Is the Six Nations even happening if you’re not watching it in a pub, pint in hand? Probably, but it’s much less of a significant part of the yearly calendar for us. Don’t trawl to your South London local only to find a queue for tables going out of the door – make the most of the quiet City at the weekends and bag a table without the fuss, while experiencing some of the best daytime food and drink offerings in London. Here are some of our recommended spots.
The coolest and most relaxed bar of Devonshire Square has teamed up with Harviestoun Brewery for this year’s Six Nations screenings, and there’s even a dedicated burger for the fans – the Player’s Burger (mozzarella and caramelised shallots with your burger? Say no more). Bring the whole gang and save on bulk beer orders – there’s no better reason to get a round in. Click here to learn more.
Over at Bloomberg Arcade, Indian military bar-inspired haunt Brigadiers has teamed up with Guinness to screen the matches alongside a special match day menu of ‘chhota chatpata’ (fiery small plates), sizzlers & kebabs, steaks, ribs and more. On Friday, book in for Lunch with a Legend, with Ed Jackson in conversation with Jamie Heaslip. You can even get your picture taken with them – AND the official Six Nations trophy (surely one for the ’gram). Tickets £100; click here to book.
If you’re after a bit of classical Leadenhall Market glamour, look no further than the cosy Lamb Tavern. Book a table of four or more for some of their excellent British grub, and you’ll enjoy a round of Guinness on the house. You can even book out a private room for the occasion (if your celebration style is a little too embarrassing to show in public). Click here to book.
Pub-turned-stylish-bar the Gun is a great spot for East Londoners who want to stick a little closer to home, with a plush interior, decent sports screen views and a tasty menu of small plates, mezze platter sharers, burgers, and all the usual suspects. It’s the perfect venue to see you through the match – and for that celebratory drink afterwards, with Soul Saturdays kicking off at 8.30pm. Click here to learn more.
Take a wander up to the northern edge of the City and you’ll spy the three distinctive tower blocks of the Barbican Estate: an iconic part of City architecture since its development in the sixties. This 35-acre site forms one of the most interesting areas in London, so we’ve taken it upon us to round up five interesting things you might not know about the Barbican Estate.
A Brutalist Look
Contrary to what you might think, the architectural term ‘brutalist’ wasn’t named for its ‘brutal’ appearance (at least, not in the sense we think of it today) – in fact the term comes the French béton brut, meaning ‘raw concrete’, and coined by architects Alice and Peter Smithson. Brutalist architecture boomed in Britain in the sixties, the principles of which lie in high-rise tower blocks, rough, unfinished surfaces, and straight lines. It’s something of a marmite style of architecture today, either loved or hated by onlookers – but whatever your thoughts, it gives the Barbican Estate a very distinctive look.
Walking in the Air
After the Blitz destroyed a great amount of the City in the 1940s, there were grand ideas for what the City might look like in its modern day – including elevated pedestrian walkways that lifted its citizens high above the traffic below. The ‘pedway’ was designed to clear the streets of pesky pedestrians so traffic would increase, but it was largely abandoned or demolished due to a combination of being too expensive and too rarely used. For now, the only way to experience what it might have been like is to wander around the Barbican highwalk – making the Estate even more of a time capsule of British architecture.
The City of London has half a million people pass it through every day, but only around 9000 residents. Of these, roughly half live in the 2000 Barbican flats, with landscaped gardens, the lake, a school and a church right on your doorstep – plus one of the most prestigious arts centres in the world, of course. The flats were initially built for City of London Corporation workers and their families, but after Thatcher introduced the ‘right to buy’ scheme they were largely bought out by wealthy Londoners, a mix of retirees and working professionals. They’re not known for being spacious, but you can’t beat the location – and as a result a Barbican flat today would set you back around £2.5m.
‘One of the modern wonders of the world’ – HM the Queen
Speaking of that prestigious arts centre, it’s impossible to underestimate the cultural impact of the Barbican Centre, the largest of its kind in Europe. Home to the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Shakespeare Company among others, it boasts an enormous programme of theatre, classic and contemporary music, dance, cinema, art & design, and more; in 2018-19 it hosted over 4000 arts and commercial events. It’s not surprising Her Majesty considered it a ‘wonder of the world’ when it opened in 1982.
A Tropical Oasis
You might not expect much flora and fauna within that brutalist, inner-city facade, but you’d be wrong: the Barbican Conservatory is home to over 1500 species of tropical plants and trees – some of which are endangered in their natural habitats – plus a variety of exotic fish. It’s open to the public on weekends, and available for wedding hire – it even hosts afternoon tea on select weekends throughout the year (keep an eye on One City for upcoming dates). Check out our video above to see a glimpse of the Barbican Conservatory.
Have we missed any of your favourite facts about the Barbican? Drop us an email at email@example.com to let us know.
If you give yourself just one New Years Resolution, it’s to sample some of Hawksmoor’s fantastic new cocktail menu. From revamped classics to innovative new creations, it’s no wonder it’s one of our favourite selections in the City. So what goes into the making of such a creative new menu? We sat down with Liam,Group Bars Manager at Hawksmoor and mastermind behind the new menu to hear some cocktail-making tips and tricks – and why London is without a doubt the best place in the world to drink them.
How did you get into bartending and becoming the Group Bars Manager at Hawksmoor?
Liam: I used to work in bars when I was studying. When I moved to London I became a sommelier and did restaurant management, within Hawksmoor and outside of it – I opened my own restaurant-bar in Hackney and became a chef there. But in the last two or three years bars in London have got a lot more interesting than they were, a lot more diverse, so when the Bars Manager job came up here [at Hawksmoor] I thought it would be a really interesting time to get back into that side of things.
When I worked in bars before there was a very samey narrative when it comes to drinks – all the good bars served the same kind of classic drinks with the occasional twist, but it felt very generic. There wasn’t a huge amount of interesting stuff going on. There were some really good bartenders and some lovely places to go and sit, but I lost interest in the drinks-making process. But in the last few years there’s been a lot more creativity, and things have become, dare I say, a little more culinary, with more technique involved. Now it feels like a much more interesting time to be involved in the industry. It’s an exciting place to be.
Hawksmoor’s old cocktail menu is award-winning. What made you want to start all over again with a new menu?
When I first started at Hawksmoor in 2010 as a bartender, it was a really exciting place to work. We had a brand new cocktail menu at the time and it was probably the first really good restaurant-bar in London, and we had an amazing team. Because that team and that list was so good, no one really wanted to mess around with it for a long time. Any time it did change, we’d only change a tiny bit. Almost 10 years later it feels like the world has moved on a bit, and it felt like a good time to do something really different. But with Hawksmoor we’re careful because we have a lot of loyal customers – you often see a lot of familiar faces. So if you’re going to change it, it’s got to be good! Otherwise you alienate those people.
Tell us about some of the thought process behind the new menu.
I wanted the techniques behind the new drinks and the aesthetics to feel a lot more modern, but the presentation to our customers and our guests should also feel like something they really understand. Some other cocktail menus are full of words and products that are almost deliberately designed to mislead or bamboozle people a little bit, and I really didn’t want that. In a nice way, the good thing about Hawksmoor is knowing what you’re going to get: a nice steak, some nice food, a delicious bottle of wine, and a cocktail you know you’re going to like. The idea of creating drinks that are deliberately weird didn’t make sense to me.
I think anyone who goes out and drinks cocktails a lot will recognise some flavours they find in everything. I find citrus juice is usually in a lot – say in margaritas, daiquiris or mojitos, there’s lots and lots of lemon and lime juice. The flavours start to merge into one after a while. For a number of different reasons we really tried to cut down on that style of drink and tried to think about other ways of making the drinks sour or tart, because the citrus can be quite heartburn-y and also make the drinks taste the same, which means the other flavours are much less vibrant as a result.
When you’re tasting new cocktails, what’s really interesting is that it’s not so much about tasting drinks but about drinking drinks, and when we do so much tasting, we sometimes forget about the drinking experience. You get so used to that process that you’ll think everything tastes amazing, but the drinking experience is so important.
What’s your favourite from the new menu?
The Ginza Highball is my favourite (pictured below). It really sums up what the new list is all about – it’s based on something simple, a Scotch and soda, which everyone knows and most people like, but we put a lot of technique behind it and some interesting flavours in. If you give it to anyone, the immediate reaction is always going to be ‘that tastes really nice’ – it’s as simple as that.
We use scotch, apple, this weird stuff we found in Copenhagen which is like a quince kombucha distill which gives it this nice pear-sweet flavour, verjuice which is an unripe grape juice that gives it the sourness, and then the whole thing is carbonated. It’s delightful. Blended scotch is such a good cocktail ingredient, and whisky sometimes puts people off, but everyone loves this one.
What kind of interesting, unknown techniques went into the new menu that the average cocktail drinker might not be familiar with?
One of the main new techniques we used was carbonation. A lot of times when you’re mixing drinks you might top them up with something fizzy, such as a gin and tonic or a cocktail topped up with champagne or prosecco, but the fizz doesn’t necessarily do what it’s meant to do. When you carbonate the whole drink, however, it dries it out and means you don’t need to use as much lemon juice. It makes the whole thing a lot drier and lighter.
The other thing that sounds way more exotic than it is is that we used something called an ultrasonic aging machine. It’s basically an electric water bath that shoots really fast ultrasonic waves through the water. Its original use was to clean jewellery, but in terms of drinks, it acts as a homogenising machine so it changes the whole feeling of it in your mouth.
With our martinis, we pre-batch them, put them in this machine and let it do its thing, then add some water and put it in the freezer, and when you pour it out it’s the perfect texture and consistency. It brings it all together and makes everything taste really round, it’s really lovely, and is a really simple process. It’s just the little techniques that make the drinks more special, rather than concocting everything in some huge lab somewhere.
What’s your daily routine like?
It’s pretty varied. We have eight restaurants in three cities and are about to open a new one in New York, so there’s lots to do. I think when you get to a certain age in life you realise what kind of pattern of work you like having. Variation works for me – I’m in the restaurant sometimes, we have an office in Spitalfields where I’m sometimes at, sometimes I’m training, sometimes we’re doing R&D on new cocktails, working with different brands who are really fun to work with – no two days are the same.
For a couple of months a year we create new drinks, which is the bit I enjoy the most. When we did the Ginza Highball, Adam our Bar Manager at Spitalfields and I must have made 50 or 60 versions, just adjusting each one very slightly. It’s nice because now when I taste it, I know it’s perfect and I know it’s never going to need to change. That’s also something that has changed massively from when I first started bartending – it used to be that you’d just throw stuff together. Nowadays it’s much more scientific, in a good way.
What do you really like about working in London?
London is without any doubt the best place to drink cocktails in the world, by some distance. Anyone who says otherwise is mad. The best bars here are better than the best bars anywhere else, and the variety and number of good bars is huge. I don’t think that’s always been the case, I think definitely over the last couple of years it’s become that.
It’s a city with such diversity, you have people here from all over Europe and all over the world who come and work here, and larger groups like Hawksmoor as well as tiny experimental bars – it really does have everything. There is nowhere else like London, it’s the centre of the world when it comes to cocktails.
Where are your favourite cultural spots here?
My favourite place where I try to go once a year is the Wellcome Collection, which is amazing. I have a lot of nieces, nephews and godchildren so I see a lot of parks these days – my favourite is Bushy Park, it’s really beautiful. I eat and drink out a lot less than I used to – I’ve got to be more careful getting older! – but fortunately I love to cook, which is my main passion outside of work. I’ve also got an events company that puts on food and drink pop-ups at sporting events, that sort of thing – that’s my side hustle.
What advice would you give someone who’s considering a similar career?
There can be a slightly old school attitude in this industry which comes mostly from chefs, which is that you have to have done your 10, 12, 15 years of service behind a bar or in a kitchen before you can do anything good, and that’s complete crap. There are people in their late teens and early twenties who have great ideas around food or drink, and restaurants are clearly not the be all and end all any more. They’re a really important part of the fabric of the food and drink world, but there’s so much more exciting stuff going on out there. Don’t believe in that ultimate mentality which says you have to do your years of service, try a bunch of different things out. And try to have as many interests as you possibly can outside of food and drink – that’s really important.
If there’s one good reason to get stuck into fantastic Scottish grub in January, it’s Burns Night on 25 Jan – the 200-year-old festivity celebrating the life and works of Robert Burns, one of Scotland’s (and the world’s) most beloved poets. Whether you’re a born-and-bred Scotsman or are just looking to get in on the fun, you’ll find plenty of celebrations in the City next week; below, we’ve rounded up four of our favourites:
Dust down your kilt for this celebratory supper in the glittering courtyard of the Royal Exchange. Fortnum’s are throwing a Burns-inspired dinner featuring a four-course menu of Fortnum’s Piccadilly smoked salmon with soda bread, neeps and Arran Victory tatties with whisky sauce, and plenty more – including haggis, of course. Begin with a Glenmorangie Whisky Sour or a glass of Fortnum’s champagne, and enjoy each course paired with Fortnum’s wine or Glenmorangie whiskies. Tables are available to book from 6.30pm, and you can enjoy live music from 7pm. Click here to book and learn more.
What better way to celebrate Burns Night than with a glass of top-range Scotch whisky? Hawksmoor are throwing a unique supper club this month in their beautiful private dining room in the Guildhall venue, where you’ll get an introduction to the world of Laphroaig – the cold-smoked whisky – via a Triple Wood Highball, a special cocktail created for the event, alongside traditional-inspired food including haggis nuggets, smoked salmon & soda bread, and a selection of 35 dry-age cuts (it is Hawksmoor, after all). Click here to view the full menu.
If you can’t make the 24th, don’t worry, you won’t be missing out on all the celebrations – Hawksmoor are offering a Laphroaig Popcorn Old Fashioned cocktail for £6 throughout January (pictured above). Made with 10-year-old whisky, popcorn syrup, pink saline drops and chocolate bitters, it’s a drink that Robbie would be proud of.
You’ll find plenty happening on the night itself – including a four-course Scottish feast at Bread Street Kitchen, with each course paired beautifully with a different Laphroaig whisky. Featuring some of the Scottish classics, including Cullen skink and a variety of canapés, haggis lovers will also be thrilled with Bread Street Kitchen’s twist on the famous dish – combining it with venison loin to create the Highland Venison & Haggis Wellington. Click here to view the menu and learn more.
Keep it simple at South Place Chop House with a fantastic classic three-course menu – Cullen skink, traditional haggis with neeps and tatties, followed by a Scotch whisky trifle with toasted oats and highland honey. Wash it down with Harviestoun beer and be sure to save room for a sing-song – you’ll toast the night with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Click here to view the menu and learn more.
It’s the start of a new year and a new decade, and veganism has never been more popular. Whether it’s about saving the planet, improving your health and fitness (thanks to certain Netflix documentaries) or sparing the animals, there are plenty of reasons to get stuck into a plant-based diet this month. And it’s good news for 2020 vegans – gone are the days when the only options at restaurants or cafes were measly salads. Below, we show you the best ways to stick to a vegan diet and enjoy truly delicious food without compromising your social lifestyle in the City. Who knows? You might become a lifelong convert after this.
Veggie Prets are springing up in the City and supermarkets are getting more creative, but don’t rule out the fantastic independents for lunch. Sandwich kings Sub Cult (Watling St) are always serving up their delicious vegan Black & Blue sub, filled with seared seitan, portobello mushroom, truffle mayo, onion jam and more.
Sushi enthusiasts don’t have to shake up their diets either; new favourite City spot WAKA (Houndsditch) have unveiled – that’s right – vegan sushi. It looks like fish, tastes like fish, but it’s completely plant-based. Truly has to be experienced to be believed.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t made your way down to Stem + Glory (Barts Square) before, there’s no time like the present. Voted best vegan restaurant in London*, it specialises in a variety of healthy and tasty lunch and dinner options from tapas to bowls to curries and burgers – there’s even a weekend bottomless brunch.
Bread Street Kitchen have brought a twist to their iconic Beef Wellington with a Beet Wellington – a beetroot version of Gordon Ramsay’s favourite Welly. Enjoy it alongside an extensive vegan menu, or learn how to make your own at a fantastic one-off masterclass on 18 Jan – click here to book.
A large variety of Indian food is typically vegetarian or vegan, so look to the City’s favourite Indian restaurant Cinnamon Kitchen (Devonshire Square) for beautifully spiced vegan options. This month they’ve brought a special vegan tasting menu to the restaurant, including kale & quinoa kofta topped with date, ginger and tomato lemon sauce, and bharwan courgette filled with spiced vegetable ratatouille.
At luxury rooftop eatery Coq d’Argent, indulge in a six-course tasting menu including Betterave, red beetroot tartare, black truffle, raspberries and a mango yolk, followed by Pot au feu, winter root vegetable stew, puff pastry, tofu and saffron. Treat yourself to an extra special dining experience by booking into Lodge d’Argent, the cosy chalets in situ until the end of February.
For some, Veganuary might be about being healthy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself to the occasional sweet snack (especially if you’ve got a birthday approaching). Thankfully one of our favourite City bakeries Cutter & Squidge have assembled delicious cakes and treats including blueberry lemon cheesecake, chocolate caramel cake and strawberries & cream loaves. Gone are the days when fruit salads were the only things to satisfy a vegan sweet tooth.