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Wednesday 19 February 2014

Holborn Dining Room - Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London - 58 Gin at CoLD Bar

Tuesday 18th February - A year on from starting The List, London shows no signs of slowing down. What started with trips to Meat Liquor for Dead Hippie burgers & Underdog for subterranean beer cocktails has led to soft openings at swanky hotel restaurants and wine tasting at Mayfair bars.

Last night saw me and the team heading to the Rosewood London for the first evening of Holborn Dining Room, a new all day restaurant & deli attached to the Rosewood hotel.  Don't be drawn to the flames at the end of the attractive driveway, you want the giant revolving door (always a  bonus) on the left.  The right hand door leads to the wonderful Scarfes Bar, you might want to "accidentally" stumble in here before (and afterwards).

As you will see from the following photos, Holborn Dining Room is one good looking place.  The array of beautiful lighting is a feast for the eyes, and there is lovely detail on the tables.  Resist popping those salt & pepper mills into your bag!

We took our time choosing from a range of classic mains (lamb chops, beef hash, roast chicken etc) & crustacea (I've been waiting to type that) before starting with the Ancient loaf with Abernethy hand made butter.

We followed this with Tiger Prawns (6 for £24), Cider & onion soup (served with a cute cheese scone) & Fried Squid with gentleman's relish mayonnaise.  The tiger prawns (replacing absent langoustines on the menu) were the standout dish, but surely a little overpriced?

For mains, we went for some British classics - Fish & Chips, Steak, Hock & Coq pudding, Goat's Cheese & Onion Tart & the HDR Beef Burger.  The Fish & Chips needs to do more than just be enormous to justify the £17 price tag, but other mains represented better value.  Hock & Coq pudding with Parsley Liquor may not have been the most attractive dish but it impressed with its flavours, as did the Roast Rib-Eye "Club Cut" with pepper sauce.  The moreish chips were unanimously popular.

We were absolutely stuffed by generous portions and sadly decided to skip dessert.  Not a decision to be taken lightly when you have the likes of Steamed Treacle & Whisky Pudding, Boozy Sherry Trifle and Valrona chocolate pot with sweet cream.  It gives me a good excuse to pop back in again soon.

All in all it was a lovely dinner and I'm sure HDR will do very well. Staff were friendly and attentive, the atmosphere was buzzing, and the setting is superb.  A couple of plates should possibly be priced a little lower and vegetarian options are slightly lacking (what would Rage Against the Mushroom think?), but there are plenty of tempting, affordable dishes on the menu, plus a great range of wine, cocktails, and beers (Camden on draft and interesting bottles).

Some daytime images from HDR press release:

Unusually for my group of friends, everyone decided to have an early night after dinner.  After pouring through the excuses, I decided that Mary's plan to go home to watch pre-recorded curling that she already knew the result of could be put on hold.  David Murdoch et al. could wait.

Sorry David
Straight from one revolving door to another, we hopped across the driveway to Scarfes Bar which opened to rave reviews towards the end of 2013.  One step inside and we could see why.  It is one of the most beautiful bars in London, and probably the world.  There are imposing chandeliers, a Mad Men-worthy fireplace and library, a lavish back bar, cosy nooks and crannies, and most importantly, space!

Scarfes Bar is named after renowned British artist and caricaturist, Gerald Scarfe (best known for Pink Floyd's The Wall), who is creating bespoke murals for his namesake bar.  

“I am, of course, tremendously flattered and I reason that, if the Prince of Wales can have a pub named after him, why shouldn’t I have a bar?” says Gerald. “In the past, the work of caricaturists such as Hogarth and Spy has hung on bar walls and, as the atmosphere of this bar is very British, I am keeping up the tradition and caricaturing some of Britain’s famous citizens, fictional and otherwise, past and present, from Winston Churchill to the Rolling Stones and James Bond. I will look upon Scarfes Bar as a private art gallery where people will be able to have a drink and relax while they observe my paintings in true comfort.”

We found a pair of incredibly comfortable armchairs & a chess table tucked away, metres from any other tables, and settled in.  To seal the deal, a live jazz band started playing as we were working our way through the menu.  Forget cocktails, I just want to spend the whole night here with a bottle of whiskey.

We eventually decided to order a cocktail, and we couldn't resist picking from their Grey Goose BAFTA specials menu.  Our first waitress was totally clueless and only seemed to know the words Grey Goose, but luckily waitress No.2 was right at the other end of the scale.  After a quick look at us, she recommended the exact two cocktails that we had been eyeing up. 

I went for the Gravity inspired Cosmonaut - Grey Goose, La Poire, Ginger Liqueur, Lime and Cardamom, finished with a Space Candy Dusted Grape.  The flavours were initially a bit too funky but really started to blend well as the drink went on.  By the end I was hooked, the opposite of my experience watching Gravity - sorry, Sandra.  

Mary was delighted with her L'Amour Moderne, inspired by Her (that one with Joaquin Phoenix looking sad and Scarlet Johansson as a sexy computer).  If they were going for a bitter sweet reference, they nailed it with Grey Goose, Citron, Vodka, Pomegranate, Passion Fruit, Grapefruit & Campari Bitters.

Grey Goose BAFTA cocktails at Scarfes Bar
Cosmonaut with Space Candy Dusted Grapes, inspired by Gravity
Cocktails are pricey, ranging from £12.50-£14.50 which will lead to comparisons with Artesian (recently voted No.1 Bar in the World) but I am happy to pay the mark-up when the atmosphere is incredible (and there are free nuts, of course).  I wouldn't be surprised to see Scarfes Bar sneaking into the World's 50 Best Bars list this year.

Left - Bubble & Shrubs - Right - Diplomatic Immunity

Wednesday 12th February - Not too far away in Blackfriars is another contender for the World's 50 Best Bars 2014 list.  I have written about the fantastic City of London Distillery Bar before (now stocking 270+ gins), but I popped in again recently to try their new cocktail menu and also to meet Mark Marmont from 58 Gin.

CoLD Bar's new menu is a celebration of gin, with 13 exciting cocktails around the £9.50 mark and a classy Martini menu on the back with six flavour suggestions - e.g. "No.3 Spice, Fire, Prickle", "No.5 Flowers, Purple, Soft".  We were particularly impressed with the Merchant (Coffee, cardamom, house orgeat), The Distiller (Dry Vermouth, Herbal Liqueur, Grapefruit) and The Original London Negroni (CoLD Dry Gin, Sacred Spiced Vermouth, Kamm & Sons).

Whilst sipping on CoLD Bar's creations, I chatted to Mark about his soon-to-launch 58 Gin.  Originally from Australia, Mark now lives in Angel and is aiming to open a shop slash distillery there to sell gin (and maybe some vodka) as well as everything else that one might desire to make cocktails - vermouths, bitters etc.  58 Gin will obviously be heavily on show, much like City of London Dry Gin at CoLD Bar, but I feel that it is a very strong concept even without a flagship gin, and something that Angel locals will flock to.

58 Gin original design and Original London Negroni at CoLD Bar
The name 58 Gin comes from Mark's address, a stone's through away from 69 Colebrooke Row. Mark has often popped in to get Tony Corigliano's valuable advice and is still tweaking the recipe, but batch 17 that we tried tasted like a finished product to me.  More bergamot & less pepper was the main alteration from batch 16 and it made a big difference.  There are 10 botanicals in total - Juniper, Angelica, Cubeb, Pepper, Coriander seed, Lemon, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Orris and Vanilla.

Mark was trying out some new labels which look fantastic.  We unanimously voted for the shiny blue design as it would stand out the best on a busy back bar.  The wings are of course a reference to Angel.

Pick your favourite label for 58 Gin

Our preferred label for 58 Gin
After a few neat tasters, we decided to try it out in a few cocktails.  It makes a great Tom Collins and an incredible Martini with Noilly Prat, but the simple G&T with Fever Tree tonic was next level stuff.  I've been drinking 58 Gin G&Ts at home almost every day since last week. I get an almost nutty flavour possibly from Orris root coming through that leads me to think that a dash of Frangelico would go very nicely too.  

58 Gin Martini
I finished off with a deliciously smooth 58 Gin Old Fashioned, lovingly stirred by Nate for 10 mins or so with a limited edition Dean Callan extendable bar spoon.  To make the wait easier, it is served with a bottle of Head in a Hat Gin Beer, made with botanicals taken directly from City of London Distillery stills.  It is a subtle and very drinkable beer but could do with a slightly higher ABV. 

Thanks to Mark from 58 Gin, London Bar Consultants at CoLD Bar, Su-Lin, Natalie and Wilkes for wonderful drinks and company.  Special thanks to Wilkes for creating this The List / 58 Gin angel hybrid photo below.  Get over to City of London Distillery Bar as soon as you can, and see if you can get your hands on some 58 Gin too!

Square Meal

Square Meal

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  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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