DREAMY INTERIORS & THE BEST ESPRESSO MARTINIS IN TOWN @ CLERKENWELL GRIND
Some of you may have already heard or been to the ever expanding 'Grind' coffee empire in London. Starting off with the humble Shoreditch Grind, serving coffee and cocktails by Old Street roundabout, they have quickly expanded into having several locations around East and Central London. But don't be fooled, Grind isn't some basic coffee shop chain, trying to be a hipster Starbucks. Firstly the coffee across the board is fantastic, every cappuccino I have sampled across at least 3 of their outlets amazing and that is not all. Every 'Grind' has a very distinct vibe about it that makes each one rather unique in itself. Shoreditch Grind for example has a slight Brooklyn feel about it with its exposed bricks, metal stools and open plan layout while Holborn Grind feels a lot more office worker and lunch diner friendly with big windows and coffee counter. And then there is of course the newly opened Clerkenwell Grind which is something else all together.
I have to admit I am sucker for a good interior concept and the minute I stepped inside Clerkenwell Grind I fell in love with just about everything inside...Why? As big film lover I have always been obsessed with the exquisite interiors in Wes Anderson's films, his set designs almost a character in themselves, and thus couldn't help but feel like I had walked straight into one of his features. Much like in his fantastic Grand Budapest Hotel the Clerkenwell Grind's interior is a fine marriage of pink hues and marble tones mixed in with flashes of gold and turquoise. Indeed every corner has been so carefully designed that I was even take some snaps of their bathroom with its pastel pink perfection. Maybe it is silly to get this excited about the interior of a cafe but everything about this is just so right and so well considered, starting with a rather provocative pink neon sign that you can't ignore as you walk in, that it adds as much to the overall experience to me than the food and drink served here.
Whether you sit down for a casual coffee, go for a weekend brunch or grab a bite to eat upstairs or head to the art deco dream of a bar downstairs you won't be left disappointed. I am yet to eat here (though I am already dying to go back for the small plates dinner menu) but as real coffee experts I can tell you that they make a rather banging espresso martini here, if not the best in town.
Will I go back?! Well considering that I have told just about every person since going how I have found my dream cafe/bar/Wes Anderson dream come true you bet I will.
COCKTAILS TO WOW WITH A JAPANESE TWIST @ 7 TALES
There is no denying that my love of films somewhat explains why I loved 7 Tales so much. Why? Well Lost In Translation has always been my number one film of all time and this little basement bar in Clerkenwell, situated under Jason Atherton’s high end Japanese Sosharu restaurant does a pretty good job of transporting you to Tokyo. Walls are plastered with Japanese street signs and manga excerpts, the bar itself is accessed through a traditional Japanese slitted curtain and the whole room has a slightly red glow from an oversized neon sign at the back of the room declaring the motto of the place: 'Drink Sake Stay Soba'. To the soundtrack of the newest and best hip hop around I almost completely forgot I was still in London, so captivating was the overall atmosphere here and I haven't even gotten to the real highlight of my visit yet. In fact 7 Tales not only transports you to a little Tokyo basement without having to leave EC1 but also serves some rather mind blowing drinks.
I went for the Champagne Papi on this occasion (who wouldn't with a name like that and a natural affinity for anything Drake related) which at £15 was probably the most expensive cocktail I've ever order BUT OH MY GOD WAS IT WORTH IT. Indeed this wasn't a mere cocktail, this was a spectacle, a true show of creativity that I couldn't help but be left in awe of. How you may wonder?
Well the Champagne Papi is a fizzing glass of champagne and umeshu (a Japanese plum liqueur) lightly infused with banana and served with a side of ‘vending machine', essentially a token you are given that you are meant to pop into an arcade style venting machine, out from which then pops a Kinder Egg-style pod carrying a Japanese proverb and absinthe-soaked sugar cube presented in a baggy that then is meant to be dissolved in your champagne flute as finishing touch to the drink....I told you this isn't your average cocktail didn't I?
And yes, this could easily have come across as gimmicky and over the top but here everything just somehow works brilliantly- the concept so perfectly executed and the final cocktail now infused with the sugar cube so beautifully flavoured and ultimately delicious that all I could really say after leaving is "Wow". Don't come here to order the house white, don't come here to get wasted, no 7 Tales will take you on an unexpected and rather brilliant Japanese excursion that is worth spending a little more for, offering up cocktails quite unlike anyone else in London right now.
PS order the Champagne Papi. You will live to tell the tale.
OLD SCHOOL MIXOLOGY @ 69 COLEBROOKE ROW
69 Colebrooke Row or 'Bar With No Name' as it is also known has a real old school charm about it that in my eyes makes it the most genuine of the 'Speakeasy' style bars that have recently flooded London. Indeed one could easily feel transported back into the prohibition era here and down some dark alleyway in New York's East Villager with this tiny yet impeccably furnished space, all dark wood, leather upholstered antique seats and black and white tiled floors, all complimented by the dim lighting that isn't much more than the candles on the tables. Rather than a Spotify playlist, here a pianist will provide the soundtrack for your evening while the bartenders are not merely bartenders but in their smart white tailored coats become mixologists of the highest calibre, each drink almost like a piece of art they are more than proud to serve you.
If you want a proper cocktail bar that needs no modern gimmicks then this is the place for you - no tricks, no twists- just perfectly executed classic drinks in a sophisticated and grown up environment with a level of service that makes you feel like a royal or indeed a rich Mafiosi type in 1920s New York with wads of cash and the world at their feet. It's also the perfect place for a date, so small inside that one can't help but cosy up to your company but also with drinks so good that if all else fails including the date you are still able to enjoy some stunning cocktails in a bar you won't forget in a hurry.
My favourite cocktail after several visits here has to be the 'Death In Venice', Campari with Grapefruit Bitters topped with Prosecco and an Orange Twist, which served in a simple Flute is the epitome of a refreshing and perfectly mixed drink that you could more than easily drink about 10 of. It's a classic cocktail that is not easy to get right and the same can be said for 69 Colebrooke Row as whole, a real diamond of a cocktail bar that has rightly refused to move with the times, a classic that I hope will remain unchanged for some time to come.