Friday, May 31, 2013

Maggie’s Pop up at The Queen’s Club – 80’s style




It’s thirsty work watching all those men in action, so just as well Maggie’s has quite literally ‘popped up’ (it’s a pop up tent) to quench our thirst between the 10th and 16th June throughout the Aegon Tennis Championships.

 
From the heart of Chelsea, the 80’s vibe will be descending upon West Ken creating the ultimate retro space…  The players lounge has astro-turf (watch those heels…), oversized tennis rackets, ball shaped bean bags and Rubik’s cube tables (standard!)


There’s also a vintage umpire chairs and rollerskaters kitted out in whites who will knock your tennis socks off…and the bar staff will be rocking the looks of some of the best tennis players of the 80’s – Andre Agassi wig anyone?


Signature drinks include Maggie’s Mugs, Fishbowls and Watering Cans.  So while 80’s child
Andy Murray (he was born in ’87) sweats it out on court looking for this 3rdAegon Championships title, you can don a visor and keep your cool with a cocktail or 5…


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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

L'Alchimie Bar Harvey Nics - Courvoisier's not just for boys....!



Think Cognac and you immediately think Courvoisier… Yet you probably wouldn’t consider it as the main ingredient in a selection of impressive cocktails.  Well, think again.

Monday was the exclusive preview of L’Alchimie do Courvoisier - an enchanting terrace on the 5thfloor of Harvey Nichols, where until 18th August, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported from Knightsbridge to the home of Courvoisier production – a town called Jarnac in the Charente region of South-West France.


An idyllic setting with a charming countryside feel which also benefits from the buzz of a cool city bar in London, you can kick back and relax while these innovative brandy blends get to work on whiling away the troubles of the day.

Combining florals, citruses and syrups into some extremely tasty cocktails, the bespoke menu has been created specifically for L’Alchimie de Courvoisier – so if discovering new drinks is your thing, you’re bound to find something new to try. 

Treat your tastebuds to the ‘Courvoisier Collins’ concoction – a blend of Courvoisier Exclusif, pressed lemon, wild thyme syrup, orange blossom water and soda; or indulge in the ‘XO Royal’ – with XO Cognac, Orange blossom honey, pressed lemon and apricot bitters and topped up with HN Brut Champagne.

There’s also some delicious food pairing packages from £45 to £75, designed to perfectly compliment the list of cocktails.  With our ‘XO Royal’ we were treated to a fabulous dish of sliced lamb with haricots and harissa followed by Ossau d’Iraty and black cherry jam, while the melt in the mouth cognac mini ice cream cones were delightful.

The evening ended with a tasting and food pairing session in the Le Chateau de Courvoisier booth (which can also be reserved for a more intimate Cognac experience), where we learned about the complex blending, distilling and aging process, and how our individual thoughts, memories and taste buds can actually influence the way we taste our Courvoisier.

From my perception of a cognac as a ‘man’s drink’, I’m now a complete Courvoisier convert.  Go check out L’Alchemie de Courvoisier and after supping down a couple of their cleverly concocted cocktails, you might even forget that the sun isn’t quite shining over London yet.

Visit L’Alchemie de Courvoisier on the 5th Floor, Harvey Nichols until 18thAugust.


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Sunday, May 05, 2013

Dukebox - Thumpin' Thursdays!



Are you ready for Thumpin’ Thursday’s at Dukebox?!



I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…  Thursday nights out in London are way better than any weekend.  You get a good crowd of people who know they have work tomorrow, but are still out to enjoy the moment anyway…  The cocktails taste better and the music makes you dance that little bit more knowing that your cheeky night will probably have you floating through Friday not quite with it, while wishing it was the weekend so you can recover and recharge your batteries.  And then when it gets to next Thursday, you’re ready to do it all over again!



The reason for these mad mid-week sessions?!  Thumpin’ Thursday’s at Dukebox. - courtesy of my mate Rudi Thirion and The Saxman UK – Ben Barnett.



Dukebox was always fun on a Thursday, but now it’s that littlebit better.  The launch last week was wicked!  Free before 10pm, there was a decent crowd through the doors by 10:30pm.  And getting the party started early is definitely one of their mantras when it comes to this new club night.  They wanna make you feel like you’ve partied, yet you can go home around midnight and still be fresh as a daisy for that crazy 9am work meeting you forgot to do any research for.



So, a decent crowd and absolutely awesome tunes to match!  I’m super fussy when it comes to the music in clubs and have been known to throw the odd strop when it’s too cheesy or too minimal!  (Remember 360 in Dubai anyone?!! *ahem*)…  My gang of girls are well into all the Hot Creations tunes – ‘Benediction’, ‘Something Special’, ‘Latch’, they were all there, meaning we had the dance floor jammed up while pulling some crazy shapes way before 11 o’clock.  We were also ecstatic to hear the DJ throw on our ‘Thailand song’ – you know the holiday song that follows you around everywhere for your entire beach break, then you get back to the UK and no-one’s heard of it?!!  @Jamesparkdj had most definitely heard of it, and that made our night!  Did I mention there were free drinks on arrival too?!!  Always a winner with me…



But what’s different?!  Well, if you’ve ever heard a live sax in a club, then you’ll know what this adds to your clubbing experience.  Think Nikki Beach and Miami pool parties.  Ben is the epitomy of ‘cool musician’, racking up gigs around the world where all the top clubs in Ibiza, Vegas and Marbella will pay him to travel out and play his infamous light up sax.  This guy can take any tune (and I mean any tune…) add his own twist and make it sound waaaaaaay better.



So, Rudi and Ben are busy working on loadsa cool projects to heighten your club nights out (ssshhh it’s a secret…although one involves sushi – can’t wait!!!) so get following on Twitter @rudi_thirion, @thesaxmanuk, @Ash_Whitfield (that last one’s me… trying to rack up some followers…) and we’ll see you there next Thursday, for ‘Thumpin Thursdays!’
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Saturday, May 04, 2013

Thailand - The Best Bars...



So here's my guide to the best bars bar none across Thailand...

Above Eleven - Bangkok

First off, it’s way Above any Eleven – on the 38th floor.  Plenty of time in the lift to wonder whether you’re in the right one, and stick your lippy on.



Round the bend you’ll find the bar, right in the centre, beyond the bar you’ll see, well the whole of Bangkok’s skyline pretty much.



This is the capital’s shiny new hangout.  If you’re wondering why you have to walk through a maze to get to the bathroom (it’s not just some dodgy game to make you think you had too much to drink), then that’ll be the owners’ influence – he grew up in Thailand but has a penchant for Central Park in New York where he went to school.  Look up and you’ll see grass on the ceiling -  it’s weird but kinda nice being outside and inside at the same time, especially if you’re starting to sway ever so slightly…



The menu is pretty sweet – Peruvian ceviche style influences, some Japanese, Chinese and Italian so you can really get bi-lingual with your tastebuds.



Take a pew at the high stools around the bar to fit in with the guys who look like they know what they’re eating, or go chill on the massive sofas and breathe in the view.



You’ll find the cocktail list under a heading titled ‘fun stuff’ – so we were sold before we’d even picked a drink… But you won’t be disappointed, try the Zakura made with 42 Below, fresh ginger, orange and lime juice and pomegranate syrup, or the Togatta Stiletto which is made with Sake, prosecco and passonfruit puree.  Or go for a sambuca like we did, served in a wine glass (now that’s what we call a measure…)



A cool crowd defo hang out in this green space, yes you might be in a park, but there’s definitely no dogs.


Moon Bar - Bangkok

Warning – if you’re on a tight thai baht budget, your notes won’t get you far at Moon Bar, but if you fancy splashing out while taking in super spesh views of beautiful Bangkok, then head on over to the Banyan Tree hotel and take an express elevator up 61 floors.



There’s a massive range of cocktails, liquers and spirits – we got all heady with the Vertigo Julep and it’s smooth vanilla kick, and the Apple Martini – crisp clean and alchoholic enough to keep the doctor away.



Sit at the big bar in the centre and check out whoever’s sitting opposite or next to you, and if that’s not very exciting, then you’ve always got some panoramic views… Every cloud and all that, and on the 61st floor, you’re pretty close to them.



Bed Supperclub - Bangkok

It’s not like the London one.  There’s beds in it yes, but they’re Bangkok beds – bigger, better and probably good for bouncing on.  And you get to them by boarding what can only be described as a spaceship which is apt as you’ll probably feel like you’re on another planet by the end of the night.  This club has its own creative director so you’re always in for a proper show whether its Yoga Fly or something equally as off the wall.  So kick off your shoes, crawl into your doubler, and grab a menu – there’s a tonne of cheeky little nightcaps to choose from.  Behind the bar, there’s some serious mixology going on – these guys were definitely wide awake when they were learning how to throw together Cointreau, blue curaco, blue jelly and Bombay gin for the Bluely Jelly, or the Gay Lavender which is actually purple and tastes of palma violets.



There’s also a mass projector, state of the art sound system and regular international DJ’s on the decks.



Oh and you can eat here, it’s a Supperclub afterall – forward thinking food which changes every month.



Just make sure you have a nap before you arrive, chances are, you’ll wanna be up all night.



Cancun Bar – Koh Tao

If you fell asleep in the sun and are trying to make your dazed way back to your digs, this is your stop gap.  In fact, why would you need to go home anyway when you limbo lines of fire and indulge in free tequila bodyshots?!!!  Just jump on the bar and get a hot canadian to use your belly button as a shot glass.  Delightful.



This place is banging early on and has a happy hour 8-11 with 100 baht cocktails – at that price, you’ve got no excuse not to make your way down the entire list.  Try the Blue Honolulu made with rum, blue curacao, lime and pineapple syrup which is seriously de-lish, and while you drink that, you can contemplate whether to high jump the fire rope or dance under the disco ball which is hidden in a tree.



The toilets are pretty good too – a rarity on Koh Tao beach, so make the most of it and if you’re gonna get to look in a mirror once tonight, you might as well do it now.  (After the 100 baht cocktails, you’re probably not gonna care…)



The Gallery – Koh Tao

So get this, it’s a gallery and a restaurant.  Eat first - the chicken massaman is to die for.  They do a pretty mean cocktail aswell, check out the Mexican Treasure – you’ll definitely look like a one eyed pirate when you’re finished, the spirits in this one will put hairs on your chest no question.  When you’ve eaten, take what’s left of your drink and head into the gallery where there’s a tonne of cool paintings of fish and diving stuff (after all that’s what Koh Tao’s known for), and if you’re lucky you might get talking to some cool surfer diver type dudes who can tell you all about what you’ll find lurking at the bottom of the sea withouthaving to mess up your hair or carry a cylinder on your back the size of a small country.



Fizz Bar – Koh Tao

Sunset central!  Right on the beach, awesome views for taking pictures and posting to Facebook so your friends all have a severe case of sunset envy.



Chill on the mass bean bags (there’s a knack to lying on them, but once you’ve got it, there’s no going back… or getting up actually…)  Pack in your five a day with a deliciously fruity Mango Martini or wake yourself up after a hard day working on the tan with a sharp and caffeine filled Espresso Martini (this one look good in the photos too…)



It’s also a perving paradise – watch out for the runner with the body like a greek Adonis – he’s a regular round about 6 o’clock.  Well worth the wait, even if you’ve run out of cocktails.



Coco Tams in Bo Phut Fisherman’s Village – Koh Samui

You might think you’re in a really cool London lounge bar, then you’ll remember you’re actually sitting on the sand and there’s a gekko on your foot.  Coco Tams is the best bar in Bo Phut bar none.  An awesome chilled out atmosphere, rocking chairs which hang from the ceiling like birdcages and a beautiful bar right in the middle.  It’s a stones throw from the sea, so pull up a bean bag, grab a strawberry shisha and indulge in a cocktail made with real love.





Cactus bar – Haad Rin, Koh Phagnan

Head down the side street next to Mama’s Schnitzel on the corner (they do a mean kebab – make note of this for later), past the bucket sellers (full of gin and vodka, they’re not for making sandcastles with) and you’ll find yourself on Haad Rin beach - smack bang in the middle of Cactus.  There’s no way you can miss this place.  Not even if you have your ear plugs in and the fancy eye mask you nicked off your flight.



Sweaty hot bodies gyrating on the benches, in the sand, in the sea, a few in the club…  And absolutely banging tunes.  Some of our favourites were ‘You blocked me on Facebook and now you’re going to die’ and ‘owwww the big bad wolf’.  Don’t ask us who these songs are by, we have no desire to download them, but boy do they sound good while you’re dancing in the sand with a bucket hanging off each arm.



During full moon, this place is open pretty much all night, all day, and all night again.  Sounds like another song….



Slinky’s – Koh Phi Phi

Quite frankly, unless you’ve been to Slinky’s, you haven’t really lived.  It’s all about wearing your outfit from the beach, and your least fave pair of flip flops, cos let’s face it, you’re probably gonna lose one or both of them before the end of the night.



Similar to Cactus, the tunes are pumping early on from the biggest baddest sound system you’ve ever heard.  There’s a make shift dance floor, fire dancers either side and a crowd of the coolest ‘couldn’t care less’ traveller types you’ve ever seen.  Be ready to get amongst it.  There is no escape.



Chances are you won’t be heading back to your own hotel tonight (did we mention the abundance of hot single guys?!) so pack that toothbrush they gave you on your flight out and some sun cream for tomorrow’s very warm walk of shame…



Lotus Bar – Koh Tao

It’s the one place everyone ends up at the end of the night.  When we say everyone, we mean, everyone.  Quite cool and chilled out in the afternoon, you can sit here and take in the sunset while supping on a margherita and deciding on your outfit for later (hmm…shorts and flip flops…. Or shorts and flip flops?!!) The DJ has slightly strange taste in music, but this is a place where anything goes.  Open your mind, go with the flow, and you’ll be downing jugs of cocktails and attempting the fire dance before you know it.



Amazing Sunday Brunch at Nikki Beach Resort, Koh Samui

The infamous Nikki Beach experience has landed in Thailand…  Colin Farrell’s a fan of the Miami venue (nuff said), while in Marbs, there’s more stars lounging on those infamous big white beds than there are bottles of Veuve being sprayed…



Burberry bikinis’, bottles of champers and bling bling jewellery are top of the list of ‘must haves’ when it comes to sunbathing in style at this little hot spot, so make sure you’ve got your best beach wear on and the highest pair of flip flops you can find.



Relax on the sumptuous lounge beds and plumped up pillows, then chill in the pool while the beats get louder and the beautiful people wade their way nearer to the DJ stand.



Brunch is included and ‘wow’ is pretty much all that comes to mind when I think of all that food!  A huge assortment of the finest quality crab shooters, oysters, sushi, king prawns, salmon, swordfish, Thai food, cuts of meat, caviar blini’s with cream cheese… And then desert!  Well, a pretty awesome selection of crepes, chocolate brownies and cheesecakes to name but a few. 



Try mango margheritas, champagne sangria and strawberry daiquiri’s… they’re all thirst quenchingly amazing.



Just don’t forget your jewelled hairband and a high factor red lip gloss.  (By the way, Hawaiian Tropic do actually make one!  Awesome hey?!)






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Sky High 'High Tea' at Paramount....

Sky High ‘High Tea’ at Paramount

A mid-afternoon glass of champagne will always taste nice.  But sweetening the experience was a beautiful panoramic view across London on a gloriously sunny day…



The occasion, (well, as if I needed one), was a long over due catch up with an old friend; and a great way to start the May bank holiday weekend off in style.  Add that to the fact that Paramount located on the 32nd floor of Centre Point has just started offering ‘High Tea’, and right there, you have a really good reason to celebrate!

Between 3pm and 6pm daily, the quintessentially English custom of afternoon tea is served for £42, with bubbles; or for £28 without…

After being taken to our table and spending a good ten minutes or so marvelling at the view and spotting the various great sights – St Paul’s Cathedral, the Olympic Stadium, Tower Bridge; we were then tasked to the near impossible challenge of selecting a type of tea - the choice of which was quite overwhelming! 

I opted for the delicately fragranced Osmanthus flower which impressively blossoms while brewing.  My friend selected the slightly stronger tasting Jasmine Pearl, but both were absolutely delicious. 

Our beautifully elegant black slate tiered stand arrived soon after - the bottom tier filled with a really delightful array of finger food.  The favourite by far for me was the Quiche of the Day, but the Smoked Salmon and Fromage Blanc on Rye Pumpernickel was a close second, while the Dry Cured Ham on sour dough came with perfectly balanced piccalilli which really packed a punch.  We devoured the entire savoury selection, washed down with a delicious glass of Billecart-Salmon champagne…

Sweets included Chocolate Profiteroles, light and airy Lemon Madelines, Orange Cake, Carrot Cake and Scones with Clotted Cream and Jam.  There was more than enough and sadly we just couldn’t find room for the Chocolate Cream and Berries, or the Berry Loaf!

All in all, a fabulous way to spend an afternoon.  Best of all, Paramount feels like a total escape from London; a safe and peaceful haven.  So chilled out and relaxed that you almost forget about living in a city filled with 8 million people and their busy lives!  

Whether you’re heading to see a show, celebrating a birthday or just feel like a treat, tt’s the perfect way to wind down and enjoy the delights of a gorgeous selection of open savouries, pastries and cakes.  So if it’s ‘High Tea’ you’re after, we’ve found you the perfect place!

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Friday, May 03, 2013

Tuscanic - A taste of Tuscany in Soho


What a delight to discover a taste of authentic Tuscany hidden amongst the bustling streets of Soho!



If you’re a fan of true Italian food, you’ll also be delighted that we’re pointing you in the direction of Tuscanic ‘Merende’ meaning ‘to deserve’; they definitely got that bit right!!  Tucked away on Old Compton Street, this gorgeous little cafĂ© come wine bar come deli has true Tuscan taste down to a tee.

Greeted by the delicious smell of freshly baked bread, we were shown to our cute little table by the fabulously animated and passionate Lorenzo.

It’s a simple place yet still brilliantly stylish.  Every single thing you see including the floor and the tables have comes from Tuscany.  As is all of the food…of course.  There’s no cheesy Italian table cloths or big chunky candlesticks, but there are lovely quirky touches everywhere – handmade terracotta pots for the cutlery, salt and pepper pots which you know would look great in your kitchen at home, and a range of the finest olive oils on the side. 

Tuscanic also sells all of its oils, jams, olives, wines and even tapas pots…  So if you like what you’re eating and drinking, you can attempt to re-create the taste at home!  What a brilliant idea.

On the back of the menus is a great little guide to the produce and which part of Tuscany it comes from, so there’s absolutely no chance of you not knowing what you’re getting when you order.  And of course Lorenzo was on hand for the evening to explain in great detail about all of the amazing meats and cheeses.  We got the impression his extensive knowledge wasn’t just being extended to us though; while we were there, all his customers got exactly the same attention.

Now, this guy also knows his wine and before we knew it, there was a gorgeous bottle of fruity Bolgheri Superiore on the table.  I’m not a red wine drinker, but this went down surprisingly well (and maybe a little too quickly!)

Throughout the evening, we sampled raw veg – carrots, celery and tomato with a deliciously rich olive oil, along with a basket of warm bread.  Then, a Tuscan speciality – ‘Le Zuppe’ which as Lorenzo explained was a way of using up all of the leftover ingredients in olden times.  Cooked with fresh soaked bread, one of our soups was a wholesome blend of mixed veg, carrots, beans and celery; the other, a tomato, bread, potato and oil mix. 

For our main antipasti platter, we were treated to a selection of the finest meats and cheeses straight from Tuscany.  The produce is so fresh and the express deliveries are so quick, that some of the cheese is still warm when it arrives at Tuscanic; we were suitably impressed by this fact and couldn’t wait to tuck in.  The salami, mortadella and prosciutto went perfectly with the pecorino, goats cheese and nocino, and was accompanied by acacia honey, fig jam and artichokes.  I’ve never had fig jam before and was pleasantly surprised – it was absolutely delicious!

Our light and fruity Bolgheri which had been perfect with our starters, was replaced by a much heavier, more powerful wine – a Brunello di Montalcino produced by the La Manella farm in Tuscany.  Although there’s many Brunello’s, this particular wine which Tuscanic have stocked since opening, has just been given a staggering 93/100 by the trusty ‘Wine Spectator’ website; further proof that when it comes to their food and drink, Tuscanic know their stuff.

Absolutely full to bursting point, we couldn’t resist desert when it arrived – a gorgeously thick and creamy Tiramisu with biscotti and Vin Santo (sweet holy wine). 

We left Tuscanic feeling full and happy and also vowing to marry an Italian chef!   And because we’d had a little too much wine, we also forgot to buy the fig jam and olive oil!  Probably just as well, because now we have a reason to go back!!

We ‘heart’ Tuscanic and you will too.  Promise.  Whether it’s for a latte, an antipasti platter or a glass of Brunello, you don’t need to jump on a plane to experience a little taste of Tuscany, just head to Soho.
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