Monthly Archives: December 2011

Vertigo 42

Vertigo 42

As far as views of London go, Vertigo 42 is up there with the best of them, and possibly tops the list. With panoramic views across London from the 42nd floor of Tower 42 you’re in for a treat.

It’s the highest bar in the UK and well worth a visit – even if you just go up there to stare out of the windows. You can see practically all of the capital, from close by landmarks like St Paul’s stretching all the way to Hyde Park and the west end, and it offers one of the best views of the Shard any building has to offer.

Once you’ve stopped staring, and possibly recovered from slightly nauseating feelings of Vertigo, it’s time for some cocktails. First things first – in a bar with such stunning views nothing comes cheap so be prepared to make a severe dent in your bank balance. It’s a Champagne bar and there are over 30 to choose from and most of the clientele will be sipping on the sparkly wine.

If you want something a little different try the autumn Champagne cocktails. These are £14 each and each one has a different seasonal flavour. Some are more obvious, like the orange and raspberry or rose and plum, and others are a little different. Take the Lychee and hazelnut – not a combination you’ve probably put together before, especially not in a cocktail, but somehow it really works. The smell is deliciously nutty and welcoming but the taste of lychees gives it a lighter fruity taste.

If you’re afraid of heights this one might not be a good idea but if you can handle a view from 600 feet it’s definitely worth going up for a drink. It’s also not somewhere you can pop into on a whim as the waiting list is usually a month long – more in peak times – and you can only visit with a reservation.

One of the best things about the bar is you can sit right up by the window and every seat has a great view. Vertigo 42 is an impressive but expensive destination and should be reserved for special events such as Birthdays. It’s somewhere all Londoners should visit, and an ideal place for taking visitors, but the views are the best thing about it so only stay for one drink if you don’t want the financial strain.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Bistro du Vin

Bistro du Vin Soho When walking through the door at the Soho branch of Bistro du Vin you’re immediately met with a bright, open restaurant decorated with light, modern features. The bar stretches along one side of the room and nestled in the corners of the room is a cheese room which is opposite an impressive wine cellar.

The bar offers a wide range of cocktails, from your usual gin and tonics to specially created and blended seasonal drinks, and if you fancy a quiet one it’s an ideal Soho spot.  The menu changes every few months and each ingredient is perfectly balanced to create a mixture of flavours to compliment each other. As it’s Christmas there are several current delights on offer, and if you’re bored of mulled wine already try the light and creamy eggnog drink with bacon flavoured whisky (needs to be tried to be believed).

After you’ve exhausted the cocktails, it’s time to move on to the menu. It’s a step down from Hotel du Vin, but only in price as the quality offers every bit as much. From delicate rabbit terrines and soup to rich seafood platters, you could probably spend an evening on starters alone so make sure you restrain yourself for the main event.

The meat is the big player in the mains and if you’re a steak fan go for something cooked on the Jasper Grill. It gives the meat a succulent moist texture but with a smoky flavour to make you think it’s just been thrown on the barbecue. If you don’t love your meat, do not fear, there’s plenty more to indulge in and I would recommend the bream doused in roasted garlic, butternut squash ravioli or if you’re feeling extravagant the lobster. Prices for mains lie around the £14 mark.

Next is the (mandatory for some) cheese course which if you miss out on you will regret, guaranteed. The cheese room is stacked with your old classics and some regional specialities and you can go in and choose whatever takes your fancy or leave this up to the experts to pick for you.

Another must – desert. Chocolate tart with crème chantilly or if you’re feeling full the gratinated figs with marsala. To wash it all down there’s an extensive wine list so unless you’ve spotted your favourite, ask for a recommendation – the waiting staff were falling over each other to help (but not in an annoying way).

Bistro du Vin is not trying to be something it’s not – it is a chain restaurant and you can get cheaper Plat du jour dishes through the week. If you’re looking for something a bit nicer than Strada and Café Rouge but for around the same price this is it. It says “We don’t do pretentious” (which in itself sounds a little pretentious) but it really isn’t. It’s an affordable treat and every part of the experience is enjoyable.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Boxpark Shoreditch

This weekend was one of firsts for me. The first time I’ve properly begun to celebrate Christmas and overdosed on mulled wine and mince pies and secondly the first time I’ve ever visited a pop up mall.

Five years ago if you asked me what a ‘pop up’ shop/art gallery/café meant I would have no idea. But today pop up shops and the like have become as popular as the concrete things themselves. Take Franks in Peckham – a pop up bar in an old multi-story car park. Something you think just can’t really work but somehow does. And because of the idea of it being pop up and temporary, people are streaming to see it because of the thought it might be gone at any moment.

So this weekend the long awaited Boxpark was opened in Shoreditch. It’s a bit of a mix between a market and a shopping centre and made out of 100 empty recycled shipping crates.

Not only does it look visually impressive, it’s also a great place to go if you’re in need of some retail therapy with a bit of a difference. There are 60 containers which are stacked two stories high and five rows wide.

It’s largely made up of fashion stores but there are also food and drink crates for when you’re in need of some sustenance. A favourite of mine is Pieminster, where I spent a little too much time and I highly recommend the Heidi pie – a delicious mix of goats cheese, spinach and butternut squash pie. After the pie I was also able to fit in some Frae frozen yoghurt with kiwi, blueberry and honey piled on top which left me feeling slightly holier than thou.

The fashion brands have been chosen carefully and there are many well know names included like Calvin Klein, Dockers, Vans and Puma but also some lesser known independent stores, such as Original Penguin and Palladium. If you’re looking for some lovely vintage pieces, Farah Vintage will be right up your street with collections from different eras. There’s also the Amnesty Shop to visit with collections for men, women and children with the money going towards the charity. This is a good start for Christmas cards and decorations which you know are actually helping someone else out rather than lining the pockets of a multi-national company.

On the opening day a massive party was held with live music and a DJ set from Dizzy rascal and it was packed with people there for the party but also curious shoppers wanted to experience the bizarre shopping set-up.

The man behind it all is Roger Wade who became famous when he created the fashion label Boxfresh in the 1990s.  He says Boxpark is the most environmentally friendly shopping centre ever. This is because there were minimal carbon emissions when the mall was created as there were minimal building materials and work needed. Also there’s the bonus that if one of the shops wants to move, or even the whole thing, it won’t take a huge destruction project as the containers can just be dismantled and then put up again wherever they next choose.

If you want to head down, it’s right by Shoreditch High Street station and around a 10 minute walk from Old Street and Liverpool Street tube stations.

It’s a little more exciting than heading to either of the Westfield shopping centres and you’ve also got the added benefit that it’s the first of its kind in the World – and you’re there.

You can find Boxpark at Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London, E1 6JE

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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