Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Passing Clouds, 22nd June

I have a momentous announcement to make... *drum roll*... I can now solve magic eye puzzles! I could move it around and still see the image and everything! *crowd goes wild*. Ok, this may not seem like such a big deal but, apart from now being privy to the wonder that is these images (I was genuinely impressed by the illusion), it also meant I bagged myself tickets to Passing Clouds on Saturday. And that WAS something to get excited about.

Passing Clouds has been on my List for ages and then when I went to STK a while ago, and loved it, I heard that it was in a similar vein and that made me want to go even more. I saw that Gabby Young and Other Animals were playing on Saturday, a band Stephen had already seen before and wanted to see again. So we would have gone that night anyway, but the fact that I managed to win tickets made it seem like it was fated to be.

After a quick drink in the Haggerston (a convenient place to pop in before Passing Clouds given its proximity) we went round the corner and I gave my name to the guy in the booth, who then seemed utterly delighted I had turned up and passed over to me the goody bag I'd also won.

This contained a voucher for two free cocktails and, what some might call, a bunch of tat, but others might call essential accessories for a night of 'raving'. The night I went to was Cloud Factory Adventures and the theme was summer-solstice-festival-technicolour-rave. Dressing up as colourfully as possible, as if you were going to a festival or proper rave was encouraged. I brought glow sticks. They gave me more glow sticks. Glow sticks were in abundance. And a feather boa, and some glasses that turned all the lights into 3D hearts (loved them!) and a flashing key ring - and a trophy! Lots of fun.

The place was similar in feel to STK, but felt a bit more like a proper venue than just a warehouse that happens to host events. The downstairs area was where the main stage and acts were, and then upstairs was a bit of a hippy haven, with colourful decor - scarves and umbrellas hanging all over the place and a cocktail bar, and a smaller stage area that was being used as a dance floor. There was a circle that people were being urged to dance in the middle of and they were playing some RnB.

We knew Gabby was on at midnight so at about quarter to we went downstairs where, if I'm not mistaken (and I may well be) they played Duelling Banjos before the band came on. She was supposed to be performing with only three of the normal band but somehow there were still five of them on stage. I thought they were really good - her voice was amazing - I don't know what you'd call their music but it fits somewhere between electro and gypsy swing I'd say, with lots of brass and even some audience participation.

After that music veered into more RnB/dubstep and dancehall. I loved it!

The vibe was what you'd expect from an artsy warehouse kind of space. Friendly, full of love, some crazy outfits, everyone having a good time. Drinks were a pretty standard price and a lot of it (if not everything) was organic. (Maybe that's why I had such a hangover - I'm used to more chemicals!)

Even my notoriously hard-to-please boyfriend liked the place and has said he'd go back. That makes two of us.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Supa Dupa Fly, 14th June

I have loved R n B my whole life but these days I don't tend to go out to clubs that play it. Mostly for want of a fellow RnB lover, but now that my friend Alison is in the country, I thought I would take advantage of it and get down to a night that promised 90s and early 00s hip hop and RnB. With the flyer listing all the artists I love, I was pretty sure ahead of time it was going to be an awesome night.

We didn't get there until almost midnight but there wasn't a queue to get in. We were charged £10 as opposed to the advertised £8 entrance fee but not wishing to start the night on a bum note (or be refused entry) I kept that to myself.

As you walked in it was still fairly empty, this being because everyone was already on the other side of the bar getting down, hands in the air, smiles a plenty as the DJ played all the songs you want on a night like this. While we were waiting at the bar to get served (by a very friendly girl bartender) we missed several songs in a row that I wanted to dance to - Beenie Man's Dude, Mr Vegas's Heads High. And then they launched into some 2Pac as we were sipping on our vodka cranberries.

And then it was time to dance like the rest of the crowd were. Everyone was clearly having such a good time - it was like a house party in full swing. It was joyful.The DJ Emily Rawson from Rock the Belles - female, white - was up on stage with the MC doing his bit, random girls were getting up on stage to dance along. It looked like a whole host of fun. On each side was a screen with crazy visuals in neon colours letting you know you were at 'Supa Dupa Fly' and interspersing that with Missy Elliot images. It was very busy on the dance floor, but after a couple of hours the crowd started to thin somewhat - which me and my friend just loved because we are not shy about eating up any extra space on the dance floor. We have very little shame. 

I wish I could remember more of the songs that were played, I just know there wasn't a dud among them. I think Usher featured. Sunshine Anderson definitely, earlier on in the night. There was some Justin Timberlake and Ginuwine... the list goes on. And so nice, after YoYo at Notting Hill and the random night at the Social we went to ages ago, not to have them cut off after thirty or seconds or so! And yes, Moonlighting plays similar music every Saturday and I did have a good time there, but it was a little skeevy if memory serves whereas the Jazz Cafe was a classier venue. 

We stayed until the end and, proof if proof were needed of how friendly and lovely everyone was, the emcee ended up giving us a lift home!

They do a night in Brixton at Plan B as well, which I may check out, although it's a little more out of the way than the Jazz Cafe is for me, and various events - they're making an appearance at Lovebox, and the Rivington Street festival soon - which I just managed to get tickets to yesterday. Can't wait. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

La Freak Smut Cinema, 13th June

I think I only found out about this night when one of the girls who runs it started following me on twitter! I love twitter - such a good way to discover things I might not otherwise have known about. I took a little look at their website and thought this was just the sort of thing Stephen and I would enjoy. I couldn't make their first one and it took a while for them to get another night together but finally I had the opportunity to see what they were all about  in the flesh.

Afterwards, I asked Stephen if he had enjoyed a night of erotica clearly aimed at the discerning lady. He claimed surprise that it was women-centric considering the amount of female flesh on show. But that didn't surprise me in the slightest. I would wager a lot of sexually charged women would admit to finding the female form sensual and attractive. The clue to the female friendly focus was what you didn't see - in the hour or so I was there there was only one bj clip, and the penetration was limited to short bursts, leaving you wanting more rather than finding it dull and repetitive. There were quite a lot of shots that 'teased'; a shirt being pulled halfway up, a hand going down the front of someone's knickers before cutting away to something else. After all, half the fun of sex is in the anticipation and the foreplay. 

I very much enjoyed what I saw on screen and it was clear that a lot of care and attention had gone into not only choosing which clips to show, but editing them together to create a captivating, stimulating narrative. Even the images used for the intervals were on point and quite erotic although some of the images were less titillating and more titter-inducing such as some stills of women all dressed up in early 1900s glamour. But that worked quite well also - it can't all be building up of sexual tension, a little light relief is needed.

I thought the music which accompanied the montages was excellent - quite stirring in itself (one song I remember in particular was The Horrors' Still Life). It was music that would make it on to my 'Mood music' playlist even without being combined with such sexy scenes. 

I also liked the night's opening salvo - "The difference between erotica and porn is lighting." A little knowing wink to the fact that even though you could enjoy the images for their artfulness, really it was a night to get your rocks off. But in a classy, unashamed way - as La Freak themselves say 'no more mediocre porn in an untidy bedsit, created by men with the imagination of mice'. I would describe it as a woman-oriented, high-class version of those sex cinemas Travis Bickle takes his date to in Taxi Driver. If he'd taken Cybill Shepherd here, she might not have run off so quickly. 

The people running it are super friendly and they even had popcorn and love 'O' bags for singles and/or couples on sale for your immediate and delayed enjoyment respectively. 

There were a couple of gripes I had about the night however and it turned out Stephen had the same ones. One was the location. It was a little far from where I live and so some of the lusty side effects of watching all that 'smut' had worn off by the time I got home! No, not really - while that is kinda true, that's not something I consider worth moaning about.

What I really mean by the location was the comfort element. The theatre part of the Lord Stanley was tiny, the seats were hard and very close together. Watching that kind of material, you really want to be able to lean back and relax, get comfortable and snuggle in to whoever you've come with to really luxuriate in your voyeurism. Somewhere that felt more like the bed you were no doubt thinking about getting in when you got home - somewhere with sofas rather than hard backs jabbing in your knees.

But, I know this was only La Freak's second coming, so they're only small and probably can't get their ideal venues just yet. Hopefully that will come in time. Having never even been there I don't know if my visualisations are accurate or not but I can imagine this night working well at the Aubin cinema in Shoreditch for example which apparently is quite a glam cinema.

The other thing I thought could be improved lie in the format of the night. And perhaps it was because I knew we couldn't stay the whole night and so I wanted to see as many clips as possible in my short time there, but I felt there didn't need to be so many intervals. They lasted too long compared to the video montages, sometimes being as long or longer than 'the good bit' I'm sure! (Not including the 20 minute half-time interval.) I understood their purpose - the idea is to drop in and out of the viewing, and the intervals provided points where you could do that - to feel free to have a chat or go and get another drink etc, without disturbing anyone. But they still felt too frequent, and the images were somewhat repetitive (although pleasing to the eye admittedly). I guess if we were in a larger venue people wandering in and out wouldn't be so disruptive to the main movie and the intervals wouldn't be as necessary.

But on the whole, I would go again, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of public arousal. I would love to see them teaming up with other risque or sexy nights as well. I can imagine them having a screen at a Last Tuesday Society event for example. And they certainly wouldn't have gone amiss in the dark room at the Dark Circus party I was at on Saturday.

So, keep up the good work girls, hope it keeps getting better! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Way of Tea Ceremony, 14th June

Every month or so (it doesn't feel like it is quite that regular) there is a demonstration of a Japanese Tea Ceremony at the top of the British Museum, in, predictably, its Japenase section. It's free - you just have to find it.

No - they tell you where it is - Room 92. But, predictably, it is at the very top and probably the farthest bit to get to, with no direct elevator access from the ground floor so even though I got the museum with fifteen minutes to spare, I only made it in the nick of time to the location. Or so I thought. Loads more people turned up even as it was underway, leading to the slightly awkward predicament of me having a spare seat next to me that nobody could get to, making me look a bit of a tool. I'd turned up when there wasn't many people there and so had thought it would be weird if I sat right next to the guy on my row when there was loads of space around me. 15 minutes later and all the seats were filled and there were even people standing. I felt conspicuous. But anyway...

When it starts there are three people dressed in traditional Japanese garb. One of these is the tea ceremony host, one is the primary guest and one is the person giving the talk and explaining what is happening. He starts by offering round a box of matcha tea powder and explaining that Japanese tea is different to that of English or Chinese tea - they grind the leaves and dissolve them into the water making a more potent tea.

The speaker asks for a volunteer to take part in the ceremony. Luckily someone raised their hand - I wanted to watch and also, I don't like tea; I hadn't planned on having to drink any.

In the Japanese section, there is always a tea house set up anyway. But in the Way of Tea ceremony it actually gets put to use. The two guests opened the small door on the side and entered, and sat kneeling. Then the host came through another door at the back and began laying out all of the components and ingredients that are an integral part of the ceremony.

All the while, the speaker is explaining a little of the history of tea and the ceremony (it took this form roughly 400 years ago when a Zen Buddhist reclaimed the ceremony from the elite and said it should be a spritual and intellectual endeavour for all). He then explains how it is an experience for all the senses and how each item is symbolic and has a part to play in entertaining each sense.

The host purifies all of the materials and then he makes the tea and passes it to the first guest. She has eaten a sweet by this point, which helps to make the tea taste better (as it is so strong it can leave a bitter after taste which the sweet helps to nullify). There is even ceremony in the drinking of the tea. The bowl of tea is passed to the guest with the front facing her. As this is the prettiest part, she twists the bowl and drinks from the side, not the front. There is only about 50cc of tea in the bowl (at this point it was shown around the audience) and can be drunk in 3 or 4 gulps. After that the bowl is cleaned where the lips touched it, and is twisted back. At this point the guest might admire the bowl and ponder its meaning.

The speaker explained, here, that the bowl in which the tea is served will have been chosen for a reason. Today it was a ceramic, open, colourful bowl. This was appropriate because it is summer, and an open, thin bowl will allow some of the tea's heat to escape and make for more pleasurable drinking. Had it been winter, a chunkier, darker coloured clay bowl, which would retain heat and warm the fingers, might have been used.

After the first guest returns the bowl, the process is repeated for the second guest. When she has drunk hers, the host goes about purifying all of the items again, and tidying the space he has used, so that it is in the same perfect order it was before the ceremony started. When he exits, the guests also leave, and it is almost like nothing ever happened.

Unfortunately, no photography or filming was allowed which is a shame as I wanted to take a picture of the sweets that they served, and showed close up to the audience - there were some sweet biscuits and some jello sweets - soft jello encased in a hard candy shell. They were pretty and arranged colourfully together to resemble a hydrangea - again a symbol of the time of year.

The whole thing lasted only 30 minutes or so, after which the audience is invited to ask questions. Several Japanese members stayed behind and chatted for quite a bit with the ceremony's participants. I counted only 13 people or so when it started but like I said, it was pretty much full by the end.

It's a charming little event. Maybe you wouldn't want to go out of your way to make sure you see it, unless you're a tea fanatic or Japanophile (or me, crossing things off a list) but if it is on when you're visiting the British Museum I highly recommend you take some time out of your wanderings to experience this calm, symbolic 400 year old tradition.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Blitz Party, 8th June

My second taste of Bourne & Hollingsworth last weekend was their Blitz party on the Saturday. I have wanted to go to one of these for probably years. At least 'a' year anyway. They're normally monthly at the end of the month but they had a D-Day special on, in the Suffolk Street Arches, where I have been previously for a Krankbrother rave.

As with all these B & H events, dressing in period costume (or as close as possible) is mandatory, and as ever, all attendants were impressive in their efforts. I bought a dress especially for it and attempted some fairly successful victory rolls which actually lasted the night.

The venue was perfect - the night ranged across about six arches and was exactly the sort of thing you picture people in the Blitz having to brave - concrete tunnels with uneven flooring and even the odd puddle. They had a couple of full size war jeeps in the tunnels which you were encouraged to climb in for pictures. 

We wandered past a couple of hair and makeup spots for those who hadn't managed to get the look they wanted at home. And then we made our way to the bar. Which was packed. It probably took 20  minutes for us all to get served. We took our drinks and explored what else was on. That was, of course, when we discovered the five other bars deeper into the arches that were absolutely empty!

So, there were two different arches with two different bands, one of which was tucked a bit further into the tunnels. There was also a 'bunker' which was much darker than the rest of the venue, and had crappy cots lining the walls. There was also an alarm you could ring on the way in and out. Definitely a fun little spot if you needed a break from the revelry in the main halls and wanted that extra air raid feel. This had a bar from which you could order only beers or the Victory brew. That was one hell of a potent cocktail! And it was one of the cheapest! I thought at first I wouldn't like it as it had a tea flavour in it but that wasn't, thankfully, discernible. It mostly just tasted of gin! And it was in a massive tin mug, no dainty sips needed for this one to make it last, although gulps were rather hard to swallow due to its strength. 

Fancy a brew? 
Our intention was to watch a bit of both bands, but we ended up sticking around in the same space to watch just the one band. I think plenty of people made the same mistake we had and congregated around the first bar, where there was also a stage instead of exploring further. So much as i would have liked to take a look at the second band, it was just so crowded there that there wasn't much point.

Our band were excellent anyway so I'm not complaining. And there were some fabulous dancers really going for it in front of the stage. I did put some of my novice swing steps to use so wasn't completely intimidated off the dance floor. And watching these guys who knew what they were doing was a lot of fun. I wasn't sure if they were part of the entertainment or just guests who knew their stuff. Having said that, they did take up rather a lot of room with all their spins and twirls, and people would stop dancing to watch them which was kind of annoying when you just wanted to dance yourself. 

The music from the live band and in between sets was big band, swing and jazz - after they'd finished it moved on a decade or so and started playing rock n roll, which is always fun.

In some ways there wasn't as much to this night as there was to Prohibition or Belle Epoque night. A couple of bands but no other entertainment really unless you count getting your hair done. But the atmosphere was brilliant, the venue was fantastic and the bands were great. I really enjoyed it though I wonder if I would have loved it as much if it took place in Village Underground as it so often does.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Fourth Wall, 7th June

I had quite the Bourne & Hollingsworth weekend. 

Firstly, on Friday I went to their roving bar 'The Fourth Wall'. This is a replica of their bricks and mortar establishment in Rathbone Place, which pops up in all different places. If you are on their mailing list, you are emailed a couple of days in advance of them popping up and given a clue as to its whereabouts. So, on Wednesday when I got an email written in semaphore, I decoded it to give an address and booked me and my friends in.

Now, I knew that B & H were doing a summer-long affair called Kitchen Party which promises good food, drinks and happenings, and also the Fourth Wall as its bar, but I didn't realise that it was the same Fourth Wall bar (i.e. I thought there would be one at Kitchen party and another which travelled). I must admit I was a little disappointed when I turned up and it was the one at Kitchen Party, as it rather rendered the clues pointless when anyone can look up where Kitchen Party is residing over the summer. And, also, unlike other Fourth Walls, this one is clearly there for quite the long haul.

Makeshift walls
Perhaps that is why it wasn't very busy at all. Most of the other drinkers there seemed to just be having pre-dinner drinks before heading into the dining area which made the Kitchen part of the party. Or maybe the semaphore was just too much effort for most to bother decoding.
As it got a bit later and the diners drifted into the sit-down section, the bar was rather quiet. I do like a bar where you can sit down and hear yourselves talk over the din of fellow drinkers but I do also like there to be some fellow drinkers.

Still, quite enjoyable, and it did deliver the 'granny chic' I had promised to my friends, in its chintzy wallpaper, faded and peeling at the edges. They also had one cocktail that was served in a teacup which I had looked forward to having but it did have a tea element in it which put me off. So I didn't. Instead I had one served in a cute little jam pot.

I had several cocktails which were all quite nice. I made sure to have the famed Re-Bourne cocktail as my first. It was light and refreshing, constituting of gin, lime juice and elderflower, topped with lemonade but it didn't make me sit up and take notice. The Rose 75 - rose and raspberry syrup mixed with gin, lemon juice and topped with bubbly was more interesting. At first sip it tasted like Turkish delight but in a nice way, and as the cocktail matured this became quite subtle. Very nice and different to any other cocktail I've had. For my third and final drink I had the margarinha which was also a tasty cross between a margarita and a caipirinha. My favourite was definitely the Rose 75 though.

Admittedly, they didn't have the showmanship or inventiveness of some other cocktail places I've been to (Opium or Purl for example) but then again, you don't always want that from a cocktail. Sometimes you just want something straightforward and reasonably priced to sip at (these were all £7.50-£8.00 compared to £10-£12 at other cocktail joints). Stephen's complaint, as ever, was that they were so small and he is right - you have to be very judicious with your sips to make the ones served in martini-esque glasses last. 

A 'rose' between two thorns - the Lychee cocktail
and the Hollingsworth Fizz
They had a DJ set up in the corner where we were seated, playing some hip hop and smooth soul. Very appropriate for background lounge music but up-tempo enough to be good music to get you going if this was only your first stop on a night out. I recognised the DJ as the same guy who'd been incredibly enthusiastic at the first Belle Epoque night I went to and he was no less into his music this time either.

I got there a little later than my friends and apparently there was just one weird thing that happened. I'd made a booking for four you see, and when they got there they were ushered towards a table which was clearly only big enough for two. When Stephen explained we weren't going to fit, the hostess said that we didn't all need to sit at the table together. Stephen rather disagreed and managed to get us a table where we could all sit at the same time. Bit of an odd approach to reservations and seating!

I'm glad I've crossed the Fourth Wall off my list but I doubt I'll be making a repeat visit - I'll just stick to their themed parties, which often serve similar drinks - The Gatsby makes an appearance at Prohibition, and a version of the Re-Bourne was on offer at the Blitz party.

Square Meal

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat, 5th June

We came... we saw... we slunk away again with a rather poor mid-league score of 40. 

As I suspected, the We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat film quiz wasn't a walk in the park. When they give you clues ahead of the day, you already know that if revision is required you're probably not going to waltz in and be victorious. But neither was it completely out of our league and I was quite pleased with our efforts overall, even if we did think we had done slightly better than it turned out we had.

We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat is a pub quiz that actually only takes place in one pub out of the three venues it travels to, and is a film-based quiz. If you've ever played the board game Scene It, you'll have quite a good idea of what the night entails. We went to the one at The Boogaloo in Highgate, which is a cool pub that has lots of indie nights on normally. I plan to go back for one of these.

So, the film quiz is on every first Wednesday of the month at the Boogaloo in Highgate. It starts at about 7:30 and when I got there at about 6:30 almost every table was full. It's a popular night. Entry is £4 which is a little steep for a pub quiz but it does mean that the materials on which to record your answers are top quality, and shiny, and it's obvious that a lot of time and effort goes into the AV of the quiz. You can have as big or as small a team as you like. Bigger definitely seems to be better, but with five on our team I think we did well for our size. The team that came in third had eight or so members and something like 13 more points.

Ahead of the night I knew that there would be a soundtracks round of movies beginning with 'S', that one of the answers was Million Dollar Baby (though they don't tell you what the corresponding question will be), that there would be a round on banned films, that there would be a round on Michael Shannon, and that the picture round would be on clowns.

Disclaimer - some of these may be incorrect -
this was not our final submission
I duly did some revision on all of these, but of course it wasn't that straightforward - the clown picture round was probably the most tenuous. Every picture was a still from a movie, and yes, featured a clown. You just had to say what the movie was, you didn't even have to name the clown. But while I had revised clowns in films, some of these clowns weren't even the main focus of the film. I'm not going to give *any* answers away as I know this same quiz has two more outings this month, but as an example, I came across the 'clown' in The Game in my research. I didn't think that would be likely to come up as it wasn't a) real and b) a main character. And it didn't come up. But judging by the ones that did, it easily could have. I must say I was rather proud of myself for, at the last minute, pulling two of the correct answers from the deepest recesses of my mind. 

There were about ten other rounds besides the picture round, starting with Posters. You're shown the poster of a film, but with the title stripped out. This was fairly easy, except for the last 'wildcard' B-movie poster, but even that was guessable if you just 'say what you see'. Unfortunately we overthought it and got it wrong. It didn't help, for this and other rounds, that we had one of the worst tables in the place  the screen was on a sideways slant from where I sat, which meant I could barely make out what was actually being shown on there. The last poster had a crab on it apparently. I thought it was a kraken.  

There was a trivia round in each half and a feature round in each half - first half Shannon, second half banned films. In both cases I was thankful I had done some revision but at the same time wished I had done more as if I had we would have aced those rounds instead of just doing ok. 

The hardest rounds for us were definitely the Picture round which was Sci-Fi based - probably my weakest subject when it comes to movies - and the trailer round at the end. They played nine trailers on screen, with a tenth playing over the top. Not having been to the movies in a while, I pretty much guessed at what the trailers might be for, based on ads I'd seen around the tube. It didn't help that, like I said, I could barely see the screen, or that on first play, I completely didn't understand what was happening. I thought they were going to show each trailer (or snippet of) in turn but actually they mashed them all together, chopped up into one long trailer. I kept wondering when the one for World War Z was going to end and the next one start. (I know I said I wouldn't give any answers away but if you don't get this one, then you're in desperate need of a free answer). Thankfully they played them all again and we could have a better stab at guessing them, as guessing is what we were doing. 

There was an Observation round - where they played a scene from a movie and then asked you questions about things you probably missed in it. And there was a soundbites round where you heard a scene from a movie but without the visuals. 

Even though the quiz wasn't a walk in the park, I enjoyed taking part and think we could do better next time. The MC was quite generous with the clues along the way, so while it did get your little grey cells working, the whole quiz didn't feel so hard it was discouraging. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Zoo Zoo, 24th May

I've been to the Blues Kitchen before, for after work drinks and dinner and really liked it. But I wondered how it would work for a proper late club night of sorts such as Zoo Zoo.

Zoo Zoo is a night from the lovely people behind Mousetrap and all things 60s soul, groove, funk and R 'n' B to name just a few - the New Untouchables. I really enjoyed Mousetrap in its dinky cellar club but was looking forward to some old school music in a slightly bigger, slicker setting.

We got there at about nine, and the place was certainly lively. But it was lively in that kind of after works, sit-down meal kind of way. All the booths were full of people eating and I suspected a lot of people were there just because it was a bar near their workplace rather than for the entertainment.

Promised for the evening were two live bands, one at 10, one at midnight, with 60s R 'n' B, Soul and Garage played in between. As ten o'clock swung around the place was so busy I didn't even notice when the first band started playing. Everywhere was packed and it required a valiant effort to get down to where the stage and audience were. I think I managed to get to the edge towards the end of the set. The music was good and had certainly been good in the background, although the singer left a little to be desired. 

The after-work crowd began to thin, or perhaps everyone was just worried about getting the last tube home. Far from lessening the atmosphere I think this actually helped; there was room to breathe - and dance. Close to midnight as promised the second band took the stage and they were amazing! They had the crowd eating out of their hands. What a voice that singer had. Powerful, soulful... stunning. They were a 7-piece - singer, two guitarists, drummer, keyboard player and trumpeter and trombonist. 

So caught up in the atmosphere was I (and the lovely frozen margaritas were probably taking effect) that I didn't really register exact songs. I think I remember singing along to I Just Want to Make Love to You while at the bar. And I think the band did a pretty excellent rendition of Think. And I'm reliably informed that Son of a Preacher Man was also played. 

No one was ready for them to finish when they did and we bayed for an encore, which we were duly given. 

It was exactly what me and my friends had all wanted from the night - 60s music that we knew, loved and could shake our asses to!

So, despite the slow start, I had an excellent time and would definitely go again, though I might go somewhere cheaper for drinks first!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Slider Bar, 29th May

Slider bar is dead, long live Slider bar!

So, I follow Slider Bar on twitter and some time a couple of weeks back they tweeted that Lucky Chip's time there had but ten days to go. I thought it meant curtains for Slider Bar and quickly figured out when I could get down there for the first (and last) time.

And that was last Wednesday. Actually, I had rather misunderstood the tweet. Lucky Chip will no longer be at Slider Bar as of this week (presumably because they've got Licky Chops at Climpson's Arch going on over the summer) but Slider Bar itself, at The Player, still exista, and with the same chef. Presumably, the burger names associated with Lucky Chip, such as the El Chappo won't continue but otherwise it doesn't sound like there will be too much of a change. 

However, I knew of it because Lucky Chip were there and I am glad I visited it in its Lucky Chip guise, even though there were a few disappointments. (If you remember my visit to Lucky Chip in Netil Market, you'll recall that I was subjected to disappointment then as well. My record with them is not good.)

Thing is, I'm not really a burger eater. So when I first wanted to go to Slider Bar, it was to see what they could do with other things you put between two buns. I knew they had a chicken version, and a pulled pork version. But neither of these things were on the menu when I went. In fact, the whole menu looked quite different to the one I had been salivating over online. No mac n cheese with truffle, or chicken bucket for two, or pork tacos for starters. Luckily, I had already decided that I ought to for once try a whole burger (and what better place to start than a mini version) but it was still disappointing that those things weren't available. I wasn't too hot on the type of fish they had for their fish burger so I had to have the completely veggie burger, which sounded more interesting anyway. And the Royale with Cheese.

Stephen had the Royale with Cheese and the El Chappo. The two sliders come with fries and a pot of aioli to dip them in, for £10. 

We also ordered one of their alcoholic floats to drink to complete the 'diner-junk-food' feel but they didn't have any ice cream! So that was really rather disappointing. Stephen very quickly ordered the mint julep instead which surprised me considering the price was so steep. Quick to follow his lead, I had the rye and rosemary julep. It was only when the bill came that I discovered he hadn't realised the price. At £10 a cocktail they are indeed quite pricey but they're also pretty strong (as our lovely waitress had warned us). Not too strong for my alcoholic tastebuds but they do have a triple measure in them which is only just offset by the other flavours. Drinkable, but only if you like the taste of alcohol to begin with. Which I do.

Our sliders arrived shortly after. They're small but bigger than they look once you've eaten them. The portion of fries I think are a good size and were fantastic specimens of fries - nice and crunchy, nice and salty, bit of fluff in the middle, and that aoili was bloody delicious. All I could really taste when I left there was garlic. Not complaining.

So, I took a bite of my hamburger. And it was pretty good (bear in mind I have no real frame of reference). Then I took a bite of my veggie burger. I had some trepidation in ordering this as it was a potato and onion cake and I thought that might be too stodgy between bread. But it was delicious! It out-delicioused my hamburger I have to say. So I saved that to last and finished my Royale. I quite liked the texture of this burger - it felt meaty and not like the graininess I associate with mincemeat. The bacon and cheese covered most of the burger so you got a bit with each bite. My only criticism would be that the bun was a bit soggy towards the end. I would say I enjoyed it but it has not yet converted me to a hamburgervore. Then I finished my veggie burger which had come with ginger and garlic mayo, and sat on a single piece of greenery, possibly spinach. Lovely! I'd definitely eat that again.

I think my photography might be getting worse...
Stephen proclaimed both his burgers excellent and as good as the full sized one he'd had at Lucky Chip many moons ago. His one criticism was that his El Chappo, which was topped with jalapenos and blue cheese sauce was a little light on the tang of blue cheese. Well, actually he had another criticism - that he could easily have polished off another slider or two but that should probably be considered praise.

As I expected the ice cream slider was also not on the menu, so I guess I can't count that as a disappointment when I was pretty certain it wouldn't be, but I had held out a hope that for their last week they'd bring it back. Ah well. Perhaps whoever takes over after would like to reinstate it, or Lucky Chip will bring it to the Sebright.

I'd never been to the The Player before and thought it was quite a cool little drinking lounge. It made me feel like I was in the 70s with its brown banquettes and retro TV screens. I'd happily go back for a casual cocktail or two after work.

So, I don't think my meal at Slider Bar is going to make it into my Top Ten of the year, and knowing what I know now, my life probably wouldn't have felt unfulfilled without going. (Unlike with Rita's, which after having eaten there, I kicked myself for not having gone before.) But for a quick burger fix, yeah, it works. No queue and a good deal more relaxed and enjoyably laid back than MeatLiquor

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