Friday, July 29, 2016

Sager + Wilde Paradise Row, 1st July

Way back in 2013 I think it was, Stephen and I spent an evening under the Arches in Bethnal Green – firstly having a few small plates at what was then called Mission – Sager + Wilde’s newest place, then a cocktail at the Craft Cocktail Co.

Both have just recently been rebranded, and I was invited along to try the new Sager + Wilde Paradise Row. Being a warm, though rather wet at times, evening, we sat outside and enjoyed several dishes from their bar snack menu along with a few beverages.

Should you want to sit inside and make more of a meal out of it, they do a four course set menu as well for £42.
My eyes honed in on the bread with cultured butter – thick slices of dense and chewy bread with butter to die for, the culture providing a pleasant tang. While deciding what to order, we noticed the couple next to us being brought a huge fried glob of something stuck together. What is that, we wondered. It was the whitebait – fried with seaweed and bean kakiage. All at once, it sticks together and you peel off chunks to eat a bit like you would an onion blossom. I enjoyed the veggie part of this, which was sweet, the batter being light and like tempura, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat the whole whitebait.
Stephen couldn’t resist having the clams with peas and flowers. A little heavy on the pea, perhaps, this was the prettiest dish by far, and Stephen said it was great. I did have one bite and the light flavours of the pea and flora seemed to combine well with the subtly briney clam, but I am still yet to be convinced on clams.
‘My’ dish was the iberico pluma – pork, with broad beans and herbs. It was supremely soft, being served in that new-fangled way of cooking it quite rare. Stephen wasn’t so much of a fan but I thought it was cooked delightfully.
And if there's a sandwich on the menu you know I'll want to try it. This one was mortadella in a roll, slices hanging out of a sweet roll with a nice garlicky butter in it. Difficult not to finish this in two bites. 
We’d had a cocktail each with our dishes, but moved on to wine while we considered whether to have anything else. Our friendly waitress brought us two types to try – Sager + Wilde’s own Syrah, and a French number. I liked the Syrah, Stephen preferred the French one so we had one of each and ordered the two cheeses they had on offer. One was a crumbly yet full of flavour Lancashire, which came with almost equally crumbly oat crackers, the other was a pungent and intoxicatingly strong soft cheese – St Cera, which we spread over chunks of (slightly too) grilled bread.
Even though ‘Mission’ seems to have upgraded itself to more of a restaurant, it still feels like a neighbourhood place that you could drop into for a drink or a few small plates without having to make a big deal of it. Has to be said that the staff were very friendly and there was very little to-do when I split an entire glass of red wine, mainly over Stephen, but also partially over the ground. They were quick to offer lots of reassurances that it *probably* would come out of his nice new jeans... (it did).
Sager + Wilde Paradise Row Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Heist Bank, 28th June

I’m not entirely sure who the audience for Heist Bank will be but whoever it is I think will very much enjoy the place. It’s in a bit of a no man’s land next to the Paddington basin, and is the newest bar from the people behind Coin Laundry, who, it turns out, have several other places in London including Ask for Janice and Graphic bar, both of which I like very much.

The place isn’t aiming for haute cuisine – the mainstay of its menu is pizza. There were four different kinds available to try at the launch I was invited to and I tucked into three out of four – I couldn’t bring myself to try the one loaded with mushroom (mushroom – bleugh). And loaded it really was. Same with the crushed pea, goat cheese and radish. These ones were more like having a load of topping with a little bit of pizza, rather than having a pizza with some toppings. For me, it was too much. Much too much. I had to break down the huge block of goat’s cheese and there was so much crushed pea it was falling off everywhere. Luckily, the meat lovers fare better and have a more balanced slice. The Italian sausage was a juicy number, and the lamb, feta and rocket was not a bad appropriation of a lahmacun.
There were plenty of tasters on the menu to try. Others being passed around included an olive and cheese curd pastry which was utter gooey, chewy deliciousness and some spicy nduja croquettes which were pleasant but I wished they’d had a bit of the actual meat inside rather than it being all creamy.
They had two special cocktails to try – a floral take on a French 75 using their own house-infused gin, and an ‘Off the Wagon’ which was a very summery way to enjoy whisky – blending it with orange.

I felt it was my duty to try out some of the other cocktails on the list too. I can confirm the peach bellini, scofflaw and bramble are all great. I also tried the Delicious Sour which was too sweetly peachy for me. It was even more peachy than the peach bellini!
Wines by the glass are all the same price – a policy I commend, and which means you can get a viognier or a malbec for the same price as the pinot or merlot you normally drink cos it’s cheap!

And they have plenty of different beers on offer.

It seems like a great after-work set up, with plenty of space so a whole team could go down for a few together. There’s even a karaoke space perfect for when you’ve all had one too many…

Heist Bank Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Good Egg, 12th June

Squeaking in in the nick of time, Stephen and I got a table at The Good Egg for brunch. Not that I would have minded tucking into their Middle-Eastern-inspired main menu but the place is called The Good Egg and it felt wrong not to be having a dish with egg in it somewhere. Stephen had them baked with chorizo and I had them fried on a brisket hash. And I had a Bloody Mary because brunch. Of course it had to be the Red Hot with gin, pastrami spices, tomato juice & lemon and it was very pleasing, if not particularly hot. 

Each dish was hearty to say the least. Huge chunks of pastrami brisket were in mine, along with plenty of potatoes and some refreshing pickle to cut through the fattiness of the brisket. Stephen thought my eggs were overcooked but I liked them verging on (but not quite) solid. 
Stephen's Shakshuka was stuffed chorizo in its tomatoey, warmly spiced bath. I wanted to get something different to him but did have a little food envy as he scooped it all up with his bread. I managed to try one or two mouthfuls but was so stuffed from my own I didn't need to pester him for more. Didn't even try the good-looking babka on the counter so will need to come back at some point for that!

The Good Egg Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Disco Yoga, 9th June

Having not done yoga for so long I can’t remember the last time, I was a little nervous about signing up to yoga of the disco variety.  Yes – disco yoga. Bit of an oxymoron? Well, it worked surprisingly well.

In fact, they had started doing it last year in a place that only held 10 people but it was so popular they had to expand. Despite Disco being quite an upbeat genre, this class was quite relaxed and I would say acts as the perfect introduction or reintroduction to yoga.

You’re encouraged to go glam and wear your sequins and glitter – if you don’t have any on before you get there, a glitter station is there to kit you out. And you get to pick a cocktail to sip on at the end of the session. I chose the Yogi Pear which was served in a carved-out pineapple and was absolutely delicious – the perfect pick-me-up after all that strenuous stretching.

So, after you’re all glittery and have taken your places on your mats, the class begins. All the while disco has been pumping out and this continues throughout as you’re taken through various poses. Most people these days seem to have a passing acquaintance with yoga and will be familiar with some of the terms even if not how to do the poses they refer to – there was a lot of downward dogging I’m sure you’ll be happy to know.

None of the poses were held for an agonizing amount of time and at about three points in the sessions we paused for a ‘dance party’ where we got to shake it all out and dance to the disco. At this point the music was more energetic but it undulated throughout the event – there are more chilled out disco songs than you might realise.

I found the whole thing really enjoyable and quite relaxing and a good boost to motivating me to get back into my exercise. If you like the idea of yoga but feel that it maybe takes itself too seriously then try this one out for sure.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

SS Atlantica, 28th May

I have been wanting to go to SS Atlantica for yonks – probably since I set up my Meetup group four years ago, but as it’s a once-a-year deal, getting to it proved tricky. I always seemed to have plans by the time they released the date. Not so this year.

So on a balmy evening we dressed in our finest evening wear and boarded the SS Atlantica for a jaunt along the Thames or two. We sipped champagne and enjoyed the views, and then spent some time in the belly of the boat drinking in the live hot jazz and taking part in illicit gambling. Which was all very fun. But this entertainment was short lived and soon it was general drinking and dancing and I must admit, we got a little bored by it. At midnight the boat docked to let people off who wished to disembark early (the night finished at 2 am) and most of my crowd agreed we should have got off at that point rather than go another lap onboard. While being on the Thames is always nice, I’m not sure it was worth the slightly elevated price compared to other B & H events, and I don’t think I’ll bother with it next year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Club Rub, 21st May

So many fetish events, each offering something slightly different, but mostly to the same fun and friendly naughty crowd.

And so I went to one of the longest-running fetish events last month, Club Rub – also touted as one of the friendliest. It’s certainly one of the smaller ones, held upstairs at The Garage, making it quite intimate and meaning you can chat to people quite easily. (I rather enjoyed being at a kinky party while there were people in the very same building beneath likely having no clue as to what was going on above them.) 

They were celebrating their 19th birthday and it really did feel like a birthday party for the hostess, the lovely Miss Kim – a doyenne on the fetish scene – and her friends. For the special occasion there was an Animal theme, and the end stage, normally reserved as the play area, was decked out with a paddling pool and dog bowls containing doggie treats for the pet play people that had been hired for the occasion.

We also had the wonderful world pole dancing champion doing several pole dancing shows throughout the evening which were truly outstanding. How she can manipulate her body around that pole, sometimes hanging vertically beside it, was jaw-dropping.

So there was perhaps less play going on at Club Rub (and certainly no sex) but it was a lot of FUN. Slightly unusually for events of this ilk, the music was fantastic – slightly mainstream dance tracks that you’d definitely recognize if you like that kind of music and that would probably sound familiar even if not, and people actually did take to the floor to dance. 

Well done Miss Kim - keep it up!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Date Lab, 10th May

Date Lab aims to take the psychology behind why people end up with matches at traditional speed dating and mess with it to level the playing field. So there are some rules to abide, and things are done a little differently to shake things up.

Women cannot wear red and are encouraged to wear black and something that shows off their figure. Men should dress smartly but not ridiculously slow. The amount of time you spend talking to the member of the opposite sex is short. Very short. Unnervingly short. It is only three minutes and by the time you’ve sat down and said hello you feel you’ve barely said anything before you have to move on and start again. It certainly keeps you on your toes and goes far too quickly for you to really make any judgments about anyone, let alone write them down.

But you don’t have to – yet. Another one of their rules to be broken is that instead of just getting one shot at someone, you speak to them twice. The first time, the men stay in their seats and the women move round. Turning another speed dating paradigm on its head. But for the second round women get to rest their feet and the men come to them. And, I suspect, we had a little longer to chat. This makes sure the power dynamic stays even, as apparently when you’re the stationary one, you are more critical of the people coming to you to be passed judgment upon. Makes sense I think.

In case you run out of things to say, they helpfully provide conversation starter questions. At first we weren’t sure if we were supposed to be using them or not but realized that they weren’t mandatory. Sometimes we used them, sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes I was very grateful for them, even if I did end up answering the same questions a couple of times.

It seems to be a generally accepted truth that more women sign up to speed dating events than men, for whatever reason that is. And that when men sign up the calibre is… let’s just say… uneven. Well, I don’t know how they did it but Date Lab managed to get the basement of The Coin Laundry (a bit of a retro-themed new bar in Exmouth Market) full of people who were pretty much all the right side of attractive, and mainly a young, 20sish kinda crowd.

I don’t go to speed dating to find the love of my life. I go for something fun to do, hopefully to chat to some entertaining people and if anything else happens it’s a bonus. I did actually get a few matches out of the event… they boast a 90% success match rate…but none have turned into anything. Perhaps that just means I need to return.