This post comes to you from California! Or at least that's where I was headed when I started this post. I wrote most of it on the plane in between showings of Interstellar & Birdman, both of which included far too much dodgy aviation for in-flight entertainment. Anyway, rather than transport you to Venice Beach (expensive), let me introduce you to Doodle Beach.
Unbeknownst to most East Londoners, the closest our fine city gets to Williamsburg warehouse fun is Testbed1 in SW11 - a slice of Brooklyn in Battersea. Turn left out of Bunga Bunga and never look back. Inside the sprawling space lies Doodle Bar, a hangout for hip RCA students and in-the-know locals.
As you may know, you can draw (or doodle) all over the walls with chalk, but there's so much more to it than that. Let's start with the beach.
OK, it's not the sandiest, but beggars can't be choosers (and it's preferable to hanging out on top of the Roundhouse with the rest of London). It's more of an "industrial beach", but there is real water (Ransome's Dock) and it's a mighty fine sun trap. Two out of three ain't bad. Arrive early to grab a table, but be prepared to move inside at a moment's notice around 10pm (security staff need a lighter touch).
|Live music on Doodle Beach|
This Summer, the Doodle Beach is the setting for several Saturday supperclubs, the details of which can be found here. But the real trick is to go on a Friday night when two of London's finest street food traders, Street Kitchen and Well Kneaded, can be found slinging out next-level burgers and delicious firebreads respectively. Street Kitchen's Foghorn Leghorn is right up there with Patty & Bun's Smokey Robinson and Boom Burger's... Boom Burger; and Well Kneaded's Carl is a living legend - seek them out. Street Kitchen are also on site for lunch Monday-Friday with a lighter menu.
Read about Street Kitchen's permanent home in Broadgate Circle here
|Street Kitchen burgers at Doodle Bar|
|Well Kneaded firebreads at Doodle Bar|
|Louisiana Crawfish Boil - Saturday Supperclubs at Doodle Beach|
|Louisiana Crawfish at Doodle Beach|
|Live art on the Doodle Beach|
What about the booze? Well, most bars don't live directly opposite a gin & whisky distillery. The latter of the two spirits is still resting inside The London Distillery Company, but their Dodd's Gin is ready to go. Unsurprisingly Dodd's features in several of Doodle Bar's cocktails, including a barrel-aged Negroni, but a simple G&T is an excellent plan B. Beers aren't too shabby either with the likes of Paulaner & Affligem on tap, and some fine bottles in the fridge. Worried #craftbeerwankers can waddle over to Draft House Westbridge round the corner for a wider selection.
When you inevitably have to move inside, swing by the free table tennis tables (are you reading Bounce & Ping?) before sneaking through to the overflow Testbed1 events warehouse. It's pretty basic (who need's chairs?) but the lighting is incredible and the atmosphere is electric.
Great food, top shelf booze, free games, loads of space, and a sprawling sun trap? Sounds awful.
Mon-Thurs 10am-11pm / Fri 10am-midnight
Sat 12pm-midnight / Sun 12pm-11pm
Doodle Bar - www.thedoodlebar.com
33 Parkgate Road, London SW11 4NP
Neal's Yard in Seven Dials is one of those magical London spots that I'm always recommending but rarely visit myself. Homeslice is a smart pre-theatre option, but to best appreciate the space in all its green glory, go al fresco at Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels - a Parisian wine bar and restaurant from Experimental Group (Experimental Cocktail Club, Joyeux Bordel).
You can easily lose a few hours here working your way through their wine list whilst stuffing your face with charcuterie and cheese. I dropped in recently to have a look at some new Summer dishes over a few glasses of vino in the sunshine.
I'm no wine expert myself (yet) but we particularly enjoyed Clos Saint Fiacre Orleans L'Excellence Chardonnay, Loire, France 2013 and Thierry Germain Saumur l'Insolite, Loire, France 2013.
On the food front, we ordered Handmade Spinach Gnocchi with Ricotta & Almonds, Tuna Tatiki & Courgette with Sesame, and a Soy & Ginger Dressing and Fassona Beef Tartare with Spring Onions, Pine Nuts and a Quail's Egg.
The generous gnocchi was borderline dessert (in a good way) and indulgent in the extreme. The beef tartare had the right intentions but needed a touch more seasoning, whilst tasty tuna tatiki & courgette was subtle in its use of soy & ginger (enjoyably so).
|Handmade Spinach Gnocchi with Ricotta & Almonds|
|Fassona Beef Tartare, Spring Onions, Pine Nuts, Quail's Egg|
|Tuna Tatiki & Courgette, Sesame, Soy & Ginger Dressing|
Other new plates include a Summer salad with rocket, feta, peach and avocado, and Japanese aubergine rolls with dorset (?) and balsamic. However, you may find it hard to look past their ever present Posh Madame with Truffle Ham & Quail Egg. Either way, you'll be alright.
If the weather isn't holding, their dark, sexy interior space isn't a bad backup. Alternatively, hop on the Eurostar and pay the original Paris branch a visit. Santé!
Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels - www.cvssevendials.com
Mon-Sat: 12pm-12am / Sun: 12pm-11pm
8-10 Neal's Yard WC2H 9DP
I'm going to finish off with a few bits of Food & Booze News which might become a regular feature. Let's start with some clickbait:
- Immerse yourself in alcohol at Bompass & Parr's breathable cocktail / booze cloud installation
- Kernel Brewery will no longer serve beer to drink in the brewery from 5th September
- London wins big at Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards
- Hotel launches dedicated water menu and "Water Butlers"
- Felicity Spector investigates the tee-total bar scene
- Town Hall Yard is the place to be at the weekend
- Feast launches 11pm-5am food delivery service
What am I drinking at home?
Well it's been the year of the Negroni so far for me (and many others) which has led me to seriously up my Vermouth game. Cocchi di Torino, Antica Formula and Lillet Rouge are all regulars in my fridge, but the winner has to be Belsazar Vermouth - a new German vermouth range crafted near the Black Forest that has exploded on to the bar scene. The secret ingredient is a mystery blend of Schladerer fruit brandies that is only known to a handful of people. Go and get yourself a bottle of Belsazar Red right now.
Looking up Belsazar led me to find Axiom Brands who represent the whole range here in the UK. Naturally, I nosed around and tried a few of their other brands that appealed. Here are my recommendations:
- WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey - A 100-proof straight rye whiskey, aged for at least 10 years through a unique double barrel process. The Wall Street Journal called it "the essence of rye whiskey". Try it in a Manhattan with Belsazar Red and a dash of Axiom's Ratafia cherry liqueur. Buy WhistlePig 10 for £69.96 at The Whisky Exchange.
- Mondino Amaro - Once you've sorted out your vermouth, amaro is the next home bar essential. Mondino Amaro is handcrafted in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps using rhubarb, yellow gentian, and arancia amara (bitter orange) amongst other locally sourced botanicals. It's wonderful neat, but I would get out the Belsazar Red again and make some next-level Negronis and Americanos using a shot of each plus one more of gin or a splash of soda respectively. Buy Mondino Amaro for £23.45 at The Whisky Exchange.
- Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. - It's not all booze behind the bar; Meet Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. - a family-run company with roots in Charleston, South Carolina and Lexington, Kentucky. They have got you covered with a visually appealing range of bar staples including Aromatic Bitters from Colorado, Small Batch Grenadine from Napa Valley, and Bourbon Cocktail Cherries featuring Oregon cherries. Their Small Batch Tonic stars in one of W&P Design's magnificent Carry-On Cocktail Kits - guaranteed to brighten up your next EasyJet flight.
To further showcase my favourite back bar items and cocktails, I've recently added a little booze-box to the blog beneath the Instagram stream. Go on - scroll up and take a look. Nothing else to see here.
P.S. If you are a brand looking to feature in my world-renowned booze window, all you have to do is send me, let's say, 4 cases of premium spirits, liqueurs or beers so that I can really put it through its paces.