Friday 6th June - The opening of a new bar brought me over to Hackney Central on a sunny Friday afternoon, but I couldn't go all that way without stopping off at The Cock Tavern for a couple of brews.
Last time I went, they only had one of their basement-brewed Howling Hops beers on offer so I was delighted to find 8 or so to choose from. Their Pale XX Superior No.6 Motueka Cascade Pale Ale hit the spot this time around. Lauren (the new List Leader) rocked up and had a crafty cider.
Just down the road at Hackney Empire, the reliably entertaining Platterform have found themselves a permanent home, and they are calling it Stage 3.
After stints on rooftops in London Bridge & London Fields, I imagine they must be feeling whatever the opposite of altitude sickness is, now they are down at street level. Any old riff-raff could wander in! And so we did...
The site is great - a lovely large airy room, with plenty of space for a stage (for live music & DJs), with a mezzanine area overlooking proceedings. Best seats in the house are probably at the tiny second bar tucked away one end of the raised section. Funky Caribbean visuals all over the walls and the Hawaiian shirts add to the summery vibe.
Beers are sorted with three local Crate Brewery beers on tap, and a whole host of bottles. We rummaged through the cocktail menu, coming out with Wild Strawberry, So-Co, Jerk'N'Stormy and Spice It Up, which involved several homemade items including spiced bourbon, jerk bitters, spiced tea gin and an orange ice shard.
I also like the sound of Orangutan (Peanut Rum stirred with honey & chocolate bitters) and Smoke Bush (Bourbon, Smoked Aubergine & Clove Shrub), which are listed in the online menu.
There's plenty to shout about on the food front - Spiced Island Stew & Grandma's Rendang sound great, and you can't go wrong with Jerk Chicken Satay. I expect there will be a lot more to come on food-wise in the next few weeks, as they always provided an exciting spread at their rooftop hangouts.
Coffee & Tea are well covered too, as they open up at 8am on weekdays and 11am at the weekend. I like the suggestion of Crate IPA & tea bag dry hop infusion. They make their own Iced Teas on site too which you will also be able to buy at their Cornershop, an in-house shop concept opening up in July which will sell all sorts of food and drink alongside guest merchandise. Read more here.
Also launching in July are a number of events such as a monthly Monkey Stomp Blues (best described as an immersive jazz club experience!), and the cleverly named Chi & Tea on Sundays which will involve Oriental-style roasts, dim-sum, detox or retox cocktails and free tai-chi lessons.
We said goodbye to the Platterform lads and took a short bus ride to Ozone Coffee in Old Street where we were booked in for a 9.30pm sitting with After Hours.
What's that? 4 courses of pudding followed by coffee & petit fours in a hipster coffee shop with a different dessert demon in the kitchen every time? Yes please. Penny Jirayuwatana (Baxter Storey, Mandarin Oriental, Jean Georges Vongerichten) was our pastry pro for the evening.
The mastermind behind it all is Peter Butler (coincidentally in the year below me at uni - damn those overachievers) was on front of house, and showed us to some excellent seats for watching Penny & co. at work.
First up: Refreshing Strawberry & Thai Basil snugly housed in a gold-sprayed white chocolate igloo - why not?
|Strawberry & Thai Basil|
With a Bethnal Pale Ale on the side from the local Redchurch Brewery, we moved on to the second course. Poached Apricot, Jasmine, Ginger & Pistachio - expertly created en masse in front of our eyes by Penny's crack team. The four distinct flavours cleverly combined with none of them dominating.
|Poached Apricot, Jasmine, Ginger & Pistachio|
Half-way through, we got ourselves The Butler - cognac, Pedro Ximenez sherry, almond milk, pastis, egg white, orange blossom water. A very drinkable & interesting cocktail, but a little too sweet considering its company!
|The Butler - cognac, Pedro Ximenez sherry, almond milk, pastis, egg white, orange blossom water|
Round 3 was the most visually impressive. Banana, smoked caramel, and pineapple & coconut sorbet relaxing in the shade in a leafy tunnel. This was my favourite (as I suspected it might be) - a deconstructed Bannoffee pie & Pina Colada in one, full of pleasing textures and flavours.
|Banana, smoked caramel, and pineapple & coconut sorbet|
For the finale, Penny laid out an attractive plate of Guanaja 70% croquant, black sesame and red cherries. Dark chocolate oozed out, complemented by a quirky hit of black sesame. I'm not a huge cherries fan but they weren't at all offensive here, and the plate was empty in a few seconds.
|Guanaja 70% croquant, black sesame and red cherries|
We finished off with an Ozone coffee (Lauren sensibly opting for decaf at 11.30pm) and some petit fours jellies - strawberry, coconut and cola if I remember rightly? These weren't quite as thrilling as the rest of the dishes and petit fours can be the highlight if done right, but its pretty hard to top four courses of dessert with something else sweet at the end.
It was a brilliant unique evening, with friendly laid back service and stunning plates of food from start to finish. We chatted to a couple next to us who were on their fourth visit to After Hours Dessert and they commented that every chef brings something totally different to the table every time so it is always an exciting experience. Here are some superb photos from the previous event. It's definitely a great date option, though I wouldn't advise eating too much in the way of savoury beforehand, you will be full by the end even if you haven't had any salt!
Sign up on the After Hours website to hear about the next event - they are currently doing one a month, and it will set you back £25 a head - worth every Penny (had to get that in somewhere).
Saturday 7th June - Whilst I've got your attention I'll just briefly mention a couple of trips from the next day. After a quick stop at Kerb Southbank for a Kimchinary Gochujang pulled-pork burrito, I met up with Luke & Mark in Shoreditch for an afternoon of gin tasting at Junipalooza which I previewed a few weeks ago.
Gin Foundry took over Factory 47 for 3 days and filled it with distillers and a few cocktail bars to showcase a wide range of gins. Tickets got you 5 tasters and mini G&Ts, though this stretched to more like 10 thanks to some "forgetful" card stamping.
|DANGER OF DEATH|
I have only included a small selection of my photos here. You can see the rest of them on Matt The Tumblr - Set 1 // Set 2
With Mark of 58 Gin as our guide, we made our way round most of the stalls and chatted away to the friendly distillers who were keen to show off their products. Highlights for me were the interesting St.George's gins (their Terroir makes an awesome Tom Collins), NY Distilling (which I'm hoping to visit in July), Herno Juniper Cask, Tarquin's and Dodd's Gin.
I found Warner Edwards and Adnams to be too sweet, and the addition of tonic led to something reminiscent of cream soda. Ferdinand's Dry Gin distilled using Riesling divided opinion.
|Dodd's Gin - all gins should come with a beehive postcode|
|Too many gins for this one? Or a superman impression...|
On the way out Luke bought himself a bottle of the Herno Juniper Cask which he said he looked forward to sipping neat whilst watching Take Me Out - each to their own. Also available were miniature bottles of all of the gins, organised by Master of Malt's Drinks by the Dram.
|Drinks by the Dram - mini bottles of spirits from Master of Malt|
Gin Foundry put on a fantastic show - it was a clever event pitched somewhere between gin festival and a trade show allowing the general public to get in on the fun that is usually reserved for drinks writers, bartenders and fellow distillers. I look forward to seeing what they do next year!
Last stop of the day was a riverside pub dinner at the Prospect of Whitby in Wapping. Much like Rotherhithe on the side, Wapping is one of the calmest areas of London for enjoying the Thames, and the Prospect of Whitby has enviable views (though the hangman's noose is a tad creepy!).
However, the food is distinctly average and overpriced, and the beer selection is nothing to write home about. I suggest having a drink or two outside before heading off to Bottega round the corner. Alternatively, head over to The Mayflower in Rotherhithe which goes well with a trip to Midnight Apothecary's summer cocktail pop-up on Fridays and Saturdays at the Brunel Museum.
|Prospect of Whitby in Wapping|
Matt The Film - first attempt at a video / photo collage from Press Play's Austin Powers screening.
Match The List - most of the next four weeks will be spent in various international bars to soak up the best atmosphere for world cup games. On the cards this weekend - Bradley's Spanish Bar for Spain vs Holland tonight, anywhere for England tomorrow, and Le Pot Lyonnais for France vs Honduras on Sunday.
Matt The Shortlist - It's World Gin Day tomorrow so here are some top gin hangouts:
CoLD Bar // Drink, Shop & Dance // London Gin Club // Gillray's // Gin Joint // 214 Bermondsey
CoLD Bar // Drink, Shop & Dance // London Gin Club // Gillray's // Gin Joint // 214 Bermondsey
I'll be in Bermondsey tomorrow drinking gin & beer cocktails at Anspach & Hobday, with Jensen Gin distillery round the corner and Little Bird Gin bar nearby in Maltby Street Market. See you there.