Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Karaoke Rumble, 17th February

Karaoke Rumble is an odd night but it’s a hell of a laugh.

Hosted by the legendary Quint Fontana (the name may be familiar, he was huge in the 80s and 90s [or so he says]) this is a mix of comedy, karaoke and the X Factor.

Things kicked off at around half eight but there wasn’t even any singing until 9:30. At least, not by us mere plebs. There was however, an appearance by the French Queen of Ballads herself: Celine Dion**. She was just the first of the pop pals of Quint’s who apparently drop by these nights on the reg. Celine was in fine fettle and treated us to her most famous song – My Heart Will go On. The same cannot be said for poor Ronan Keating*** who turned up piss drunk and dressed in garbage bags. He’s fallen on hard times has Ronan. He didn’t even want to sing at first but he was forced cajoled into it by Quint and soon found his stride. If he makes a comeback, you heard it here first!

Quint's larger than life personality was entertainment enough but there was, of course, the singing. Those brave enough to put their names down had two minutes in which to impress the audience. You could be booed off in that time and if you made it before the buzzer went, you were in the final. To add insult to injury, three members of the audience were given plastic bags and if they all decided you were crap by putting the bag over their heads, that was it, you were out.

The overall winner is decided by the incredibly scientific method of clapping. A tried and trusted system.

There are no songbooks because they're using Lucky Voice's system and pretty much have anything you can think of. I managed to squeak into the final but next time I'd give a little more thought to my choice. You might not think it but 2 minutes goes by quickly so you want a song that is going to make an impact within that time!

I had a total blast and will definitely be trying to make room for this in my schedule again in the near future.  

**May not have been the real Celine Dion

***May not have been the real Ronan Keating.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Liquid Love, 14th February

I did not have Liquid Love on my List as I was a little nervous about ever going to one and didn’t think I necessarily would. But I am fairly easily persuaded into these kinds of things if someone I feel comfortable around is also going, so on Valentine’s Day I found myself in a council block with 10 other people, about half of which were strangers, standing naked in a circle, getting ready to have oil poured all over us.

And it was amazing.

First we had a ‘cacao drinking celebration’ where we drank pure cacao mixed with honey and cinnamon and cayenne to taste (delicious). Then we all stripped off and took some time to become comfortable with one another’s naked presence. Then we lay down and awaited our oil angel to trickle warmed oil all over our bodies. We spent some time rubbing it all over ourselves which was an amazing enough sensation. I felt so smooth and silky I could have just spent the whole time stroking myself. But we were then encouraged to start exploring our fellow Liquid Lovers. We were ‘guided’ in this session by our wonderful host Eyal who gave suggestions throughout the hour or so we were there. I think most of us started off laying on our backs, so Eyal suggested we all try moving to our fronts and seeing what that provoked. We were encouraged to try touching with parts of the body we don’t normally use – noses, stomachs, buttocks. Knees and feet strayed. We started getting a little silly and boisterous as the gentlest of nudges would have you sliding from one part of the floor to another and you felt like you had little control over where you were. You could easily slip out of the crowd and glide to the edge. People were slipping and sliding over one another, and wrestling at one point. We were encouraged to try not to use verbal communication too much but there was laughter and the odd shriek.

And of course, there is no denying it was all quite sensual and erotic. Hands were everywhere – you didn’t necessarily know who was touching which part of your body. People were free to move away from the crowd and explore each other more privately, though it must be said it never descended into some kind of Bacchanlian full-on orgy. That was not the point. 

Towards the end, Eyal slowed us all down and we spent some time being still, where we were, just stroking or holding the people closest to us. And then it was over and we were urged to get into a circle although we ended up in an impromptu massage chain. Thus the formal session was over. But there was no rushing away. We were free to stay and continue in a more informal way for as long as we wanted. We had some Prosecco, and some cake (there were a couple of birthdays). You can use your imagination as to how we ate the cake.

We had arrived at four and before we knew it the time was 9 pm and we all felt we should make our way home. I was… thoroughly content. Which sounds very unexciting for what we had done but it is the best way to describe it. I was peaceful, relaxed, fulfilled. Wonderfully content. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wenlock Arms, 8th February

I almost forgot to post this! So here it is, out of order:

I do seem to have a lot of things on my List without any real idea of why they’re there because they’ve been on there for so long. Such is The Wenlock Arms. I have a vague feeling it came from my Time Out 1000 Things to do book but I’m not sure. I know it was threatened with closure at some point but was saved from such a fate and opened by new management.

I went on a Monday night, and it was far from heaving. I cannot imagine it ever gets particularly packed as the amount of passing traffic it would attract would be around nil. You either know it’s there and have it as a destination already, or you would never stumble across it. It’s down a residential road about halfway between angel and Old Street.

It’s very much a ‘proper’ pub but not especially cosy at that. It’s all tables and chairs with very little adorning the walls. It feels like it is made for men, with none of that fancy nonsense. Just chairs, tables and beer. (But luckily also wine). So it is not very atmospheric. They seemed to have quite a few beers on offer and the prices were good. But I am not a beer lover, and good prices are not enough to tempt me back. Ultimately, it felt too stark.

Wenlock Arms Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Monday, March 21, 2016

Fox and Badger, 13th February

Firstly I should say that the Fox and Badger aren’t nearly as kinky as they would have you believe from their descriptions and the very NSFW posts that were littering my feed in the run up to the party. People were so confused as to what type of party it was that they had to actually clarify that there was no sex involved and no play room. When we arrived my friend got quite excited seeing a selection of flogging and spanking materials laid out but it soon became clear this was for show and there was nowhere to use them.

But it was still an excellent party, full of people of a certain open-minded persuasion. They had a few performances throughout the night, which were of an impressive quality. One girl performed a reverse-tease – she started off in a most angelic, all white outfit, and did the normal striptease routine. But it didn’t stop there, because then she started to put ON clothes – this time showing off her bad self with black Latex and PVC before inverting the trope and throwing money at the audience rather than the other way around. Very good.

There was only the one room so it was an intimate affair, conducive to chatting and getting to know your fellow party-goers. The music was of a housey flavour and everyone was dancing and making the most of the stage area when it wasn’t in use to do so.

The theme was red and hot and I would say every guest paid attention and made the most of it. Alex and Sinead, our host and hostess, were looking exceptionally fabulous – special mention must be made to Alex for his, what you could call brave, outfit. I’m always impressed by a man that can rock heels for a night. 

So yes, great fun all-round and I'm sure it won't be my last visit to the world of Fox and Badger.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Toppers, 12th February

Toppers was not my scene. As well you know, I like a fetish night as much as the next guy, but I’m more into a party with a little kink on the side, than making it the sole focus of my night out. The clue is really in the name - it's all about 'topping' someone (though of course you need plenty of bottoms around to do that).

It’s actually a bit of a mix of a social and playing, but there's no dancing element. It’s a super-friendly crowd, but very much skewed toward the older, submissive male (often with cross-dressing tendencies) and femme doms than any other persuasion. Which isn’t really what I’m into. I still managed to quite happily pass four hours in there as I had a couple of friends with me and am always happy to chat to different people. Pretty much anything goes as well and there were a few eye-opening scenes taking place. I’m happy to say I was the subject of some voyeurism myself, while I played rope bunny to my friend’s rigging and was suspended for the first time. If my poor circulation hadn’t let me down I could have merrily hung around for quite some time. It feels odd to not be responsible for the way your body is being held at all. In a good way!

If you’re into your BDSM with a male sub/female dom slant and don’t mind an older crowd then you’ll love it there. Or you just want to chat to some friendly kinksters without really getting into anything this would also be a good place to start. Although I must admit, there were a few guys who, while they didn't exactly creep on me, you could see their eyes light up to have someone new to possibly play with and the eagerness was a little offputting!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Chop Shop, 1st February

I do love it when a Time Out offer comes along and coincides with a place I’ve had on my List anyway. And thus I got to try out Chop Shop on Haymarket for the princely sum of £25 for three courses and a cocktail. And trust me, with the food they are serving, this was a hell of a steal.

I booked for 7 pm which happened to be happy hour so we started with a cocktail that was not included in the set menu for half price. I had the creamy Rosemary’s baby – a cocktail subtley laced with rosemary and bulked with ‘custard’. A creamily good start although I would ordinarily order something like this later in the night.

However, it did work very well with the smooth and creamy artichoke and truffle mousse I ordered to start. It came with lightly toasted sourdough, and for once I felt there was enough bread to go with the mousse, without ending up with loads to eat on its own. I have had artichoke veloute before and thought it was wonderful. This was similarly so, with heady truffle making it feel very special indeed.
Stephen’s hamhock scotch egg was fabulous – the yolk golden and soft, the meat pink and slightly salty.
We both ordered the steak for our mains and made sure to order different sides and sauces. The choice on offer was impressive – rosemary fries, creamed spinach, mashed potato, cheesy leeks. Finally we settled on fries and leeks, and we ordered béarnaise and red wine bone marrow sauce to accompany it.

Those leeks – oh my! They came in a thick, almost béchamel sauce into which their oniony flavour had seeped and on top was a layer of grilled cheese.
I could wax just as lyrical about the bone marrow sauce which had a deep, glorious flavour and I gladly sloshed it all over my meat which was cooked to a perfect medium rare as requested and had a slight char about it which was very pleasant.

The béarnaise was had a lemon tinge we both appreciated and the chips were perfectly crunchy and seasoned. This was a faultless meal so far.

The desserts, in my mind, did not quite live up to this. They were both very heavy and felt a little ordinary compared to what we’d had before. I dived into the brownie sundae first and then tried the butterscotch pudding which I thought was bland. But it was just more delicate compared to the chocolate and in the end I much preferred it and ended up eating quite a bit more of it than I had intended given how full I was.

Service was perfect throughout – attentive and friendly but not cloying. We left with a very high estimation of Chop Shop indeed.

Chop Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Square Meal

Friday, March 11, 2016

Des was a Bowie fan, 30th January

I don’t know who Des was, and so I cannot vouch for whether or not he really was a Bowie fan. And I cannot say how much Bowie would normally be played, as we went the weekend after Bowie’s demise so there was a LOT of it.

It was an odd night. It took place in The George, which is a pub. Not even a pub converted to a venue the way The Macbeth is. It’s just a pub. But people made do and danced where they could (including, at one point, on the tables – one woman was terrifically hammered). The crowd was mixed – mainly fairly young but with a few of an older generation who maybe group up with Bowie. Again, couldn’t say if this was due to his death, or due to the fact they’d been drinking in the pub the whole day and just found themselves at an indie night.

The music wasn’t completely my cup of tea – I like indie but I like all the stuff I grew up with and this went a bit further back and a bit deeper, playing quite a bit that I didn’t know. I made the most of it and danced along but wasn't left wondering when I could possibly get down there again.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Jamaica Wine House, 28th January

The Jamaica Wine House has the honour of being one of, if not the oldest ‘coffee house’ in the City. It is tucked down one of the many little alleys that you find in this part of London and I think I only discovered it when I went to Simpsons a while ago.

It’s a classic olde pub – lots of ‘compartments’ to roam between, with wood that has been steeped in beer over the years. Of course it was busy and full of suits but this did not diminish its charms at all. Downstairs is the restaurant part where they serve the real food. this thinned out as the evening went on and was quite cute and cosy.

They have jumped on the bandwagon and their offering is mainly small plates – and they’re covering all the bases with something from everywhere - bhajis, tacos, foccaccia. Some dishes even combined cuisines (hoi sin duck taco anyone? Hint: say no). But it was mainly decent enough and you’re not going there to eat, you’re going to drink!

The Jamaica Wine House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

After this we went on to Steam and Rye which was the embodiment of everything I thought I would hate about City bars. If you find yourself here, sneak downstairs to escape the awfulness above. It was actually quite pleasant in the basement! I wouldn’t normally go but I was invited for the blog – we were promised some canapes and cocktails but no one seemed to know anything about it once we got there. An ordeal. 

Steam & Rye Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, March 4, 2016

Silk Stockings, La Cabina et al, 29th January

Let it never be said that Carolyn and I do not know how to bar hop. For we most certainly do.

As with other parts of the city, Dalston/Stoke Newington is ever changing with bars closing and opening all the time. We knew there was a bit of a backlog of new places to explore and so, one Friday, we set off to conquer them.

The main aim was to try out Silk Stockings, the newest bar from those behind Satan’s Whiskers, and to hopefully try out Haunt and La Cabina as well. Both achieved. And more than we expected in between.

The fact it was a cold January night worked in our favour to begin with – we had made no reservations but were able to slip into a space for two at Silk Stockings with no trouble. On another night I dare say there would have been a wait as the place was pretty full anyway. For our first cocktails of the night we had a blood orange margarita for me, and an airmail for Carolyn. Perfectly tasty, and the bar was a very welcome offshoot of Satan’s – could have happily whiled away the whole night in there, listening to their similar soundtrack of old school hip hop.
But instead on we forged, popping into the newly expanded Ruby’s to see what the Lounge area was all about. This had a fun, relaxed vibe but we were a little put out by the fact they stop doing their cocktails at 10:30. Isn’t part of the reason you go to Ruby’s their cocktails? I was upset I couldn’t get my hands on a chilli apple martini. Also, this was the first of many times we realized January was now working against us. We could see the potential but it could have done with double the number of people in there.

The same could be said and more for Hammerschlagen which we stumbled into next. This bar is centred around the Scandinavian drinking game of Hammerschlagen which the only 4 punters in the place were playing. You hit a nail with a hammer (or not) and it is supposed to lead to one of you drinking. We weren’t sure how this worked exactly and neither did those playing it but it didn’t seem to stop them having fun. One drink in here and we were off.

To Victory Mansion, another unscheduled stop on the way. It was time to cocktail it up again but if you think I can remember what we were drinking by this point, or indeed much about the bar you are mistaken. I remember I liked it but that’s as far as it goes.

For some reason Haunt sticks out more in my head, possibly because as we approached the door, we were pretty much dragged in and shoved downstairs by a very merry guest. We went down and had a little dance. Again, very empty but I would venture back again to see if it improves once people had got over their January blues.

Our final stop was the reincarnation of Manero’s, now known as La Cabina and sporting a ‘secret’ entrance in a phone box. Except that at this time of the night the door is just open anyway and rather ruins the mystique. And lo! THIS is where everyone was! It’s funny what a rebrand and a bit of PR can do – both Carolyn and I had been to Manero’s before and it was nowhere near as busy. But La Cabina was heaving! It didn’t feel too different to before, but had less of the house party vibe it had before, and more of the feeling of a proper bar. Which I kinda think is a shame, but it’s always good to have a bar that stays open late and attracts customers so it gets a thumbs up. We had one cocktail between us (which I have to admit I don’t recall being particularly spectacular) but that’s not really the point. Let’s hope it keeps bringing the revelers in.