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Bars, London

Cocktail Chapter at The Royal Horseguards Hotel

Horsing Around by Isabel Dexter

I have a confession to make. Despite sipping my first cocktail on a cruise ship with my grandparents at the tender age of 12 (it was a Grasshopper by the way and I chose it because I thought the green would make a nice contrast to my purple silk Topshop dress) I only really got into cocktails in the last year.

A combination of reasons conspired to make this the case; the fact that I have the alcohol tolerance of a small woodland creature, low funds and the misguided belief that if a drink didn’t come in a pint glass it wasn’t really a drink. Oh youthful naivety. Suffice to say, I am now eating (or rather drinking) my words.

So when the five-star hotel The Royal Horseguards invited me to review its new seasonal ‘cocktail chapter’ menu I obediently trotted along in heels and a trench coat. I’ve always felt that something about a hotel bar demands heels and a trench coat. Don Draper meets Audrey Hepburn, you get the vibe. I brought The Brunette because she has proper taste buds that recognise things like elderflower infused vodka and grounded sage leaf spices rather than Tracker bars and Pernod. She also appreciates elegance and has finally forgiven me for making us habitually meet in a pub with sticky carpets in New Cross that I love.

Greeted by an abundance of candles in the majestic lobby of the hotel we were led to the dark and seductive Equus Bar with the quintessential baby grand piano and lowly lit shelves of liquor.

There’s something about hotel bars that huskily whispers illicit sex and this was no different, although I’m sure the international business men and women talking deals and (in one case) the merits of various brands of carry-on luggage had no such thing in mind. Indeed the hotel has always had an air of mystery as the former headquarters for the British Secret Service and filming location for Bond films Octopussy and Skyfall.

Anyway, there was plenty to keep us amused with the cocktails, priced at a very reasonable £7.95 for such a luxe London location. The Aperol Sorbet Spritz was possibly my dream date in cocktail form. An Aperol and prosecco mix with a delicious orange Cointreau sorbet in the middle of the glass, it was half-dessert, half-kiss.

The Brunette’s fave was the Inverness, an intriguing combo of lime, kraken and plantation rum with fresh coconut water, ginger beer and orange bitters. I thought it was strong, she said it was actually mild but perfect. The ginger and coconut pairing gave it an LA twist. Probably best enjoyed by a pool with a David Hockney aesthetic but also, it has to be said, damn good in this moody, chic bar.

While The Brunette got her kicks from the elderflower infused vodka (told you) mixed with tequila, soda water and freshly muddled blackberries in the Berry Crush, I indulged my inner 10 year old (the one who didn’t care about Topshop dresses or Grasshoppers) with the adult equivalent of eating the jam straight from the jar.

The Royal Horseguards Hotel’s Gin & Jam is probably the most English cocktail you’ll ever taste. Served in a large jam jar-style glass with a stripy straw, it’s a fizzy, strawberry sensation. It’s also very sweet, which is fine if like me you never outgrew the thrill of strawberry sherbet but if you like your drinks on the bitter side then try the Berry Crush instead.

Now at this point in alcohol consumption I would probably have outdone the Dalai Lama with my love for the entire of humanity but I maintain that the staff at this hotel are some of the nicest in London. And that makes all the difference when you’re craving a few hours of cocktail indulgence in a city where sometimes ordering a drink seems like an exercise in survival-of-the-fittest guerilla tactics. For an after-work hideaway or a pre-dinner drink, you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth (sorry I couldn’t resist).

Also, look out for the new Seven Deadly Sins cocktail collection available at Equus for the month of October.

Photos by Jessica Butler and The Royal Horseguards Hotel

London, Restaurants

Supreme Saturdays at Yauatcha City

Yauatcha City is the hottest restaurant to open in the City this summer and is without a doubt the jewel in the crown of new Broadgate Circle dining destination.

Living east, I’m thrilled to have the likes of Yauatcha City, José Pizzaro, Aubaine and Shoryu Ramen almost on my doorstep, without having to venture into central London.

While it’s likely to be suitsville during the week, Yauatcha City is all about leisurely indulgence on the weekend, hence the launch of its exquisite new Supreme Saturdays menu.

It’s a real feast – and a boozy one at that – highlighting Yauatcha’s most luxurious dishes.  Not only is it insanely good value (not exactly cheap, but what I would call a ‘clever splurge’), it’s an ideal introduction to Yauatcha with a number of different tastings.

We were seated at a cosy table in the centre section of Yauatcha City’s striking crescent-shaped dining room and warmly welcomed by the immaculately-presented staff.

The meal starts with a pre-lunch cocktail of a Thea martini, Lychee martini or a Negroni, followed by half a bottle of wine.  I wasn’t quite ready to drink on an empty stomach at noon (I know, letting the side down), so instead we sipped on delicious Strawberry and vanilla iced jasmine tea packed with fresh fruit and vanilla seeds.

Our waitress humorously warned us that we were in for a lot of food and she wasn’t wrong, as the Steamed dim sum platter was presented with six piece each.  We were literally in dim sum heaven!

The traditional Pork and prawn shui mai and Har gau were my favourites, however I also appreciated the comforting, autumnal flavours of the Crystal dumpling wrap with pumpkin and pine nut.

Black pepper and wagyu beef dumpling was a parcel of pure decadence, balanced out with a simple and tasty Wild mushroom dumpling.  I wasn’t crazy about the Vegetable and truffle wrap as I found the winter melon casing and glossy sauce made it a little too juicy.

Of course there was still room for more light bites – this time a Fried dim sum platter each.  Venison puff, a Yauatcha speciality, featured buttery, glazed pastry filled with tender venison in a sweet, rich gravy.  I found the Lobster roll pleasant with small chunks of fresh lobster and scallop in an interesting sauce that was both creamy and tangy, while Mushroom spring roll was a vegetarian-friendly classic done well.

I particularly enjoyed the Sesame prawn toast, which was a big juicy prawn ball covered in sesame seeds with just a slim piece of toast – I’ll definitely be ordering a plateful of them next time.

For the main course, there is a choice of three dishes – so, the only one that we didn’t try was the Foie gras diced beef, which appears to be garnished with an oversized pastry puff.

Lobster vermicelli pot was a luxury take on the typical Chinese hot pot, cooked slowly and served fresh out of the oven.  There were copious amounts of succulent, high quality lobster that had to be extracted from their shells.  I knew the day would finally come when I’d be presented with a lobster cracker and attempt to hide my inexperience, hoping to avoid a re-enactment of the restaurant scene in Pretty Woman.

Once I had my lobster under control, I tucked into the thin, glass-like vermicelli noodle, which had a dry, springy texture and absorbed the seafood flavours, punctuated with a slight hint of curry spice.

A much easier dish to navigate was the Truffle pork belly rib.  The gloriously sticky, lacquered pork ribs were ever so tender and the meat elegantly slipped away from the bone.  There was a good mix of flaky lean meat and melt-in-the-mouth fat and the glaze was sweet enough without being cloying.

They were topped with uniformly lined-up enoki mushrooms and truffle crumbs and I regret being too distracted by the pork to sample those lovely little asparagus spears.

The accompaniments of Jasmine steamed rice and steamed Chinese vegetables worked well with both dishes, although we were too full by this point to finish them.

Yauatcha is famed for its exquisite French-Asian patisserie and it’s impossible to walk past without admiring them sitting majestically in the glass cabinet.  The best thing about this menu is that you can choose any of the desserts (no fooling around with exotic fruit plates) and take a much-needed stroll over to the counter to see which catches your eye.

Is it wrong that I tried to choose the most Instagrammable cake?  They all look like works of art, but the Raspberry delice tempted me with the promise of raspberry, Madirofolo chocolate and lychee – all of my favourite dessert flavours.

I was later told that this dessert won an award for ‘best tea cake’, so it was definitely a good choice. Velvety bitter-sweet chocolate mousse sat atop a layer of light chocolate sponge and was covered with a fine layer of highly-pigmented raspberry dust.  The final flourish was the secret filling of rose-scented lychee gelée at the centre – desserts don’t come much better than this.

Steven went for another showstopper – the elaborately-designed Malted milk.  This included layers of smooth milk chocolate mousse flavoured with malt and caramelised honey, slim chocolate discs and a crunchy, nutty Anzac biscuit base.

With full stomachs, we savoured these sweet gems with a pot of jasmine tea, however if you’re not already on the floor, you can wash them down with the included digestif – a Manhattan, Amaretto Sour or an Espresso martini.

Yauatcha City was everything I hoped it would be and this fabulous Saturday offering is sure to draw in the crowds.  It was such an overwhelming foodie experience that we walked all the way home in the sunshine – a weekend well spent!

Supreme Saturdays lunch menu is available every Saturday from 12pm to 5pm and is priced at £49 per person for a minimum of two guests.  For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Yauatcha City

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Yauatcha City)

Yauatcha Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafes, London

Melt Room Soho, London

When the week starts with weather as dismal as this, the most appealing mood elevator is gooey, melted cheese – and a lot of it!

Luckily, this craving can be indulged quickly and efficiently at Melt Room in Soho.  The petite grilled cheese sandwich shop brings the New York deli classic to London and believe me, it’s more than just a posh toasty.

Melt Room has a seriously tempting menu of gourmet toasted sandwiches including Pastrami with porcini mushrooms, horseradish & sparkenhoe red Leicester and BBQ Chicken with red cabbage slaw and coastal cheddar.  Or, you can also keep it simple with the classic sandwich – a special cheese blend on sour dough bread, which I imagine would go well with the home-made vine tomato soup.

On my visit, I couldn’t resist the Pulled Pork Shoulder with Pommery mustard, real ale and apple chutney & sharp cheddar (£5).  The sandwich was filled with a good amount of juicy, slow-cooked pork, which was perfectly complemented by the rich, oozing cheddar and the sweet, tangy chutney.

Another favourite was the Slow & Low Lamb Shoulder with Romaine lettuce, Pommery mustard & melted Swiss (£5).  The lamb was ever so tender and Swiss cheese was a well-considered choice, so the flavours weren’t too overwhelming.

Of course it’s all about the melts, but there’s also a tempting daily special of mac and cheese as well as soups, salads and healthy breakfast dishes.

It’s an absolute must to finish with a sweet Nutella & Mascarpone Melt (£3.50).  This combination of velvety chocolate, nuts and cream sandwiched between thin slices of milk bread is just heavenly.  It would also work well as a decadent breakfast or an afternoon treat, although I do believe Nutella is a good idea at any mealtime.

Melt Room is a fun addition to Soho and it definitely hits the spot for a yummy cheese fix at any time of the day (it’s open until 9pm most nights).  It has a quick ‘in and out’ feel, but with decent prices (nothing is over a fiver) and good quality ingredients, I can see it becoming a local hit.

For more information and the menu, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Melt Room

Photos by Chérie City

Melt Room Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars, London

Chambord Chapter Eight Games, East London

Summer lives on in London Fields this weekend with the rather fabulous Chambord Chapter Eight Games.

Last night, fresh from my Berlin flight, I headed to new rooftop and bar Proof at Field Works for croquet, cocktails and flamingos aplenty.  The open-air space has been transformed into an Alice in Wonderland-inspired croquet lawn complete with golden pineapples and flamingo mallets, a Chambord bar and cosy pods.

Test your ball whacking skills with a half-hour game of croquet, or simply cheer from the side while sipping a complimentary Chambord Royale cocktail.

Chambord has long been one of my favourite liqueurs (not only because its opulent gold bottle appeals to my inner magpie) and I loved the specially-created Chapter Eight cocktail – a refreshing mix of Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur shaken with gin and fresh grapefruit.

Of course, you’ll need a gourmet refuel and who better than street food favourite Le Bun?  The signature French-American duck confit burgers really are out of this world!  Slow-cooked, tender duck confit is piled up with tangy red cabbage on a glazed sesame bun, finished with a generous slick of fresh tarragon Bearnaise sauce – literally food heaven in a bun.

So, why not add a little je ne sais quoi to your weekend with some tipsy sportsmanship at Chambord Chapter Eight Games in Hackney.

Chambord Chapter Eight Games runs until 13th September.  Tickets are available here and include a complimentary Chambord Royale cocktail per person.

Chérie City was invited by Chambord

Art, London

Red Dog, Black Wolf. Will You Remember Your Name?

A few weeks ago, I attended the opening of cool new art show Red Dog, Black Wolf. Will You Remember Your Name? – the second of three exhibitions in the summer programme at the London outpost of Yesim Turanli’s Istanbul gallery, Pi Artworks.

Curated by Isabel Dexter, this striking exhibition features works by British artists Rae Hicks and Charles Sandford, as well as one site-specific collaborative piece – a red and grey chequered carpet.

The show’s intriguing name is inspired by the French phrase ‘entre le chien et le loup’, denoting a curious time during dusk when a dog cannot be distinguished from a wolf.  It’s a moment of almost supernatural uncertainty and ambiguity, bringing an anxious state where not everything is as it seems.

This concept unifies the exhibition, which includes a mix of painting, installation, sculpture and performance.  Rae Hicks’ paintings, such as Double Glazing (2015) take a different look at everyday domestic objects that we often take for granted.

Through Hicks’ art process, the objects – a gas cooker, TV and books – adopt a different function to what we expect of them.  They become two dimensional, purposely limited models of themselves.

Charles Sandford explores the theme broadly with installations including a small single bed covered with a duvet print of an aristocratic huntsman and a theatrical red velvet curtain moving erratically to suggest sinister, clandestine fumbling.

At the private view, a hearse was also parked up outside.  The formally-dressed driver meticulously polished the shiny black car and anticipated his next fare.

Red Dog, Black Wolf. Will You Remember Your Name? is a thought-provoking, highly conceptual exhibition that challenges how the viewer perceives objects and processes eerie, uncomfortable sensations.  I’m looking forward to seeing what these talented London-based artists come up with next.

The exhibition runs until 3rd September at Pi Artworks.  For more information, visit:

Photos by Pi Artworks and Chérie City

London, Restaurants

A Taste of Ling Ling Mykonos at Hakkasan Hanway Place

Summer in Mykonos just got even hotter with the opening of Ling Ling, Hakkasan’s hip new nightspot.

It brings Asia’s popular izakaya concept to Greece’s chic party island and is the place to indulge in dining, drinking and dancing.

Ling Ling is a lighter take on Hakkasan’s renowned Chinese fine dining and is complete with an open-air restaurant, bar, private dining and lounge.

I would need no excuse to hop over to Mykonos for a night of dim sum and sundowner cocktails, but conveniently, Hakkasan Hanway Place is offering a taste of Ling Ling Mykonos right here in London.

I visited the one Michelin star Hakkasan Hanway Place for the first time last week and was wowed by the heavenly food, cool design and superior service.  Hakkasan really excels in creating a seductive atmosphere with moody, dimmed lighting and a cool soundtrack curated by the restaurant’s London resident DJ Pathaan.

We started our foodie journey with a Ling Ling Collins – a long cocktail made with Beefeater Gin, Green Chartreuse, cranberry, grapefruit, elderflower and lemon juice poured over crushed ice.  It was refreshing, summery and very easy to drink with a tart, zingy citrus flavour.

The limited edition Ling Ling menu is offered with three set menus to choose from – fish and seafood, meat and seafood or vegetarian.

We both went for the meat and seafood menu  and were presented with a Trio dim sum platter served piping hot in a cute little basket.  These high end dumplings were truly mind-blowing and definitely the best I’ve ever had.  Our selection included Prawn har gau, Scallop shumai topped with red tobiko and Chinese chive dumpling with prawn and crabmeat, finished with a goji berry.

The large parcel were tightly packed with fresh, well-seasoned seafood and coated in a delicate, moist dumpling skin.  I sometimes find that dim sum can become overwhelming quickly if the dough is too thick or steamed for too long that it becomes sticky, but Hakkasan’s dim sum were exemplary – I can’t stop raving about them.

Jasmine tea smoked organic pork rib was a real highlight and without a doubt the best I’ve ever had. Carved ceremoniously at the table, the ribs were so succulent and tender with a generous amount of meat and a layer of fat that simply melted in the mouth.  The glaze was very pleasant and subtle with just the right amount of smoky sweetness (no flavours were overstated).

Spicy prawn with lily bulb and almond was an unexpectedly piquant yet moreish main dish.  Five plump, juicy steamed prawns sat atop an aromatic, slightly creamy curry sauce studded with yummy toasted almonds and cooling, sweet lily bulbs.  The chili kick made my lips tingle, but I couldn’t resist adding more and more sauce to my bowl of fragrant jasmine rice.

Hakkasan is renowned for its exquisite desserts and our menu ended on a simple and sweet note with a Selection of macarons.  We grazed on the most delicious rose, pistachio and vanilla and jasmine macarons, beautifully served in a dim sum basket and adorned with a pretty orchid flower.

The macarons were freshly-baked with a light, crispy meringue shell and velvety smooth ganache – my favourite was the delicate vanilla and jasmine which had a lovely hint of white chocolate.

The Ling Ling menu at Hakkasan Hanway really was spectacular and a great way to taste a good range of signature dishes in one delightful meal.  With Hakkasan’s cool atmosphere, creative dishes and fine attention to detail, I can’t wait to see what Ling Ling Mykonos has in store.

The Ling Ling menu is available at Hakkasan Hanway Place until 31st August and is priced at £35 per person.  For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Hakkasan Hanway Place

Photos by Chérie City and Hakkasan Hanway Place

Click to add a blog post for Hakkasan on Zomato

Hotels, London, Restaurants

Dinner at Min Jiang, London

Min Jiang has been on my foodie wish list for a while, so I was delighted to visit with a small group of food and lifestyle bloggers for a photography masterclass and dinner.

This fine dining Chinese restaurant on the tenth floor of the Royal Garden Hotel Kensington opened in 2008 to rave reviews, particularly about its wood-fired Beijing duck.

Really good Chinese food is one of my favourite indulgences, so I was looking forward to sampling some of Min Jiang’s signature dishes while marveling at the panoramic views over Kensington Gardens.

But before we could pick up our chopsticks, we had some snapping to do with professional photographers Rafe Abrook and Oli Sander.

We took over Min Jiang’s gorgeous deep red private dining room to talk all things photography.  We took away plenty of expert tips for improving our food photography and had some time to practice shooting Min Jiang dishes with guidance from the pros.

Rafe and Oli recommended investing in a portable camera light to combat the yellow glare of the tungsten lighting usually found in restaurants.  The super cool light sabre may be a bit intense for the dinner table, but the smaller box size can fit in your handbag for a quick lighting fix on the go.

We then moved into the main dining room for a cosy dinner – cameras still out, of course!  First up was the Steamed Dim Sum Platter in four different flavours.  The delicate parcels were cooked perfectly and generously filled – my favourite was the prawn Har Gau.

Bi Feng Tang Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Chili was crunchy and flavoursome with crispy fried onions and large pieces of red chili.  I’d expected it to be a fiery dish, but it was actually quite subtle and utterly moreish.

Min Jiang’s Legendary wood-fired Beijing Duck is indeed worthy of high praise.  The meat was tender and juicy with a good amount of fat and crispy, lacquered skin.  It was served with light and airy pancakes, a mouth-watering hoisin sauce, extra pieces of scorched skin and all of the usual trimmings.

Thankfully a second plate was brought out, so we could continue rolling these exquisite pancakes.  It’s certainly hard to exercise restraint and any kind of etiquette when sharing such a special, luxurious dish with hungry foodies, but I think we’re all still on speaking terms.

For the main course, we shared a few signature dishes.  Sauteed Gong Bao Tiger Prawns were covered in a deliciously sticky ginger glaze and punctuated with roasted cashews and chili.

Diced Rib Eye of Beef with Black Pepper Sauce had a smoky, chargrilled taste and was ever so tender, doused in a rich, mellow sauce.  It went perfectly with the steamed, wilted Pak Choi with Garlic.

Our individual bowls of Fried Noodles were super tasty, but the portion size was a bit small and I found only a sliver of the second serving of roast duck.  It was a taster dinner though, so the typical set menu noodle servings may be more substantial.

The Seasonal Fruit Platter was beautifully presented and refreshing but not the most exciting dessert to end the meal.  Min Jiang does actually have a rather tempting dessert menu, so you can look forward to trying treats such as Poached Black Sesame Dumpling, Mango Cream with Sago Pearls and Pomelo or the Chilled Orange and Ginger Soup.

Min Jiang is a great destination restaurant for a celebration with exceptional food that matches the impressive views.  It has a grown-up, contemporary-classic feel and is likely to become a London institution for top notch Chinese fine dining.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of Min Jiang

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Min Jiang)

Click to add a blog post for Min Jiang - Royal Garden Hotel on Zomato

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Pizza Union, Kings Cross

Pizza Union has become my ‘go to’ place for a quick pizza fix and I’ve stopped by many times since it opened its first restaurant in Spitalfields last summer.

The fire-baked Roman-style pizza is always tasty, the quality is consistent and I’ve never had to wait long for my pizza to arrive fresh out of the oven (it usually takes just three minutes to cook).

Pizza Union’s newly-opened second restaurant on Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, is just as conveniently located as the first – close to a major station, offices and student halls (these guys sure know what they’re doing).  The restaurant was already busy on an early Monday evening, even though it had only been open for a few weeks – perhaps due to word of mouth and its central location.

Its urban-cool design is familiar and slick, with marble counters, wooden tables covered in Italian tiles and splashes of neon.  It’s also well air-conditioned, so it’s the perfect place to escape the summer heat and refuel with delicious food and an ice cold Peroni or San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa.

I have a few favourite toppings at Pizza Union, but on this occasion I decided to try the gluten-free pizza for something a bit different.  I don’t have a strong gluten intolerance but try to avoid large portions of wheat and the thought of leaving without feeling bloated seemed appealing on that particularly hot day.

Since I was going gluten-free, I went for the classically Italian Reine (£5.95 + £1 for gluten-free) – tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, cotto ham, mushrooms and black olives.  The pizza base, made using rice flour, was surprisingly good with a light, chewy texture that was made crispy by the pizza oven.

The high quality Italian toppings, natural sunkissed tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella made for a satisfying, flavoursome pizza.  Of course, the original pizza base is impossible to beat, but I would definitely order the gluten-free pizza again if I was in the mood.

It’s worth noting however, that if you have a severe allergy to gluten, it’s best to avoid the pizzas altogether (instead try the Pizzeria Salad) since they are all cooked in the same pizza oven – the helpful staff pointed this out when ordering.

Steven went for the super-spicy Manzo (£5.95) – tomato sauce, mozzarella, beef, garlic, green chillis and rocket. This is the pizza to order if you want an intense taste – the spiced minced beef goes very well with the fresh, peppery rocket.

Pizza Union Dolce warm dough rings filled with Nutella, coconut and chocolate or salted caramel and peanuts are so heavenly and indulgent, but we couldn’t quite manage one this time.  I’d quite like to go back and try one of the new flavours as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea rather than attempt to squeeze one in after a big pizza.

Instead, we grazed on a selection of delicious bite-size Cannolis in chocolate, white chocolate and pistachio. They seem to be smaller and less generously filled than when I first tried them, but they’re ever so tasty and perfect for a touch of sweetness to end the meal.  It’s also impossible to pick a favourite, so just order them all.

Pizza Union is a real game-changing restaurant that has the potential to eventually become a national chain. With such excellent pizza, cool style and affordable prices, who could resist?

Chérie City was invited by Pizza Union

Photos by Chérie City and Pizza Union

Click to add a blog post for Pizza Union on Zomato

Bars, Hotels, London

Cocktails at GONG, Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London

On one of the hottest days of the year last week, I escaped the intense heat high above the city in the stylish surroundings of GONG at Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London.

The impressive five star hotel – set across the 34th to the 52nd floors of Renzo Piano’s iconic building – opened last year and is already famed for its incredible views.

I’ve had the pleasure of staying in Shangri-La hotels in Asia and Europe, so on arrival at the London hotel, the speedy elevator ride and signature spiced tea scent felt familiar and took me back to my travels in China.

I arrived at GONG, Western Europe’s highest bar, on the 52nd floor of the hotel just in time for cocktail hour and perched on a comfy seat at the bar.

The contemporary Asian interiors are ever so sleek, with plenty of grey marble and dark magenta highlights framing the spectacular 360 degree views of the city.  I’m not sure if it was the relief of the glorious air-conditioning or the altitude, but I could definitely feel that we were at a high level.

Our host for the next few hours was Head Mixologist Christian Maspes (formerly of the American Bar at The Savoy), who took us on a tasting journey of GONG’s signature cocktails.  He was named the winner of last year’s Shangri-La Bartender of the Year and constantly experiments with premium Asian and British spirits to create innovative new drinks.

Christian began by telling us that the GONG cocktail menu is divided into four categories to represent the essence of Shangri-La, its home in vibrant London, unique sensory experiences and a celebration of rare spirits.

To start, we visited the mythical land of Shangri-La with Mantras – Haig Club scotch whisky, coconut cream, cardamon, turmeric, limoncello and home-made saffron syrup.  This was one of my favourite cocktails, particularly for this hot day, as it was so smooth, refreshing and subtly aromatic (almost like an Indian lassi drink).

To accompany our drinks, we were treated to a delicious taster plate of the new bar food menu, including Iberico ham with tomato chutney, Wasabi and ginger cured salmon with yuzu cream on toast, Rosemary foccaccia with roasted vegetables and Chicken breast with mango and avocado on sourdough.

From the Nest of London section, we tried a rather regal Elizabeth’s Diadem – Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry gin, carrot juice, rosemary and Olorosso sherry.  This was a zingy, fragrant cocktail that was a bit like a healthy cold-pressed juice but with the welcome addition of gin and sherry – a great combination in my opinion.

Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry gin is made just 10 minutes walk away from the hotel at Bermondsey Distillery, created by Christian Jensen in order to bring back the neighbourhood’s golden age of gin-making.

From the Awaken Your Senses section, we tried the Turkish Chinata – Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Mozart chocolate, Barolo Chinato, salt, berry fondue.  This was a curious sensory experience as the sweet, characterful cocktail, served in a Turkish coffee pot, was garnished with both chocolate shards and pungent truffle oil.

Christian explained that the truffle oil usually divides guests and I found that it confused my palate a little, as my palate didn’t know whether to expect a sweet or savoury flavour.  It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly an interesting option to try if you like to give your taste-buds a challenge.

We finished with two cocktails from the Forgotten Elixirs section – the first was the El Jimador – Mezcal, kaffir lime leaves infused in maraschino, lime and Chartreuse Verte.  The blend of Mezcal and Chartreuse Verte made it lethally strong, but it was easy to drink and had a citrus tang from the lime.

Our final cocktail was an Anaesthetic Crusta – Remy Martin VSOP, Mandarine Napoleon, home-made orange cordial, lemon and maraschino.  It had a delicious sherbet orange flavour and was very mellow with a bit of crunch from the poppy seeds – it would be one of my top choices to order again.

GONG is much more than a luxury viewpoint near the top of The Shard, it’s a real destination bar with imaginative, expertly-crafted cocktails and a relaxed atmosphere.  I can’t wait to go back for a chic cocktail by the infinity Skypool adjoining the bar and imagine I’m on a summer staycation.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was invited by Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London)


London, Restaurants

Dinner at Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden, London

My list of independent London restaurants is never ending, but sometimes a high quality, dependable chain restaurant can really hit the spot.

Jamie’s Italian is one of my preferred choices, as well as Carluccio’s, for hearty Italian food made well with good ingredients.  I’ve always enjoyed my meals at Jamie Oliver restaurants, including Fifteen in Cornwall, so I was keen to see if the Jamie magic was still alive at his Covent Garden restaurant in St. Martin’s Courtyard.

The first Jamie’s Italian opened in Oxford back in 2008 and it clearly remains popular – the Covent Garden restaurant was reassuringly busy, even for an early evening midweek dinner.

The friendly, attentive staff sat us at a comfortable corner booth where we had a good view of the restaurant and the tempting dishes that were coming out of the kitchen.  On the day we dined, there was a raging storm outside, so we were much in need of some serious comfort food and shelter from the rain.

To start, we shared a Fresh Crab Bruschetta (£6.85), which turned out to be a good idea as it was quite substantial.  Fresh, flaky white and brown crab meat was lightly dressed with crunchy sliced fennel, served on charred sourdough toast.  It was finished with thin slices of fresh red chilli for a bit of a kick and I liked the addition of shaved lemon zest to brighten the flavours.

Pasta at Jamie’s Italian is a real must, so I went for my all-time favourite pasta dish – Tagliatelle Bolognese (£10.75).  I make a pretty good Bolognese at home, so I rarely order it in restaurants in case it’s underwhelming, but Jamie’s Bolognese is a cut above the rest.  The mountain of tagliatelle was cooked perfectly al dente and the beef ragu was rich and juicy with plenty of lean meat, topped with herby breadcrumbs (a clever addition that I’ll be trying at home) and lots of fresh Parmesan.

Steven’s Penne Carbonara (£10.95) was just as tasty and satisfying with a creamy, garlicky sauce, chunky strips of rustic pancetta, buttered leeks and fresh herbs.  It’s a super indulgent dish and quite a treat, if you can handle the richness.

For dessert, I tried a light and summery Chocolate, Pear and Honeycomb Pavlova (£5.95).  The delicate yet chewy meringue was exemplary, topped with light-as-air whipped cream, sticky chocolate sauce, crunchy honeycomb pieces and a sliver of poached pear.  It was simple and well-suited to those with a sweet tooth – I could’ve easily eaten more of it.

Steven went for a typically Italian Sour Cherry and Almond Tart (£5.95).  The moist, dense almond sponge with baked sour cherries was set inside buttery golden pastry, topped with toasted almonds and served with whipped honey cream and crumbled Amaretti biscuits.  It was a substantial, fragrant dessert that rounded off the meal nicely.

Jamie’s Italian really fixed my Italian comfort food craving and I can see myself visiting again to try more of the seasonally-changing menu and some cocktails the next time I want to escape the Covent Garden crowds.

Chérie City was invited by Jamie’s Italian

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Jamie’s Italian)

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London, Restaurants

Lunch at West Thirty Six, London

When I first moved to London, one of my favourite days out was a spot of vintage shopping on Portobello Road (I found one of my favourite designer cashmere cardigans there for a tenner) and a rummage for new music in Rough Trade, followed by cupcakes at Hummingbird Bakery, back in the day when there were always queues outside.

Visiting the hip new townhouse West Thirty Six for lunch made me a bit nostalgic for my past Notting Hill jaunts, when I was a care-free journalism student with little more to do than explore my new city.

My summer resolution is to make it over to the west more often to watch the world go by at the pavement cafes and marvel at the pastel-coloured houses.

Located just over the bridge on Golborne Road, West Thirty Six is a seriously cool converted townhouse from the team behind Beach Blanket Babylon.  It has the cosy feel of a private members’ club with a enviable mix of contemporary and retro design and maze-like rooms with different ambiances.

We walked through the expansive downstairs brasserie and ate in the more intimate first floor dining room, which also features a separate bar and stunning terrace.  Our corner table was in a prime spot with plush sofas, bookcases and sleek artwork – it almost felt like our own private living room.

The second floor is exclusively for private parties and bottle service and there’s also the ‘secret’ basement yard The Tool Shed with its own fire pit and a cute gardening theme.

At the helm of West Thirty Six is Chef Jon Pollard (formerly of Soho House and Caprice Holdings), whose menu features grill house and brasserie classics with a twist.  There’s a big meat focus with British farm-sourced produce, but still plenty of dishes to pique the interest of vegetarians.

Since it was a hot day and only lunchtime, we skipped starters and went straight to the mains – given the portion size, this turned out to be a wise choice.

I was tempted by the Half Rotisserie Chicken (£12) and it really looked the part when it arrived nicely dressed on a wooden board.  But this was no ordinary rotisserie chicken, it was a spit roasted rare breed Norfolk grey chicken seasoned with rosemary and thyme.

The generously-sized roast chicken was tender, succulent and with the most delicious, properly crispy skin, grilled half lemon, roasted garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme.

Steven went for the Sirloin 39 day house aged Hereford beef, 350g, (£25).  The nicely charred, juicy steak was cooked perfectly medium and had a lovely smoky flavour from the grill.  It was lightly seasoned, simply to enhance the natural meat flavours, but was accompanied with a pot of delicious, herby Béarnaise sauce.

For a lighter alternative to fries, we ordered two of the tempting vegetable dishes to share.  Roasted cauliflower with pomegranate, hazelnut (£8.50) was a nice combination of ingredients, but I found the dish unexpectedly overly sweet, as though it was coated in a sugary glaze.

More successful were Artichokes with broad beans, hazelnuts and saffron (£9) – a dish that you can imagine gracing an Ottolenghi counter.  The tangy marinated artichokes had a summery lemon, saffron and fresh mint flavour and the large broad beans, hazelnuts and pickled pink onions were the ideal additions.

For dessert, the Apple Cinnamon Pie with custard (£9) came highly recommended and happily it was already my number one choice.  Our waitress presented us with a rustic, freshly-baked whole apple pie and cut the most enormous portion with a little jug of custard.

It was one of the best apple pies I’ve ever had with juicy, sweet green apples, plenty of cinnamon and a golden, buttery crust.  It was perfectly complemented by the smooth, vanilla-scented custard – puddings don’t come much better than this.

Steven tried the Chocolate Bar with peanut crunch (£9), which was a more sophisticated dessert but equally delicious.  The dense chocolate sponge base (almost like a brownie) was topped with a layer or smooth salted caramel mousse, milk chocolate mousse and glossy dark chocolate ganache.

As if that wasn’t indulgent enough, it came with gorgeous salted caramel ice cream and a copper pot of warm cherry compote.  Desserts at West Thirty Six really are worth shouting about, so you must leave room to try a few, washed down with a pot of fresh mint tea.

West Thirty Six is a fantastic spot for a laid-back, cosy lunch with friendly staff, excellent food and attractive surroundings.  I imagine it to be buzzing with a fun west London crowd in the evenings and will definitely be visiting again soon to try the Sunday Roast, cocktails and the magnificent Build your own Sundae.

For more information and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of West Thirty Six

Photos by Chérie City (some interiors by West Thirty Six)

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Bars, Hotels, London

Blooming Brilliance at The Rib Room, London

The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant at Jumeirah Carlton Tower brings a floral touch to Knightbridge with its Blooming Brilliance summer pop-up bar.

A central London institution, The Rib Room is luxurious yet homely – it’s the kind of place that you could easily become a regular.

I discovered the bar at The Rib Room last year and loved its elegant, clubby atmosphere, exquisite cocktails and delicious bar plates – the famed crab and lobster burger with thermidor sauce is seriously indulgent.

To celebrate the arrival of summer, one of the cosy private rooms has been transformed into an exotic floral retreat with a statement wall bursting with botanical herbs, vibrant flowers and citrus shrubs.  The floral theme continues on the fabulous outdoor terrace where you can enjoy al fresco drinks and a spot of people-watching.

Saverio Vicari, Head Mixologist at The Rib Room, has created 17 botanical-inspired cocktails and seasonal light cuisine specially for Blooming Brilliance.  The tempting cocktail menu features English classics with a floral twist, made using summery, refreshing spirits such as Bombay Sapphire Gin and Grey Goose Vodka.

I visited with a small group of writers and we tasted a variety of excellent cocktails from the menu such as the Jack and Shrub made with Gentleman Jack Bourbon, Amaro Lucano and strawberry shrub served in a copper mug and the zingy Tea Break with Bombay dry gin, green Chartreuse, green tea syrup and cucumber shrub.

Undoubtedly the all-round favourite of our group was the Basil Sour – Beluga vodka, lemon juice, ginger syrup and a teaspoon of basil olive oil.  It was aromatic and invigorating with a typical agrodolce flavour.

We chatted away late into the evening and enjoyed the sultry sounds of the live jazz band while grazing on moreish canapes including sticky sesame chicken, lobster tartlets, asparagus and prosciutto in breadcrumbs and tempura tiger prawns.  Weekday nights in the Royal Borough don’t come much better than this!

Blooming Brilliance will host a series of showcase evenings including Cocktail Creations on the 25thJune, and a summer botanical food demonstration on the 2nd July for £30.00 per person.  Open every day from 4pm, now until 2nd August.

Chérie City was a guest of The Rib Room

All photos by The Rib Room