help him to serve his guests. Then later on I studied everything around wine, restaurants and hotels. Later at age eighteen I visited my first cocktail bar in Prague, where I fell in love with cocktails and the work of bartenders there. I realised that a bartender is basically a chef on a stage and can make everything, from serving a simple beer, a smooth coffee to elaborate cocktails and still then be able to serve food on bar counter.
Why did you move to London? What’s the bar scene like back home?
In Slovakia I started working in bars two years before I then moved to London. So yes there were some good cocktail bars but I wanted to learn more and see more and for that I needed to speak English as well. London was and is the centre of cocktail culture and it was as well a good opportunity to learn how to speak English. So therefore it was an easy decision to move to London eight years ago.
What makes a good drink?
Drink is similar to food, but with a visible chef, so yes ingredients are important but also the way you serve it and what vessel it is in. Basics are important – fresh juices, good ice etc. The technique and skill of the bartender himself is important and finally, the atmosphere itself. Lots of people forget it, but this will influence your drink and experience while you are drinking. It is the simple things that need to be right, we are talking here about room temperature, lights, music & service.
And what makes a great bar?
Similar to above, please don’t forget that cocktail is a drink but there are so many other factors to change your drink/cocktail into unforgettable experience.
What is your and Nightjar’s approach to sourcing ingredients for your drinks?
We do take our ingredients quite seriously, we are always looking our for, experiencing and tasting anything new we haven’t had before. We also like to visit different cultural shops and places, for which London is a great city for and we get so much influence from it. New ingredients can sometimes also replace more common ingredients but offer more unique unusual experience to our guests, which is great.
What’s your process for creating a new cocktail?
We like to find some story first, for that reason our menu is divided into sections which were somehow important for the cocktail world. Here’s what we’re talking about:
Pre – prohibition dates from 16 century
Post war / mainly tiki culture influence
Nightjar signatures / each year new creations
Once we find a cocktail recipe based around these dates we make them up and then taste them. Then we will modify them with our own style, our preferred garnishes and very likely replace some common ingredients for something unusual. Our take on classics.
What kind of experience does Nightjar offer?
Nightjar never wants to be only a cocktail bar, for us a cocktail is a part of whole experience, we love to see people enjoy music (New Orleans style jazz and blues), food, ambience and service equally.
What do you look for in your Bar staff?
I look for passion, hard work, dedication, attention to detail, great customer service.
How does Nightjar stay competitive in a city awash with great bars?
We do try to be ourselves, I mean we are trying to offer our style and approach which is hopefully different then somewhere else. We also focus on music, food and service same way as we do on cocktails. So it is more of a package rather than a cocktail destination. Lastly it is that down to earth, human factor which we believe makes the difference
MB & MHG
Vodka as defined by the dictionary is ‘an alcoholic drink originating in Russia, made from grain, potatoes, etc, usually consisting only of rectified spirit and water’. Well a small team of innovators buried away in rural Dorset had other ideas and in true rebellious West Country fashion decided to rewrite the dictionary. So we present to you – Black Cow Vodka, the world’s first pure milk vodka, made entirely from the milk of grass grazed cows and nothing else. Pure Milk Vodka is the invention of West Dorset dairy farmer Jason Barber.
I imagine your first reaction to Milk Vodka would be to ask what the hell does it taste like. Well the sampling I have had the luck to conduct was a very pleasurable experience, and nothing like a previous misspent youth of sitting in a pub not far from Jason Barber’s farm in Broadwindsor trying the landlords vast array of rough vodkas from every ex-Soviet country you could imagine. It is an exceptionally smooth Vodka that has a unique creamy character.
So where did the inspiration come from to make vodka from milk? Well once you delve into it it becomes quite obvious- James Barber is a dairy farmer with as the website says ‘a deep personal interest in Vodka.’ Though Jason explains himself; “I drink a lot of vodka and wanted to cut down on my bills, basically I’ve always drunk vodka. It’s the only way I can get up in the morning to milk the cows …without a hangover. I also thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could get two more pence a litre for our milk.” Here you discover the Dorset charm, which in the few years I spent down there you find is often characterized by an unwillingness to blow ones own trumpet and to make out everything good happens by chance after a few liters of cider. But once you cut through it you will discover a county brimming with vision and entrepreneurial spirit. For anyone who listens to The Arches you will know of the blight of the dairy farmer- well here in mad but loveable Dorset James Barber has found the perfect way to diversify his produce from his 250 strong herd.
Black Cow Vodka has been going for a couple of years now and has grown from being available at a select few shops, pubs and restaurants locally, and a few fairly well known establishments outside of its home patch to now a vast array of sources. It can now be found in The Holborn favourite Camp & Furnace in Liverpool and in West-Dorset’s own Mark Hix’s restaurants and bars across London. I even found it available in my local pub where I now live in Hackney. Berry Brothers & Rudd even ship it internationally now. A classic Dorset cottage industry globalized.
Jason was apparently inspired by the people of Tuva, a small country in southern Siberia where they made vodka from Yak’s milk. Though the closely guarded process of distilling took a number of years to develop. The rest of the process we can be told. The milk is separated into curds and whey, then the curds are used to make cheese, the whey is fermented into a beer using a special yeast that converts the milk sugar into alcohol. Not wanting to stick to drinking milk beer, which is apparently not very nice, the milk beer is then distilled and treated to the secret blending process. The vodka is then triple filtered and finished, before being hand bottled.
Though this was not Jason’s first foray into making alcohol, when we first asked if he had made alcohol before he offered a diplomatic answer in the form of ‘This is definitely my first professional venture’. As a young lad he was asked to leave his school when it was discovered that he was making a brew by fermenting orange juice in the back of a fridge. When he needed to increase production he found that the heating pipes running along the school’s unused cellars proved a better fermenting area and was soon being supplied with orange juice from other students. Jason remembers how his father was informed that he may well be wasting his money on his son’s education.
We also asked James what he would you recommend we have our Black Cow Vodka with, he says it particularly delicious straight on the rocks, it makes a very fine Vodka and tonic, a damn good Bloody Mary and works wonders in his favourite the Classic Martini.
Though we also like the humour in Mark Hix’s Black Cow Vodka cocktail, a cheeky ‘Maggie Strikes Back’, a nod to our ex-PM’s milk-snatcher days. The recipes is as follows: Black Cow pure milk vodka, Blue curacao, Morello Cherry Liquer and a lemon juice… for that little touch of bitterness!
So will be seeing milk gin, milk whiskey from West Dorset anytime soon? Apparently not, there are no plans to diversify. Black Cow are just very keen to continue producing the very best milk vodka they can make. To focus on creating one really fantastic, high quality premium product. As they see it vodka is a very singular drink, it’s very neutral and there’s is just different enough. Now there is something to drink to, me and the rest of the team are off to the bar with a bottle of Black Cow.
Question: when is it OK for a group of men to order a sharing cocktail? Answer: when it’s called a Grog Pot and comes served in a huge barrel that has to be lugged across a crowded bar by a burly bartender in a striped apron.
Welcome to the London Cocktail Club on Shaftesbury Avenue, where Grog Pots, flaming drinks and extravagant biscuit garnishes are all common sights. If you duck through its doors and totter downstairs, you’ll be greeted with a cheery chorus of “hello”s from across the bar. You might find that you have stumbled into a regular night at the LCC: people dancing on the bar counter, the owner pouring vodka into punters mouths, a fire-breathing bartender or a group of party animals drinking from a pirate ship full of punch.
If you like your bars with a dash of rock n roll décor, some cheeky rapport with the staff and the odd 90s hip-hop all-bar singalong (think Fresh Prince rap), then this place might just be your idea of heaven.
LCC Shaftesbury has certainly become one of my favourite drinking dens in the city since its opening last year. Not only are the drinks interesting, strong and reasonably-priced, they have excellent happy hour deals and the staff are some of the coolest, most fun chaps around! They’re always playing old school tunes that, while occasionally groan-worthy, at the very least can be great conversation starters. I’m not even ashamed to say I’ve become a bit of a regular, and jumped at the opportunity to quiz the lovely manager, Sarah Mitchell, about cocktails, London’s nightlife and what makes for a great night out.
What were you doing before you became LCC’s most bodacious manager?
I was running Graphic on Golden Square, where we amassed a collection of over 150 gins. Before that, I worked at Lab on Old Compton Street.
Why do you think the cocktail bar scene has grown so much in London in the last few years?
Cocktails have definitely grown greatly as a trend. I think it’s because the consumer is more aware of what they want to spend their money on. Getting one strong, excellent drink for £7.50-£8.00 is better value for cash than getting a shitty drink (or a jug of shitty drink) for a couple of quid. I also think cocktails have grown in popularity with the rise of the TV chef. People are just more ingredient aware, in both food and drinks.
What’s your favourite drink? Do you have a personal favourite from the LCC’s list?
GIN GIN GIN GIN GIN. On our list I love the cool serves. Especially the Playmobile Punch [a sharing cocktail served in a toy pirate ship]. It looks great, tastes great and makes me smile.
What makes the LCC different from other London cocktail bars?
We stand out because we make great drinks, with great people, quickly and very well. The tunes always help too. Our staff will always say hello, ask you how your day was and treat you like a person, not just a punter. We are bartenders as a profession, not some out-of-work actors that chuck a few spirits together and don’t care.
Each branch of the LCC has its own unique ‘flavour’ – can you tell us a little about the Shaftesbury Ave ‘feel’?
Shaftesbury Ave is the British rum den. We have a very cool, tattoo-navy feel, with the spray paint art work all around, lots of naval bric-a-brac and tattoo flash art around the room. The felt skull and crossbones wallpaper is my fave!
What do you think are the key components for a great night out, and how do you try to make your customers experience that?
A great night out is about sharing. Good friends, good drinks, good tunes. We try to make everyone feel that LCC is just as much theirs as it is ours. If we can have a good time with our guests, then everyone has a good time together.
Is there anything in the industry today that you are excited about?
I always love finding out other people’s ideas, be it drinks, food, venues, design…. new places are constantly popping up in this city and that’s what keeps it interesting.
What does the future hold for the LCC?
LCC Oxford Circus is opening in about 6 weeks. Very, very exciting! It will be our biggest site yet, and it’s going to have a gangster/warehouse/tequila vibe about it. Late licence and plenty more good times to come!
Beware of the parrot, sign your name in the guest book and leave your arms at the door. Let me have the pleasure of leading you on an adventure into the world of Jules Verne and the brainchild of the entrepreneurial duo: Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling. Tucked away on Bruton Lane, Mr Fogg’s is the new gent on the block: a refreshing hub of peculiarity and the glowing drawing room of Mr Phileas J Fogg Esq. Suspiciously Dickensian style lanterns hang outside a grey stone townhouse while a suspiciously smart chap in a suspiciously Gieves and Hawkes-esque tailored suit guards the entrance.
Inside, expect to be greeted by Jean Passepartout, Fogg’s loyal butler who will welcome you into an eye-popping array of antiques, stuffed animals, penny farthings, umbrella stands made from elephants’ feet and the very hot air balloon which took Mr Fogg around the world in 80 days. Given that punctuality is a priority of the esteemed Mr Fogg Esq, it is of no surprise that the room is surrounded with annotated maps and clocks. Little white gloves will whisk up absinthe aperitifs, sazeracs and stirrup cups circa 1870ish from the thick, leather-bound menu, and lining the counter are liquors dating back as far as 1904. With Mark Jenner (formerly of the Coburg Bar at the Connaught Hotel) behind it all, expect some seriously stylish and creative concoctions from all over the globe. Take a seat in front of the open fireplace on a chesterfield sofa, a leather-backed chair or perhaps even a luggage case and raise your glass to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.
I was lucky enough to be treated to a visit from the dapper man himself. With a firm tap of his silver-tipped walking stick, Passepartout announced the return of Phileas J Fogg and a commotion ensued as his luggage tumbled in off the horse drawn carriage out in the street. He proceeded to inspect the household and then turned to his merry guests to relay tales of his perilous explorations.
Make sure you duck behind the rich velvet curtains to the bathrooms where you will be treated to the narrative of Jules Verne’s 1873 novel into which you have arrived. Though beware of a couple of Native Americans who you may discover are fishing in the toilet bowl.
Intrigued by my theatrical experience, I caught up with Charlie Gilkes to get an insight into its creation.
Where were you when you came up with the concept behind Mr Fogg’s and how did things progress from there?
“I have always been a great fan of Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in 80 Days, loving the spirit of adventure and fantastic characters who feature in it, so the idea really grew from there. With all our projects, Barts, Maggie’s, and Bunga Bunga, and most recently, Disco, we work hard to create unique concepts and I think we’ve also achieved that with Mr Fogg’s. The project was over three years in the actual making in the sense that we found the perfect site but really had to work hard to convince the landlord to give it to us over a chain of gyms.”
Style and heritage clearly ooze out of every pore. How did you go about deciding which and collecting all the objects and artefacts in your drawing room?
I personally love trawling antique fairs, car boot sales and eBay looking for vintage items. We furnished a lot of the drawing room from Kempton Market which takes place every second Tuesday on Kempton racetrack; we actually found our wonderful stuffed tiger there. The penny farthings hanging from the ceiling were from eBay, two were dug up by someone in his garden in Sussex and the other one was found in someone’s loft. They look really fun suspended over the bar. We didn’t like the look of cable ties suspending them, so we wound old twine around them.
What is your favourite item and why?
The hot air balloon, because it was created for Mr Fog’s and symbolises Philleas Fogg’s journey perfectly. We wanted to suspend a real hot air balloon from the ceiling and had to re-enforce it substantially in order that it could support the considerable weight. We were able to buy a real antique balloon basket through an antique dealer and had to remove the entire doorframe to get it in to the building. It then took 8 of us to raise it up and suspend it. We used a wonderful film set designer to create the fabric of the balloon and to personalise it with Phileas J Fogg’s initials, emblem and period sand bags.
The little extra touches such as the impromptu arrivals of Mr Fogg and the Native Americans make for a truly exciting experience. Could you tell me more about the idea and inspiration behind this?
I personally love the trend towards interactive theatre that we’ve seen starting to develop in London and we wanted to bring a few touches of that to Mr Fogg’s, which our guests can have some fun with throughout the evening. All the characters feature in the novel Around the World in 80 Days and are trained actors and actresses.
Are there any fictional characters or figures from history that you’d dream of visiting Mr Fogg’s?
I’d love Thomas Sheridan to visit as according to Verne’s book he was the previous inhabitant of Mr Fogg’s house. It would be fun to see what he thought of Mr Fogg’s modifications!
Any other beans to spill?
We’re just in the process of launching our new nightclub, Disco, just round the corner in Soho. Disco is completely different to Mr Fogg’s, but is also a lot of fun. It’s an underground boîte inspired by the 70s Manhattan disco movement. The DJs play off vinyl and you have to enter the club through a real aeroplane door via a Pan Am Lounge where there’s a real conveyor belt to check in items to the cloakroom.
Do you have any plans for Mr Fogg’s future?
We have to confer with Mr Fogg about that, he’s currently away on his travels but I’ll let you know when he returns.
Ella Rose Paskett
We continue our pilgrimage through the world of micro-brewing and craft beer. After starting in the countryside of Malvern with Friday Beer Co, and then heading back to the capital to chat with new and booming Crate Brewery, we now talk to Andy Moffat, the man behind Redemption Brewery. At three and a half years old this micro-brewery is a bit of a granddad of the now explosive beer scene in London. This Holborn editor, being from Tottenham, excitingly took a bus journey down memory lane to head up to the brewery, based on an industrial site just east of White Hart Lane Stadium , to get a few pearls of wisdom from this experienced brewer.
So how did Redemption Brewing get started?
We started three years back, first brew day was January 2010, though we started building the brewery back in September of the previous year. Before that I had been working in a bank, and had got fed up with the world of banking and wanted to run my own business. Setting up a brewery was perfect: combining my desire to run a business with my love of beer. Though while at the bank I spent a year doing my research and trying to convince myself to do it. Back then there weren’t many breweries in London, unlike now, and back then it did give me reason to worry about the idea as I asked myself, if it is such a great idea, why haven’t more people done it? Now from so few there are over fifty breweries in London. With those numbers I don’t think I would set up a brewery now.
Well, I wanted to run a North London brewery, since moving to London I have always lived in the North. At the time we set up we were the only brewery in the whole of north London, though today there is still only us, Camden Town Brewery and Little Brew in North London. As far as Tottenham goes it just came to be since this kind of property, to run a brewery out of, is hard to find. So we had to go a bit further out to find the right size and shape for the right money. My only regret with this unit is our lack of ability to have a brewery tap and have a few people up here on a Friday night.
Where did you interest in brewing come from?
Just drinking good beer and giving home-brewing a go, I think it’s a very natural path for a lot of people in the industry. Some people say, ‘oh I started a brewery because I couldn’t get a decent pint in my local,’ that’s not true anymore, there is so much good beer out there, and such a variety. Starting a brewery these days is more about being part of that great beer-making community.
What’s it take to be a great brewer today?
It’s about making great beer, as good as is out there, and there are some fantastic brewers. And then being a bit different, be it your branding, the service you offer, the kind of brewer you are. That’s what we have tried to do. There is a spectrum in the brew world, brands like Kernal doing big ABV beers, real American beers, a lot of people have gone down that route. Then at the other end you have got people like Sambrooks, making great session bitters, more like a traditional Young’s beer. We see ourselves somewhere in the middle of that. Making good session beers, really drinkable beers but with a lot of interesting flavours , they may not appeal to the drinker in the Dog & Duck who wants a pint of Greene King IPA, but will appeal to those who are out there tasting some of the really good beers like Dark Star. We really look up to Dark Star here. So really big flavours but still designed to be drunk in pubs; for instance with our beers, we haven’t started bottling, and we’d like to, but been too busy with the cask business as it is our main market.
We have worked really hard on the beer, I always say you can have the style but if you haven’t got the substance you won’t survive. So you can be gimmicky in the early days but if it is not good enough landlords quite quickly won’t be re-ordering. So I three years on still have quite an operational role in the business and focus a lot of my energy on the quality of the beer.
We have of course grown from doing one beer to a now wide range of beers, when we started we used to brew once a week, now it’s four or even five times some weeks. We have learnt a lot along the way and from quite an amateurish starting point we have grown into a real professional outfit.
We have won a few awards along the way. Our 3%ABV Trinty Beer has picked up a number of CAMRA awards and is considered to be the best beer in its category out there. We worked really hard to pack as much flavour as we could into a low-strength beer. A number of other beers have often picked up regional awards for the South East, hopefully we can pick up more national awards soon.
How does it feel seeing your beer being drunk in pubs and people enjoying it?
One of the best things is when I am in a pub and I know the landlord and when someone orders a pint he’ll point at me and say, ‘oh that is the guy who makes it.’ Then they come over, and they say how much they like the beer and we talk about it. Sometimes we get emails from people saying how much they like it. It gives you so much satisfaction when people take the time out of their day to tell you they like what you make. It is the big difference with my old job where in the end there was no real product. It is so much better to work in a job where you are creating something you can smell, taste and touch.
What’s your opinion of the industry at the moment?
There has never been a better time for drinking beer in the UK. And the locality, everywhere really in the country has a micro-brewery nearby, a beer that can be called relatively local. Also there are so many great beers to be trying abroad, the American Craft Beer scene is great, so many good Belgian beers. That global strength also makes us UK brewers up our game, as you are not only competing with British brewers. And though beer sales overall are still falling, the market for craft local beer is still growing and companies like ours still continue to flourish as the big boys lose more and more market share.
The future for Redemption?
Still in Tottenham, maybe a bit bigger but not much more, we want to be the brewery for North London. But we want to stay true to making good tasty drinkable beer, which people enjoy and becomes part of the occasion.
MHG & AM
We at the Holborn love Gin. We are happy to drink it with breakfast, lunch or dinner. Be it in a Martini, a Tom Collins, with Tonic or just straight. We drink it on the veranda, whilst camping or just in the pub. We even don’t mind what we wear when we drink it, be it a three-piece tweed suit or in paint lashed dungarees. Being proud Londoners as well we are well versed in the relationship between the two. Not as well versed as Mr Jake F Burger. Jake is one of the men, Ged Feltham and Paul Lane being the others, behind the three-pronged business that sits on Portobello Road that encompasses a bar- the Portobello Star, an interactive Gin Museum – The Ginstitute and a distillery Portobello Road Gin.
The trio are the owners of Leelex Ltd. which is a Bar, restaurant and music company. Which currently operate 5 venues between Leeds and London including Jake’s Bar and Still & Angel’s Share in Leeds. We meet up with Jake to talk about the West London parts of their operations, and as the Gin Lovers we are, we were quite happy when we found ourselves conducting the interview in the still room surrounded by countless forms of distilled flavours.
How did you get started in the world of alcohol?
I started bartending up in Leeds the day after my eighteenth birthday having graduated from wash up. This was in the dark days of bartending back in 1992, the first drink I learnt to make was called the ‘Transplant’, it involved gin, barcardi, orange juice and creme de menthe – a horrible green thing garnished with fruit and an umbrella. Not particularly proud of the drinks we made back then, but over the years me and a few others made Leeds a destination city for drinking in a time when it was hard to find groups of great independent bars outside of London. Then I met Ged my now business partner and we opened Jake’s Bar in 2004 and after four years running that, the opportunity to move to London came along.
How did this, as in the Star, Ginstitute and Portobello Road Gin, all happen?
We took the Star over about five years ago. There has been a pub here for a good many years, going all the way back to the 1836 census. When we got here the Star was a failing pub with an air of danger consistently hanging over it. We started by trying to gentrify it but there wasn’t much here in terms of Victorian fixtures and fittings, was all pretty crap stuff, so after a year of being here we decided there wasn’t much worth preserving. We had also envisioned it as a cocktail tavern, fulfilling the social nature of a pub. It’s amazing how many pubs in West London that have been turned into Foxtons and the like. So in the form of pub we are open every day all day, a pub as it was just with decent music and better drinks.
When we started I lived above the bar but the attraction wore thin for my partner after a while and so we moved out and we were looking at what to do with the upstairs rooms. Being on Portobello Road, full of tourists every week, we thought a museum to alcohol would be a great idea. And if you are going to tell the story of any alcohol in London it has to be Gin. The history of the city and the history of gin are so intertwined. So we created the museum in the look of a Victorian gin palace and bedecked it with interesting artefacts. It was then that Ged came up with the idea of getting people to make their own gin, which has been one of the most challenging parts of this operation. It followed that if we were going to go to all the trouble of the Ginstitute Experience then we should make a product ourselves and so was born Portobello Road Gin.
Tell us about the Ginstitute Experience.
So the way it works; it usually takes three and a half hours, we run four or five sessions a week and can take up to twelve people at a time. It costs a £100, which includes the experience, the drinks, a bottle of gin you make yourself and a bottle of Portobello Road Gin. We start in the museum bar with a drink and we take them through the long and frequently miserable history of gin. For most of its history gin was a blight on English society. So we try to give people not only a good understanding of gin’s evolvement as a drink but it’s place in the social history of England and the world. We start with the first distillation in 800AD and come right through till today, telling some of the great stories and anecdotes of gin along the way.
Then we head upstairs to the still room where we meet Copernicus II, the smallest copper pot gin still in London, well smallest legal one at least. Here we talk a bit more about the processes involved in making gin and look at the different botanicals used. Gin is made using a range of botanicals, only juniper must be used by EU definition. Gins such as Tanqueray use around four botanicals where some use up to around twenty-five, but most modern gins use between 8-12. Normally when making gin you would distill the mixture of botanicals together, here we have distilled them individually and depending on season and availability we have around 35 distilled botanicals ranging from your traditional ones through to our Yorkshire version of Heston’s Earl Gray Gin, Yorkshire Tea. We explain to the ‘Gin-terns’ as we call them how each botanical works and what it adds to the gin and then they set about making their gin. So they then make their own gin and each gin made is given a number so that people can order more bottles of the gin they created at a later date.
What is it like running a micro-Distillery?
Well we are quite a bit behind American with micro-distilleries, like we were behind with micro-brewing. There are around 560 micro-distillers in the States now where here we are just about in double figures. Though we are moving in the right direction now, and we have been the forefront of it. Sipsmiths and Sacred Gin started just before us, but since we started we have seen a number pop up like the City of London Distillery.
The gin is now made over in Clapham at the Thames Distillery by a wonderful man called Charles Maxwell whose family have been distilling gin for nine generations. We have now sold 35,000 bottles in eighteen months and have just be stocked in Waitrose.
Can you tell us any teaser gin-based anecdotes?
Well there is the story of the Gordon riots, nothing to do with Gordon’s Gin by the way, which is one of the more tragi-comic stories. This happen in 1780, which was during the pause in the gin craze which happened after the Tippling Act of 1751 which increased the bureaucracy on gin production. The riots were a series of anti-catholic protests against the Papists Act of 1778 and were led by Lord George Gordon. On the afternoon of June 6th, which became known as Black Wednesday, some ten to twenty thousand protestors marched on Parliament, the spirit of revolution was thick in the air. Politicians were dragged from their carriages and Duke’s and Earl’s London homes were looted and two prisons had their gates overwhelmed and convicts spread into the streets.
As darkness set in the mob turned its heals and headed to Holborn where a lot of the capital’s gin was made. Here was the largest distillery, Langdales, who was himself a Catholic. So with 120,000 gallons of gin inside he had some troops protect it but they went after the prisons gates were breached. So then he made the fatal error of paying some of the mob to protect the distillery, which was compounded by the fact he paid them in gin. Before long people were flooding into the distillery, as the destruction ensued and things were smashed open there were rivers of gin flowing through Holborn, people outside with buckets collecting it.
Inevitably it caught fire. Then the fire engines turned up and unfortunately they got their water from the sewers which were now full of gin, so they ended up acting as giant flamethrowers. Some outrageous scenes, and tragically depending on reports somewhere between six and two-hundred people died, some perishing in the flames, other literally drinking themselves to death.
What does the future hold for the group?
Well the mothership is still up in Leeds where we have open a new Mexican venue. In terms of London, The Star will be having a little refresh soon to fit it in with the Ginstitute a bit more, a touch of Victoriana, and a new drinks list too. Ginstitute, more of the same, well be taking it on the road too. Portobello Road Gin- we’ll be look at the export markets, primarily Spain and the US and also look to do some special editions.
This fine drink’s origins go back to 1888 in ol’ New Orleans, whose free and easy streets seem to have been the birthplace of a number of the world’s favourite cocktails, including both the Sazerac and the Hurricane. Originally named the ‘New Orleans Fizz,’ it was created by Henry Ramos at his bar, the Imperial Cabinet Saloon, and the drink soon took off. Surprisingly though, the challenge of making a Ramos Gin Fizz (instructions suggest shaking for 12 minutes) didn’t prevent bartenders from mixing up multiple drinks every night. Legend has it that there were nights at the bar when twenty bartenders would make nothing but the Ramos Gin Fizz.
The two key ingredients for making a fizz are a carbonation, such as soda water, and some sort of acidic element, such as lemon or lime juice. What makes a Ramos Gin Fizz different is the inclusion of raw egg white, orange-flower water, and cream. Those ingredients, combined with a bit of strong, floral gin, make for one very tasty concoction (dangerously so – don’t blame us).
Ramos Gin Fizz (makes 1)
60 ml of gin
5 ml of orange-flower water
15 ml of lemon juice
15 ml of lime juice
15 ml of simple syrup
(two parts sugar to one part water, brought to the boil and speedily removed from the heat)
7 ml of cream
7 ml of milk
1 egg white
5 ice cubes
I) Pour all the ingredients, (mix the milk and cream together first) except for the ice and soda water, into a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds.
II) Add in the ice cubes and shake vigorously for a minute.
III) Strain the contents of the shaker into a highball glass.
IV) Slowly pour a couple of tablespoons of soda water into the shaker to loosen the remaining froth. Carefully pour this mixture into a chilled highball glass and serve.
Stop the press! Beer is cool. The Holborn Boys are regular attendees at the annual beard and sandal convention that is the Great British Beer Festival and we love it but we are not so deluded that we don’t realize the geeky company we are part of. Though the craft beer revolution has changed the landscape. Like the way the food on our plates has changed over the decades, when my parents were my age there was a restaurant on Charlotte Street that felt the need to advertise on its A-board ‘Spaghetti- Not on Toast’, the beer in our glasses has changed. For many long gone are the cheap fizzy European lagers and the smooth-flow John Smiths to be replaced with a plethora of craft ales in all strengths and flavours. And not just served in flat-capped boozers, but in canal-side trendy bars, fashionable restaurants and city wine bars.
London with its long & rich brewing history is the epicentre of this revolution and at its heart a growing number of committed, talented and inventive micro-brewers. We at the Holborn have set out to meet some of them and learn about the craft at centre of Craft Beer. First we head to Hackney Wick, a stone’s throw away from the Olympic Park, to meet Neil Hinchley of Crate Brewery. Crate Brewery is nearing it’s first birthday and the venue (below) is both the Brewery, a Bar and a Pizza restaurant.
How and why did you become a Brewer? What inspired you?
I’d been a home brewer for a while and have always had an interest in taste, loving my food and drink. Used to make gorse wine with my dad back in the day, nettle wine and few other crazy brews. My mum was a keen cook too, so taste has always been important. My previous career was as a radio producer at the BBC, and its a bit tenuous but that job was all about crafting a product, so if I was making a documentary I spend a few months making sure that was a perfect hour long lesson. Then as a brewer I am crafting something that is ultimately going to be enjoyed and savoured by someone. I wanted to get out of the BBC after fourteen years and I thought my home brews were good enough to have a crack at it. So I suppose it was a fascination with flavour and an enjoyment of creating things for people to enjoy.
How did Crate come about?
Crate came about through a chain of very fortunate consequences. I would have always have done a brewery but this, a bar/brewery/pizza restaurant has been so much more of an experience. So Crate has three directors, myself and siblings Tom and Jess Seaton. Tom and Jess run the Counter Cafe just down the road. It was bizarre meeting between me and them; my sister is married to a Maori guy from New Zealand, he was best mates with this guy at school who was married to a women who happened to be Tom’s cousin. So when Tom’s cousin was over I was talking about how I was starting a brewery but also wanted to do a restaurant but didn’t know how to. She then spoke to the Tom who wanted to run restaurant with a brewery but wanted to didn’t know how to do the brewery. That was the weekend, on the Monday we meet for the first time, then on the Tuesday we came to see this place and on the Wednesday we committed to it.
What’s the first year been like?
Nuts absolutely nuts! Every week we struggle to keep up with demand, really great problem to have. Every month we look at the next month and try to project six months on and up our staffing and up our systems but we just get to end of the month and realize oh that wasn’t enough. We have been bowled over, it has been a run away success. People are really connected with the fact that all of this, as in the interior, has been created by the local artistic community. It is all pretty nuts and bolts, it’s clear that it’s run by a bunch of enthusiasts who love beer and love pizza. You can see the beer being brewed, you can see the pizzas being tossed, people have really connected to it all.
What is it like seeing the beer you have crafted being enjoyed?
Regardless of demand or the venues that the beer ends up in, there is no buzz like walking into my local, three doors down from my house, and seeing the beer on tap and watching people drink and enjoy it. It’s not like I am hanging out in pubs watching people drink my beer, but it did happen to me the other day and it’s delightful. Beer and taste is entirely subjective, there are so many palates and so many beers, the great thing is meeting someone who you connect with, and if they like your beer there is this immediate affinity, they like what I do and appreciate the craft.
Where do your recipes come from? What are the inspirations for tastes?
I learnt my basic beer recipes from my time as a home brewer. I search out the recipes for my favourite beers and try to make them my own. In terms of taste my influence isn’t just from beer, I am inspired by everything, especially as the total foodie I am. We have created a core range here, they are the best I can achieve of those individual styles, we are not a brewery which does 150 different types of beer, with the high ABV or really hoppy stuff. We have such demand for our core range anyway. Though we are moving the brewery into a building on the same site, so we can use the brewery in the bar to do a few more experimental beers. Though as brewer I am all about refining those main beer styles to the best they can be rather than do hundreds of different beers.
Whats the connection for Crate to the local area?
Our hops and malt come from further afield obviously. But the staff are all local and the artistic community has inputted. But I am totally inspired by the London Micro-brewery scene, there is a amazing range and variety of beers and taste. Its being at the heart of all it, it gives me so many ideas.
What do you think of the explosion of Craft Beer? Is it here to stay?
It’s never going to stop, going to be a beast. What is interesting, there is no question that Craft Beer will become enormous, the question is how much of the craft will remain in that expansion. My hope is that all the breweries stay true to the craft, are careful about the ingredients they use and the processes they use, and continue to make great beer. We have been here before, when you get to a certain size it starts to become about the money, then it’s no longer craft. It’s happened in America, craft beer is huge there, Sierra Nevada started as a tiny brewery and now is a size to rival any Heineken or Becks. But they are still producing really great beer. I just can’t see the public turning away from this quality of beer again, we were duped by fancy advertising of larger from Europe that was going to make you sexy and get you laid. But I can’t see I us going back, the beer is too good now.
MHG & NH
Without question our favourite bar we ever graced here at The Holborn is the Hix Group’s Mark’s Bar in Soho. Often we have been found diving between it and the pub opposite vainly attempting to get in to a bar which is nearly always full. Normally at the third attempt either out of pity or in reward for our efforts the staff on reception upstairs at the Hix restaurant allow us to descend the stairs to the splendid mixture of delights that lay below.
So we sought out the man responsible for many of our wonderful, memorable nights with our friends (and inevitably empty wallets) to talk cocktails, the world of bars and the wonder of Mark’s.
That man is Lee Potter Cavanagh, an Australian who has worked in bars since the summer of 2001. Having spent his early days in nightclubs and beachfront bars he discovered a passion for working the bar when at Hugo’s Bar Pizza of Sydney fame in 2005. He has been working with HIX for almost two years since relocating to the UK . Previously Lee worked and managed some of Australia’s most awarded cocktail bars, including The Victoria Room, Lotus, Hemmesphere & The Rum Diaries. Lee is a highly decorated barman including amongst many 1st in the UK Bulldog gin competition 2012, top 4 UK Gin Mare competition 2012, 3rd in the Appleton Bartender Challenge UK 2012.
Where did your love of drink come from? When did it start?
Like most people in the industry you kind of just fall in to it, not a lot of people, especially of my vintage, choose it as a career. I was at University, it was a nice job that fitted around my schedule, I liked the idea as an 18year old of meeting girls, drinking for free and being allowed to bars that I wouldn’t normally be allowed to. It was about four years in before I worked at a really good cocktail bar in Sydney, meet some great guys, one of whom was from London. They taught me a lot and through them I learnt how much more there was to booze and cocktails, the history and so much more going on.
So those guys opened my eyes, before that I wasn’t a particularly sophisticated drinker, I didn’t really know much about alcohol, my family had never really been very educated drinkers. So I didn’t really grow up with much of a culture around drinking. I was then shown the world of sophisticated drinking and learnt the history of how we have drunk as human beings and from there I was hooked.
What was it like working in the Australian bar scene?
It has come a long way over the time I have been working there. I started around the time of the Olympics in Sydney. In Sydney people talk often about pre- and post-Olympics. Before the Olympics there really weren’t many sophisticated bars in Sydney and there also wasn’t the market for it, people just wanted a casual beer after work. Then after the Olympics style bars started opening, like the early vodka bars, then it grew with the internet as Australians had more access to knowledge and examples from London and New York. There was a really big boom, with lots of opportunities, to the extent that I’d say that now the bar scene is just as good as anywhere else in the world. I’d even say that in some ways Sydney’s bar scene is superior to London, though the design and fit outs of London’s bar is still world-leading, London does destination bars. Though in terms of quality of bar staff and drinks Sydney has it.
What inspired your move to London then?
Well I had this image and idea of London as this bar capital of the world, filled with the best bartenders and the best cocktails. Though it wasn’t when I got here, though still one of the best bar cities in the world. The real reason was to see the world, especially being from Australia, we hear so much about London and New York, these Meccas of our culture and I wanted to be part of it.
Also London being a centre of world trade you have access to some of best ingredients, it’s the little things like the quality of glassware or even of ice. In London even an average bar has great ice, where in Australia even the best bars have poor ice.
What makes a good drink?
What makes most of a good drink is the delivery by the person making it for you. Too often, and especially in London, the bartender focuses far too much on the drink, thinking of the history and tradition of this drink or this alcohol, on mixing in this particular way or how high they pour it. All these things and what they are forgetting about is the most important aspect and has always been the way, whether it’s a pint of larger or an exquisite cocktail, is customer service. It’s all about the person, making them feel comfortable rather than trying to intimidate them. A good bartender should sensibly ascertain your knowledge and tastes and make the drink fit around you.
And what makes a great bar?
Again hospitality and service is the most important thing. Then atmosphere, music, lighting, design, these things are really important. In the end the drink is only like 5% of what makes a great bar, its the icing on the cake. I’d much prefer to go to a amazing bar and just have a beer, than go to a really fancy bar and get treated like dirt and pay through the nose for a cocktail with crazy garnishes that I don’t even want.
What is your (and Hix’s) approach to sourcing ingredients for your drinks?
There are two aspects. Firstly, which is led by the restaurant, is picking British, regional and seasonal. We as much as we can try to match our drinks to the season and we also promote the best of British produce. We recently overhauled our beer selection and nearly all our beers come from London, mixing the history of brewing in the capital and the exciting new brewing scene. We do the same with spirits too, we have Black Cow Vodka now, a Dorset vodka made entirely from milk. It’s great having such supportive owners, who encourage us not to go chasing after the bigger brands for that extra few grand, and instead get us to pursue those products we know are great and which we think are cool. Its rare to be this size a company and still have that freedom.
The second aspect which I have pushed is to be quite scientific about what we consider the best. In the bar world in particular there is a culture of cool around certain products. Certain brands are pushed heavily and well and all of a sudden you see them everywhere. So what we do is to blind taste everything and try not to be swayed by marketing campaigns. We try to push people out of their comfort zones, so we don’t stock Jack Daniels, but if someone comes in and asks for one we’ve got another great Tennessee bourbon.
What do you look for in your Bar staff?
Definitely personality. I mean we need some seniors who have a good level of knowledge. We look for personality first, before experience. Alot of people do it the other way round and make lots of mistakes. You can train nearly anyone to make drinks, being a bartender is about much more than making drinks.
How does Hix stay competitive in a city awash with great bars?
By always focusing on service. That will never change with this industry, but it is the hardest thing to do and get right. If you stay on top of that, then irrespective of the quality of your drinks you’ll always have a fun full bar. We will still also keep pushing forward with our drinks, being creative and fun with a great team and having great ingredients. But service is always the focus, it’s something which seems like it should be natural but is far from that. We have a phrase for it, we aim for ‘Casual Excellence’.
MHG & LPC
Herbert George Wells must have had a great deal of hair on his chest because the drink that bears his name either requires it, or it will damn well put it there. This robust drink packs a strong anise punch with just a hint of sweetness and layers of bourbon and bitters. This is a drink that will set you up in an instant and it is a drink that could surely cure any cold or ailment, in fact this is exactly what we imagine a below-the-counter Eighteenth Century elixir would taste like. Drink just enough, and you will gently accelerate through time, too many and you may just wake up on the Island of Doctor Moreau…
H. G. Wells
Maraschino cherry, for a garnish
I) Add the bourbon, vermouth, pastis and bitters to the shaker and stir vigorously for 30 seconds.
II) Pour the cocktail into tumblers over crushed ice. Add a cherry for garnish.
(If you like your drinks sweeter, add a dash or two of the juice from the cherry jar to each drink).
So, if you are a cocksure young brave looking to test your poker face, this is the drink for you.
So, returning back across the Derwent on the eponymously named street, cross over the roundabout into the pedestrianised precinct. Stopping briefly to admire the fine Guildhall, a great looming classical pile with an impressive clock tower, head up Iron Gates. Hurry past the various brash and barn-like vertical drinking establishments battered into old commercial space as well as (ironically) the many vulgar bourgeois boutiques in what are obviously old pubs, and keep true until you come level with the Cathedral. More a large and imposing parish church, similar indeed to St Marys Collegiate Church in Warwick, Derby’s Cathedral is none the less worth investigating, with its unusual mixture of a largely classical nave resting somewhat uneasily against a fine gothic tower.
At this stage, I had planned to strike out into the Derby hinterland of Chester Green, just north of the city centre, where recently opened in a converted laundrette is the Little Chester Ale House¸ one of a growing number of so called micro-pubs. Sadly, time constraints prevented me from doing so, but this is a place which will certainly get priority next time. The new phenomenon of opening small stripped out, no frills, no food, no music and no lager drinking rooms in old and often redundant commercial property is a fascinating development in the licensed trade, brought about by the liberalisation of the planning regulation in 2003. We may well be seeing a return of the ‘parlour pub’, a simple licenced room within an old shop, or indeed, someone’s front room, watch this space…
Anyway sticking relatively central, head just to the left of the Cathedral on the corner of Queen Street and Full Street, for our next hostelry.
6-7 Queen Street, Derby DE1 3DL.
The Dolphin is a remarkable town centre survival, being housed in a building said to date from around 1530. The external elevations are all very ‘Olde Englande’ with some impressive signage and lots of exposed beams. As is so often the case with such places however, much of what you see is in fact years of renovation and alteration, however a very fine and almost intact inter-war refurbishment of the Dolphin has, by chance, created a rather interesting and attractive pub interior, though one which admittedly bears little relation to the age of the building.
Four distinct bars lead off from a delightful and genuinely old alleyway which serves as the access. The two really worth visiting are the public bar and the delightful little snug bar at the back. The public bar is a delightfully simple utilitarian affair, with scrubbed tables, quarry tiles and inter-war match boarding. Interestingly, in keeping with Derby’s famed connoisseurship of ale, both the Bass and Pedi in this establishment are served either on handpull, or via a jug direct from the cellar, depending on your preference (jug is better, obviously) and there is also the pleasing question ‘handle or straight?’ when placing your order, another sure sign that you are in the presence of serious pub folk. The Bass was in fine form, though still not quite up to the standard of the aforementioned nectar at the Station. A good humoured crowd get in here, with tourist and visitors like me drifting happily in and out.
For me though the snug is the star of the show. An ocean of battered oak and mottled green leather greets you on entering – take a seat and shout your order through the small serving hatch. Everyone in here will immediately start talking to you – a strange quirk about Midland people compels them to find out as much about you as possible in as short a time as possible, presumably this is due to the local weather, which is relentlessly awful and thus makes for very dull and repetitive conversation, so people talk about more serious matters. This does, however, make most Midland pubs very traditional and unspoilt experiences, being still bastions of conversation and community, rather than the relentless drone of a TV or piped in and ill-considered music. Indeed, so enjoyable was the talkative little snug at the Dolphin that time and ale quickly got the better of me. The evening drew in, and I had to make one last stop before pressing onward via bus to Ashbourne and the Peaks. Leaving the pleasant snug and its small gaggle of locals, I returned to the incivility of the Derby Ring Road.
Returning hurriedly back towards the station, where my rendezvous would collect me later that night, I fought my way back across loathsome Traffic Street and up Station Approach. I had been recommended a dive into The Alexandra, which is again famed locally for its wide ale offering and honest hospitality, but time was against me and I wanted to find my final and most anticipated quarry. Rounding the corner onto Railway Terrace one is presented with ranks of beautiful model housing, built for the many workers of the adjacent Midland Railway. These timeless expressions of good, honest, well detailed Victorian housing were once scandalously threatened by a suitably barbarous proposal by the city council to drive a duel carriageway and associated swathes of low-rise, low-quality housing through this corner of Derby. Fortunately, after a spirited campaign by various heritage groups and local people, the area was saved, restored and now forms (as is often the case) one of the most sought after and fashionable districts outside the city centre. Sitting pride of place, atop a sheer corner plot, waits the final watering hole.
Railway Terrace, Derby DE1 2RU.
As part of the surrounding model development, the original planners erected a fine and handsome public house for the refreshment of the armies of engine drivers, wheel tappers, carriage builders and engineers after their day’s dutiful toil. Shamefully, this beautiful example of utopian Victoriana was also nearly lost; as the threat of widespread demolition grew, the pub died a death as the locals fled or were evicted, before languishing boarded and abandoned for many years. Indeed, even after the saving of the railway housing, its fate still hung in the balance as the fabric of the building deteriorated into a hazardous state. Eventually though, a white knight stepped forward in the form of one Trevor Harris, current proprietor at the aforementioned Brewery Tap, who set up his first micro-brewery operation in the adjacent outbuildings. Once his fine home-brewed ales began flowing, and the CAMRA members started drinking, the old Brunswick quickly blossomed back to life, surmounting the reclamation and regeneration of the area.
The original lay out of the pub was evidently a purpose built, model example of how pubs ought to be, with different rooms serving specific sections of society feeding off a central tap room. It also featured, and indeed still does, a rather unusual and well furnished wedged shaped front room, created by the oblique angle of the corner site. Following the restoration though, the interior (being very badly damaged, judging by the photos which now hang around the bar) was considerately adapted and altered to create the interconnecting drinking spaces, which manage to convey the essence of a traditional Victorian pub layout while making the most efficient use of the overall floor plan. Have a swift nose about, as I did, and admire the wonderful collection of railway memorabilia including several photos of the aforementioned and shamefully destroyed former Midland Station, which ought to have most right way thinking people fumbling for their soap box.
The new bar area, tucked towards the back of the pub, is quite a sight to behold and will doubtless moisten the eyeballs of even the most hardened ale drinker. Traditional hallmarks of excellence such as Taylor’s Landlord, Marston’s Pedigree, Everard’s Original and Brains’ Reverent James, sit happily on their hand pulls next to the Brunswick’s own interesting selection of increasingly potent and heady brews. It is best to try them all, just to be safe. You shall not be disappointed, especially given the bar-staffs insistence at giving you large amounts of change from your crisp £5 note – a bizarre but pleasing experience for the jaded London drinker. Excellent and unashamedly manly pub food of the pie and offal mediums also feature, again at prices which would set most Weatherspoons shuffling awkwardly on the spot.
Thus it was, pint of delicious home-brewed Midland Mild in hand, the remnant of a formidable Steak and Kidney affair before me and a plethora of young and old, rich and poor gravitating around the bar, your humble correspondent relaxed into the soft velvet of a fine high backed settle and soaked up the subtle splendour of this esteemed phoenix of pub culture. A little street corner world, playing host to generations of camaraderie, banter and beer fuelled bonhomie, pushed to the very edge of survival by forces commanded from lofty ivory towers; now saved, flourishing, loved and defended by the community who fought for it and its surrounding streets. It is in such wonderful places like the Brunswick, like the Royal Standard and like the Exeter that one remembers the true value of our pubs, not merely as houses in which to dispense beer, talk earnest drivel and occasionally fall over, but as places in which communities integrate, assist and foment, where trial and suffering are shared and exuberant celebration communally enjoyed. These are the beating hearts of our societies and ultimately us as a people. We should never meekly permit acquisitive vested interests, clueless arrogance or the unchecked hand of the free market to snatch them away from us on a whim. People simply must defend them and importantly use them, regularly, or else we as a society will be so greatly impoverished if the last of our inns should ever disappear.
Much ale was lowered and presently a joyful sleep stole over me – a shapeless heap of contented tweeds, propped up in an old pub settle.
Suitably refreshed, return to the street and walk down to London Road at the far end. Here either a cab or bus may be procured for the short trip into the town centre, or else if one is feeling adventurous, you may strike out into the streets opposite working your way onto Normand Road and eventually through a labyrinth of red brick, to Silver Hill Road and the Falstaff Free House. Once a dying Allied house in the god forsaken backstreets, this traditional pub became one of the first to be saved by a micro-brewing enterprise in 2002, and has justly featured in every Good Beer Guide since then. I had originally planned to sample the place first hand, but decided instead to take in the brisk 15 minutes stride down London Road to that most loathed of post war fads, Derby’s inner Ring Road. Turing down the aptly named Traffic Street – a morass of swirling congestion dreamt up by a madman – follow the road past the bulbous hulk of the Westfield; cathedral of the new religion. Stiffening your resolve, keep true and pass down Moreledge until you reach the decidedly more sedate surroundings of the Council Building and Market Hall. If you have time, and the inclination, have a wander around both – the Market is still a thriving affair with a strong emphasis on good food and local produce displayed in a fine Victorian covered hall, the Council Office a sober and authoritative display of interwar classicism, redolent of an era when hopeful utopian Councillors naively thought they really could craft a perfect new urban world. Cross the river on Derwent Street, and our next tavern sits before you on a fine corner plot.
– The Brewery Tap (aka The Royal Standard)
No. 1 Derwent Street, Derby DE1 2ED.
A pleasingly curious little pub, which was adapted into its present format by famous local micro-brewer Trevor Harris, who having saved one old derelict pub (which we will visit later) decided to have a second attempt with more of a ‘bar’ emphasis. Acquiring the dead and demolition threatened Royal Standard, he founded his second brewery – Derby Brewing Company – and slowly developed the once unloved venue into one of the city’s best known and perhaps most diverse real ale pubs, serving five guests and five of their own concoction.
Traditionalist of the hirsute and be-sandaled variety may be perturbed when first entering, there is a lot of exposed brick, stark whitewashed walls, stripped floor boards and chirrupy young things behind the bar. However, after the eyes and ears have adjusted to this somewhat unusual frequency, the Spartan interior soon loses its harsh overtones and settles comfortably into a modern yet relaxed experience, topped up with lashings of good ale. Indeed it is heartening for this careworn hack, old long before his time, to see the Tap’s many younger clientele shimmering effortlessly about the place, glass of Mild in hand. All too often in so many of the amazing taverns I have cause to seek out, I am the veritable youngster among a generation of hardened old drinkers, who regrettably and rather unsettlingly, cannot cheat medical science indefinitely.
The home brewed ales are complimented nicely by an assorted and interesting food offering which ranges from simple but effective tapas arrangements, up to more hearty burgers, steaks and battered fish. The emphasis lies strongly on sourcing fresh local produce from little agricultural types, just down the road. The Tap menu also offers suggestions for drinks matching to each dish, from both barrel and cellar – a quirk not generally seen outside the M25 or without an accompanying £25 price tag. The quality of the food offerings though does pull in the punters, so the place can get uncomfortably busy around feeding times, but fear not, the pub serves all day from 12 – 9pm. The delightful roof terrace also features, on the half dozen or so days a year when the sun machetes its way through the dense Midland cloud.
It always brings a warm glow to the tweedy heart of this correspondent to see an old pub like this, once teetering on the verge of destruction, brought back to life with loving attention and transformed like Lazarus into a prospering local venture. It goes someway to prove my oft beer soaked insistence that every pub closure is an offence. No matter how wretched, abused, swirly carpeted, sky sport-ified or lager sodden, virtually every pub is just one good and hard working landlord away from being another classic.
Pressing on from the Tap/Standard, the old divining rod takes me 100 yards further down Exeter Place to another venue which serves as yet another micro-brewery tap (Derby really is a good drinking town). Admire en route the huge vacant space behind our previous pub; a testament to a legacy of rot and greed in our national urban planning. Demolition and clearance are often seen as the panacea for areas experiencing urban decay, but all too often bad and unsympathetic designs or else sheer self interest from the developers, using empty ground as land banks for the future, cause these desolate and Buddleia infested spaces in our town centres to fester away for years (Battersea Power Station, anyone?).
I digress however. Our next aptly named tavern lies at the end of this short street.
– The Exeter Arms
Exeter Place, Derby DE1 2EU.
Once an old and somewhat threadbare Marston’s house in an unregarded corner of Derby, the Exeter has found a second lease of life playing host, once again, to another one of Derby mushrooming micro-brewers (a theme here perhaps?) This time, the fine offerings of the Dancing Duck Brewery litter the bar top, along with the ever present Marston’s Pedi pump and several rotating guests. Indeed, so much has the place improved in recent years that the Ex has made a welcome return to this year’s Good Beer Guide after a 21 year absence. I can personally testify for the quality of their Dark Drake Stout, a rich, nourishing, smokey and visceral experience, which leaves the drinker feeling like he has recently eaten a full steak dinner in preparation for fighting a quarrelsome local bear.
The interior of this beguiling local alehouse is a bit of a knocked through affair, but retains its distinct drinking areas none the less. The cosy public bar is busy with regulars, suits and tradesmen making the most of the handpull selection, slopping ale over the fine quarry tiled floor, while the interconnecting rooms towards the back of the pub allow the anti-social and gastro inclined to gravitate away from the bar without impinging on anyone’s fun. Rustic fittings, rickety furniture and the reassuring presence of an old Joanna in the corner, give the pub a handsome historic feel, without straying into the realms of twee and pastiche. The landlord has also recently opened up the ‘Cottage’, an annex from next door which provides space for clubs and clandestine ale fuelled meetings, but also acts as over-spill space when the pub is busy.
The food offering here comes courtesy of the Secret Dining Company who set up in the pub for lunchtimes Sunday to Wednesday and an all day service Thursday to Saturday. They purvey a justly famed range of tempting takes on British classics, such as Homity Pie, Ham Hock, Pigeon and Mutton, alongside a tapas style selection of platters and boards – to be assailed with friends after the ale has done its work. Booking is apparently advised around weekends as the place becomes extremely busy.
A few pints in this charming and unpretentious boozer are well worth the walk out from the centre, and serves as yet another example of a faltering pub being saved by considerate and imaginative leadership.
Well, here we are again then, a little later than expected perhaps but there we are. As I believe I mentioned at the end of my last despatch, a spell of absence is required from the Smoke for various reprehensible reasons which I will not discuss here. Safe to say, until the heat dies down or Cyprus goes bust, I shall be abroad in the fine English countryside. Strolling up to St Pancras, clad in suitable country garb and second-hand Hunters (made in Scotland not China), I decide to head north for the bucolic splendour of the Peaks, via that Mecca of Midland drinking, Derby.
However, a swift detour is made firstly via the newly opened Fuller’s Parcel Yard of the adjacent Kings Cross, which serves a mean Gin and Orange and nourishing bacon and egg sandwich, amongst the pleasing and superbly restored Victorian utilitarianism of the old Goods and Parcel Offices. The place also features a beautiful atrium, hidden behind old hoarding for years and discovered during demolition work, as well as fine views of the train shed of Kings Cross where the closet railway enthusiast can quietly indulge his passion without the usual prerequisite of an anorak and obvious social stigma. So, after a brief snooze on the 10:55 departure, the train pulls sedately into Derby Midland station just after midday opening.
Derby really is a fine town for the earnest Tavernier. Though slightly mauled by the excesses of post-war redevelopment, parts of this noble Midland city remain an attractive and fruitful foraging ground for old architectural treasures, honest work-a-day Victoriana and, of course, fine unmolested watering holes. After exiting the station – sadly a symphony of early 80s mediocrity scandalously replacing a handsome red-brick and stone dressed pile, at a pace which precluded any public protest until after the bulldozers had done their work – head directly down Midland Road. After the trials of the journey, your pallet will be craving something special to take away the taste of below par Railway catering. Opposite the huge brooding Stalinist spectre of the Royal Mail Sorting Office, sits our first unassuming looking quarry, where just such refreshment awaits.
– The Station Inn
12 Midland Road, Derby, DE1 2SN
The exterior of this humble little pub may not at first sight convey much promise, though look carefully and the comforting legends ‘Award Winning Cellar’ and ‘Bass Served from the Jug’ should help to redress the balance. The bar is a perfectly commonplace affair, with stripped wooden floors and the usual array of dralon furnishings – indeed all seems hum-drum and unremarkable. Until, that is, long standing landlord David Lalor returns from his regular pilgrimage down into his famed cellar, carrying a foaming jug of Bass.
Being a regular drinker of proper ale, one spends a life time sampling oceans of perfectly adequate, reliable, drinkable and ordinary beers. But very occasionally, when the moon is in the west and the stars align, you get served a pint of something which physically stops you in your tracks with its sheer brilliance. Conversation, worldly concern and indeed lower motor-function all cease, and one is transfixed utterly by the unbridled beauty of cask beer at its apogee; the quality of ingredients, the craft of the brewer, the care, skill and timing of the cellarman, all coming together to produce a pint of liquid magic. Owing to the secondary fermentation in-barrel, real beer goes on changing and developing from the moment it is racked up in stillage. It is why beer which has hung around for a few days too many becomes stale and unpleasant, and why in the 60s and 70s several of the more malevolent big brewers conspired to rid the world of this unique product, which requires an experienced and considered hand to tap and serve at the right moment, rather than the idiot proof plug-and-pour approach which was preferred by the brewers accounts department. This secondary fermentation means a cask beer has about a weeks shelf life, but during that week there is a golden window of about 24 to 36 hours when the beer reaches a climax of perfection. Most half-way interested publicans can keep a reasonable pint of beer which does exactly what it says on the tin. A truly skilled cellar man however, with knowledge of the product and years of experience, can time a beer to be served when it reaches that magic window.
David in the Station Inn is just such a man, and a man well versed in the lore of that once famed and consistently underrated product, good Draught Bass. Serving three 18 gallon barrels a week (Kilderkin’s for fans of trivia), David manages to keep the turnover of his beer high and constant, allowing him to sell it when it reaches its very best. ‘This used to be known as the Vinegar Shop when I took the lease off Bass years ago,’ he explains in his soothing Irish manner, ‘so I set about making it into the best Bass house in their estate’. David is a natural publican, a man of genuine hospitality and warmth, who at a moment’s notice will slip effortlessly into a well rehearsed comic routine, pacing up and down the bar as though it were the stage at the Palladium, rattling off story after story to no one in particular. This, combined with the unimaginably good Bass, elevates this quiet and humble tavern into the heady realms of the heavy weights.
Sadly, Bass as an independent entity died years ago, a cruel victim of Lord Young’s ruinous Beer Orders which stripped the ‘Big 6’ breweries of their vital pub empires, so the Station now operates under the oft unscrupulous hand of Enterprise Inns. Fortunately, David’s old Bass lease protects him from the worst excesses of the pub-co business plan; let us hope he is able to soldier on for years to come, in happy and glorious defiance.
As you may have gathered The Holborn team has a special relationship with Public Houses, one akin to a newborn and its umbilical cord. Rarely are we to be found too far away from one, and our absence from the bar is never long enough for any heart to grow fonder. And though we can be found guilty of regular dalliances with the fancier and flightier cocktail bars London has to offer, we always return to where we feel most at home – the Pub.
Though we profess to know a thing or two about pubs there are those out there whose experience casts a long shadow over our limited number of drinking years. One of those is Robin Turner. Robin Turner once of Heavenly Records, now part-owner of The Social in Soho is the co-author of The Rough Pub Guide and The Search for the Perfect Pub.
We met Robin at a half deserted Cock Tavern in Hackney (nothing better than an empty pub), on a blazingly hot Thursday afternoon to have a chat about The Rough Pub Guide, The Search for the Perfect Pub, and our mutual love of pubs in general.
Tell us how you came to write the books?
Well while working in the Music Industry me and Paul Moody (co-author of both books) were travelling a lot and doing crazy things all over the world with the band we were working with and we started a fanzine off the back of it. It was Paul’s girlfriend who suggested we do an article called the Rough Pub guide. That slowly turned into the book. It was a piss-take out of The Rough Guides, but also a comment on pubs being ‘rough’. Not rough in the way you’d get beaten up, but rough as in rough around the edges, unreconstructed. This was the point where pubs were all getting gastrofied, I didn’t mind that, I just didn’t want to drink in them. But then we saw that the pub as we knew and loved it was starting to disappear all together, especially in central London. Then in the rest of the country pubs were just plain disappearing. So the Rough Pub Guide was us finding the 50 best ‘rough’ or ‘unreconstructed’ pubs left in Britain.
We then toured the country writing the book and as it went along the reality of pub closures became real. I mean we’d drive into Nottingham on a wet wednesday afternoon and the big A-roads leading into the town centres were like pub graveyards, and northern mining towns the town-centre were like it. So seeing all of that on the first trip gave us the inspiration for the second book, there was so much we wanted to say on what we were seeing happen to pubs that we couldn’t put in the first book.
Then the Orwell idea came into existence. The Orwell idea being the famed (amongst Pub lovers) article about his favourite public house The Moon Under Water, a pub which never existed. So in our research Paul went to find the original article, while I went on an Orwell London Walk. We started in Canonbury, with my guide wearing a fedora of course, and being the only person on the walk I told him I was really only interested in finding out more about the Moon Under Water stuff. I am well read in Orwell and would have known alot of the tour already. So he revealed that the fictional Moon Under Water was a composite of three pubs all near to where he lived, so he showed them to me, I actually knew all the pubs already. But once you put it all together you can see that that bit is that and so on. The pubs were The Hen & Chickens, The Compton Arms and The Canonbury.
From that point onwards writing the book Orwell became what we called ‘our spirits guide’ . He was always there at our shoulders, may have been a bad influence or a good one. His criteria for a perfect pub doesn’t quite work in the 21st Century. Though it’s not rocket science; it’s is it a nice pub? Do I want to drink in there? What’s the atmosphere like?
Why do you think we need pubs?
We are not the most gregarious and outgoing of people, the British that is. We need a slight social lubricant, it has worked and carried on for years. The pub is the great social leveller in this country as well, it is an egalitarian social club. Everyone’s money is the same in a pub, if you go to a fancy cocktail bar where you have to queue to get in and Brad Pitt turns up, they’ll make him a table from scratch if need be, that doesn’t happen in pubs. It’s a right of passage for us, for many under-age drinking is both their first and last illegal activity. Many of us first meet our partners in a pub, nervously drinking then eight years pass and your married with kids. The Pub in Britain is in-movable object, it’s where societies meet, Women’s Institutes, Parish Councils, sports teams or new mother’s coffee mornings.
What was the experience like visiting all those pubs?
We did our exploring of the pubs in a few trips and we’d had a good background from the Rough Pub Guide. We had a slightly mad friend who was our designated driver, we had never been in a car with him before and it was quite an experience, especially as he got frustrated by our hopeless attempts to find country pubs reading maps using the light of our iPhones. The whole thing is not an exact science, pubs are closed or have shut down, sometimes you just can’t find them. Still makes for an adventure.
What are your favourite pubs?
They are mostly in South Wales, where I grew up. My favourite is probably the Falcon in Cardiff. I write about it in the book, but then four months after the Hardcover edition of the book was published it was gone. The freeholder shut it down and it the building was demolished within a week. The Plough and Harrow where I used to go with my dad. Then the Southampton Arms in London (the sister of the pub we’re sat in).
What is the future of the Public House?
Five of the top ten pubs in the Rough Pub Guide only written in 2009 have now shut. The Montague in south London went not long ago, the landlord died and a few weeks later his wife died. The son had no interest and the pub just went. So many of the best pubs are in the hands of people in their later years, being a publican used to be a career choice. Though there are still 57,000 pubs in the UK and despite the number of closures there are many new openings. Just not in the country, there are more dry villages than ever before, the pub like the post office is disappearing from village life. There are places that bite back, like The George & Dragon in Hudswell, Yorkshire where after a landlord moved on the pubco involved decided it wasn’t worth keeping open, they put their foot down and as a village bought the pub.
Then the Albion Ale House in Conwy, one of the best pubs I’ve had the pleasure to walk into. It’s a pub run by a co-operative of four small independent local breweries. Each brewery each year take it in turns to do different tasks such as marketing or the accounts. Its a fantastic pub, which by working together gets the best out of a beautiful venue.
The most hopeful thing for me is the craft beer revolution. You’ll find real ale pubs full of bearded men who think the Matrix is real. But the great new breweries serving craft beer has brought a whole new demographic of people back to drinking beer in pubs. We are also making probably the best beer in the world at the moment.
The sun is here, though we are mostly squeezed into our offices dreaming of other places we could be enjoying the glorious weather. Part of that enjoyment for any right-minded individual would sipping on your favoured beverage in a beer garden/park/rooftop/pool. A warm-weather drink should be refreshing, crisp and most importantl: simple. So in keeping with the current F.Scott Fitzgerald revival we bring you a twist on the classic Gin Sour, The Fitzgerald Cocktail.
The Fitzgerald cocktail comes courtesy of Dale Degroff. Mr. DeGroff was instrumental in the revival of the American bar scene, starting with his early 90s tenure at the Rainbow Room in New York. A firm proponent of fresh juices, his work helped to usher in the era of legit cocktail bars that scoff at bottled juices and sugary swill.
That said, The Fitzgerald is essentially a classic Gin sour (sans the optional egg white) with bitters. Gin, lemon juice and sugar combine to form a nice drink on their own, but bitters can turn a good drink into a great drink. In this case, a couple dashes of Angostura bitters lend depth and roundness to the Fitzgerald.
With the addition of the bitters, it’s a Fitzgerald; obviously a cousin of the gin sour, but a bit deeper, richer, and more grown-up. So stop dreaming and get home, don your finest Seersucker suit and kick back with The Fitzgerald.
Also for those who amazingly we have yet to convert to gin, The Fitzgerald is a good drink for those new to the spirit. It’s a well-composed cocktail that lets the gin shine, but thanks to the citrus, sugar and bitters, it’s not so gin-forward as to overwhelm the other flavours. Its a great party cocktail, as it’s easy to make and easy to drink, even for drinkers who claim to be wary of gin.
The Fitzgerald Cocktail (makes 1)
Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice; shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.
Widely viewed as the spiritual home of the 21st Century intelligentsia, there is much more to the Islington area than left-wing New Labour candidates, yummy mummies and middle-class professionals. The high-street shopping leaves much to be desired, so an alternative plan has been conjured for those of you looking to enjoy a day in Angel.
Tucked away down a cobbled backstreet, Camden Passage is a whimsical collection of chic antique shops, kitsch cafés and a bi-weekly market on Wednesdays and Saturdays where specialist traders display their wares. This is not your average bric-a-brac though, so don’t expect low prices and be prepared to haggle! Not to be confused with Camden Market, Camden Passage plays host to specialist and renowned dealers in dolls, toys, clocks, glass and china – as well as the glittering Narnia of vintage clothes shops where tantalising treats await within – Annie’s is a particularly tempting place in which to spend your entire salary, more akin to a Hollywood costume drama store than your average high street clothing store. Fat Faced Cat provides the perfect opportunity to rummage through a battered leather suitcase of gloriously vintage silk scarves, or if loading up on gems that would put Liz Taylor to shame, beat a path to Cloud Cuckoo Land for stunning vintage costume jewellery.
If you’re feeling peckish, grab a milkshake from Issy’s Milky Way, a beautiful 1950s café complete with Formica table tops and fun memorabilia, or, if haggling has really taken it of you, stock up on a proper brekkie at Breakfast Club, which – in my opinion – is still the best non-greasy spoon in London.
For a rainy-day alternative, cosy up at The Screen On The Green, a single screen cinema opposite Islington Green. SOTG offers a thoughtfully selected variety of films, as well as events including the groundbreaking National Theatre Live, (which broadcasts British theatre to cinemas worldwide), live Q&A sessions and film festivals. This purpose-built Edwardian cinema opened in 1913, and is one of Britain’s oldest running cinemas in the UK. The façade, outlined in red neon, stands out like a beacon against the otherwise conservative aesthetic of Upper Street, and is reminiscent of those kitsch 1950s cinemas in small-town America. Screen on the Green has been operated by the Everyman Cinemas Group since 2008, a group renowned for their service and exceptional hospitality, and a world away from the copy-paste multi-screen cinemas you may be used to.
There is a fully licensed bar with wine, champagne, beer and even cocktails – somewhat more refined than a jumbo carton of the syrupy, carbonated offerings. If popcorn’s your bag then naturally, it is available, but if you fancy a change from the standard fare, then I encourage you to indulge in the olives and bread, and maybe a piece of cake if you’re feeling naughty.
The plush sofas, complete with cushions and pouffes make this a great place to take a date (no cramp-inducing stretching over those awful plastic armrests) – although if you’re flying solo, you can always opt for an armchair. The Everyman Cinemas do not skimp on the tech spec either – Sony 4k Digital Projectors and Dolby Digital surround sound provide home-cinema comfort combined with a multi-screen cinema experience. Lush.
If you’re looking for something quick and tasty before heading out for drinks, bear in mind that there are two big contenders for the title of ‘Best Burrito in Angel’ – Chilango, and Bombay Burrito. Prepare to choose between the two, which is no easy feat.
Chilango provides a Zagat rated menu, already has a great reputation and an excellent online presence and has quickly established itself as an exciting local franchise. The food is prepared before your eyes; choose from burritos, tacos or salads with either shredded pork, grilled steak, grilled prawns, marinated chicken or a scrummy vegetarian pepper & onion mix. Then, dress it as you please, with black beans, cheese, sour cream, salsa and guacamole. The flavours are fantastic – Chilango marinate their chicken and steak before grilling, and the pork is cooked for hours until it is pull-apart tender. With a little forward-planning (and luck!) you could even get your burrito for free with Burrito Friday, a Facebook and Twitter based competition with surprisingly good odds of winning.
The new contender for the crown is Bombay Burrito, which has recently opened and offers up fresh curry in a wrap in a sensational Indian/Mexican fusion. It shouldn’t work, but it’s amazing. Look past the no-frills décor; the main focus here is the food. The curry carries all of the flavour you would expect from a decent Indian restaurant, but with none of the grease. As an added bonus, the staff are among the friendliest, happiest people you could come across. Regardless of which you choose, honestly, get a burrito. Although they’re more expensive than your average sarnie, you won’t need to eat again for the rest of the day, which is technically a cost-saving exercise.
Having sufficiently lined your stomach, finish up at ‘Round Midnight Jazz and Blues Bar. The cocktails are good, and there are live bands on most nights of the week for which entry is rarely charged. This bar is delightfully unpretentious; all atmosphere and no affectation. The basic benches and chaotically dispersed tables will all be occupied unless you arrive in a timely fashion, as this popular no-frills bar is usually packed to the rafters with a clientele made up of a refreshing mix of ages, ethnicities and professions. ‘Round Midnight is perfect for those who are looking, simply, to have a rollicking good time and get lost in the music.
Last week we looked at some famous London Public Houses with connections to great and the good of the literary world in our Bookish Boozers article. Keeping up the theme of drinking and writing we take at some cocktails which are interwoven into the literary world.
Ernest Hemingway: The Mojito
“A man does not exist until he is drunk.” – Ernest Hemingway
– Hemingway is associated with a number of cocktails (he was, after all, a heavy drinker), but none more so than the Mojito. According to Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide, the mojito was invented at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway drank them.
William Faulkner: Mint Julep
– It should also be no surprise that the Mint Julep was William Faulkner’s drink of choice. Faulkner, a Southern writer par excellence, was himself no stranger to alcohol and was notorious for heroic month-long benders between novels, and the whiskey-haze in which he ended his career, moonlighting as a screenwriter in 1940s Hollywood (incidentally, another pit of decadence and depravity, where he was able to write both The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not).
When he wasn’t slugging back bourbon straight, Faulkner would famously have his Mint Juleps by his side as he wrote some of the most central and lasting creations of 20th century American literature (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom, to name a few).
Raymond Chandler: The Gimlet
“a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else” (Terry Lennox in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye)
– The word “gimlet” used in this sense is first attested in 1928. The most obvious derivation is from the tool for drilling small holes, whose name is also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. Thus, the cocktail may have been named for its “penetrating” effects on the drinker. Another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (served 1879 to 1913), who allegedly introduced this drink as a means of inducing his messmates to take lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication. Though it was Chandler who popularised the gimlet in America when his famed detective Philip Marlowe introduced it in The Long Goodbye.
Tennessee Williams: Ramos Gin Fizz
– Tennessee was a man with a wildly creative mind and refined taste, but also an unshakable lover of gin. Whether it was a martini or his beloved Crescent City classic, the Ramos Gin Fizz, Tennessee is remembered by many locals and historians who knew him as a man who enjoyed many an evening (or perhaps an early morning) tipple. Apparently locals still drink this famous Southern cocktail in honor of Williams especially as the drink was featured many times in his writings.
Ian Fleming: Vesper Martini
“A dry martini… One. In a deep Champagne goblet…Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” – James Bond
– In Fleming’s Bond series, the Vesper Martini is the first drink Bond ever orders – and the only time he orders it. The Vesper differs from Bond’s standard cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses both gin and vodka. Bond would later be known for ordering vodka martinis.
F.Scott Fitzgerald: The Gin Rickey
Fitzgerald’s passion for gin apparently stemmed from the belief that it could not be detected on the breath – though his raucous behaviour at the parties he and his wife Zelda so often attended no doubt revealed the truth. A boozer in the truest sense of the term, Fitzgerald’s favourite tipple was the gin rickey. Though the rickey can be made with everything from scotch to rum, the gin-based version endured, no doubt due to Fitzgerald’s hearty endorsement.
Oscar Wilde: Absinthe
Known for his love of Absinthe, he famously intoned, speaking of his time drinking Absinthe at the Cafe Royal, “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.”
It is an all-too-common scenario: a friend is visiting London, and you want to take them out for a pint at a ‘traditional’ British pub, but, being a person of some distinction (you read The Holborn after all) you also want to wow them with your smarts and literary knowledge (and not end up in a J D Wetherspoons).
Well, I’m here to help.
Perhaps not as famous for its literary watering holes as say, Dublin, London still has a great many pubs with proud literary histories.
Arguably the most well-known is the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street (16 Charlotte St, London W1T 2LY), which is believed to be Fitzrovia’s namesake. Frequented by a whole host of well-known bohemian writers in the 1930s, its regulars included George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas. Now owned by chain pub-owning giant Samuel Smith Brewery, it still retains most of its unique charm. It is jam-packed with punters most nights and the beers are very cheap (some under £2! Unheard of!). Ensconced amongst some wonderful restaurants and bars, The Fitzroy would be a good first stop on a night out to soak up a little of London’s literary past.
The George Inn on Borough High Street (75-77 Borough High St, Southwark, London SE1 1NH) is London’s only remaining galleried coaching inn, and was (at least once) visited by the one and only Charles Dickens, who then went on to mention it specifically in Little Dorrit. It is also thought to have been ‘Shakespeare’s local’, though proof remains unsupported as to whether or not the bard ever truly set foot in the establishment. Regardless, it is a lovely historic pub in a great location, with decent food and service.
It would be a disservice to this list not to include The Lamb on Lambs Conduit Street (94 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3LZ) in Bloomsbury. Once a regular haunt of Charles Dickens, who lived around the corner in Doughty Street in the late 1830s, The Lamb is a sort of upmarket pub with a distinctly homely, traditional feel. If its Dickensian past wasn’t ‘writerly’ enough, it also played host to many a romantic rendez-vous between Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes in the early 1950s.
Heading out west, we have The Dove in Hammersmith (19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London W6 9TA) which not only boasts the World’s Smallest Bar Room (see if you can find it), but has also played host to a number of notable wordsmiths throughout its long history. The poet James Thompson allegedly wrote the words to Rule, Britannia here. Ernest Hemmingway and Dylan Thomas are two more weighty names said to have clinked glasses at The Dove. If you catch London on a rare sunny day (or if your friend happens to be visiting around the time of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race), it is a wonderful waterside spot to grab a beer.
The Pillars of Hercules is an old rickety pub on Greek Street (7 Greek St, London W1D 4DF). With an average selection of ales and lagers and somewhat questionable, hit-and-miss service, it may have somewhat lost its charm these days. However you can excuse all that, because of its rich literary history. The Pillars of Hercules was a bustling hotspot for the London literary set in the 1970s – Clive James’ second collection of literary criticism is named after it (At the Pillars of Hercules, 1979) due to most of its contents being written there. Ian McEwan, in a recent interview with the Guardian, said “Who would want to hang out around the Pillars of Hercules? Only those bent by this passion for writing books. We were absolutely determined to become writers. We didn’t use words like ‘passion’, but we acted them out. Writing was the only important thing.” It was here McEwan met Christopher Hitchens and formed a connection with Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. Perhaps its Soho location gives the Pillars a vague sense of pretension, but I maintain it has a good long list of names you can casually drop into conversation with your utterly impressed visiting friend. Do mind the crowds.
Even in a city so overflowing with the bizarre and exciting tales of its own history, it is somehow all too easy to step out for a drink and step in to a boring oversized chain pub which appears to have developed a (carpeted) dance floor. Instead, make a beeline for one of these little gems and spin a yarn about Sylvia Plath’s love life. I assure you, your friend will appreciate it.
(There is in fact a London literary pub crawl available to do – http://www.londonliterarypubcrawl.com/ – where the group is guided through the city by actors dressed as ghost writers! As in, the ghosts of writers. Not people who ghost-write.)
So normal service has resumed, we’ve got our glorious British Spring back, so gone is the cold and here’s the…. rain! But don’t despair this weekend may be nice, so get out and pretend its summer.
To assist in this collective fantasy we have found a fantastic cocktail to lull you into thinking of Wimbledon, Glastonbury and days spent toasting at the seaside.
The beauty of this cocktail lies in its simplicity. The ingredients — blueberries, lemon juice, brown sugar, ginger ale, and rum — are all easy to find, if you don’t already have them at home. And there are no pre-made ingredients (except for the crushed ice), and almost no tools required, making this a nice easy sunday cocktail basking in the hot British Spring Sun.
Some preparatory notes
• What if you can’t find fresh blueberries? Frozen ones will work just as well. Here’s an easy way to thaw them quickly: fill a glass with hot water (from the tap; just run the water until it’s as hot as it can get). Drop the desired amount of blueberries in the glass, wait a few minutes, and strain out the water. Voila! Un-frozen blueberries.
• How does one make crushed ice? You can do this in a blender with an ‘ice crush’ setting, or use my preferred method, which is to put a bunch of ice cubes in a ziplock bag and beat them mercilessly with a rolling pin.
Blue Berry Rum Smash
Ingredients (Makes 1)
A handful of fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1 tablespoon brown sugar
20 ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice
60 ml of Good Rum
Ginger ale (not ginger beer, to top)
Cover the bottom of an old-fashioned glass or mason jar with blueberries. (If you’re using a smaller glass, make a double layer.) Add the brown sugar and lemon juice and muddle (or smoosh with the back of a spoon) until the sugar is melted. The idea is to break the skins of the blueberries, but not to mash them into a pulp. Fill the glass with crushed ice and then add the rum. Top with ginger ale and stir.
The Quest for the Perfect Pub is truly a wonderful book,
‘One by one the old pubs are being swallowed up by the catering chains, whose thrusting, Next-clad young executives are at this very moment roaming the country, Their acquisitions are speedily turned into half-hearted ‘theme’ pubs, probably called Funsters, Hank’s or the Raj, where a plastic mill-stream. bar staff in Stetsons, or a yellowing pith-helment on the wall are considered to be bold and radical statements in ‘Leisure-time programming’. If you feel like blowing up such places, or merely hitting the landlord, then this is the book for you’
I first came across this book last summer while walking with some friends over The Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. With the aim of ourselves making various pilgrimages to some locally renowned boozers. One of our company, who in fact writes the Taverns articles for this very publication, had a battered old book about him which he was perusing at every available resting point. Now at first I did not take much notice as much as I love pubs, and I do, I am unlike my friend who can be found often reading The Good Pub Guide or CAMRA leaflets for his bedtime reading. I frequently noticed he was laughing out loud as he sat engrossed in this book, a reaction totally unknown amongst anyone reading a book like the Good Pub Guide, I was intrigued.
And so I was told the story of Nick and Charlie Hurt’s Quest for The Perfect Pub. Published in 1988 it was set against the backdrop of pub closures (sound familiar?) and a butchering of traditional pubs by property tycoons and the big breweries; ‘The Voracious Eight’, as CAMRA dubbed them; Allied, Bass Charrington, Courage, Greenall Whitley, Guinness, Scottish & Newcastle, Watney Mann & Truman and Whitbread. As Nick and Charlie saw it, and as I have heard many other pub lovers say today, CAMRA had done a great job at resurrecting the dying art of brewing good beer, but what was really need now was a Campaign for Real Pubs. So they set off on a journey around England and Wales to find the surviving great british boozers.
Here at The Holborn we have celebrated a collection of great pubs, but so far the majority have been in London, this book purposefully omitted London (and other major cities) and we are told in the introduction the capital’s drinking holes would be dealt with in a second book. And here lies the tragedy about this book, and why it is a rare and special item to own for a pub lover, is that there was only ever one print run. The authors don’t mince their words in this book, especially when it comes to certain breweries and what they were doing to pubs at the time. And so one of the breweries threatened to sue the publishers and the small publishing house confronted with the powerhouse brewery backed down and removed the book from publication. For this reason I am unapologetic about my over use of direct quotation from this forgotten book in this humble review.
On the aforementioned trip, thanks to the aforementioned companion and his connections we were treated to an audience with one of the authors, Charlie Hurt. Charlie now resides in the Peaks and met us for a lunchtime pint in one of his top pubs from the book, The Barley Mow at Kirk Ireton, and regaled us with stories from his adventures and discussed the current fortunes of pubs that our band of ale drinkers love up and down the land. I’ll readily admit I am a little fuzzy on the details of that lunch.
So to the book, and the title. The Quest for the Perfect Pub. Nick and Charlie’s inspiration for the title came from none other than George Orwell, who once wrote;
‘My favourite public house, ‘The Moon under Water’… consists mostly of regulars who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much for beer. If you are asked why you favour a particular public house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about ‘The Moon under water is what people call its ‘atmosphere’…it has no glass topped tables or other modern miseries and, on the other hand, no sham roof-beams, inglenooks or plastic panels masquerading as oak… ‘The Moon under Water’ is my ideal of what a pub should be…but now is the time to reveal something which the discerning and disillusioned reader will probably guessed already. There is no such pub as ‘The Moon under Water’ George Orwell 9th February 1946.
Their quest was to prove Orwell wrong, though was the perfect pub the modern equivalent of the Holy Grail, mythical, wonderful, unattainable? They spent three months with many ups and downs scouring the land, and in their effort visiting over 2000 pubs.
This is one part adventure story of two brothers on the road, another part documentation of British Life, and another part political stand against the destruction of pubs. There are times when the authors readily admit that because of levels of alcohol consumed they are not overly sure what happened or can’t quite give a full report of the experience of the evening in the chosen drinking hole, or reports are told of very boisterous evenings. Other times Nick and Charlie offer you glimpses of why public houses are so important to the fabric of our British lives. In one of the top ten pubs, The Cresselly Arms in Cresswell Quay, they recount;
‘Maurice and Janet Cole, publicans extraordinary. Mrs Cole performs her neat slippered scuttle along the bar. She has a winning smile. You order a pint of her impeccable Hancocks which she taps with confidence into a jug and then into your sleever. She passes the time of day and returns to more pressing matters. The coalman’s glass is empty. It must be filled.
Maurice Cole enters the pub very, very slowly, the reason being that on his arm is an old gentleman of one hundred and one in a flat cap and a 1930s suit. He has recently gone blind, so Maurice has fetched him down to the Cresselly for his lunchtime drink. He guides him to the table, fetches two halves and sits down with him.’
And at times they can no longer contain the rage;
‘The continuing desecration of the classic country pub is, on a par with the desecration of a beautiful church, an act of vandalism both architecturally and it terms of the community. And to those who may consider our attitude too traditionalist, too steeped in nostalgia, we would reply that everywhere we travelled we met as many young people as old who felt a sense of loss and outrage at what was happening. Time and time again we would make enquires as to the best pubs only to be told in reverent tones about Grumpy Bill’s place in the next village, or of old Joan in the Red Lion down the road. Then the pause and the added rider: ‘But he/she is not there any more…it’s been revamped by the brewery…it’s now a restaurant/holiday home.”
Though it would be very hard to use this book as a guide to visit pubs, with it being 25 years on & considering the rate of pub closers, the categorisation of the pubs is superb. They are ranked with a star, two barrels or one barrel and categorised as One Room Drinkers (ORD), Good Little Local (GLL), Lively Little Local (LLL), Good Market Town Hotel (GMTH), Good All-Rounder (GAR), Great All Rounder (GGAR), and the Good in a Tight Spot (GITS).
It would be interesting to know how many of the 300 pubs listed in the book are still open or as they were. We can confirm some are, as some of our favourite pubs such as the Barley Mow in Kirk Ireton, Seymour Arms in Witham Friary and the Tucker’s Grave are all as the Hurts describe 25 years ago. Maybe what is needed is for some adventurous young chaps or chapettes to document the current state of play and find the current best three hundred or so pubs in the land… A quest of our very own. Who is joining me?
Much has been written about The Golden Heart and its irrepressible landlady Sandra Esquilant. Both are solid foundation stones in the jumbled melee of Spitalfields, emanating molten amber together; quite literally in the golden lager eased into fingerprinted glasses and also figuratively, in the warmth that emanates from the candle-lit back bar and from Sandra’s own soul.
Many are inspired by Sandra’s ravenous appetite for life, yet few are given a behind the scenes pass to witness the true influence she has over the wide-ranging scope of her local menagerie. The heady sweat of the Brick Lane curry houses mingled with the cries of the old East End market sellers flogging colourful knits to creative types creates the opportunity for many unlikely friendships to blossom, and from my exclusive vantage point behind the bar in The Golden Heart, I have an exclusive ticket to the show. From here I watch a myriad of lives fall through my fingers like quicksilver, characters imprinting themselves forever on my mind until they disappear forever through the door and back onto the relentless streets of London Town.
The pub itself boasts a certain timeless quality. The dust speckled rows of coloured glass bottles boasting mysterious intoxicants are somehow reminiscent of jars in a Victorian sweet shop, boasting sugar-coated delicacies. The old ale pumps splutter and groan at the touch with the grumble of forty years’ worth of late nights and early mornings coughing up liquid gold to thirsty punters. The only clues as to the passing of time are the fresh vases of flowers blooming across the windowsills and the changing of the artwork displayed proudly on the walls.
When one pushes open the worn wooden door of The Heart, it is always a surprise as to what scene is unfolding inside. In the bleak throes of winter, one will often find groups of friends in woollen jumpers nursing whiskeys and cold fingers in the velvet glow of the open fire. On summer days, the pavements outside of the pub pulsate with throngs of revellers drunk on sunshine, letting their cigarette smoke curl through the long days and into the balmy nights. Whatever the holiday season; albeit Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day, Easter or Halloween, one will find an appropriate glistering cluster of coloured lights, or a delicately crafted floral garland or hanging pumpkin marking the occasion. Sunday afternoons are prone to digressing into frantic evenings of Irish jigging or ballroom dancing, the well-informed jukebox turned up full, Sandra twirling across the floor with a hula-hoop in hand and laughter in her eyes.
My duties at The Heart can be somewhat unconventional; occasionally I have to lure the resident dog, Rascal down the street with a couple of chips after he has made a mad bid for freedom. I have been known to scour Brick Lane for disposable cameras dressed up as a skeleton, and was once left on the doorstep of Gilbert and George’s house armed with an enormous bouquet of pink roses, while Sandra hid, giggling around the corner. I take telephone messages from probing journalists and kindly church-goers, and ensure safe delivery of an abundance of gifts for Sandra from her well-wishers. I locate lost keys and lipsticks and tell Sandra she looks fabulous when off to art parties and dinners at the House of Lords. I once taught Tracey Emin how to pour a pint of Guinness and have often grabbed falling glasses as Sandra dances on top of the bar wielding a picture of David Bowie or the pope.
My favourite part of the job, however, is absorbing the lives of the regulars who are drawn to the scarlet flicker of the Truman’s Brewery sign that hangs above the door; lost moths floundering for a flame, all whom feel that there is a home here for them under the curious eyes of this watchful shepherd.
There is the lawyer, who casually sups Carlsberg as she rolls off the day’s murder cases with a weary wave of her wrist, coming here to rinse her hands of blood thirst and to nourish herself in the unchanging glow of the orange lamps. There is the market seller, with wanderlust in his eyes and a gold earring in his left ear lobe, who has a penchant for Morrissey and sleeps on shop floors and cleans houses on the side, in order to be able to pay to send his son to university.
There are the tattoo artists, who lean against the bar with tendrils of flowers and cryptic hieroglyphs snaking across their skin, ingrained inky memories and the beautiful bruises of life. There are the chefs from the restaurant across the road, who down pints late at night with tired eyes, bringing me gifts of fresh Chelsea buns in crinkled silver foil, pistachio nuts hidden in the pastry. There is the singer, who skitters brightly across the wooden floor in her stilettos, nursing a merlot to soothe her throat after a night playing her voice, and the lady always adorned with glittering jewels and a glass of rose, gushing compliments across the bar.
There are the bespectacled German hairdressers who smoke on the step outside, enveloped in each other, and the man who makes neon lights for a living, his fingers blistered and eyes dulled from a lifetime spent illuminating the worlds of others. There are the architects, who assemble miniature model castles on the drink-stained tables, and the bearded French cyclists who dress like beatniks and address me as ‘Madame’. There is a man who designs artificial snowmen and a couple of kindly stockbrokers dreaming of escape, a glazed local who calls everybody ‘Darling!’ and sings in a high falsetto after one too many Kronenbergs. A favourite of mine is the man who stands in the centre of the bar and never speaks, smiling with kind eyes when he would like another drink, the exact change clutched in his weather-worn hand. I like to invent different stories for him and enjoy the gentle, mutual silence that we share.
Here drink the poets and the plumbers, those who run up large bar tabs and those who scrounge pennies from empty pockets. There are those bubbling with the promise of their future and those weary with a thousand long evenings such as these. My occupation is a careful one; I have to be able to judge with a glance who needs to talk, who prefers quiet anonymity, who is thirsty for a friend and who should be politely told that they should go home to sleep. I say little and smile often, delighting in such an unrestricted view through the open windows of stranger’s lives. And I too, at the end of the night, unlocking my bicycle and aching to fall into dreams, turn and glance at that bright Truman’s sign, and feel that I have a home in The Golden Heart.
Spring has failed the British isles (a fresh heap of snow is falling as I write) winter is victorious, long live winter! Whilst summer’s unbridled enthusiasm is tamed by a host of cocktails and mixtures designed to cool and refresh you. There are countless variations with that sole purpose in mind. But during winter (and now, spring), we feel the pain of discontent. We’re left to escape the winter drudgery with just a few libations worthy of soothing us during a cold night’s chill. Most cocktails designed for this season are hot, yet few strike the chord of comfort that is needed when the post Christmas cold outside continues until it sets into your very bones. So we present the Jim Dandy, a non-traditional winter beverage that warms you up from the inside out.
It’s a beverage with robust, full flavours and spices to boot. The kick from the spiced rum, the soothing heat from the fresh ginger, citrus notes from lime juice, the spices from the chai tea and the sweetness from the pear come together very well indeed. It can serve as a great late night cocktail to have by the roaring fire. One sip will warm you, and a few more will make you forget you were ever even cold in the first place. As long as you have to deal with the extension of this winter cold, you can turn to this to ease the freeze.
‘The Jim Dandy’
Ingredients (makes 1)
60 ml Spiced Rum – we like Kraken Black (and not just for the packaging)
90 ml of Ginger beer – best use a ‘fiery’ variety for truly warm and spicy effect.
30 ml of Pear Juice (use a cloudy apple juice if you can’t get hold of this)
1/2 Lime, juiced
1/2 tsp (5 ml) fresh ginger, grated
15 ml of Chai (Spiced) tea, allowed to cool
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Infused ice cubes (recipe to follow)
Pear slices, to garnish
Lime quarter, to garnish
Lime & Ginger Infused Ice Ingredients
1 x lime, cut into thin wedges (about 8)
1 x Knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (about 8 slices)
I) Take a chai tea bag and pour boiling water over top (as if making tea). Let steep for 5 minutes and place in the fridge to cool.
II) Fill a cocktail glass halfway with ice. Pour in the spiced rum, ginger beer, pear juice, lime juice, grated ginger and chai tea. Top with the bitters. Give it a good stir to mix all the ingredients together. Place a pear slice and lime quarter on top and finish with an infused ice cube, which will slowly release the added flavour.
Note: For a large batch method, pour all ingredients ,minus the bitters, into a pitcher. (Multiply the ingredients by the number of people you will be serving to determine the amount.) Pour into individual ice-filled cocktail glasses and top with bitters, pear slice, lime and infused ice cubes.
So, the final furlong. If you have timed things right, you should just be entering that delightful witching hour between 2:30 and 4:00pm; the detritus of the luncheon feed has been cleared away, along with their repeat clientele, and for a time all is quiet and civilised until the frantic rush for ale between clocking off and the 6:42 train. As I have said before, this golden period is perhaps the best time for visiting the rarer and more exquisite of venues, which become too populous with tourists and armature drinkers around peak hours. It is a time when the professional loafer will find himself in an agreeably empty bar, paper in hand and in the sole company of a few threadbare and like minded fellows of a suitably vague employment status. Our final stop is just such a place, a true delight which warrants a visit at this special time, to fully appreciate its historic majesty without having to set about a camera wielding ex-colonial in order to get a drink.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese
– 145 Fleet Street London EC4A 2BU
The Cheese is an old and justly famous favourite, known down the ages to generations of pub connoisseurs. The wonderful building which houses the pub is the genuine article, a true piece of old London hiding up a small back alley, complete with authentic grime stained windows, crooked doors and creaky floor boards. All too often though, all this wonderful heritage in a pub either leads to a ghastly contrived theme park attempt at olde England, or else the historic hostelry morphs slowly into a staid and sanitised living museum, selling National Trust tea towels and ceramic mugs. The Cheese is different. Don’t let the usually troubling ‘Ye Olde’ in the name deceive you, this is no hackneyed Mickey Mouse affair. The place belligerently operates as a no-nonsense drinking and dining hall and though the building is lovingly cared for and considerately adapted and improved, it is a pub first and foremost.
It is no surprise therefore to find our old friends Samuel Smiths of Tadcaster at the helm of this famous old pile, who took it on in 1992 after many years in stubbornly conservative private ownership, creating the time capsule you see today. Smiths though have done what comes naturally to this deeply traditional brewery and enhanced all the best features of the place without sacrificing one inch of good honest hospitality or heritage value. The pub increased dramatically in size, leading to the warren of subterranean vaults and cellars being opened up as drinking space, and the creation of the large court-yard like bar to the rear. But it is the original sections of this pub which make it so fascinating to sit and be in.
Passing the totally unassuming street frontage, blank save an ornate iron lamp illuminating the pubs name, one creeps up the evocatively named Wine Office Court to find the small entrance door. Once inside, bear immediately right into what must be one of the loveliest Tap Rooms in all London, and certainly the best preserved. Once the soul preserve of ‘Gentleman only’, little has changed in here for centuries, save for the addition of a modern till and a bit of Bakelite electrical fittings. Through the wonderful gloom which hangs about the place, a fire glows comfortingly in the large hearth below a fine painting of a late and long standing head waiter. The bare bench seating, glazed in bar area, faded black and chocolate panelling, nicotine yellowed ceiling, scrub top tables and saw dust strewn about the floor are all authentic and all perfect. On a cold and uninviting day, to be cloistered up in the corner of this magnificent room, away from the molestation of the modern world (mobiles cease to function here), with a pint of cheap Smith’s Porter in hand and a faded copy of the Pickwick Papers on the table, is something very close to paradise.
A pleasingly eccentric and liberal bunch of characters are also found hanging about the little bar, and many are only too pleased to talk to someone who will listen to their rambling tales of trial, tribulation and folksy racism. The only jarring intrusion on this little Elysian can be the abrupt and unwelcome arrival of a gaggle of tourists, dressed as though for light gardening duties, who insist on bawling their condescending approval for the ‘quaint li’le place’ at the top of their ample lungs. However, if visited during the aforementioned timeframe, when the hoards of man-made fibres and lens caps are being herded around the gift shop at Westminster Abbey, the honest pub-man can enjoy one of the very great tavern experiences London has to offer.
To the right of the main passage way is the Chop Room which also seeks to authentically recreate a late 18th and early 19th century style dining room, of the sort which would have been attached to almost all respectable inns and taverns. Further original bench seating is found in here, with slightly grander fittings and furnishing to befit the higher price tag which comes with the advertised ‘Waiter Service Only’. Food in here is simple English fare, steamed puddings, offal, roast meats and over-cooked veg; blissful in the wonderfully unpretentious surroundings. The place is often packed around mealtimes though, so ring ahead if you wish to sample it.
The maze of other drinking areas which were added by Smiths after 1992, form an interesting selection of nooks and quiet corners if one has clandestine business to discuss, and overspill areas when the pub is packed, but for me the real gem is the little altered world at the front, which is best sampled off peak, quietly and often.
So, another wander comes to an end, hopefully leaving you culturally enriched and suitably fortified to endure another week in the Insurance trade/visit from the mother in law/school play/marriage/ – delete as appropriate. Regrettably though, as my financial situation grows ever more perilous, I feel the pressures of London are beginning to drain my resolve. Consequently my next despatch will come from the green fields of some far flung corner of rural England, as I depart for the countryside to rejuvenate in fresh air and good inexpensive rural taverns.
Heading back in the general direction of Fleet St, a swift pint maybe enjoyed in the Knights Templar at the other end of Carey St, a better version of the usual Weatherspoons format housed in the uncommonly grand surroundings of the former Union Bank of London headquarters. Once back on the Fleet turn in the direction of the City. On your right, next to the Law Courts branch of Barclays, you will see a small and unassuming Tudor style building containing an impressive looking gateway and heavy wooden door. This is the entrance, hidden in plain sight, to the closeted world of the Honourable Societies of the Middle and Inner Temples, two of the remaining Inns of Court. This rarefied and time honoured world, secreted behind lock and key, continues generally unregarded by the rest of London. If however, on a weekday afternoon and finding the heavy wooden door open, enter with purpose and spend as I do, a half hour wandering at your leisure around this little bit of old London, about 20 years out of step with the bustle of life outside. Visit especially the Temple Church, one of only 3 remaining original round crusader churches, housing the effigies of those who set out to the Holy Land to butcher their way to paradise. Back on the Fleet, head a few doors down to our next port of call, a favourite haunt of the aforementioned learned trade and, until relatively recently, that other bastion of professional inebriation, journalism.
– El Vino’s Wine Bar
47 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1BJ
Now a rather quiet and inconspicuous place, the bar at El Vino’s once served as an out of hours office for virtually all the major newspaper titles, and of an evening the place would be rammed to the gunnels with editors, freelancers and aspirant young hacks, soaked in good claret and all trying to get an angle on the latest scandal. The bar’s mantle as one of the great gossip shops of the Fleet endured for many years, until that is, the bumptious Mr Murdoch finally broke the power of the Print Union in the late 80s, pulling his titles out to the new Fortress Wapping and beginning the slow withdrawal of journalism from Fleet Street. While the bar today is seldom ever quiet, and indeed can be rather boisterous if a party of well-heeled silks decamp from the nearby Law Courts, there are still echoes of a sadness which clings to the burgundy leather and sherry barrels of an old institution once so pivotal to something as treasured as the free press, now stripped of much of its importance.
But, before we lose our self in too much melancholia, the present bar is still one of the very best places in London to drink a fine and ever changing selection of wines, sherries and ports from across the globe. Though Gordon’s of Villiers Street has one over on them in terms of pure Dickensian character, the bar El Vino’s is nonetheless a fine and handsome Edwardian affair, with later additions, still with the distinction between a self service front bar and a smaller room to the rear for proper table service and more extensive offerings of food. There is also the pleasing survival of the original shop room, a small anti-chamber on the street frontage accessed by an almost hidden doorway to the left of the bar entrance, which acts purely as an off-sales area for those who wish to pick up a bottle and dash off for the train.
The staff are also a cheerful and charismatic group, with a few proper cockney accents still floating about, who banter happily with the aged legal types, young besuited professionals and moneyed Guardian readers who form the bulk of the bars current custom. The wine list is excellent, and perhaps more varied than Gordon’s, but more expensive with an average glass of the fine house Claret fetching £4.90, and prices of £50+ on offer for some of the ‘bottom of the list’ selections. This is perhaps then a venue to enjoy a relaxed and civilised glass before moving onto somewhere more economic for bulk consumption, or else a place to head to on the morning of a large Pools win.
A piece of trivia; at one time ladies entering the premises were required to scuttle through to the room at the back and wait patiently for table service, excluded from their male counterparts who were free to jostle their way to the bar, swap witty stories and generally carry on without interference. This old fashioned division of the sexes, which was the norm in many licensed establishments up to the 1960s, was finally swept away as late as 1982 by a court ruling brought by two women, one a solicitor the other a journalist, who were determined to join in the crush at the main bar and had each received lifetime bans from the fierce bar manager for their troubles.
Staggering back to the light of the Fleet, we continue our journey towards the City. Passing the graceful tower of John Shaw’s St Dunstan-in-the-West, where ancient Gog and Magog toll out the hours from on high, we arrive into the elephants graveyard of old print journalism. The buildings rising on both sides of the streets once throbbed with the sound of report, debate, comment, scandal and the great shuddering roar of the presses turning. From this small stretch of London street, governments and leaders were humbled while champion raised aloft, the good were praised, the bad ruthlessly punished, noble truth was pursued and cheap thrills doled out in droves, all to the ceaseless sound of the rumour mill at work and the deft chink of bottle and glass. Now, all is relatively quiet and the great behemoths of the press who once graced the stately offices are flung out across London, and a faded shadow of their former pomp. But all is not lost, the old watering holes of the Fleet still do a fine trade, and if one is selective and holds a keen eye, a fleeting glimpse of a tattered looking hack in his native residence may still be seen. Opposite the barbarous intrusion of a multi-national purveyor of overpriced coffee is our next port of call.
– The Tipperary
66 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1H
The Tipp is a real Irish bar, kept and frequented by those who hail from the Emerald Isle. It is as about as far removed as it is possible to be from those ghastly ‘Oirish’ themed abominations which continue to propagate their ham-fisted and exorbitant version of Celtic hospitality across the globe. The single characterful galley bar is reassuringly historic, with the usual forest of turned wood, brass and cut glass, but subtly and pleasingly embellished here and there with shamrock and shillelagh. The bar is reputed to be one of the earliest Irish pubs in London, being purchased by the Anglo-Irish brewing family S. G. Mooney & Co. in around 1700, and is alleged to be the first pub outside Ireland to stock Arthur Guinness’s famous brew. The ownership of Mooney is commemorated by two large and impressive mirrors on the back wall of the pub, testifying to the quality of both the house Porter and Whiskey (spelt with an ‘e’). There is also a small an unobtrusive telly in the corner showing major sporting events, which gives way when not in use, to the usual collection of fiddle based Irish drinking songs, interspersed with the occasional slow number about marauding Red Coats.
One minor critique, which may seem churlish, is that the Guinness which is still served after all these years, comes only in the rather uninteresting and consistently too cold draught format with no bottled alternative available, poor considering the pedigree of the establishment. Mind you, this maybe the fault of the present day multi-national brewer, chemist, munitions and oil refinery which owns the Guinness brand, who dramatically underrate the appeal proper bottled Guinness would have for the on-trade, and which a few years back scandalously withdrew the bottle-conditioned form of the beer, considered the premier version by many experts. These matters aside though, the Tipperary remains a small, down-to-earth and interesting stop off on bustling Fleet Street, and a considerably better bet than many of its neighbours, here deliberately unmentioned, some of which should really read trading standards regulations on calling oneself a ‘pub’.
Fair greeting once again chaps and chappettes. So today for our saunter about the Smoke, we carry on from where the previous dispatch left off. We were, as you will hopefully remember, poised on the bounds of the City by old Temple Bar, sneaking a swift glass in the fitting opulence of the Old Bank of England. From here then, we wander onwards hither and thither towards the centre of old London, passing through the murky, time honoured world of the legal trade to where the ghosts of old print journalism fester in disquiet.
– Around the Fleet
Our first stop of the day is one of the more eccentric watering holes in London, hiding away on quiet and unregarded Carey Street, behind G. E. Street’s magnificent swan song, the Royal Courts of Justice. Admiring the mighty gothic citadel as you pass, a showy rendition of a medieval England which never was, take a stroll up Bell Yard and turn left at the junction. Next door to a rather fine Queen Anne revival building, containing both a fine statue and dedication to the martyred Sir Thomas Moore and a purveyor and servicer of gentleman’s wigs (‘all custom catered for’), you will see our first quarry.
– The Seven Stars
53 Carey St, London, WC2A 2JB
This really is one of my favourite pubs of London, the building is unassuming and reassuringly humble with fading gold lettering on the glass and a noted collection of historical curio and legally themed junk in the front window to entice you in. Once over the threshold, the scene before you is a delightful melange of traditional London boozer and characterful Parisian cafe. Dark wood, velour, cut glass, tat and burgundy paintwork are trimmed with red and blue check table cloths, an excellent wine list and a simple and ever changing array of seasonal food, chalked up behind the bar. The service is also a similar delightful mix, the young English roses at the bar are perfectly charming, pulling pints with great aplomb, while the celebrated hospitality of Landlady Roxy Beaujolais (‘service never with a smile’) is an authentic Parisian experience, and one which will divide opinion between pleasingly no-nonsense and downright rude.
The libations on offer, aside from the aforementioned list of excellent claret (and whites, if that’s how you choose to live your life) are a changing selection of both Adnam’s of Southwold’s delicious stronger ales and Dark Star of Sussex’s traditionally well hopped affairs. Food, as stated, is changed daily depending on the mood of the chef but trends towards the game dealers of Leadenhall in winter and Billingsgate in summer. Do be warned though, that he cooks a set amount and food service can be terminated without any prior warning, even after orders have been placed; it is therefore best to get in early doors or telephone ahead and book.
The characters which frequent this place are a rare and wonderful collection in themselves. The last of the proper Dickensian members of the legal trade, scarlet flushed, often drunk and with a girth that presents an ever growing challenge to the skill of their tailor, are seen tottering in and out of the door of the Stars, sometimes not even bothering to slough off silk and ermine as they dash in for a swift bottle during recess.
I once had the very great pleasure of witnessing a fine vessel, red as his poker-dot handkerchief and wedged into a beautifully crafted pin-stripe three piece burst through the double doors, march to the bar and bark at the unmoved Landlady ‘Two of your guinea fowl and a bottle of the 94, I shall be over there’, before stalking to a distant and well frequented corner, stepping over the ruff wearing pub cat as he went; a vestige of an age of professional soaks who were more concerned with the luncheon menu than the plight of their unfortunate clientele.
Regrettably, all this loveliness means the pub can become uncomfortably crowded around lunch and dinner times, and can be all too full of tourists and the new generation of younger braying legal types to see the old guard in their native environment. Better to head there around opening time, park oneself at the bar and allow the happy comings and goings of the pub to wash about you as you tend a fine pint of Broadside, departing as the first set of would-be Michael Mansfields enter or when the opening strains of a Midwestern drawl assault the ear.
There are classics that appear in the cocktail bibles that sit on the back shelf of bars all over the world. Included in those books are recipes for the Old Fashioned, Martinis, Manhattans, Tom Collins, and the list goes on. And now you can add another libation to that list, a contemporary called The Penicillin. Created by Sam Ross of Milk & Honey in New York, The Penicillin is a blended scotch-based (we’ve gotten whiskey on our minds at The Holborn) cocktail with fresh lemon juice, sweetened Honey-Ginger Syrup and a delicate pour of aromatic Islay Single Malt for some delicate smoke on the nose.
There were countless years when whiskey-based cocktails lined up and down the bar. Single malt scotches were always reserved for the bottom of a bare glass. Even the thought of pouring it on the rocks was met with disapproval. It was an old boys club drink, poured neat. The popularity of ‘The Penicillin’ which seems to have doubled in bars around the world at the moment – no doubt thanks to the endorsement by Milk & Honey which has helped revive the recipe. And with good reason. It’s like a warm fire that seeps into the heart on a frigid day. It is a smoky and intensely flavourful drink, and now you can make it at home.
There are a few essential touches to this cocktail. One is the use of a mellow blended scotch as the base. It’s also important to use fresh lemon juice, slightly diluted honey syrup and a sweetened ginger juice. From the research we’ve done many have attempted to use muddled ginger, but it’s not quite enough to give the drink the hot flavour that it really needs. It’s important to juice the ginger root and add granulated sugar to it. If you follow these tips, you will not be disappointed.
To make The Penicillin you will require a Juicer, some cheesecloth and a cocktail shaker.
If you don’t have your own shaker, The Holborn really likes this helpful little number from Izola , that wouldn’t look out of place at the back of Roger Sterling’s office.
Ingredients (Makes 1)
60 ml of Blended Scotch Whisky
25 ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice
25 ml of honey-ginger syrup*
1 dash of a smokey Islay single malt
I. Pour all the ingredients except the Islay into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously. Strain into a rock glass filled with ice. Gently pour the Islay over top whilst allowing your lips to smack. Best served in a Rock Glass with your favourite book on an insipid grey cloudy day for maximum effect.
To make Honey Ginger Syrup (essential to the drink) you will need.
Tools: Juicer (optional) & grater
45 ml of loose, runny Honey
15 ml of Water
1 large piece of peeled fresh ginger
2 tbsp. of Granulated Sugar
I. Stir together the honey and water together in a bowl until combined and then put to one side. Run the ginger through the juicer, or finely grate the ginger into a piece of cheesecloth and squeeze to separate the juice. Stir the sugar into the ginger juice and add to the honey syrup. Stir until the sugar and honey dissolve then it is ready to be used for more nefarious purposes.
Scotch is a drink that is a remnant of an older, wilder world. At some point before the Eighteenth century cravat wearers in mahogany rooms chuckled to themselves about toppling financial competitors, scotch whisky – yes, spelled without an “e” was essential to life. As you may know, the Gaelic phrase for whisky is “uisge beatha,” and translates literally to “water of life.” For men traveling through the hebridian wilderness on horseback, it provided warmth during long rides and worked as a tasty disinfectant for various cuts and bruises.
After countless hours of imbibing and years of wincing, I’ve come to realise scotch is a beautiful towering monument to craft and deliciousness. But, don’t take my word for it; take Noah S. Sweat’s famous “whiskey speech” as the definitive testament. Delivered in 1952 in opposition to a proposed whisky ban, the then 24-year-old congressman said:
“But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold amounts, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.”
With that in mind, The Holborn contacted some of the best Bartenders around, and Richard Maynard, American ex-pact and former London clubman came back to us with a lip-smacking collection that would make a Jehovah’s Witness hit the hard stuff. Many of these whiskies are single-barrel releases hand-selected by for us by Richard, whose held positions and some of the world’s most respected drinking institutions – a chap who, to put it simply knows more about Scotch than you or I could ever dream of. They have been selected on the basis of quality, accessibility and o course, the taste.
We stand with Mr. Sweat; don’t compromise.
I) Gordon and MacPhail Caol Ila 12 year, £42.95 – The Whisky Exchange
”Beautiful, barbecued fruit can be smelled across the room. Seriously. One tiny glass generates a profound amount of smoky rose with peppermint wafting in the background. On the palate the whisky starts with a salty toffee sweetness, followed by smoked malt and a bit of lemon. The slightly oily body coasts along and the finish goes for miles.”
II) Gordon and MacPhail Scapa 11 year, £39.95 – Master of Malt
”Orange cream. White pepper. Sea spray. Soft and delicate body. A perfect balance of spice and fruit that coyly moves across the tongue at a snail’s pace, evolving and changing every second. This is a perfect before-dinner scotch. Or breakfast scotch, depending on the company you keep…”
III) Bendromach 10 Year, £27.67 – Master Of Malt
”Melted caramel drizzled over a pile of brown sugar atop a brownie. Seriously. The aroma is intoxicating. It could be the Lana Del Ray currently blasting out of the studio speakers, but there is something romantic about this whiskey. It’s aggressive, yet graceful. And rough around the edges to start, then mellowing into a honey coated malty cloud that floats around your brain.”
IV) Springbank 10 year, £32. 29 – Watroise/Ocado
”This is the last distillery to carry out every production process on site. This old-school dram is lush and phenomenal, with a slick, oily body and a sweet front-end blast. Then, the spices invades like the Romans and gives you no chance for escape. It slays for all the right reasons with soft sherry, vanilla and tangerine. Look out.”
V) Gordon and MacPhail Glenturret Distillery 10 Year £36.35 – The Drink Shop
”This guy doesn’t mess around. It’s like the scotch equivalent of a missile; super intense, very loud, kind of scary, but awesome. Like a missile, it’s focused and precise. With ample spice and hazelnut blasting away, somehow ripe mango makes an appearance, soothing the palate and making you think that sometimes, you have to enter with a bang.”
Richard Maynard & JMN
‘Home-brew’ isn’t a word that inspires much confidence in me, I expect to be handed some light brown coloured drink which could just as likely be someone’s attempt at wine as beer. My preferred version of Home Brew is Tony Conigliaro with his goggles on concocting something in his Drinks Factory. Though I believe this prejudice may have a little to do with my own botched attempt. Back a good few years ago we at The Holborn were at University, swanning about philosophising on this and that, spending long afternoons in the pub and returning home to sit up all night and write. So ok, not a large amount has changed, other than a job, and an increased intolerance for bad booze. It got so bad at one point with being cash strapped students we bought boxed wine from Iceland, grabbed a few glasses and headed to the park. It was so bad I’m not sure we even got through half of it. So a decision was made that we could do this cheap booze stuff better ourselves, the result not only smelt terrible it was so bad we could even keep down one gulp of the weird brown mixture we had created.
Though I’ve been told Home-Brew is undergoing a massive revival. It’s still cheap but standards have risen. Experts and enthusiasts claim anyone can make quaffable booze. Beshlie Grimes, author of Making Wines, Liqueurs & Cordials, says: “It will work out far cheaper than the bland, over-marketed beers and price-orientated wines from the supermarket. In fact, you’ve probably got most of the ingredients you need for wine in your kitchen cupboards.”
Homebrewing has undergone a revolution in recent years as a younger, more open-minded generation of brewers and drinkers has emerged. It’s not all men in sandals with beards. The days when it meant kits from Boots are long gone; the easy availability of high-quality ingredients and useful information on the internet means some truly stunning beers are being brewed in increasing numbers of amateur kitchens. Phil Lowry, who writes a column on homebrewing for Camra’s Beer magazine, reckons there are at least 15,000 homebrewers in the UK. That figure seems conservative given homebrew manufacturers Muntons sold more than half a million kits in 2012, almost twice as many as in 2007.
Significantly, this growth has helped fuel the boom in microbreweries. In this respect, Britain is following America, where the homebrew scene is larger and more sophisticated. The American Homebrewers’ Association estimates that as many as a million Americans make their own at least once a year.
Oatmeal stout, rosemary and yarrow ale, fig and rosehip wine, lavender liqueur, damson gin, blackberry whiskey, their are so many options, so much opportunity to experiment and have fun. Approaching Home Brewing for a second time I see the attraction is in the fun, not just in the economics. Last time I purely wanted to make something just about drinkable, now I want something different, strange and delicious. A good excuse to get friends round to taste my latest concoction.
So maybe we’ll even start brewing up some Holborn Ales for you all to taste. From Home Brewing to Micro Brewers to Gypsy Brewing, Alcohol is becoming a cottage industry. There are so many types of beer, cider and spirits out there. So if you want to add to that pile John Palmer’s How to Brew (howtobrew.com) may be the best place to start for Beer, or for wine Beshlie Grimes’ Making Wines, Liqueurs & Cordials.
After you have exhausted yourself with the previous stops on light saunter along the Strand, we progress past the beautifully eccentric gothic pile which forms the Court of Appeal, toward our final destination. Technically, this pub rests on Fleet Street, being just the other side of where Temple Bar once loured down on approaching travellers, but we can overlook this small transgression given the fine establishment which awaits.
– The Old Bank of England
194 Fleet Street EC4A 2LT
From 1888 until 1975 this was the Bank of England’s Law Courts branch, and the banks business was carried on here in all the regal magnificence associated with the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. After a brief stint as a building society, the lease was taken up by Messrs Fullers, Smith and Turner who embarked upon a major restoration and conversion programme to bring the old building back to life as a tavern; a Victorian gin palace of the modern era. The handsome Venetian exterior immediately inspires confidence, while the wonderful coffered ceiling, magnificent chandeliers and fine ornamental iron work on the inside go together to create one of the grandest licensed premises in London.
Fuller’s tasteful rearrangement of the old trading floor has resulted in the creation of a fine heavily carved wooden island bar, complete with snob screens and surmounted by a great clock. The small army of comely barmaids who patrol behind the stout oak, are helpful and attentive, dispensing with great aplomb the entire Fuller’s range of draft and bottled beverages. Taking a seat on the mezzanine balcony, one can get a full sense of the scale of the place, as well as inspect the many fine painted details adorning the walls. The Gentleman’s lavatory is also a treat, featuring as it does several large windows placed strategically at bus top deck height, allowing the gentleman of mischief to people watch while using the facilities.
The place trades under Fuller’s higher end ‘Ale and Pie’ franchise, and coupled with the grandeur in which you sit, the beers are not cheap, all pegged around the £4 mark. However, such prices are increasingly common place in your average London pub, and considering the grandeur in which you are permitted to sit and drink in, the Old Bank is perhaps pretty good value. The menu is similarly pricey, but the quality of the food on offer is high, and well worth it for the occasional treat, when one becomes tired of endless £5.98 Sam Smith pies. This was the first Fuller’s pub in which I drank their delicious draft Bengal Lancer IPA, a thumping, full strength affair which is double hopped in traditional style, a beer to be treated with respect lest one wishes ones head to later feel like it’s been run through. I have also spotted old bottles of Fuller’s Vintage Ale, some dating back to 1999, skulking around behind the bar, but have never been brave enough to ask how much they are.
As with most large London hostelries, there are sadly little or no regulars here, apart from a few be-suited legal types from next door dashing in between rulings, and your usual array of homogenous braying City boys, tourists and visitors. This is therefore a pub to visit with friends, and make merry amongst all the splendour, or else a place to impress a suggestible young flame in, ideally when your pocket book is feeling suitably healthy.
There we have it then, the march is at an end. Now all that is left to do is to grab a reasonably stain free shirt and your wallet and get out there and experience these places for yourself. Next time, we will continue where we have left off today, and saunter down Fleet Street, the old heart of journalistic London.
So onward then, and returning to the Strand, head east. The Strand has, regrettably, seen more than its fair share of brutal modern intrusions, the bland and vapid glass box which forms the Coutts building is of particular note to this regard, as it the lacklustre and often urine soaked plaza of abandoned shops which forms Charring Cross Underground Station. However, Charles Holden’s British Medical Association building, now the Zimbabwean Embassy, lifts the mood a little with its sedate Edwardian progressive classicism, sitting as it does in stark contrast to the showy ‘chocolate box’ classical normally favoured by late imperial period architects. Jacob Epstein’s figure work also lends a certain intriguing light to the building, especially given their modern war-damaged appearance, giving them the look of ancient and time warn treasures swiped from Athens in centuries long past.
Eventually, where Southampton Street joins to the left, one encounters the large and rather asymmetrical heap which forms the Savoy Hotel. Now, if you are feeling particularly flush, or if you are confident you can seduce a gullible heiress in the time it takes to run up a significant bill, one may avail oneself of the excellent American Bar of the Savoy, which provides a delightfully authentic roaring 20’s experience. If that’s not for you, well you really shouldn’t be reading this column, but there is a more modern new bar towards the back of the building which is pitched towards the trendy youth of today…I think. Anyway, if you are like me and perpetually short of tin, such delights will have to wait. To the right of the Savoy entrance is our next pub.
– The Coal Hole
91-92 Strand WC2R 0DW
Built as part of the wider Savoy Court development of 1903, the Coal Hole was purportedly designed as a self contained wine bar for the glitzy clientele of the adjacent hotel. However, over time the bar took up a more modest tavern based mantle, and eventually became a popular venue for the coal haulers of London, who kept the city in light and heat before the arrival of natural gas, and from which the place allegedly takes its rather unusual name. The pub is fitted out in an early ‘Brewers Tudor’ style with elaborately leaded windows, acres of false beams and a rather fine freeze running around the top of the large single roomed bar, depicting buxom young maidens gathering grapes for the pressing into Bacchus’ favoured tipple. There is also a large and rather agreeable mezzanine area to the rear of the building which gives one a fine bird’s eye view of proceedings, and a cosy sung area beneath containing an improbably large fireplace and a smattering of forged Chesterfields.
The pub is under the tenureship of the Nicholson’s chain, the well meaning and personable face of the otherwise questionable Mitchells & Butlers operation. Fortunately, the usual M&B array of fizzy beer and awful heat-lamp blasted food is spared from Nicholson’s, who have instead embarked on a policy of serving well cooked and reasonably priced grub as well as importing more obscure regional brews into the capitol. Recently featuring in their pubs along with Timothy Taylor’s noble Landlord bitter and St Austell’s Tribute was the genuinely delicious Jaipur IPA by Thornbridge Brewery of Buxton, as well as Brains’ of Wales fine Dark mild. This place may not be the most earth shatteringly exciting of venues, but it ranks as a solid second row fixture, a place to head for when entertaining an old, middle of the road family friend, or else to while away a sodden Tuesday afternoon engrossed in a thought provoking read.
Continuing east, we head towards our penultimate stopping point. Crossing the road from the Savoy, one eventually happens across an unassuming pub exterior, sporting two very fine lanterns.
– Lyceum Tavern
354 Strand WC2R 0HS
The Lyceum is something of a rarity in central London; a genuine and unaffected locals boozer. The interior is nothing to shout about, a fairly standard and unremarkable panelled affair, but with some rather quaint drinking booths along the left hand wall containing some agreeably chincy lamp stands. Other than this, the swirly carpet and reproduction ‘old world’ tat would seemingly preclude this place from our usual discerning criteria. However, the utilitarian approach to the internal decor and its general careworn state, actually have a charming quality all of their own. The real star of the show for this pub is undoubtedly the fine collection of familiar bar flies who regularly hold court here, and who will always have something to add to a conversation. Cabbies, Cockle-sellers and Ne’er Do Wells mix amicably and amusingly with the regular student contingent from the nearby Kings and LSE, as well as the occasional lost tourist and fleeting theatre goer.
The dart board has particular prominence here, and anyone with half a eye can test their aim against the regulars, with a drink always being supplied to the victor. An old Irish chap, of majestic dishevelment, was also certainly a regular attraction, but his attendance had become sporadic at the last inspection. Sam Smith’s of Tadcaster once again preside over the running of the venue, poring their usual array, though the lack of a handpull here means you will have to settle for the perfectly adequate kegged variety of their Old Brewery best. This is again, perhaps not the most wildly exciting or extrovert of establishments, but one which reflects the humble cockney pub as it once was, an unobtrusive meeting house in which to drink simple beverages amongst friends and new acquaintances.
We at The Holborn love our beer and believe it’s a greatly under estimated drink. We’ve been fans of both Meantime Brewery’s beers and their restaurant in Greenwich ‘The Old Brewery‘ for years. We have especially loved the restaurants pioneering work on Beer and Food matching, raising the humble pint to same level as the much more revered bottle of wine. So we sat down with Meantime’s Beer Sommelier Rod Jones and asked about their journey so far.
Do you see yourself as pioneers of Beer and Food matching?
“Yes, absolutely. When we started, nearly 3 years ago, we were probably the only restaurant in London consistently using beer as an ingredient in our cooking, suggesting beer matches with all our menu items and holding regular food and beer matching evenings. Our food and beer evenings have garnered a very good reputation and regularly sell out.”
How hard a sell has it been? Were there many battles to win people over to the idea?
“As a concept it hasn’t been a particularly hard sell, and we’ve found that a lot of our guests are interested in ordering the suggested beer match to accompany their choice of food. Cheese and beer matching, especially with British cheese, is a concept that people seem to grasp very readily.”
How do you determine your matches?
“The Chef and our beer sommelier sit down together and discuss the menu, every time changes are made. The principles of matching are clear – beer either cuts, complements or contrasts with the food it is to accompany”
Is Beer really as flexible as wine in matching with Food?
“Beer is far more flexible with British food than wine, and is usually a better partner to it. In Britain we have been drinking beer with our cuisine for many centuries. There are 4 ingredients in beer, malt, water, hops and yeast, and this makes for a huge range of beer styles and distinct flavours.”
What is the philosophy of the restaurant? What are you trying to do?
“The Old Brewery is a modern British restaurant, and we aim to showcase top quality food and beer. Ultimately, we aim to change the way that people think about food and beer, and how they work together. All in a totally unique environment, with a genuine working brewery right in the restaurant.”
How did the idea come about to open in the home of the Brewery?
“The Greenwich Foundation, who administer the whole Old Royal Naval College site, wished to redevelop the buildings in which The Old Brewery is housed, and discovered that there had been a brewery, the Royal Hospital Brewery, on the site from 1717 until the late 1860’s. That made them keen to re-establish brewing on the site, and when they approached Meantime, the Greenwich brewers, our founder, Alastair Hook, jumped at the opportunity.”
How closely connected is the running of the restaurant with the Meantime Brewery?
“The Old Brewery is an integral part of Meantime, and the bar and restaurant are run and managed completely in-house. In addition, beers brewed at The Old Brewery, as well as being sold there and at our other Greenwich pub, the Union, are sent out to a selected range of our customers as our “Brewer’s Dozen” extra- limited edition beers. Our Brewmaster Alastair Hook, takes a close personal interest in the beers that are brewed at The Old Brewery”
How much connection does the restaurant and the menu have to the local environment, history and community?
“As much of our food as possible is locally sourced – for example, we ourselves shop for our famous Lobster Nights at Billingsgate Market, just across the river. Virtually all the malt used in brewing at The Old Brewery comes from Suffolk, and a high proportion of hops used are from Kent. Clearly, by continuing the tradition of brewing on the site, we are maintaining a very direct link with the site’s history. The Old Brewery also has strong links with the local community, and has many regular local customers, particularly from nearby Greenwich University , the Trinity/Laban school of music and dance and the many people who live and/or work in Greenwich.”
Greetings once again Holborn readers. Humble apologies for my recent spell of absence, but I had an unexpected and involuntary holiday to France following a misunderstanding with the charming peoples of HM Revenue and Customs. Apparently, declining to pay tax in order to spend the money on ones-self is fine for the likes of Vodaphone or Amazon, but apparently less acceptable for the strolling hack. Who knew? Anyway I return to you now with another one of my more favoured strolls about the Smoke which laughably pass for a form of employment.
– Stepping out on the Strand
This week, my attention turns to that great east-west thoroughfare, the Strand. Along its length, from Charing Cross to the Fleet, one can find a multitude of fine watering holes, as well as some interesting and engaging architecture to fill the time between glasses. We begin just behind Charing Cross at a venue which sits just off our chosen route, lurking down Villiers Street. Now as we all know, the French are uncommonly good at producing wine, most notably their delicious clarets, which when paired with robust Pain de Campagne, a pot of shredded rabbit and a strong and gelatinous mystery cheese, forms something very close to food perfection. As a result any right thinking Englishman, slinking back into the capital from across the channel, will have only one place on his mind, a place which acts as a merciful French air-lock where he can gradually acclimatise himself to his homeland once again, without having to go cold-turkey on excellent plonk. After emerging from Embankment station, step smartly uphill toward the first shop-front on the right, the one which look as if it were closed on the morning of the last Coronation and never successfully reopened.
– Gordon’s Wine Bar
47 Villiers Street WC2N 6NE
It must have been a fine day in 1890 when the venerable Angus Gordon, one of the Free Vintners of London, decided to execute his chartered right to open a bar and sell wine anywhere within London without consultation or applying for a licence. He chose this spot, in some marooned pre-embankment warehousing, and founded what would become the fine institution known and loved today. In 1975 by happy coincidence, a wine and sherry importer named Luis Gordon (no relation) purchased the freehold, thus continuing the original name while stocking up the vaults with cases of his favourite French clarets, sherry and ports.
Gordon’s is a truly wonderful place to sit and be, a wine bar from the days before that term came to mean a mediocre attempt at continental chic, patronised by braying cretins of bourgeois pretention. The bar is down in the bowels of the shabby old building, well below the street level, and accessed via one of the steepest flights of steps in London. Being the strange product of the Vintners Company privilege, Gordon’s has never held a traditional licence; this is just as well, for the bar would today confidently fail every licensing requirement in the book on fire regulation, disabled access, trading area size and health and safety. As a result it is one of the finest places to drink in London, because as you sit at your table glass in hand, somewhere, hiding behind his clip-board, a bureaucrat is seething. The tiny dark and dingy bar, with attached former storage vaults, is from another world and belligerently refuses to be updated. The flickering candlelight which forms the main source of both heat and light, the peeling paintwork, the crumbling plaster and the mysterious ‘water’ dripping through the cracks in the vaulting all add to the wonderfully evocative and unashamedly authentic ambiance. The walls and ceiling are a wonderful shade of nicotine orange, and the many fine paintings, newspaper cuttings and tat which hang haphazardly about the place are thick with decades of untouched grime, in perfect defiance of modern conventions of cleanliness and sanitisation. The surly French bar staff who govern the day to day running of the place are also a reassuring presence, dispensing their famous Parisian style good humour and patience to their valued custom and complementing them on their wise and considered choices. I once had the very great pleasure of overhearing a Canadian attempting to order a glass of milk, the kind hearted Frenchman at the bar returned a withering glare and spat ‘Zis is a wine bar, we have wine or wine.’
There once was a time when this small and unobtrusive bar was hardly known, and frequented mainly by old hacks, a few of your more refined local drunks and occasionally by a thespian great from the near-by Savoy. Sadly, since PriceWaterhouse Coopers inflicted their glittering palace of banality opposite, the custom has taken a definite turn towards the be-suited, upwardly mobile and touristic varieties and the old place can be uncomfortably crowded of an evening or weekend. But moments of blissful solitude, punctuated only by the sporadic appearance of a haggard and cravated elderly gentleman of leisure, empty glass in hand, can be still be sampled during weekday morning’s or the awkward hours between 3 and 5pm.
The wine on offer, if you can tell your Pinot Noir from your Lambrusco, is of an excellent and dependable quality, and while a bottle of the house Vin de Pays (a nice mellow Merlot) will set you back £16.70, it is an investment in drinking which will pay a handsome cultural dividend. There is also a wide selection of simple French style luncheon materials to accompany your claret from the small buffet area, good bread, English and continental cheeses, pate, preserves, pickles and mustard. During the two hot weeks in May (which now constitute our summers) one can also retire out onto the small Watergate Walk to the side of the building, where the Thames once lapped against the shore, and enjoy some barbecued meats in the hazy sunshine. Don’t leave without popping into Embankment Gardens next door and admiring the old Duke of Buckingham’s Watergate, which pre-dates everything else you see, and once gave access to His Grace’s London residence before it was developed. The surrounding streets thus spell out (in fine egotistical style) the Duke’s name and title: George, Villiers, Duke, Of, Buckingham. (‘Villiers’ and ‘Buckingham Streets’ still exist; ‘Duke Street’ is now part of ‘John Adam Street’, ‘George Street’ became ‘York Buildings’ and ‘Of Alley’ is now the tiny ‘York Place’ which runs parallel to the Strand.)
Well it’s Friday night, so lets not beat about the bush. Time to get ready for the weekend, and there are worse ways to begin your precious drinking hours that with a few Wild Ruffians – an altogether classy libation of cognac, peach jam, and mint to loosen up your work muscles. Enjoy!
Ingredients (Makes 1)
2 tsp Peach Jam
1 tsp Brown Sugar
12 leaves of fresh mint
90mml Courvoisier Cognac
I) Blend the Peach jam, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of still water in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds on a low setting. Stir to dissolve sugar, and allow the mixture to cool.
II) Muddle the mint leaves in a Collins glass, coating the inside of the glass with the mint oils. Remove about 3/4 of the mint and then discard it and fill the glass with crushed ice. In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine peach syrup and cognac, and shake until well chilled. Strain cognac mixture over ice in the Collins glass, gently stir, top with more crushed ice if need be.
The Holborn visited New York last autumn and among many decadent offerings sampled were the culinary highlights of the Big Apple. So sat we were, three white guys with double barreled surnames at a bar in west Brooklyn scoffing down some pulled pork when we decided to have a mid afternoon drink. A nice Gin & Tonic seemed appropriate, being British and far from home. Now as both of us are adoptive Londoners and exceptionally keen gin drinkers, we thought we knew a fair amount about the world of gin. The association between New York and ‘Mothers’ Ruin’ is not one I have made in the past. It was to my surprise then, when sipping on that expertly made G&T last September that I was pleasantly astounded by the quality of New York Distillery Company Gin.
Allen Katz, co-founder and Vice-President – Product Development wrote for us telling us his journey into the world of distilling and the story so far of the New York Distilling Company.
So this week we return to a Holborn favourite and a classic cocktail. The Tom Collins. You may have enjoyed this refreshing drink many a time but what do you know it’s origins?
Well the drink has many stories to it’s name. One says it owes its name to a 19th century hoax. In 1874, hundreds of New Yorkers heard some bad news while they were out on the town: a certain Tom Collins had been besmirching their good names. Although these people didn’t know Mr. Collins, they were outraged that he would slander them, and they often set out to find the rascal. Of course, the root of the hoax was that there wasn’t really a Tom Collins, but that didn’t keep aggrieved parties from searching him out. To deepen the joke, bartenders started making the citrus cocktail that now bears the name, so when searchers asked for Tom Collins, they could instead find a thirst-quenching long drink.
The recipe for the Tom Collins first appeared in the 1876 edition of Jerry Thomas‘ “The Bartender’s Guide”. Since New York based Thomas would have known about the wide spread hoax and the contents of the 1876 published book were developed during or right after The Great Tom Collins hoax of 1874, the hoax event is the most plausible source of the name for the Tom Collins cocktail. Classified under the heading “Collins” with similarly named whisky and brandy drinks, Jerry Thomas’ Tom Collins Gin instructed:
Jerry Thomas’ Tom Collins Gin (1876)
Ingredients (Makes 1)
(Use large bar-glass.)
Take 5 or 6 dashes of gum syrup.
Juice of a small lemon.
1 large wine-glass of gin.
2 or 3 lumps of ice;
Shake up well and strain into a large bar-glass. Fill up the glass with plain soda water and drink while it is lively
The modern tom collins is slightly less alcoholic and looks something like this…
The Modern Tom Collins
Ingredients ( Makes 1)
100 ml of dry gin
100 ml of lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar syrup
A splash of soda water
Two drops of Angostura Bitters
A fresh slice of lemon
Now pull up a deck chair, sit back, take in the sky and sip…
My morning drinking habit is generally frowned upon in my household. Though maybe I should not be the pariah that I am. Breakfast and Beer have a long history.The first beer probably started off as breakfast. A Mesopotamian farmer pushed aside his half-eaten bowl of the morning’s wheat-and-barley gruel, set out on a hunt and returned a day or two later to find his porridge foamy, fermented and magically delicious: a grand reward for forgetfulness.
What our ancestors knew, and we sometimes forget, is that beer can be as nutritious as bread. Some sports coaches recommend non-alcoholic varieties as carb-loaded refuel. Shakespeare supposedly drank it regularly in the morning hours. Brewers almost 200 years ago saw that connection, and the oatmeal stout was innovated in the mid-1800s in England as a nutritionally enhanced beer, sometimes even brewed with milk, and was recommended for lactating mothers and the ill—even children. Lest us forget the famous marketing strategy, ‘Guinness is good for you”.
Olympians you might say, deserve a tall cold one for breakfast—but mere mortals? Few sneer at a weekend-morning mimosa or Bloody Mary, yet it’s unlikely that cheap bubbly or a handful of celery stalks add much to a plate of eggs. In other words: boring. Beer, nourishment aside, is a livelier companion. In fact, paired with morning foods such as oatmeal or granola, unexpected flavours emerge like green tea and chocolate milk.
Coffee beers are an obvious choice, some brewers flavour ales with maple syrup and Rogue Ales do a bacon beer. Or the traditional Oatmeal stout brought back from brewing history by Sam Smith’s. You needn’t be that literal, however. Just think of your morning beer as a side of toast, in a glass.
Drink it with: Yogurt and fruit. Think mimosa, magnified. Blossoming with citrus notes left dangerously—and deliciously—unmoored by minimal fuzzy yeastiness often present in other whites, Hitachino’s is downright boisterous. Effervescent and lemony, this beer could cure a cold. 5.0% ABV
Drink it with: Bacon and eggs. If all breakfast is a stage for hot sauce, try this. Forty pounds of chipotle peppers in each batch give the beer eye-watering smokiness and a back-of-the-throat tingling spice, a desert campfire in a glass. Or a peppery Bloody Mary, hold the salad. 5.5% ABV
Drink it with: Cereal or granola. Beer yeast can’t digest lactose, or milk sugar, so it remains unfermented in milk stouts like this one, giving it a sweet, Hershey-bar tang, like the milky dregs of chocolate cereal. This is how creamy coffee should taste (but never quite does): a bitter edge polished silky smooth. 6.0% ABV
Another bit of poetry to go with your cocktail after the Jabberwocky Cocktail a couple of weeks ago. This time on the event of Burns night we bring you some of the Scottish wordsmith’s lines along with a Burns Night inspired cocktail from the boys and girls at Beard to Tail. But first lets listen to the voice of Scotland’s favourite son;
”Address To The Haggis”
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that o’re his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi’ perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whistle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ heads will sned,
Like taps o’ thristle.
Ye Pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer,
Gie her a haggis!
Now time for the cocktail, Beard to Tail’s Mr. Walker’s Bonnie Bru.
Johnnie Walker black label
Irn Bru syrup
Peychaud’s & orange bitters
The method for mixing this scottish concoction is still Beard to Tails secret.. So I’m heading over to try one tonight, why not join us and and raise a glass to The Scottish Bard.
‘English Wine’ is still one of those word combinations I still find myself approaching with some trepidation like ”German sense of humour”, ”Scottish sports” or ”Vegetarian Bacon”. I know they exist, but I’m not always entirely sure what for. For a start is always the question, how in the name of all that is holy can grapes grow in a climate like ours? And then how can it be any good? I’ve never heard of a vineyard that thrives on rain, let alone the second dampest year on record, ..and that was just the summer. Yet you would have to be pretty deaf not to hear the racket being made about the quality and quantity of wine being produced right here in the UK.
Of course the universal truth is ‘you live and learn.’ And so it came to be that myself, a complete novice in wine tasting ( I’ve forever been an ale & spirits man) bought himself six bottles of English wine, dug out an old history textbook, got himself moderately plastered and then wrote this article (pity me tomorrow morning). My aim, to show that tasting and comparing wines is accessible to everyone with and open mind and a few spare quid.
English wine has been going on for over a thousand years. We first learned about it from those toga-wearing, smart arse purveyors of hotch-potch civilisation; the Romans, to whom we own the drinking salutation ”nunc est bibedum” loosely translated from Horace ”let’s get them in”. Though the venerable Bede mentions wine-growing in his ecclesiastical history, it’s fairly obvious from the surviving songs and tales that Anglo Saxons’ preferred beverage was beer, and as such wine became a more monastic interest. Viticulture continued to prosper until the 14th Century, when summers started to become wetter and cloudier, French wine became cheaper to import and a lax health and safety policy concerning plague rats finished off the wine making monasteries as a commercial force.
English wine’s long hibernation ended sometime in the 1950’s when the first commercial vineyard since the high Middle Ages was established at Hambledon in Hampshire. There are currently more than 500 vineyards in the country, most of them situated in the warmer southern counties. (Kent, Sussex, Surrey) though there are others as far afield as Durham to the north and Cornwall to the west. Camel Valley, near the Bodmin moors in Cornwall is a family-run vineyard started 20 years ago, and if it’s sparking are anything to go by it should last for many more. Their Pinot Brut (Camel Valley Pinot Noir Brut, 2007 – £29 at www.turtonwines.com) is a clean, zesty mouthful and they also do a crisp rose fizz that can (and should) be drunk, according to the brochure ”as early in the day as you fancy”. So Breakfast then?So far, so good. English fizz is certainly seems to me the strong point of the British wine industry. My growing confidence in English wine took a knock however when tasting English table wine.The first red I tried was a Bolney Estate Dark Harvest (2006, from Sussex £9 at http://www.bookervinyard.co.uk) which has a strong blackberry flavour but apart from that brought not much else to the game, a boozy Ribena tooth-kind with a splash of claret if you will. The whites where, unfortunately worse, Chapel Down in Kent, has made a name for itself, winning meddles at various international wine festivals, but it’s status defeated me. They say ‘crisp citrus’ well yes, I suppose that is true, but not quite in the good way, it’s a bit like sucking on baking apples.
The Pinot reserve (Chapel Down Pinot Reserve, 2006 – throw a party and get £6 for £137 at http://www.chapeldown.com) sparkling however is terrific, one of the finest bottles I’ve ever gotten through, so to the Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury (Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury 2009, £22 at http://www.waitrosedirect.com) which you could easily pass of as Champagne to pretty much anyone ( the soil, apparently resembles northeast France). So my first foray into buying and tasting English wine taught me a firm lesson if you want to support English winegrowers, follow the trail of bubbles and buy the fizz.
Valentines day is great – if you’re a woman in a relationship. For the lovelorn man in her life, Valentines day can present something of an annual challenge.
For men, the day consists of trying to undertake some traditional manly duties – booking dinner, paying for dinner and presenting trinkets of love. This involves NOT going to Pizza Express, GBK or anywhere with a set menu (and if you really have too, don’t use a voucher for gods sake), buying time (together) appropriate gifts, choosing wine, picking flowers, adapting romantic lines from movies so they sound like something you’ve come up with , and generally trying to act like Don Draper whilst you’re at it.
Stressful times for the non-Casanova I’m sure you’ll agree, and all this in the name of a christian martyr who inconveniently lost his head, so unfortunately he can’t be given a hearty slap.
So it is, in the interests of wider gender equality that we provide a brief buyers guide concerning gifts for the men-folk in your lives this coming Valentines. It’s is fair to say that most men do actually enjoy giving gifts for their significant other, but they rarely expect any in return. So why not surprise them this year and make Valentines Day something for them to look forward too in the future with little something special (for the record skinflints, sex does not count).
Here are our recommendations:
I) Love Letters of Great Men, £10.95
Featured in some movie about women in New York having intercourse, the book itself is actually a fantastic collection of exceptionally romantic letters, some of which are genuinely moving; Napoleon and Ludwig Van Beethoven stand out. Simply pop up some fairy lights and have your partner adopt their best Patrick Stewart impression and let him read aloud long into the night.
II) Wet Shave at Murdock, £36
He may at first be a little suspicious that you’re wanting to change his appearance, but he’ll soon forget that when he enters Murdock, a gentlemen’s paradise in all but name.
III) 2 Man by Comme De Garçon’s at Niven & Joshua, £48
Buying fragrances can be a tricky one, it’s a pretty personal thing. There is also the mass marketing to contend with it’s whole alphabet of pretentious (even by my standards), meaningless names. Whereas most colognes seek to express the “softer side” of a man’s personality, 2 Man goes all out in the other direction. It’s a cologne formulated to represent masculinity; using vetiver, leather and mahogany to effectively represent it. 2 Man isn’t reminiscent of men’s changing room however; the lighter notes of nutmeg and saffron bring a subtlety that makes the cologne’s overall impact appealing to both men and women.
IV) Drive (Blu-Ray), £8
In that same way you love Ryan Gosling in ‘The Notebook’ (officially considered the third worst film ever made), he loves Ryan Gosling in Drive (he probably quite likes Christina Hendricks too, who also features) Get the most out of the neon Eighties visuals and too-cool-for school soundtrack by watching it on Blue-Ray.
V) Underwear, Sunspel, currently £10
Given that we’ve featured plenty of beautiful Lingerie on The Holborn, it’s only fair that we get the chap properly kitted out too. Generally try to go for something classic, novelty love hearts may seem fun, but from a distance it may look like he’s had a fungal outbreak. These nautical stripe trunks from Suspel are just colourful enough to represent themselves a present and are made fitted (it is Valentines) in a super soft egyptian cotton. As expected with Sunspel, they’re made in England.
VI) Tuck Shop Hamper, £34.50
It’s fair to say a great deal of men miss childhood, waving round a specially selected stick, beating their dad for the first time on Mario Kart 64′ and eating their own body-weight in gelatin. Help them re-capture some of that magic, and help increase their dentistry bills with this handsome box of retro sweets, complete with sweet shop -style paper bags (as if they’ll want to share).
VII) BFI (British Film institute) Gift Membership, £40
Ensure yourself plenty of decent night outs to come, who knows you might even get to see ‘Bringing Up Baby’ (above), ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ or… ‘Jurassic Park’ ! Membership brings with it discounts, special events and free screenings.
VIII) Woodford Reserve £28.89
If the man you’re buying for fancies himself something of a Mad Man, then help him to start drinking like one, no more Rose spritzers or Appletini’s. Woodford’s is a sour mash straight bourbon made at Kentucky’s oldest distillery. It is the only bourbon which is triple distilled in copper pot stills, the time-honoured method of production. It is then aged in new charred American oak barrels in the stone ageing warehouses alongside Glenn’s Creek. In other words, delicious.
IX) Hawksmoor At Home £16.00
Beef & Liberty! Essentially a bible for the meat lover from the home of London’s best Sunday roast. There are some great recipes in here including the Kimchi Burger, Macaroni with a Shin of Beef and the secret of a well cooked steak. Check out the Cocktails recipes too on how to make a proper Old Fashioned.
X) There’s little worse when it comes to nurturing romance than fannying around. So if you actually like the guy, just give him a kiss.
With Micro Brewing having exploded all across the land we decided to find out about these wonderful companies and happened across The Friday Beer Company from Malvern. Friday Beer makes fresh ale using traditional ingredients in the heart of the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire. A micro-brewery that has been running for just over one year. They use British sugar, English hops and grain where possible and sell their product through local shops and markets. Their range consists of four varieties of ale, a golden ale, a mild, a bitter and a stout.
We sat down with Gerald Williams, Director and Matt Williams, Head of Communications and Social Media for a chat about the journey so far.
(Friday beer can be found at fridaybeer.com and you can follow them at facebook.com/fridaybeerco, @fridaybeerco and our blog fridaybeer.tumblr.com)
Why do you do what you do?
For us, Friday Beer isn’t just a business. Business is simple – it’s about margins and profits. Friday Beer is an art and a craft – not just because producing good beer requires delicately balanced flavours and recipes, but because people then consume, appreciate and enjoy what you’ve produced. When what you make meets an audience then it becomes art, and we see what we produce as an art. There’s a real skill involved there, that we work hard to get better at every single day.
We love making beer and the satisfaction we get from sharing our craft with others. The beer we make helps people to connect with each other, to enjoy company and food better, or to relax.
What inspired you to become a brewer?
We wanted to start our own business and it needed to be something that we felt was worthwhile. Our personal interests had always included top quality ale and the making of wines from home-grown grapes. Premium quality bottle conditioned ale was a product we felt was worthwhile in many ways and the skills required matched our backgrounds as scientists very well.
Describe the journey you went through setting the company up?
The story of Friday Beer is really one that’s framed by the past few years of economic recession. All three of the Directors – Gerald, Perry and Andrew – were made redundant from the science research company we worked for. However, after many years of experience in business, we knew that the best thing we could do was dust ourselves down and keep on going. We decided that we’d take forward an idea that we had been throwing around for a while, and it started out as just experimental brewing in our kitchen for the first few months.
Showing some resilience and spirit has paid off and over a year later we’ve got two industrial units full of stock and equipment and we’re still growing.What we’ve been particularly grateful for is the support of friends and family in our first few months. They’ve gladly tried experimental versions of our beers and been there with honest and useful criticism as we’ve grown as a small business.
What is the personal experience like of creating a quality product and seeing people enjoy the fruits of your labour?
It’s so rewarding to share the output of our efforts with people. This sense of sharing comes into particular focus when we sell at farmers’ markets, where we offer people small samples. It’s great to discuss flavours with our customers and hear their opinions on our beers. And, as we’ve grown in the past few months one of the most rewarding things has been seeing people come back for more, because they’ve enjoyed our product.
Where do you get your recipes from? What were your objectives for the taste of the product?
Our recipes are based on traditional styles of premium bottled ales but we put all our efforts into making each of the four current styles unique. Our Head Brewer (Andrew) had ideas of what he wanted to achieve and using his highly tuned sense of taste and smell acquired as an expert in wine making he perfected the flavours.
How important is your connection with the local area? Local Brewing traditions, sourcing of ingredients, being part of the local economy?
Our connection with the local area is extremely important. All four of us have been residents of Malvern and the surrounding area for years, in some cases generations. Right now our customer base is located in and around Worcestershire and Herefordshire and it’s this region that supplies a lot of our ingredients.
Malvern has a proud tradition and alongside other breweries is also home to the famous Malvern water. In fact, Malvern is perhaps famous for its hills and its water cure. During the Victorian era, many, including Charles Darwin, came to the town to partake of the supposed healing qualities of the water that springs forth from the hills. This is also a place with a strong agricultural tradition and is surrounded by the remnants of Worcestershire and Herefordshire orchards and the Evesham vale where many fruits are grown and of course the largest hop-growing region in the country. This part of the country has a strong vein of local production running through it, and we want to tap into that history. We’re aware of this heritage and we want to live up to the responsibility it brings with it.
Local food and drink are deeply important as more sustainable ways of producing and consuming. If you look at the growth of the slow food movement, farmers’ markets and Transition towns, you can see a growing popularity for locally produced food and drink. They are less damaging for the environment and more rooted in the community and connected to local people and businesses.
Three of our four varieties of beer are named after the Malvern Hills – we believe that beer can be a part of a healthy active lifestyle. In Malvern walking on the hills is a popular pastime. Exercise and hearty food and drink are core parts of many people’s lives.
Describe the philosophy of the company? Why ‘The Friday Beer Company’ as a name?
The name is really the face of a much deeper philosophy. Friday is the day when most people get to take a break and relax at the end of a tough week. In modern society we’re so plugged into our jobs that it’s important we remember to relax, take a break and put time aside for the other good and simple things in life – food, drink, family and friends.
It’s important to connect with others, share stories and catch up. We love connecting and for many people making friends or catching up over a drink is an important part of a simple, happy life. We love doing this too and helping others to make this happen – at events, markets and online too through Facebook, twitter and our blog.
Beer, brewing, micro brewing has all exploded in the past 10 years or so. Where do you see industry going from here?
The industry will inevitably continue to grow, although as with a lot of markets this might plateau out. As a business we expect to grow too.
There are lots of areas to innovate. A recent Fast Company article featured the CEO of Carlsberg, who recognised that the beer industry has failed to cater to women. This is an important point and while we’re small and limited, we’ll try to be part of an industry-wide effort to do this. We hope that our philosophy as a brewery that appeals to local, sustainable and fresh food and drink is more appealing to both sexes than some other kinds of beer.
It’s also important to maintain and deepen the connection with local food and drink and sustainability that real ale has been aligned with. We are hoping, for example, to build links with local groups such as the Colwall Orchard Group and Transition Malvern, and the local CAMRA group, who already do great work in these areas. As a brewery, we aspire to do everything we can to help people live healthier, richer, more environmentally friendly lives by providing them with a locally produced drink using British ingredients wherever possible.
So it’s freezing outside, positively arctic. And in true British style of not overreacting to a bit of snow we here at The Holborn suggest getting the supplies in and waiting out the oncoming ‘storm’. While you barricaded in with the heating on high, why not put on a brew? Not any old brew however – this is The Holborn so this is our rather special hot tea cocktail – a Blueberry & Cognac Tea. It is recommended that this be served in a brandy snifter, to concentrate and hold the alcohol fumes released by the tea’s heat, its a perfect winter warmer. Sit back, curl up by the fire, pop Radio Four on and dream the dream of the contented.
Ingredients (Makes 1)
Add Amaretto and Cointreau to hot orange Pekoe tea. Use a Brandy snifter glass. Garnish with a small orange twist. Option: Top with whipped cream. Better yet, rim the glass with sugar.
We present to you a long standing member of Shoreditch’s creative hub and hipster scenes. Jaguar Shoes collective have been going in the area for over a decade, long before the explosion of cafes, cocktail bars and pop-up stores, predating the opening of the Overground and the arrivals of the bigger West End stores. Jaguar Shoes is a collective which is made up of a group of creatively motivated businesses and individuals working in art, film, fashion, music, publishing and design. They seek to provide a multitude of platforms for creative talent; from exhibitions and events, to collaborative products and retail opportunities. The ethos of the collective is to motivate positive change through creative output.
So where do we start… There’s the wonderful product line, the varying exhibitions and the creative way they put them on, the record label, their publication and two great venues both with a cafe and a bar.
Well we decided the best way to start would be to sit down with coffee with Jaguar Shoes Creative Director Vickie Hayward. Sat in the store part of the Old Shoreditch Station venue the first thing I feel the need to put to Vickie looking across the product range and seeing quite a limited selection of shoes is why the name? Well upon setting up the business the collective started out at their other venue further up Kingsland Road and struggling for a name for the project they plumped for calling it after the already existing names above the shop. So Jaguar Shoes were born and the flagship venue is still called Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes (named after both existing shop signs, as seen below). Vickie said it worked at the time really well for the business, back then being unusual for a business to name itself after what was already there, as she says ‘it became memorable almost because it was so unmemorable’.
So how does a brand that does so much stay succinct, and how does an artist collective end up running two bars? Well staying succinct is something they try and do everyday but the overarching goal of working with and profiling young talent pulls the whole operation together. Having the shop allows them to show and sell the more ‘product’ based items (see below) such as the clothes, shoes and homeware and the exhibition space shows off the more installation based work such as illustration.
Taking a look round the store the products are unique, they do a lot of collaborations, inventive and of exceptional quality. The scarf above is a collaboration with rising designer Lucy Jay, their website describes the concept, “The design of the ‘Kingsland’ scarf came from the JaguarShoes philosophy; creative ideas through collaboration. Combined with the inimitable patterns of Lucy Jay, the colour palate reflects the vintage wholesaler signs that hang above “DreamBags JaguarShoes” the renowned exhibition space and bar; and the original namesake of the entire enterprise. The idea for the silk scarf sparked earlier this year when Lucy Jay launched her new collection with a solo exhibition at JaguarShoes venue, the Old Shoreditch Station and was inspired by the Art Deco style lighting features of the venue” You find that level of care and detail across the range, making it a pleasure to grab a coffee in the store and just enjoy browsing.
And the bar? Well when setting up the first venue the goal was to profile a group of young talented artists, but without need the sales from a gallery to commercially support the venture. So a bar seemed a sensible idea, a concept that flowed through into the second venue down the road. For me it also creates a fantastic feeling of life in the two venues, as opposed to a lot of art galleries which often can feel slightly desolate. Pop in late afternoon to the Old Shoreditch Station and you see lots of young creative people sat round on their Macs with a coffee or a beer. It brings another dimension to this creative hub.
Campari recently set up shop in the Old Shoreditch station roasting oranges as they went, the cocktail list has developed, often themed around what else is going on in the venue. Rooted in the community as they are supporting local designers and artists this ethos carries through into cafe and bar, the coffee is roasted down on Redchurch Street, the food is made by two local independent stores, the Food Hall opposite The Old Shoreditch Station and the Sicilian next door to Dream Bags Jaguar Shoes doing pizzas for that venue.
And I’ve hardly had any time to delve into the publication and the record label such is the creative reach of Jaguar Shoes. But I hope I’ve given you a taste of what this dynamic collective is all about. I suggest heading on over and checking out both venues and seeing whats going on. Companies like these rooted in the community and supporting local creative talent in such a varied way are rare and should be celebrated.
So, back into the blinding sunlight (or more likely driving rain), we continue down Holborn towards our final stop. After crossing the mouth of Grays Inn Road, look right and notice the row of delightfully tumble-down timber houses on the opposite side of the street. These fine and redoubtable survivors are what remains of old Staple Inn, the last of the Inns of Chancery, and really are as old as they profess to be, bar the rather hideous modern shop fronts. Having survived the Great Fire, years of relentless development and a blast from a German bomb, they provide a brief snap-shot on genuinely old London, which has now all but vanished, a time before Dickens and Hogarth when places such as Holborn and the Strand were thin ribbons of houses connecting the two separate towns of London and Westminster. Nothing moves with any great haste in the Learned Profession, and the effort of emptying out their premises for demolition appears to have been the reason the buildings have endured these long years.
The keen eyed among you may have also noticed one of the City boundary markers situated in front of this fine building. Sited here was the old Holborn Bar, one of the ancient gates of the City of London, which was tragically swept away, along with its peers and the remnants of the city wall, by the Victorians and their relentless drive toward progress. Finally, as you progress toward Holborn Circus, take a moment to appreciate the ludicrously showy sand stone gothic pile to your left, which was originally built for the Prudential but now houses what is left of English Heritage; it’s another one of my favourite London buildings, purely for its exuberant ostentation and fine ornamental figure work.
Our final tavern is located to your left up Hatton Garden, walk along until you see a small and unremarkable gateway on the right hand side of the street, between two shop fronts, bearing the legend ‘Olde Mitre.’
– The Olde Mitre
1 Ely Court, Ely Place, EC1N 6SJ.
One of Smoke’s fine hidden taverns, this pub lurks down a dingy Dickensian ally way off the main drag, meaning only the keen eyed and the initiated venture down to find it. The tiny court the pub now occupies was once owned by the London residence of the Bishop of Ely, hence the name, but the present building bares little relation to the 1546 trumpeted by the signage; the area having been rebuilt several times in the late C18th and the pubs interior the product of another inter-war redevelopment. But the providence of the location is certainly genuine, and a tavern has sold beer on this spot since before London reached Holborn, while the stump of a cheery tree embedded in the front of the present building is said to have been danced around by Queen Elizabeth I while it was growing in the garden of a chap named Hatton…quite. Despite this, the pub is a fine and relaxing place to end an afternoon’s session in, serving a noted selection of scotch eggs and pork pies to soak up the residue of the previous establishments.
The Mitre has recently been taken off the avaricious Taylor Walker pub company by the old London brewer Fuller, Smith & Turner and the ale range has consequently improved considerably, offering as it does nearly the full range of both Fuller and Gales beers. The 1930s panelled front bar is an interesting spot to observe the mix of well heeled City folk, tourists and the occasional belligerent old Cockney type who make up the bulk of the pubs trade, however the tiny ‘Closet’ sung off the rear bar, bedecked with old paintings of drunks past, is a charming place to ensconce one’s self with a group of like-minded conspirators. The pub also features what must be the last collection of outside toilets in London, and there is something subtly timeless about the act of leaving the pub to access the facilities to the side of the building. Be warned though, an afternoon of Sam Smiths pricing will seem slightly at odds with the Mitre where beer prices are over the £3.50 mark, but the quality of the ale on offer and the surroundings in which to enjoy it, I believe, compensates for the additional tender.
Thus, at the end of our journey, suitably refreshed and fortified, the professional loafer makes his unsteady way back to his job/wife/family with a potential afternoon of unpleasant work or awkward conversation suitably averted. Join me again next time (if they let me keep my post) when I will hopefully outline again another enjoyable walk to occupy the gentleman engaged in the avoidance of unpleasant duty about our endlessly fascinating capitol city.
We’re not ones for over elaborate self preservation here at The Holborn. We believe that the ravages of time can often add a touch of character to a man’s exterior, telling the story of his life through the subtle medium of a craggy smile or a knowing wink. Take the following champions of bold living as illustrations of this point:
However, we do of course concede that these men were handsome bastards in the first place and such luck is not always bestowed on the majority. As we have learned over whisky and time, the ability to appear fresh, ready and good for the great game after a day trawling the pubs of High Holborn or knocking back cocktails like water in West Village is one to be mastered, if one is to make a decent play of it in today’s up-and-ready world.
So it is that we have assembled a few tried and tested products from our own personal arsenals to help you, or reader weather the dual storms of age & experience and still find yourself walking into work on a Monday morning still the dapperest of the bunch.
The Hangover Kit:
I) Kiehls Facial Fuel 75ml, £21
This is something I have personally been using for about three years now, It’s a brilliant all rounder. It is a moisturizing treatment which has been enriched with caffeine various vitamin-type whatevers, so when applied on the go it feels very much like a pleasant slap in the face. The non-greasy texture also helps stop shiny foreheads and crusty eyes. It’s particularly good when applied in morning as a ‘pick me up’ after a night on someone else’s sofa /bed / bus shelter /roof.
II) Eye Mask (in this case Otis Batterbee Harris Tweed, £45)
The ability to get a decent nights sleep is one of the chief weapons against most of the worlds ills. In our case it also helps combat a fatigued appearance, a temperamental disposition and an all round lack of charm. As such the ability to get a sound forty winks wherever you may be sleeping is an important one. An eye mask, may seem a bit much, but it cancels out excess light and relaxes the eyes. In addition this example from Otis Battersbee is handmade in England with Harris Tweed, scented with lavender and backed with cotton velvet, tempting no?
III) Kents Small Folding Pocket Comb, £4
How many of you chaps (and chappettes) our there actually own a comb and give your hair a swipe in the mornings? Use a good wide tooth comb to remove the twigs from your locks and draw a decent parting to where the hair falls naturally. Kent’s still hand make their combs at the family factory in Apsley, Hertfordshire and continue to hold the Royal Warrant (say what you like about he Queen, but she does have a full head of hair).
IV) Breakfast (Various)
I am guilty of skipping breakfast most days of the week, I just don’t get along with it. Lunch and I are firm friends, hand in hand till late afternoon but breakfast, breakfast I shun. That is until I am hungover and then there he is, like a weary relative who never lost faith. Traditionalists will of course go with a Full English (Hawksmoor does the best in London, Bills the best on the South Coast and Koffee Pot stands out in Manchester) a worthy choice, though for a weekday just before work it can leave you feeling a little bit stuffed and lethargic. Eggs Benedict, the Full English’s well-to-do cousin is better for this, still high on the butter/salt ratio but small enough not to send your body into full ‘digest’ mode. The best Eggs Benedict I’ve had in London was at The Wolsey (‘la-di-dah’, I hear you cry) failing that try Joe’s Kitchen in Borough, just a fifteen minute walk from the City and close to Monmouth Coffee should you need a brilliant but over expensive cup of Joe.
V) Taylors of Bond Street, Sandlewood Deoderant Spray, 100ml, £7.95 (www.nivenandjoshua.com)
Taylors of Bond Street is an international institution, famous as much for it’s cut-throat shaves as it’s excellent line of products. Rather than mixing up over the scent of Rum and late night Kebabs with a punchy, expensive fragrance, go with something that will quickly counter it. This deodorant has the advantage of smelling better than most commercial fragrances, a fine blend of masculine Sandlewood and relaxing Chamomile (trust us, it is what you need) and works to counter perspiration, all for under a Tenner.
VI) Marvis Whitening Toothpaste, 25ml (Travel Size), £2.50, (www.nivenandjoshua.com)
To put this simply, it tastes better, comes in a nice packet and it’s made by a family firm in the north of Italy. Oh, and it also comes in Ginger and Jasmin flavours should you tire of mint. Use with a British Army folding .Toothbrush, handy on the go, after all what’s life without whimsy.
VII) Mr Natty Paste, 100ml, £15, (www.nivenandjoshua.com)
On a whole we would recommend not using hair products the morning after, there is a tendency to add to the previous day’s helping and make for a rather greasy finish. Mr Natty’s however is a nice exception which when used sparingly gives fair hold without the addition of clumping, and remember, use with the comb.
VIII) Milk Thistle Capsules, 30 capsules, £6.66
They just work for me. Take two of these mercifully taste-free capsules with a full glass of water before you go to bed and with the water you drink throughout the next day.
IX) Cafe Creme Express Original, £3.95 for 10.
Because if you smoke, do it properly.
X) Four Minutes with Johnny Cash *Click Title*
Because he knows how you feel. Good luck.
Tottering on from the Louise, one heads across Kingsway due east. Cross the road where Procter Street joins Holborn and look up at one of my most favourite Edwardian classical baroque buildings in London. The Chancery Court Hotel is a masterpiece of that showy early twentieth century British attempt at self confidence. It is a style designed to rechristen London as a befitting Imperial capital with the authority of Rome and the beauty of Paris, rather than the dank and shabby collection of slums hiding beneath highly polished veneers that the young Edwardians inherited from the C19th. The broader attempt failed, of course, and London slipped inexorably into self-doubt and disaster, but a few monumental piles such as the Chancery Court survive to remind us of that heady time, when Britain briefly flirted with imperial pretention. Stepping smartly onward, an emergency drink maybe undertaken at the small and perfectly unremarkable Red Lion on the left of the street, however the experienced ale drinker will find only the usual and rather disappointing array of Greene King beers at a price which will get on most people’s nerves. Best to head onward to our next port of call, a little further down on the right.
– The Cittie Of Yorke
22 High Holborn, WC1V 6BN.
One of London’s more eccentric taverns, and one I always enjoy whiling away a few expendable hours in. This is a tavern built on superficial appearances. The vast and sprawling baronial style hall, which forms the main body of the pubs trading area, would like to have you think you are standing in an ancient and venerated spot where the pox-addled denizens of old London town have been drinking mead, baiting bears and carrying on with fine abandon for many a long year. Rather tragically though, the whole splendid pile is a product of the brief inter-war ‘Brewers Tudor’ movement adopted by the national brewers, and this great Elizabethan folly dates to just 1924, making its grand show of heritage rather apocryphal. However, we at the Holborn understand and appreciate the desire to appear more than ones limited capacity would have, and as such this lovable fraud has become one of our favoured haunts; affectation is nothing to be ashamed of.
Though the grand hall is not yet 90, one can begin to appreciate what an amazing place the early hall hostelry must have been, the endless smoke and potent smells, the clatter of pewter and raucous laughter, fires roaring and large indistinct mammals rotating on spits. This was a building style which attempted to recapture some of that romantic charm, that rosy, toothless and naive Shakespearian English idyll, which seemed a balm to a nation so badly mauled by the horrors of the Great War. Though the movement which sparked it was short lived, the charm of this building never quiet goes away, and one can spend an extremely enjoyable few hours seeking out the subtle detailing and clever design, which makes this pub so special (I myself have been stumped for hours as to how the almost unique triangular fire roars away on three sides with no visible chimney or flue).
Once again, Mr Smith of Tadcaster is in charge at the Cittie, dispensing the usual array of generally reasonably priced libations and perfectly adequate pub food. If the openness of the hall is not your liking, one may retreat to one of the small, railway compartment Drinking Boxes arranged down one side, or else descend to the Cellar Bar housed in the vaults below street level, to host clandestine discussion in relative privacy. But I prefer to sit in the hall, especially during the blissfully quiet hours between 2:30pm and 4pm, and whimsically muse on times past.
This week from the magazine rack we pull one of our true favourites; drinks magazine Hot Rum Cow. A magazine for anyone who is interested in the world of drinking. This isn’t a publication aimed at the connoisseur, this is for anyone who is fascinated by how their drink is made, loves the stories and history behind their pints, for those who love trying something new or rare or just downright strange.
Described as “a modern magazine steeped in our historic love affair with booze.” it has tapped in perfectly with the new drinks culture that has emerged in recent years, a scene with a much more considered attitude to booze which has gone hand-in-hand with a rise of microbreweries and a real interest in an alcoholic landscape beyond fizzy warm lager and impossibly coloured alcopops.
The magazine is beautifully produced, with a nice balance of text and image and not overly loaded with adverts. Its a pleasure and an ease to flick through the pages, attractive and easy to read. Well written articles accompanied by great photography and beautiful illustrations.
Editor Simon Lyle describes the magazine in his own words, ‘”Hot Rum Cow is for people who are enthusiastic and curious about what they’re drinking. We want to celebrate the stories and personalities behind unusual drinks from around the world, and champion high-quality beers, wines and spirits from independent producers. And we want to present all this beautifully, with lavish design and some stunning specially-commissioned illustration and photography. That’s the idea.”
The magazine is onto it’s second issue now. Each focuses around a particular drink, though does contain much more than that drink inside. The first issue was gin the second is cider. Below is Hot Rum Cow talking with Monocle magazine about the first issue.
So on to that second issue which focuses on our much beloved mistress, cider. There’s a history of cider in Britain, a guide to making your own cider press, a profile of Scottish cider producer Thistly Cross (including their Whisky Cask Cider) and some Cider Photography. Outside the world of apples the issue tells you how to make your own vermouth, interviews Gypsy Brewing godfather Mikkel Bjergso, and has a look inside the country’s smallest pub The Nutshell. My personal favourite from this issue is an article about the world of lost, shipwrecked and unopened bottles. The article looks at bottles unopened, from whiskey discovered on the sunken ship the SS Politician to coronation ales for Edward VII bricked up in a cellar for 75 years. This is the kind of article that epitomises Hot Rum Cow for me, that sense of curiosity, fun and adventure about the world of drinking.
So for any of our readers who have a love and a passion for drink I would go out and grab a copy of Hot Rum Cow. So what next for a young publication like Hot Rum Cow, editor Simon Lyle told us “At the moment, we’re taking things slowly and making sure everything is right as we build up sales and subs across the world. We now have a great team at the Royal Academy of Arts managing ad sales and we’re looking at opportunities to run events, brew and sell our own booze and dish out some awards. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have our own Hot Rum Cow bar.” If and when that bar opens you’ll be sure to find The Holborn team behind it.
So this week on The Holborn Drinks we bring you a bit of poetry with your cocktail. We present a cocktail from the place where cocktails were made popular on these shores; The Savoy Hotel. From the pages of the Savoy Cocktail Book, complied by legendary bartender Harry Craddock, we pull the Jabberwock cocktail. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s poem we suggest you mix yourself one of these and sit back a revisit the immortal words of Mr.Carroll.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought —
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood a while in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One two! One two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!’
He chortled in his joy.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Now for the cocktail that The Savoy Cocktail book says ‘This will made you gyre and gimble in the wabe until brillig all right, all right’.
-1/3 Dry Gin (Berry Bros No.3 is a good, balanced base for cocktails)
-1/3 Dry Sherry
-2 Dashes of Orange Bitters
Stir all ingredients well with ice in a cocktail mixer, strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze a lemon peel on top.
Greetings again dear reader. I return to you, almost in one piece, from distant Somerset, a good deal richer in soul, if perhaps not in wealth. Having dutifully filed my copy at our London HQ through a haze of cider fumes and traces of under-par Great Western catering, I realised I was in very real danger of being handed a far more serious ‘on theme’ assignment by one of our enthusiastic fashion editing team. Regretfully, the ebbing and flowing of modern trends is something of an irrelevancy to me; I was born in a pair of Northampton brogues and a course blanket of Harris Tweed, and I shall damn well be buried in both. Thus, I hurriedly left the building with a purposeful stride, holding high in my mind one glorious thought. In London, one has the world’s best collection of taverns in which to hide from the beastly business of real work. Consequently, I recount to you here one of my favoured jaunts around the capital, when actively engaged in my own particular brand of professional loafing.
– A Saunter around Holborn
As the more astute among you will have gathered, the thoroughfare known as Holborn bares special significance to this publication. It was in a tavern on this street (which shall remain here nameless) that the original group of scoundrels, drunks and fleetfoots dreamt up the idea, and it is to this street I often gravitate toward when I have nothing much pressing, other than a thirst. We start at the High Holborn end, where the two spurs of the A40 meet in front of the magnificent former Holborn Town Hall; a fine study in Edwardian classicism. A few doors down, we arrive at one of my favourite regular haunts.
– The Princess Louise
208-209 High Holborn, WC1V 7BW.
Justly famous among generations of London drinkers, this fine old gin palace has long served as a noble hideaway for the waif and stray, a scintillating shelter from the jostle of the busy folk prowling up and down Holborn. It is the very epitome of Victorian elegance, with it’s delicately turned dark wood, acres of cut glass and fine decorative tile work, all designed to lure the poor Cockney wretch out from his child infested hovel, to spend what little tin he had sampling the giddy heights of gin soaked Victorian glamour. Propped up against the polished oak of the Public Bar, one begins to understand why these places were such efficient and seductive draws for all of London society. Gentlemen in tall silk hats would retreat into the back rooms of this cavern of luxury to play cards, sip brandy and carry on with the local wenches of questionable chastity, while the common man in his flat-cap and slacks could catch a sniff of that rarefied and opulent world from the smoke filled and sawdust strewn front bar. What sensational spectacles these glittering halls must have seemed to the residents of mill, market, foundry and grim brick terrace.
The pub today, like many a fine old London hostelry, has been entrusted to the care of Samuel Smith Brewery of Tadcaster, who have ploughed a good deal of time and effort into the restoration of the tavern. The splendid partitioning of the pub into a multitude of different drinking areas is testament of this careful treatment, dating as it does from a refurbishment of 2008, though based on careful research into the Louise’s Victorian heritage.
During the bleak years of the late 60s and 70s, a vast amount of damage was done to our historic pubs by hapless breweries and their arrogant marketing departments. They had decided that tastes had changed. No one wanted high Victoriana anymore with its varnished woods, red leathers, cut glass and ornament; they wanted pine, plastic, modular furniture, oceans of Formica and one big bar with shag-pile carpeting throughout. So into skips and onto bonfires went thousands upon thousands of elegant and functional Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war pub interiors from city, town and country; their careful craftsmanship and time honoured construction rent asunder with the sledgehammer and the crowbar. A more sickening thought is hard to imagine. The army of modern bland barn-like pubs, swaddled in swirly carpet, bedecked with fake horse-brasses and teeming with cheap leatherette armchairs is the legacy of this time, when good durable and timeless interiors were criminally lost.
Fortunately, the damage was not entirely wholesale. At the Louise, the philistine behaviour was limited to tearing out the original partitioning between the numerous drinking areas to create a single large cave around the island bar, leaving intact the amazing ornamental tile work, the highly carved bar back and even the fine marble urinals in the sub-terrain Gents. Following Smiths reinstatement of the Public Bar, rear Saloon, Music Bar and the wonderfully atmospheric Drinking Boxes down the two sides of the servery, the effect of a completely unaltered Victorian interior is almost perfect and only a very skilled eye will be able to discern the joins between old and new. Smiths competitive pricing also adds to the lure of the place, especially for the hard up hack, meaning a bracing morning gin will set you back just under £3.50, and the perfectly adequate Old Brewery Bitter (here on hand-pull) is a reasonable £2.95. Go for the morning and late afternoon sessions, as the pub is comfortably empty, but will become uncivilised following the 5pm entrance of the working man.
When a brand lists itself as an ‘eatery, bar, music venue, boutique caravan hotel, indoor park, photographic studio, camp shop (and) exhibition space’ (they also hold a nightclub), I think it’s fair to say you have every right to feel inquisitive. Camp & Furnace is a Liverpool based collective (I think that’s right?) stationed on Greenland Street in the heart of the Baltic Triangle.
They have an extensive events calender, centered around ”Pop-up’s, fold-downs (and) Drive through’s ” using inventive collaborations to bring a real unique quality to each. Recent ventures have included The Winter Picnic, ‘BEERD’ fest, Vintage Wedding Festival and possibly the best/worst/noidea idea I’ve ever heard of..the ‘Cycle thru noodle cinema‘ which included such activities as ‘Breast Knitting..Noodle Eating” and Pimping ones bike.
If you weren’t already exited enough to order a train ticket to Liverpool, then I should probably inform you that they have commissioned their own Beer and Wine. Camp & Furnace worked with the Liverpool Craft Brewery to produce Brown Bear which is made with a particularly delicious sounding combination of Birch smoked Wheat (using their own furnace) and local Whirral Honey.
As for the wine, they have worked with suppliers Boutinot to source a southern house red, rather brilliantly called ‘Frechie’ which the suppliers state has; “Friendly spice of Grenache sprinkled with Syrah; textured plum and strawberry fruit rounds off the palate, making this a delicious, uncomplicated medium-bodied, soft, fruity and very drinkable red … yet serious enough to accompany food” – all good then, and should go particularly well with one of their specialities; a weekly Sunday lunch held in their indoor park using 28 day dry aged Lancashire Sirloin. Whilst we are on the topic of wine take a look at Camp & Furnace’s Australian collaborators Some Young Punks who are doing some really interesting things with their wine, as well as having one of the best websites I think I’ve ever come across.
There is a real sense of community that you have to admire with this project, Camp & Furnace use their multi-media spaces to centre themselves locally, pulling local talent and skills towards it. Hosting events such as markets and live music help to encourage local creativity. A really nice, and I think a very smart aim of theirs is to cater Weddings. You make think it slightly frivolous or quirky, but weddings are still central act to creating community, through it you help to form households and families and what is essentially, life to an area.
The new Eatery is certainly generating some buzz too, and it looks like pretty decent fayre to me, you can see the Menu here.
This is the kind of projects I really like to see emerging and it’s one I think carries with it an important message of localism along with it’s emphasis on great design and unique fun. However I shall leave it to the Director of Camp & Furnace; Ian Richards to tell you about it in his on words:
This week in The Gallery we like to profile the ‘cider’ photography of Bill Bradshaw. Bill is a photographer and runs the blog IAMCIDER. He is a professional photographer but his work with all things cider are done ‘off duty’ and have created a beautiful documentary record of cidermaking in the UK and elsewhere- evidence of practice, place and people.
Bill talks about his work and his relationship to it; ‘Compiled into a single body, they become an adventurous, mildly obsessive and diaristic eulogy about a loved one. A moment by moment journey into the fabric and landscape of farmers and apples as a photographer. I chose the name IAMCIDER because I wanted a title that could both reflect the content of the photos but also my relationship with it as an individual and a photographer.’
The first Holborn Drinks of the New Year. And with it being the new year, a time of resolutions, giving things up or trying new things, we bring you something a bit different. The red wine cocktail. This is less strange than you may think, after all fortified wines such as vermouth are a mainstay of any cocktail cabinet, and everyone loves a champagne cocktail, be it a Bellini or a Buck’s Fizz. Often neglected and left off cocktail menus in Britain the French and Spanish have been putting red wine in their cocktails for years. A French favourite is red wine with shot of Chambord (raspberry liquor). The Spanish versions may have something to do with the decline in Britain, as the most famous is Sangria, often associated with bad Spanish restaurants and Latin-themed club nights. Another Spanish favourite is The Kalimotxo, which is red wine and cola served with plenty of ice.
Though we bring you a Caribbean favourite the Queen Charlotte. The named after Charlotte Amalie, the capital of the US Virgin Islands, which itself was named after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel, queen consort to the Danish King Christian V.
-150ml Red Wine
-25ml Grenadine Syrup
– Juice of 1 lime or 1/2 lemon
-25ml of Lemonade
In a Collins glass half-filled with crushed ice, add the wine, grenadine, and lime or lemon juice. Top up with lemonade, and garnish with a mint sprig.
Now sit back this cold new year with your Caribbean cocktail, content with your sense of adventure and dream of warmer climes.
We at the Holborn have a very long Christmas list, we hope amongst other things to be unwrapping exquisite socks, beautiful Scandinavian furniture, that paisley silk dressing gown from Fortnum’s and a nice rare single malt to start drinking on Boxing day. But in this season of Dickens, good will, and festive spirit we have a special Christmas wish for the bearded Nordic man in his wonderfully crafted red ensemble. That is could he convince the Geffrye Museum to save the Marquis of Lansdowne.
Whats this you ask? What is this that could make you give up your Fritz Moĉnik’s ‘Holzer Chair‘ designed for Loffler that St.Nicolas is currently shoehorning into his sleigh. Well its a important piece of London’s East End’s heritage which is set to be demolished by this year’s Scrooge the Geffrye Museum.
The Marquis of Lansdowne is a pub on Cremer St, by Hoxton underground station. The pub backs onto the Geffrye Museum and is now owned by the Museum. The pub like so many others is closed, It last served a pint in 2000, having been opened way back in 1839 by Charrington’s Brewery. The new Overground station at Hoxton disgorges passengers no more than a hundred yards away, but even that footfall wouldn’t have been enough to save the place. The cornerhouse stands empty, boarded-up, decaying… one of the few surviving unbombed buildings round these parts, but unwanted and derelict.
Despite this unfortunate end for a once great pub, it is still important to preserve this 170 year old building, a slice of East London life long since past. There is a campaign afoot to save the Marquis. And they point out the irony of the Geffrye demolishing this pub, ‘The museum is a museum of the domestic interior from 1600 to the present day “the Geffrye Museum depicts the quintessential style of English middle-class living rooms” but if this demolition goes ahead the museum will destroy a genuine example of the living room of the working class – the Public House.‘
Though there might be hope as the application for £16.3 million funding for the new building has yet to be approved by the Heritage Lottery Fund and maybe questions will be raised about the validity of using Heritage Lottery money to destroy The Marquis of Lansdowne which the Hackney Council Planning Department have identified as a “heritage asset” within a Conservation Area. As well the exhibition that the pub hosted this summer may help. The pub played host to Art and Design group Traces-London, who take up residence in buildings and using art and design explore the history of that building. They explored the history of the pub creating a interactive exhibition which invited people in to the pub. The results can still be found here.
Though both recent history and events last month make the picture more complicated. Another pub on the street, one with a greater history and much more architecturally interesting didn’t survive the bulldozer, and was demolished 5 years ago.
Also the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust wrote to the Museum to object to the plans In the letter the Trust offered to take on the repair of the building:‘We, the Spitalfields Trust would gladly take this building off your hands and repair it at our own cost, and find a positive new use for it that would positively enhance the Museum and its ‘quarter’. Demolition of a building of this calibre by a major London museum is surely not a positive way forward.’ The Spitalfields Trust is one of England’s most respected building preservation trusts, having repaired and brought back into use over 60 historic properties since its foundation in 1977. The museum rejected the offer on the 19 November.
So the Marquis still needs your help and if your going to spread some Christmas Cheer sign this petition and spread the word to your friends and family.
Dickens’ is synonymous with a British Christmas, visions of the snow covered dark streets of Victorian London. The wonderful chaps and chapettes at Hendrick’s Gin scoured nineteenth century recipe books and come up with a festive tome of warming winter drinks inspired by Dickens and the 19th Century father of American mixology, Jerry Thomas. With gin being the classic british spirit we bring you what we believe is the most appropriate drink for a good old British Christmas, a hot gin punch. Enjoy!
Inspired by Dickens’ very own gin punch recipe (For 6 people)
- Three full teacups of Hendrick’s Gin
- Another three of Madeira wine
- Three cloves
- Pinch grated nutmeg
- Large teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- Two teaspoons brown sugar
- Six large lemon and orange twists
- Small slice orange
- One fresh pineapple
- Four large spoons honey
- Juice of two lemons
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and place on the heat. Let the concoction simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Taste, adding lemon or honey depending on whether you like sweet or sour. When it’s ready, pour into a teapot and serve in teacups.
We at The Holborn would like to introduce to you one of our idols, Tony Conigliaro, master bartender, molecular mixology pioneer or as the Evening Standard described him ‘one of mixology’s global poster boys’. Quite simply the godfather of all things molecular Heston Blumenthal describes Tony as ‘a revolutionary’. He worked alongside Blumenthal on the cocktail menu at the Fat Duck, the much-feted restaurant famous for snail porridge and unlikely ice creams, and also has worked with El Bulli, the famous Spanish restaurant who often beat the Fat Duck to No.1 restaurant in the world in Restaurant magazine’s annual Top 50. Tony has worked in many top bars including Isola, Shochu Lounge and the Atlantic. Though in 2009 he opened his own bar 69 Colebrooke Row, also known as the bar with no name. As Tony says in his new book ‘Drinks‘ the bar was designed as a 1950’s style Italian Cafe with film noir touches, whilst retaining a ‘living-room’ feel to encourage an intimate, friendly atmosphere. 69 Colebrooke Row is also base camp for Tony’s wider operations, with his lab ‘The Drinks Factory’ just round the corner in Pink Floyd’s old recording studios.
The bar is where The Holborn finds itself taking shelter from the pouring rain in this festive period. Though not discussing who has the best made socks or where is best to get a wet shave while sipping on a few Tom Collins’ late on a friday night after a long day in the office. No we are here with the winter sun still shining through the vaguely art deco windows on a weekday afternoon, no we are not discerning delinquents, we are in attendance at Tony’s Cocktail Masterclass. The Masterclasses are run by Tony himself and come in different forms, we’ve got our eyes on the ‘Gin based cocktails’ in Februrary or the ‘Mad Men Drinks’ in March. They last for two hours and cost £40pp and are worth every penny.
This Masterclass was structured around taking us through Tony’s new book, and provided a wonderful opportunity to hear about Tony’s approach to mixology. Trained as an artist and with a childhood interest in perfume and aromas, and brought up in a Sicilian family surrounded with flavour packed home cooking, these different interests and experiences began to blend into his work as a bartender. Tony explains ‘The majority of taste is smell and this is why the way in which we enjoy cocktails can have so much in common with how we enjoy perfumes as well as food’. One look at alot of the cocktails Tony devises and you can see the artist in him, he believes this sense of artistry in drink is very important, partly because of alcohols frivolity, you don’t need to have a cocktail, in the way you need to eat, but it’s fantastic when you do.
We were presented with the ‘drink’ below on arriving at the masterclass, it is Tony’s take on the Prairie Oyster. That’s not an egg you see it is in fact a ball of vodka and tomato dyed with food colouring, constructed using a centrifuge. Combined with an oyster leaf, sherry and shallots one takes the drink in on go like an oyster and the result is a different but delightful drinking experience. Over the course of the afternoon we are taken through a group of different cocktails, each’s story is told (often it takes two or more years to perfect the cocktails) and we sample them and are offered to have a go at making them ourselves. I got up to make a liquorice whiskey sour, made with a liquorice syrup and garnished with ground liquorice. We were told that the best way to make whiskey sours was discovered by accident, a bartender friend in New York broke his back and upon returning to work struggled to do the head to shoulder shaking motion required to mix this particular drink. So he did half the shaking motion without the ice and the second half with to lighten to load. This created much better whiskey sours, it was later discovered this was because of the way the egg white reacts to the temperature of the ice, introducing the ice later allows the egg the better combine with the other ingredients.
So we recommend for anyone with a passion for cocktails to attend one of these materclasses and to buy Tony’s latest book which is so much more than your usual cocktail book. Or pop into the the bar with no name and sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of Mr Conigliaro’s labour. We leave you with the man himself in a video by Cool Hunting.
So our Chief Tavern Correspondent has ambled back, slightly addled with cider we might add, to HQ. So we present his final dispatch from Somerset. Here he takes a look at The Horse and Jockey Inn at Binegar.
– The Horse and Jockey Inn
Station Road, Binegar, Somerset, BA3 4UH.
This is a tavern I always recount to people as a very fine example of what a really well thought out pub can do. This fine old building contains within it three very different pubs; walk through the wrong entrance and you may find yourself in a completely different world to the one you visited last time. The first and largest of these is a big room for diners who go to enjoy the reasonably priced and generously proportioned pub food on offer. The second middle room is a form of carpeted saloon bar for the slightly better heeled residence of Binegar and Gurney Slade, serving a selection of real ales and the usual accoutrement; a perfectly adequate and pleasant experience, for those who fancy a pint rather than food. The truly delightful feature of this tavern though is the tiny spit and saw-dust public bar, accessed via its own door to the street and housing its own separate Gents, where a selection of local ciders, tins of intriguingly flavoured snuff and cheese and onion rolls are the only things on offer. This little room is obviously the origin of the pub, the first area in which cider was raked and tapped, before the pub areas spread exponentially to the rest of the house. But unlike so many other big food lead pubs who dispose of their partitions and, with them, a great deal of the buildings character, The Jockey has kept this little shrine, a homage to its own beginnings, completely intact. This is no mere museum piece however, the public bar continues to attract a great many genuine people of a traditional pub hue, who would vacate in an instant if a placemat or laminated menu were to appear; be-tweeded farming types with completions like over ripe tomatoes, mingle happily with honest tradesman, storytellers, journeymen, soaks, loonies and at least one resident Druid.
Under the low, nicotine yellowed ceiling of this little closed off world, one can be temporarily transported back to a scene Hardy himself would have found familiar. Go especially on a Sunday when a wandering philosopher known only as Clive, bedecked with spangled weskit and daffodils in his hat, makes his weekly 8 mile walk across the fields from Evercreech, accompanied by a flock of patient and understanding Jack Russells, who double as his pillow and blanket when the rather longer walk home proves too taxing. Here he drinks deeply of the thick Thatchers Traditional cider and feast, along with the other denizens, upon the left-overs of Sunday lunch, which are deposited in the bar once the kitchens have closed and the hoards of diners have retreated. Upon my last Sunday visit, whilst peering at the small (and rarely used) door which connects this bar with the main saloon and restaurant beyond, Clive announced in his fine Somerset lilt ‘Ive been coming to this pub for nigh on 40 years you know, and I have never set foot on the other side of that door. I wonder what folk get up to in there?’ One cannot help but think that there was at that very minute, a well turned out chap with wife and children in tow, peering at the other side of that door and wondering the same thing.
Three markets, three worlds, kept completely separate; each with its own requirements, business hours and clientele. Many pubs are sadly hard pressed at the present time, but I can assure the reader that the till at the Horse and Jockey is seldom idle for long. Visit this place in the evenings from 7 to get the best crowd or on Sundays as mentioned, when the pub stays open so long as people keep drinking. The public bar entrance is the small front door from the street, rather than the car-park entrances.
Hendricks, Sipsmiths, Tanqueray, Monkey 47, Portobello Road; every self-respecting discerning drinker now has their gin of choice. Everyone has a different way to savour the Mother’s Ruin. The classic, nay – iconic way to enjoy this delightful spirit is with tonic in a highball glass garnished with slice of lime (or lemon if you fancy). This classic cocktail was introduced by the private army of the East India Company, the inclusion of tonic was important as it contained quinine and this could help combat the local scourge of Malaria. Also the flavour of the quinine complemented the greener notes of the gin (flavored with juniper), much as dry vermouth complements the gin in a classic martini. Its been a mainstay of British culture ever since.
Though as a plethora of Gins have hit the market and our taste buds have expanded and we’ve sampled more and more botanical mixes the humble partner in this classic cocktail has been overlooked. Like the growing varieties of gin out there tonics go beyond the usual Schweppes or Britvic. Below we profile some of the other options to combine with gin as you put your feet up and switch the wireless on at the end of a long day.
Founded in 2006, Q tonic was invented in New York and is bottled in Massachusetts. It uses Peruvian ‘handpicked’ quinine and is sweetened by agave nectar. They explain tonic water’s story had begun two centuries earlier than the British combination with gin. In 1638 it was brought back from Peru from the Inca’s by the Spanish. It has a savoury, pungent nose, sour palate with a bittersweet finish. Limited production runs mean only 500 cases are made at a time.
Thomas Henry Tonic Water
Thomas Henry was a Manchester pharmacist who perfected a means to inject carbon dioxide into water in 1773 – the date is embossed on the neck of the glass bottle. This brand is actually German and is based in Berlin. It contains no sweetener. It has a delicate, floral nose, light lemon notes on the palate, and a dry finish.
Fentimans Traditional Tonic Water
Fentimans started in 1905 when Thomas Fentiman botanically brewed ginger beer which he delivered door-to-door using a horse and cart for transport. All the drinks are ‘botanically brewed’ which refers to the process of putting botanicals into copper steam jacketed pans to infuse with herbs, sugar, brewer’s yeast and spring water, then allowed to ferment in wooden vats. The tonic has a bitter lemon taste with a soapy nose and a long dry finish. This tonic water is made from a fermented grain base and flavoured with lemongrass and purified chinchona bar, both from India.
Six o’Clock Indian Tonic Water
Produced near Bristol by a family business that specialises in fruit liqueurs made using fruit from their own farms, this tonic contains quinine and extracts of lemon and lime and is made without artificial sweeteners, preservatives or flavourings. Slight lemon notes, biscuity nose and the quinine comes through nicely on the finish.
John’s Premium Tonic Syrup
Handmade in small batches in Arizona, with 100% natural ingredients and an organic amber nectar. Incredibly botanical in flavour. The quinine strikes first with layered citrus notes that follow and a subtle sweet finish. Packaged as a syrup to eliminate high postage and product going flat, all you add is soda water. A truly premium tonic to be had with the best of gins.