October 29th - I would have written about Talented Mr Fox a few weeks ago, but I thought I should wait until I had returned to One Leicester Street to try the food (which I did in preparation for hearing Ron Weasley blurt out the C word on stage a few times at the Harold Pinter theatre round the corner). This is, of course, not really true - I had good intentions of posting about it straight away after a fantastic night with Mr Fox, but the last few weeks have been a bit crazy with everyone trying to open up new places in time for Christmas. Anyway, I'll get on with it.
As the website says "Talented Mr Fox is the brainchild of Matt Whiley, co-founder of the internationally renowned Fluid Movement that is responsible for two of London's top cocktail bars, Purl & Worship Street Whistling Shop". Matt has brought all of his expertise (and the world's smallest distillery) to the first floor bar of One Leicester Street, where he is serving up outstanding, innovative cocktails, and producing his own line of spirits under the moniker of Moonshine Kid.
|Matt Whitley (Photo credit : Scott Grummett)|
The bar itself is lovely and not too crowded on weekdays. One Leicester Street is a small hotel so the bar reguarly gets guests from there, but most passers by would not know that the bar existed, which is just the way I like it. I called ahead to make sure there was space at the front for Luke, Mary, Olly & myself - never sit anywhere else!
It will take you some time to make a decision with ingredients like pigs blood & black pudding distillate and lactic acid syrup dotted around. Any menu that has a glossary at the back requires more than a minute's contemplation. Our first round included the wonderful White Ape (TMF King Kong Sweetcorn & Cornflake Distillate, Kamm & Sons, Cocchi di Torino), a refreshing & interesting Kew Garden (TMF Blue Mallow & Lavender Liqueur, Lemon Skins, Prosecco) and a (supposedly) Healthy Glug (Diplomatico Reserva, Kamm & Sons, King's Ginger, Sea Buckthorn Juice, American Oak). Each drink was unique and impressive - definitely worth the £10-12 price range.
|White Ape and Healthy Glug|
After our first drink, Matt took us on a "tour" of his distillery, which involved walking into the miniscule kitchen next to the bar, where the magic happens. Using a tiny piece of kit, he whips up all sorts including a Reggae Reggae distillate, Blue Mallow & Lavender Liqueur, and a Honeycomb distillate, as well as his Moonshine Kid range. The aforementioned Pigs Bloods Distillate is 4 parts 100% Pigs Blood to 5 parts of Black Pudding from Head Chef Tom Harris downstairs - it sits in a water bath for two hours before being distilled. A homemade Walnut Vermouth involves port, green walnuts, chocolate, saffron and spice along with distilled leather! We worked our way through a good number of his creations - one chocolate based libation that he is working on is pretty special. He is obviously having a whale of a time experimenting back there.
|World's Smallest Distillery?|
|Barrel Age Tinctures|
Back to the bar, we moved on to Nuts About Bees (TMF Pistachio Gin, Diplomatico Blanco, Soy, Honey, Malt, Citrus), Burnt Fool (TMF Rhubarb Curd Gin, Quince Shrub, TMF Burnt Butter Cream Soda) and the amusing Urban Foxtail (Diplomatico Reserva, TMF PX Acid Bin Juice, Cider). Most of the drinks are served up in pretty stylish glassware, but the Urban Foxtail turns up in a miniature wheelie bin with a sachet of "bin juice" on top to add as you wish, in a nod to the foxes that frequent the bins outside Matt's house. Luckily he came across a full-sized wheelie bin company that produces pencil holder versions that happen to be a perfect size for the cocktails - they are one of his more random Twitter followers now. The Bin Juice is a mix of Pedro Ximenez Sherry and Acid Phosphate that brings a sharpness & dyness to the drink (if you want).
|Left : Not on the menu currently - Right : Urban Foxtail|
Photo Credit : Scott Grummett
The Moonshine Kid spirits steal the show in many of the cocktails. The word "moonshine" is often associated with high-proof spirits that have been produced illicitly which is obviously not the case here, but it also regularly used to describe a spirit that hasn't undergone a great deal of aging. The King Kong is an un-aged Corn Whisky/Liquor (traditionally made from a mash of at least 80% corn). It will be on sale in 70cl bottles from mid-December, along with the Dogs Nose Hop Gin - that's Christmas sorted. There is also the dangerously drinkable Vera Duckworth Pistachio Gin that should be available in the near future too.
|The blurb comes from "Encylopaedia of the Harlem Renaissance" incase you were wondering!|
If classy cocktails, pigs blood, wheelie bins and moonshine aren't enough to get you over to the bar, then maybe the 20+ gins and 40+ whiskies will seal the deal. There are also several tempting bottled beers on offer, including ones from London locals Camden, Beavertown, Kernel, Moncada and Rocky Head.
Our Talented Mr Fox / Moonshine Kid / One Leicester Street experience was a joy from start to finish - the bartenders were superb hosts, the atmosphere was chilled and the drinks weren't half bad either. Head over there as soon as possible, and reserve a space at the bar by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you read to the end of the post, you can hear some more about the top notch ground floor restaurant at One Leicester Street which I paid a visit to a couple of weeks later. After our cocktails, we decided to go for a bit of a stroll through Soho to find some food. We eventually settled on Whyte & Brown, an attractive Chicken vs Egg restaurant nestled (sorry) in the charming Kingly Court.
We wasted no time ordering our Brick Chicken (cooked 3 ways), Chicken, Bacon & Leek Burger, and Pulled Chicken Bap. There is so much to choose from - Pulled Ham Hock, Chicken & Leek Pie and Slow Cooked Wild Rabbit & Chicken Ragu might make it on to my plate next time.
They have recently updated their menus with beer pairing suggestions which I always appreciate. Monday is Bird & a Beer night - £10 for Crispy Slow Cooked Duck with a W&B Whyte beer. They have got a great range of bottled beer (with contributions from Moor, Pressure Drop, Ilkley and Cheddar Ales amongst others) and have two Whyte & Brown beers on draught which I believe are made specially for them by the Red Willow brewery.
|Chicken, Bacon & Leek Burger|
|Pulled Chicken Bap|
Chicken does seem to win the argument over Eggs here, but there is enough on the menu to get fans of les ouefs egg-cited (I'm surprised it took me three paragraphs to make that pun, to be honest). I'm not sure I've ever seen a Wild Mushroom Risotto Scotch Egg before - one for my friend at rageagainstthemushroom.com
Whyte & Brown have jumped on the London cronut train with their W&B Warm Cronut (tossed in cinnamon sugar and topped with ice cream). I still haven't tried a single cronut / cro-dough / do-sant / crodo baggins yet - if a Google search for the latest cronut info has disappointingly sent you here, please allow me to redirect you to Wilkes' London Cronut Guide.
Although our stay was fairly brief, Whyte & Brown left a lasting impression. Our waiter was on top form, and the food & drink hit the spot. The decor is modern but cosy, and the Kingly Court location is hard to beat - well worth a visit.
November 15th - Before I sign off, a quick word on my return visit to One Leicester Street to try the ridiculously priced Pre-Theatre menu after a strong recommendation from the Talented Mr Fox. For just £19.00, you get 3 courses cooked by Michelin-starred ex-St.John chef Tom Harris, as long as you get there before 18.30 (Mon-Sat) . There is a similar "Working Lunch" deal available from Noon-3pm Mon-Fri. Four courses for Sunday lunch will only set you back £29.00 - what are you waiting for?
Natalie and I decided to squeeze in all 3 courses in our spare hour before going to see Mojo a few streets away. The staff were friendly and efficient, and they kept our meal ticking along at a good pace. My Roast Squash Soup & Goat's Curd went beautifully with their complimentary (bottomless) minty bread. Natalie was tempted but has a worrying obsession with beetroot so went for the second option (cold roast beef, beetroot & horseradish) which didn't disappoint.
Though I would have happily had another Talented Mr Fox cocktail, we stuck to beers this time around with bottles of Beavertown Gamma Ray and Rocky Head Pale (which I still can't believe is made in a garage in Southfields round the corner from my parents' house). I'm no beer & meat pairing expert, but they didn't seem to do any harm to our delicious Guinea Fowl, White Beans and Roast Cabbage main.
We finished off our brilliant bargain meal with a slice of Brown Butter & Honey Tart which had a very light & fluffy texture that reminded me of bread & butter pudding. One regret of the evening - going to watch Mojo instead of heading upstairs for a few more cocktails. One Leicester Street has got everything you need - if you have too many of Matt's Dragon Slayers, you might wake up in one of their hotel rooms! If you have any money left at that point, you might as well head back down for a Talented Mr Fox Bloody Mary.
Quick Plug - The Skyroom in London Bridge was one of my favourite hangouts during Summer, so I am delighted that Platterform (the events team behind Skyroom) are launching Skylodge for the Winter on a rooftop in London Fields (where Coppa popped up for a couple of months). Here's what to expect:
"Entering the rooftop lodge guests will discover an awe-inspiring lumberjack diner and drinking hole complete with a series of heated dining booths, cosy living room arrangement of sofas centred round a fireplace and a timber bar area hosted by a collection of vibrant characters.
"Warming hearty dishes (Lumbersnacks) on offer include Smokey Maple Baby Back Ribs, Wolf Waffles with Mamma’s Pulled Pork, Mountain Cheese & Wild Mushroom Brioche and the signature Skylodge Sloppy Joes. For the sweet toothed there will be D.I.Y. pancakes and T.I.Y. (Toast-it-Yourself) Rocky Mountain Marshmallows.
"The Skylodge cocktail list features a delicious range of innovative hot toddies from the signature ‘Hands-On-Gretel’ hot spiced cider to the ‘Gingy Toddy’ hot buttered rum and gingerbread drink, as well as other intriguing cocktails such as the ‘Snow Bunny’ smoked pine martini, ‘Lumberjack Beard Oil’ bottle-aged Manhattan and ‘Sasquatch Schnapps Stick’ trio of shots. A three course set dinner option plus welcome cocktail is available priced at £20 per person.
"For added entertainment, the Skylodge also boasts a plethora of fun and creative experiences such as the ‘Campfire Sessions’ live acoustic performances from upcoming musical talent each Saturday, the ‘Big Foot Film Club’ experiential film night each Sunday (including a partnership with The Smalls) and the highly addictive ‘Lumberjack Olympic Games’. Lots of fun games for everyone include Pin-the-Beard on the Lumberjack, Giant ‘Timber’ Jenga, the Hunter’s Dart Game and more…"
Sounds pretty wonderful to me - opening this Thursday 28th November until 29th December. Oh, and the launch party is starting with everyone in lumberjack attire chasing a turkey from Broadway Market to London Fields to celebrate Thanksgiving, obvs. Read more here!