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Wednesday 13 November 2013

Earlham Street Clubhouse - Bone Daddies - MASH - Topolski Bar & Café

Tuesday November 12th - Two new bars and two slightly older restaurants to report on today, starting with the new inhabitants of the old Detroit Bar space in Seven Dials.  Earlham Street Clubhouse officially opens tomorrow (Thursday 14th November), but it has already been quietly open for a couple of days.  East Coast beach house is the vibe, and pizzas and cocktails have been suitably named (Ferris Bueller, Dawson's Creek, Stifler's Mom, Sweet Valley High etc).  Coors Light and Blue Moon are dispensed from vintage gas pumps into schooners (2/3 pint glasses) or 2 pint pitchers.  Hopefully, once they have found their feet, they will bring in some really fantastic American craft beers.

I visited Detroit Bar just over a month ago so the turn around has been rapid.  It feels less claustrophobic than the previous establishment, and much more fun.  Cocktail menus can be grabbed from the ceiling - they ping satisfyingly back up after you have used them.  I wonder how long they will last! Tables will eventually be given their own phones so that inter clubhouse flirting can take place.

Sharing cocktail equipment kept arriving whilst we were drinking - Spring Break (£38 - serves 4) makes use of a big Mexican hat, whilst Operation and Twister (both £60 - serves 8-16) are going to somehow make use of the board games, I believe!  Regular cocktails are mostly priced at £7.50.

The sourdough pizzas were sadly not available when we visited but there are some promising sounding options - The Fresh Prince has homemade ricotta sauce, fennel sausage, scamorza cheese, wild mushrooms, fresh basil and baby tomatoes.  You can order pizzas by the slice, or whole at 12" or 20", much like Homeslice round the corner.

This was just a first look so I will hopefully return soon once it is firing on all cylinders.  Earlham Street Clubhouse is a welcome addition to Seven Dials, and just the kind of bar that it needs to liven it up a bit.

After missing out on pizzas, we were in serious need of some food, and I finally decided to tick Bone Daddies off The List since I was with Lauren, a big ramen fan.  Bone Daddies is a rock'n'roll ramen bar that has been a huge hit this year.  There is great ramen rivalry between Tonkotsu, Shoryu and Bone Daddies (and probably some others?), but I must admit that it is not my area of expertise, so look elsewhere if you are hoping for a comparison.  

There is often a queue but turnaround is quite speedy so it shouldn't take too long, though be aware that the wait does continue inside too. We were shown to a cosy corner with handy spaces for bags and coats that make the whole experience much more comfortable, even though you are packed in. I appreciated the little shelf for drinks, phones, napkins, sauces etc.  There is even a bottle of garlic with a press if you want to vampire-proof your broth.  

To drink, there are several bottles of sake, shochu and whisky to choose from, and some interesting Japanese cocktails. We weren't feeling that adventurous so we stuck to wine and the "Super Creamy Head" version of Asahi.  There is also Bone Daddies gin (from the Cambridge Distillery) which I tasted at Flesh and Buns back in August (read more here).

I opted for the classic Tonkotsu Ramen (with 20 hour pork bone broth) whilst Lauren went for the T22 with the slightly terrifying sounding cock scratchings.  The bowls range from £8 up to £12 for specials (e.g. Kimchee ramen), and extras can be added including a pipette of fat for 50p!  Starters include Yellowtail Sashimi (£9) and Soft Shell Crab (£8), both of which are also available at Flesh and Buns in Seven Dials. Lauren and I were both very taken with our comforting bowls and slurped it all up pretty quickly - warning: this could be a messy date option, depending on your proficiency with chopsticks!  My broth was creamier and more drinkable at the end, whereas Lauren's chicken bone broth was slightly thinner and saltier.  Thumbs up all round - it lived up to the hype and made two hungry Londoners very happy.

Wednesday 6th November - Jumping back a week, I booked a table at MASH (Modern American Steak House) in Soho to celebrate their 1st Birthday with half price steaks.  Team List Leader Natalie and siblings Em and Jo came along for the ride.  The Danish chain have spared no expense setting up their London site.  The upstairs lobby feels like a posh hotel - our coats and bags were taken by two smartly dressed women, before we were ushered down the enormous spiral staircase towards the decadent bar.  We were then shown to our table, a good half mile from where we came in.  It is an impressive space, though it almost feels too big.  Lower ceilings would help to make it feel more intimate.

We started off with some red wine, a delicious Anchor Steam and a refreshing MASH Pilsener.  Our waiter was superb, and gave us an informative speech on all of the steaks and cuts available.  After processing all the information, we ordered the Danish Dry-Aged Ribeye (£33 - 300g), two NY Strip steaks (£32 each - 300g) and an American Ribeye (£35 - 400g), along with some chips, onion rings and creamed spinach.  I was tempted to go for the 1.3kg Porterhouse (£95) but this seemed a little excessive.  The most expensive item is the Australian Wagyu steak - £50/£75 for a 200g sirloin. In Japan, Wagyu cattle are fed beer/sake and receive massages, whereas red wine is used in Australia.

Now for something rare from me - disappointment.  £33. Really? I don't get it. I recommend a short walk around the corner for a £10 steak from Flat Iron that wipes the floor with everything we were given. Or why not head to Heston Blumenthal's Dinner and get 3 courses on the set lunch menu for £38 instead? Even at half price that we were paying for the meat, we were underwhelmed (£17.50 with no sides, still nowhere near Flat Iron).  Even if you are happy paying a premium for high quality steak, surely you don't want to pay £10 for desserts?  Hawksmoor are much more competitive with their prices.  Anyway, maybe this just isn't my scene! It was absolutely packed with suits and must make an absolute killing so I think I am in the minority!

We decided to go and get one more drink elsewhere that night, and hopefully walked off most of the steak (I walk very energetically) by marching over the river to visit the new Topolski Bar and Café opposite the Royal Festival Hall.  The archways used to be a gallery housing the works of Feliks Topolski - they have retained lots of his creations, and given the bar an art studio feel.

It opens at 7am Mon-Sat for Breakfast and shuts at 11pm Mon-Thu and 1pm Fri-Sat.  I can see musicians adopting this bar for post-concert drinks, especially if they are given a discount (hint hint). For breakfast, you can create your own porridge and granola, or order something sweeter from their bakery.  Salted caramel & cashew roulade (£3.50) and chocolate rum ball (£2.00) are just the beginning of an enticing list of affordable treats.  They are serious about their cured meat, fish and cheese, and the vegetarians will be content with salt-baked beetroot, smoked aubergine and several other tempting dishes.

In the evening, the music is turned up and the house infused spirits come into their own.  Jo went for a subtle Lemon & Ginger Vodka with coke.  Natalie and I were very impressed with the Earl Grey Gin & Tonic.  We also had a taster of the dangerously drinkable Damson Gin.  Other interesting infusions include horseradish vodka, tarragon vodka and pink grapefruit vodka, all of which are served with something different.  There were also four guest Polish vodkas available when we visited which will be worth a try.  They have wisely chosen a range of London craft beers including Crate, Camden, and Kernel, as well as some international offerings.

Attractive row of house infused spirits
Topolski is sure to do well as the location is fantastic, the decor is interesting and the food & drink will get people to keep coming back.  There will be a mix of live jazz and DJs - check the website to see what is coming up, and plan your first visit soon!

Upcoming Event - Next Thursday (21st November) will see the return of Monkey Shoulder's For One Night Only events.  This time around, they are hosting Popcorn Flip - a bonkers night of whisky cocktails, popcorn cannons and bouncy castles in Shoreditch.  There are two showings at 6pm and 9pm - you can get hold of £20 tickets here or try to win some here.  On the night, there will be over ONE METRIC TON of popcorn. If you aren't already convinced (what's wrong with you?), read about the last Monkey Shoulder event called Malt Jockey here.

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