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Tuesday 15 October 2013

Toy Shop Bar - Byron - Lost & Co - Bricklayer's Arms - Dr.Ink of Fulham - White Horse

Wednesday 2nd October - Way back in June, Team List tried to go to the opening night of Toy Shop Bar in Putney.  It turned out to be a friends and family only night, so we wandered off and went to a couple of reliable boozers in the area instead.  We finally returned last week and made it inside this time!

They now have an incredibly generous Happy Hour from 5-8 Monday-Thursday which was the perfect excuse for us to work our way through their cocktail menu.  It was pretty empty when we arrived, but I'm sure it will get busier once Putney locals get wind of the discounts!  It apparently gets a bit crazy at the weekends so take your pick.

Most drinks have ridiculous names and an even sillier list of ingredients.  I started with "Newton's Cradle Old Fashioned Tipple" - Toy Shop Dried Fruit Infused Malt Blend, Absinthe Mist, Rosehip Tincture, Aged Cardamom Dark Cacao, Vanilla Extract, No 1. Bitter Blend Marinated 8x, Coated Fruits.  Lauren went for "Clubland a la Polly Pocket" which was served in a bizarre conical glass on ice, with sherbert, chocolate cigarettes, and lollies.

Clubland a la Polly Pocket, Professor's Negroni and Slinky Margarita
Natalie's "Professor's Negroni" (see above and below) was amusingly presented, with a nectarine blossom sphere inside slowly melting, letting the Negroni drip into the bottom of the glass gradually whilst infusing it with a different flavour.  It also had a pipette on top for a bit of extra D.I.Y bitterness.  I was also fond of my "Elmo's (tickle me) Grog" served in a bottle wrapped in scented newspaper.  The whole place has a Willy Wonka feel to it, so it is no surprise that the drinks are on the sweet side and fairly theatrical.  This suited Mary & Lauren down to the ground, but there were still a couple of bitter options to keep Natalie and I happy.

If cocktails aren't your thing, then you might want to go for the Prosecco on tap, or the Toy Shop Beer which is a lager created for them by Shepherd's Neame.  You might not be able to resist the bonkers sharing cocktails if you are in a large group.  "The King of the Castle" pictured  below (coming in at £100) is the most impressive, but I would opt for the cheaper option of "Ralph the Robot" (£35) which lights up and lets of a lot of smoke.  Some will complain that it's all show, but I appreciate that they are serving up bonkers concoctions that you couldn't ever recreate at home.  This isn't some Mahiki style attempt making a killing on sharing drinks, they are just going for fun all round.

The sharing food is also well worth a look.  We only had the Goat's Cheese Lollipops, but there are plenty of tempting offerings on the menu.  If you want to go for the whole Toy Shop experience, get yourself a ticket to one of their Sunday Roast parties which they describe as a kids party for adults - roast dinner, unlimited prosecco and beer, DJs, balloon modelling and more!

King of the Castle - Cocktails - Sunday Roast Party
"What about the toilets?", I hear you cry. Don't worry - Team List did a recce.  The ladies room has barbies stuck to the walls ("Now I know that barbies don't have nipples" - Lauren) whilst the gents has brightly coloured urinals to aim at.  Both rooms also have glittery walls which create a disco ball effect in the room. We eventually asked for the bill, which was accompanied by some tasty chocolate lego men.  Thumbs up all round - go along with a group of friends for fun evening of food and cocktails that won't break the bank (unless you order that castle!).

We decided to pop next door to Byron for a late night burger.  I wouldn't normally mention a chain, but Byron are right up there with the very best on the London burger scene.  They are constantly doing special one off burgers, and also have the Byron Van out on the streets - read about my Wholey Cow experience here.  I particularly like the fact that they adapt the décor to suit every location, rather than going for one colour scheme.  Other chains would do well to copy this model.  They also have one of the best bottled beer lists (short but superb) for a food joint - go for Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA.

They are currently serving "Le Smokey" burger (until 31st October) in tribute to the growing Parisian burger scene.  I did have one at National Burger Day, but I don't remember there being a smoked chilli BBQ sauce last time.  It's got a bit of a kick to it, but most people should be able to withstand the heat.  Well worth a look before it disappears at the end of the month.

The evening ended with Byron, but I'll mention some other watering holes in the area just in case you want to make a day of it!  I'll start with the couple of places that we went when we were first turned away from The Toy Shop Bar back in June.  

You don't have to go very far out of Putney mainline station to make it in to Lost & Co, a neighbourhood bar and restaurant from Lost Group.  The other Lost Group property on The List is Ales & Tails out in Twickenham, where they have 20 beers on keg and cask.  Lost & Co was previously Citizen Smith (same owners) and it has kept the excellent range of beers (including their own Lost Brewing beer).  The food and cocktails are also worth turning up for, and there are often 2 for 1 offers and special events - head there for Day of the Dead on November 1st for £5 tequila cocktails all night long.  

It inevitably draws a big crowd as it is close to the station, but there is enough quality on show here to make it worth it.  Alternatively, head there early in the morning for some Death Wish coffee from 8-11am, Monday-Friday. 

Putney's real hidden gem is The Bricklayer's Arms, a fantastic little pub tucked away down a side street off Upper Richmond Road.  It regularly wins pub awards, which it deserves for its dedication to serving well kept real ales and hosting beer festivals in their cosy beer garden.  There is plenty to enjoy for non-beer fans as well here, with old fashioned bar games such as Shove Ha'penny and Bar Skittles set up to play.  This is place to spend a whole day in with board games.  Pay it a visit if you haven't already - it's in my Top 5 London pubs.

Just over the river on Fulham Palace Road (10 mins walk from Putney Bridge / Parsons Green) is one of my pre-List favourites, Dr.Ink of Fulham.  It is a bottled beer shop with a twist - you can open the beers on site and drink them outside in their front garden until they close at around 8pm (check site for times as it isn't always open).  The range is awesome and constantly changing, and you get to drink them at shop prices rather than pub prices.  There are often tastings and meet the brewer events going on in the shop, so check the website for details.

It's not just about the beer though.  They also specialise in fresh Indian curry pastes, made to order while you wait.  Indian snacks are available to enjoy with your beers in the shop, including samosas, ondhwo, dokhra, daal wada and pattis.  They also run a special supper club called Flavour Experience hosted by beer sommelier Alex Barlow - 4 courses of Gujarat cuisine are matched with 10 beers to taste.  This has been on my to do list for far too long!

When Dr.Ink of Fulham closes, the best place to go is The White Horse (affectionately known as the Sloaney Pony).  I often link the two together, lugging all of my newly bought bottled beers to Parson's Green. Sure, it is packed full of Made in Chelsea lookalikes but this is all part of the fun.  This is one of the best places to drink beer in London, and the local clientele always keep me entertained.  There are often beer festivals to take advantage of.  In summer months, the beer garden looking on to the green is packed, and the BBQ is fired up.  In winter everyone huddles inside - it is worth booking ahead if you know you are heading that way.  The pub food is better than your average fare - I have never looked past the excellent fish and chips. 

I also popped in to Amuse Bouche Champagne Bar (opposite Parsons Green tube) the other day for a friends birthday.  If bubbles are your thing then this is the place for you - I survived on a healthy diet of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  There was a lively pianist when we arrived singing some jazzy pop covers.  There is delicious food upstairs in Claude's Kitchen, some of which is also available downstairs. Head there early when it is pleasant before the unbearable crowds descend late doors and ruin the atmosphere!

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