Gin time at Mr Fogg’s!

Gin Tucked up above Mr Fogg’s Tavern in central London, and hidden behind a secret door, sits Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour.


Ben and I headed there on a warm Friday evening prepared to sample as much gin as we could muster. We found ourselves in the right place, as Mr Fogg’s is home to 300 varieties of gin! (Well that was my drinks for the night sorted – I don’t know what Ben was expecting to drink!)


The parlour is decorated like Phileas Fogg’s front room; with trunks for tables, foliage, adventurer hats, tusks, and items that could have been collected anywhere in the world.

There was lots to look at, and the overall effect was homely, cute, and cosy.


Ben and I settled down on a chaise longue by the window, and were rewarded with our first drink in a chunky orb-shaped glass from a bartender dressed in a wenches costume.

It was Mr Fogg’s signature gin, which was Tanqueray and tonic, with ice and botanicals. The botanicals looked like floating potpourri  to me, but the gin experts said that they were specially selected botanicals to enhance the flavours of the gin.

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Gin bigger than his head

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In the ‘spirit’ of things

After our first gin, we were handed the ‘Encyclopaedia Gintonica’ listing all the gins kept in Mr Fogg’s cellar for us to choose from. Some of these were recognisable brands, such as Gordon’s and Henrick’s, and others were rare and preserved gins that cost £80 a glass!

Ben chose a gin called ‘Broken Heart’ from his homeland New Zealand, and I courageously opted for a ‘Warner Edwards’ coconut infused gin.

The coconut flavoured gin had a slightly perfumey taste, and reminded me of a pina colada. It was the first time I’d come across coconut gin, and I’d say it was refreshing – even though I might never order it again.

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Feeling adventurous!

Our chosen gins were then matched with special botanicals by the Mr Fogg’s staff and served in large glasses.

I’m not quite sure what my third and final gin of the evening was, because by this point I was feeling pretty smashed! But I think it was lavender flavoured because it was dyed lilac and had a sprig of lavender balanced on the top of the glass. I usually don’t like egg white in my drinks, but in my new adventure-seeking state of intoxication, I went for it anyway – and it must have tasted great because I finished the whole thing very quickly!


We then explored Mr Fogg’s gin collection…

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-Two for the way home…

The toilets were cute too!


Mr Fogg’s was a great experience – and I definitely had my fill of gin! I already want to go back.

Wine under the altar

I love spontaneous nights out, drinks and meet ups, and I discovered Gremio de Brixton on one of these. I had the pleasure of visiting it last Friday night.

gremio-de-brixton-babalou-1-optimisedGremio is set aside from the main patch of bars and restaurants around Brixton village, so it’s the kind of place that you wouldn’t necessarily stumble upon on a night out.

It’s actually based underneath St Matthew’s Church in Brixton – not exactly where you would expect to find a bar! It’s a tapas bar and restaurant in the church cellar, and it’s surprisingly large (it’s probably the same size as the church.)

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St Matthew’s Church – hiding a gem

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Found you!

You can’t see the whole bar from anywhere when you’re inside, because the low ceilings and stone archways act as dividers and make it feel intimate and small, not to mention the fact that it is only lit very dimly.

The restaurant section is at the back, and it’s a lot bigger than you’d think.  Being a spontaneous evening out meant that we hadn’t booked a table, and had to order a drink at the bar before we were seated.

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We went for a selection of chorizos, serrano ham croquettes with quince aioli, suckling pig with apple and pear mash and onion relish, asparagus and orange salad with walnuts, and octopus served with potatoes and smoked paprika mayo.

The food was delicious. It’s hard to have a favourite dish, but I’m going to have to vote the sucking pig as the best. Don’t let the word ‘suckling’ put you off – it was tender, tasty and moreish.

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The suckling pig

All the food was really well presented and looked beautiful on its own! But the dim lighting – not the fact that the food didn’t last very long before it was eaten! – meant that photography was difficult.

After eating as much tapas as we could manage, we ordered another bottle of red and found a nice spot in the middle of the bar to stand.

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The bar gets really busy, but as I mentioned, it’s very large and spacious, so it’s still a good place to hang out.

It’s a great venue, and there’s plenty of space if you go in a big group!

The Saatchi Gallery

Finally, I managed to find someone who was happy to visit the Saatchi Gallery with me! From trying to organise a trip there, I’ve discovered that none of my friends really like art that much, and when I mentioned it to Ben, I was met with the response that he would be busy on whichever day I picked to go there!


In a strange and unexpected turn of events, my Canadian uncle Paul found himself with a free day in London, so I managed to wangle a trip there by using his inexperience of London to my advantage, and persuading him that the Saatchi Gallery was the best place to go to in the whole of London. Yippee!

The Saatchi Gallery is just off the Kings Road in Chelsea, and admission is free. Our visit was very impromptu, so as I didn’t look up what the current exhibits were, I knew whatever we saw would be a surprise.

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The Saatchi Gallery is in a beautiful listed Georgian building, which makes a striking comparison to the modern art that it displays inside.

We saw various displays of paintings, artworks, and occasionally, sculptures and 3D installations.


The higher up inside the building that we climbed, the more impressive the art became. On the ground floor there were paintings and photographs, and the gallery’s only permanent installation: the ‘20.50’ oil pool.

The pool is an optical illusion, because it reflects the light so clearly that you can’t tell what’s a reflection of the room and what’s real.

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Further up, Paul was very impressed by some colourful urns that were constructed from tyres turned inside out and painted.

It was a very good idea, especially if you are looking to recycle some tyres and are in need of some plant pots!

My favourite installations were higher up still, where the computer-generated ‘Flutter of Butterflies’ exhibition was held.

We walked into the exhibit through a black curtain, which protected the darkness and privacy of the black room behind. Here, there were projections and digital creations of flowers and butterflies decorating the walls, which shone and changed colour every few seconds.

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The focal point of the room was a digital screen the size of a large canvas. This had an unidentifiable shape on it (Paul thought it was a horse, I thought it was some sort of twisted tree trunk) and it constantly evolved to bloom with flowers, scatter petals, and butterflies would flutter past.

The screen was luminous and mesmerising to watch, and most people in the room had taken a seat along the walls to chill out and appreciate the images and the ambience.

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The sound effects in the room added to the experience. There was a gentle twinkling noise which made me think of Disney – because it seemed magical and soothing.

Up close, the screen was bright and the layers on it almost looked like flicks of paint.

Photos don’t even do it justice! It was a whole experience.


The other installation that I loved was a circular ping pong table. I stood on the outside and Paul went in the middle. I think he quite enjoyed hitting the ball to make me run around the outside of the table!

Origami pile

The Saatchi Gallery was really fun, and I’m glad that after wanting to go for so long I’ve finally been! I’d recommend it if you fancy soaking up some culture and modern art in London. It’s a lot smaller and much more immersive than the Tate Modern because of its interactive exhibits.

I think Paul had a blast (or he told me he did!) and I definitely want to go back again in the future!

Vinopolis: Vino please! 

Vinopolis – the city of wine. Well maybe the wine tasting cellar in London Bridge isn’t quite as big as a city, but it still has quite a big wow factor, and I think it’s a big ‘DO’ if you’re looking for present ideas that are experiences.

And that’s exactly what I organised for Ben’s birthday, after Vinopolis had been recommended to us by friends.


If you want to visit Vinopolis, you need to book a time slot on the website, and decide which package you would like.

There are three packages, all staggered in price based on the number of glasses of wine you get to taste with each of them. We went for the Classic package, which meant we had between 10 and 15 glasses of wine each.   
The tour starts in a mini lecture theatre where we were handed a glass of white wine and an expert talked us through how to correctly taste wine. There are three steps to this, and involve all your senses:

Sight: you have to judge what the wine looks like, what colour it is, and what the ‘legs’ are like to determine the viscosity of the wine.

Smell: to see what scents you can detect in the wine. These can be things like floral, vegetal or oaky. They all just smelt like wine to me though! You also need to be able to tell if the wine is corked.

Taste: this was my favourite one! The guide taught us how to lean forward and suck the wine back through our mouths as if we were sucking through a straw. I didn’t really like doing this though, because: A, I felt like an idiot, and B, all I could taste was alcohol!

After the briefing, we were taken into the wine cellar, which was dark and in the brown brick arches of the railway bridge – so it really felt like we were underground.

The wines were grouped into categories, and positioned in stations so that you could decide what colour and what kind of wine you wanted to try, and then go for a taster.

An interactive survey I did at the beginning based on what my favourite flavours are told me that I should like the ‘Crisp and Dry’ white wines. So we tried these first – and then I had to sample all the other white wines to compare them.

The other stations housed wines that were things like ‘Aromatic and Fruity’ and ‘Full bodied’, and there was another section where you could sample wines from different parts of the world to try and tell the difference between an English wine and a wine from New Zealand.

Having the wine split up into different sections meant that we could try each one at our own pace, in whatever order we fancied, and read about where the wines were from and what they were supposed to taste and smell like. This was good, because even though the experience was interactive, it felt more personal because we could tailor the tour to be exactly what we wanted it to be.


We paused during our tasting experience to order a cheese selection in the restaurant/ bar in the middle of the cellar. They had things on the menu like cheese, olives, special cured meats and freshly baked bread – they knew exactly what we wanted with our wine!

I had a really fun time at Vinopolis, and it’s safe to say that I was feeling fairly wavy by the end of it!

For an experience in central London that was recommended to me, I will definitely be passing the message on and recommending it to you!

Drink driving

Roofnic

When I first saw Roofnic – the pop up picnic-style bar – advertised, I must admit that I chuckled at its exceptionally uncreative name. But you have to hand it to whoever came up with it, calling it ‘Roofnic’ makes it pretty foolproof for understanding what it is: a picnic on a roof! 

Jammin’ on the rooftop

The bar is designed looking towards childhood and the outdoors as inspiration. There are installations such as a Wendy house to sit in, letter fridge magnets you can spell out naughty words with, (naughty words are optional!) and old-school blackboards with chalk writing on them.

I went to Roofnic with Ben on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It was quite hard to find at first, as it’s hidden away so unless you know it’s there you might not stumble upon it.

When we arrived it was a good level of busy; where most of the tables were full but there wasn’t a huge queue for the bar.

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Bar, or classroom?

The cocktails came served in jam jars – but I’m not quite sure what I ordered!

The board above the bar listing the names of cocktails on offer didn’t explain what was in them, and most people I heard talking to the barmen seemed to order just by describing a cocktail that they had seen the person in front of them getting! I did the same, and went for an ‘orange one’ and a ‘yellow one’.

The orange one had pink grapefruit in it, and the yellow one had pineapple. On my next visit to the bar when the queue had died down, I found out that they were called the Roofnic Swizzle and the Pinesnapple. It’s no wonder we couldn’t guess the ingredients from the names!

Guess what’s in the cocktail…?

Ben and I were fortunate enough to sit in the Wendy house by the balcony, which looked down along Oxford Street. I had a great view of shoppers heading into the Topshop down below, and of a big group of tourists who were loitering on the sunny pavement and wearing matching orange t-shirts.

In the love shack

Hello there Oxford street

The next round of drinks we went for comprised of the Lady Garden (gin, elderflower, thyme, apple) and the Ti Te Wow (vodka, passion fruit, tonic). Great names, yet again!

Basking in the sun and people watching from up above Oxford Street was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

I don’t think it would be quite the same if the bar was absolutely packed on a Saturday night, as the bar was quite small so service would be slow, and then you wouldn’t get to appreciate the quirky features of the bar or the view over Oxford Street!

I think Roofnic might be one of those pop-ups that you only really need to go once to experience it – but if you’re looking for a quiet retreat for a drink after an afternoon of shopping – Roofnic is the place!

The sunny terrace

The tent-like interior

Summer Screenings in London

So many vintage films are being broadcast outside this summer, making outdoor cinemas a very popular thing to go to.  

One of the outdoor cinemas that I had heard very little about was the Summer Screening at Vauxhall One. Every Tuesday in July, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens is transformed into an outdoor cinema, and everyone is invited to come along, set up camp in the park, and watch the film for free.

Picnics in the park

I went on the third Tuesday in July, which happened to be a glorious and warm summer evening.

Having the perfect weather conditions for the evening, Ben and I made our way into the park armed with blankets and wine to settle in for the evening.

Getting comfy before the film


Conveniently, the park sits on a slight downward slope, and the screen was positioned at the bottom of this slope.

When we arrived at 8pm, the park was nearly full, but we still managed to find a good spot about three quarters of the way up the hill where we had a good view of the screen. I think some people had come straight from work and had a very early dinner picnic and secured their spot in front of the screen. Deck chairs were available to hire too but not many people did this!

I knew that there were some street food stalls at the park where you could grab food, but trying to make the evening more cost effective and healthy, we ate before leaving home.

We immediately saw the error in our ways and the flaw in being healthy when we arrived, as all around us people had picnics, take-away Nandos, pizza orders, and chocolate.

So it didn’t take long for me to make a mad dash over to the nearest Sainburys to stock up on crisps, chocolate, and a second bottle of wine! Unfortunately I’m very easily persuaded into ditching healthy food when there’s chocolate and wine involved!

Nice hamper… Where can I get one!?

A very popular event

The film was due to start at sunset, and sure enough, an announcement was made and the film began just after 9pm.

I’d never actually heard of the film that was showing, called ‘Dazed and Confused’. It was a coming of age film starring a very young Matthew McConaughey.

The film was ok (there might have been a reason why I hadn’t heard of it before!) But cuddling up under a blanket and sipping wine as dusk fell was the bit I enjoyed the most. There was a really friendly atmosphere, and everyone was there to chill out and have a good time.

I hope that more parks will start to organise free summer film screenings, or that Vauxhall One extends their screenings period!

It was a really fun, and very cheap evening, and I really enjoyed it! It’s definitely an event to look out for in the future!

Posing with the screen… and the building site!

 

Feeling OXO-lent

The Art Deco Oxo tower is an iconic London landmark. The tower is home to a small, square shaped, dimly lit restaurant which looks down on the city below… Right? Wrong! 

The Oxo tower actually protrudes out of the Oxo Tower Wharf building with the restaurant and bar situated on the wide terrace from the building underneath it. In fact, from the restaurant, there is no sign of the iconic tower beyond the roof ledge above, you can only see it from street level if you aren’t standing directly below the building. If you were walking past the building, you wouldn’t know that the tower even existed up above you without the signs saying ‘Oxo’.

I crossed the river to see the tower properly!

The restaurant and bar are only on the eighth floor, and so from the restaurant you feel like you are very much a part of the city. This is different from the more distant feel you get from places like the Shard or the Heron Tower, where you are forced to look down on the world beneath you.

As the restaurant is on the bank of the river, the restaurant still benefits from the views along the Thames and of the city North of the river.

Rather than being encased in a shadowy tower, the restaurant is glass fronted and has a balcony for Al fresco dining.

Al fresco

I was lucky enough to go to the Oxo Tower with my family for George’s birthday. We began our evening with a drink on the balcony to raise a glass to George for accomplishing another year and to soak up the last of the day’s sun rays.

The evening sitting for dinner at the Oxo restaurant begins at 6.30pm, so when we arrived the place was empty, and when we left it was completely full! We sat by the window, so I could take pics.

Hi there St Pauls!

The menu was really good, I couldn’t decide what to have because I liked the look of everything! I think wanting to go back again to try more of the food is always a sign of a good restaurant!

To start, I had the duck liver parfait, which came served on a waffle with figs. The waffle element reminded me of the signature dish at Duck and Waffle – apparently waffles are the in-thing to have with your duck!

Not so Duck and Waffle?

Hand dived scallops

Next, I had wild sea trout, poached and rillette wild asparagus, purple potato purée and green pea vinaigrette.

The waiter warned me that the fish would be served pink like sushi, but when it arrived it was beautifully cooked all the way through!

We ordered a couple of side dishes of sprouting broccoli to share too. This went really well with my meal, as the garnish of asparagus wasn’t big enough to count towards my five-a-day!

Something fishy’s going on…

The food was all really tasty. The chefs seemed to have served exactly the right amount of food to make me comfortably full, but without a food baby.

Dad’s steak

Even more fish

We were all so full after our meals that we skipped desert and opted for coffee instead.

The Oxo tower was perfect for dining on a sunny day, because it was so bright and airy, and would have made a fantastic rooftop bar venue. (In fact, I think there is a bar next door to the restaurant.)

Coffee and treats

Happy Birthday George!

I would rate the Oxo tower very highly in terms of the excellent food, service, and the look of the restaurant. I must admit that I feel a bit silly having thought that the restaurant would be based in the concrete tower block, but it was a nice surprise for me when I arrived!

Next stop – to the rooftop bar!