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Shoreditch’s answer to Brazil comes in the form of Floripa – a quirky, colourful bar serving up refreshing cocktails and traditional food.

It’s named after Florianópolis – a small party island off the coast of Brazil – and the lively, vibrant atmosphere, hits you immediately.

The bar is pretty big and the ideal place for a group event – be it drinks after work or a large Birthday party – and if it gets too hot you can spill out into the outdoor terrace.

It’s an ideal for a drinking spot with the right balance of traditional cocktails such as Margaritas and Caipirinhas with a few creative concoctions like the Fogo De Floripa – a blend of pomegranate syrup and Cachaca topped with a flaming Tempero Baiano.

There’s also group drinks like the Bloc Party Punch (£32) which serves five people a mix of vodka, cranberry, cassis and sparkling wine making it the perfect place for drinks followed by dancing (lots) when the DJ arrives.

Before you head to the dance floor, or if you’re not feeling that active, check the food menu. It’s full of a variety of sharing and larger Brazilian dishes.

The menu – which consists of freshly prepared dishes every day made with local market ingredients – has been designed by David Yorkston (resident chef at Bacchus and The Langham Hotel) and it perfectly fits the venue.

You’ve got everything from carefully put together platters such as king prawn cerviche (£8) or pao de queijo- a wonderful cheesy bread (£3.50) to steaks (£18), and black bean and pork stew (£12.50). It really depends how hungry you are but what you can expect is good quality food at a very reasonable price.

It’s not anything that special but Floripa works because it serves the right amount of dishes and they’re designed to share so again a get together with your friends is the best situation here.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Free books At The Carnaby Exchange

Are you looking for your next great read? Look no further as the Carnaby Book Exchange offers a huge range of free books waiting to be picked up.

Around the world there are more than 130 million books and the average person gets through one book per week. That’s a lot of books and if you’re not happy shelling out for a new title on a regular basis why not take advantage of this great new scheme.

It’s a lovely space in Carnaby Street for people to relax and read with a vast array of books on offer from great fiction novels to fashion, travel, music or history titles – it’s completely up to you what you decide to lay your eyes on.

To take part all that’s required is for you to leave a book behind for another book worm to pick up. It’s that simple – leave a book, take a book.

As well as reading the books, you can also leave your thoughts and feedback and recommendations for other book lovers evolving the swapping process away from just books to memories.

The whole thing has been thought up and created by the MA Fashion Curation students at the London College of Fashion, just off Carnaby Street.

The creators say it’s “an incubator for passion shared” and if you like us can’t wait to get involved, get yourself down to the ground floor of Kingly Court. It’s open at the weekend from 8am – 6pm on Saturday and 12pm – 6pm on Sunday.

Image: Guardian Books

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Comptoir Libanais

South Kensington is a place I often find myself, either after wondering around the V&A or one of the surrounding museums and I continually have a problem trying to find anywhere good to eat or drink.

Every place I stumble upon seems to be ridiculously over priced or just rubbish and surviving on the fact that so many tourists, and non West Londoners like myself, are hungry or thirsty and will just drop into anywhere nearby. Luckily I’ve found a few options to safeguard against this and one such is Comptoir Libanais on Exhibition Road.

This is the second in the chain of ‘fast’ food Lebanese restaurants and it’s ideal for a quick, tasty meal that won’t break the bank. You can choose from several platters piled up with deliciously comforting treats such as smoky aubergine baba ghanoush, falafel, hummus, and salads with pitta bread for dipping and fried vegetable samosas. These are to share but if you’re feeling greedy and a lover of  creamy hummus topped with pomegranate seeds, and let’s be honest who isn’t, then you might be able to go for one.

For the main meals there are lots of small dishes and I had the prune and lamb tagine which was so tender it virtually melted into one. There are also meat koftas with side salads, whole salads for those attempting to be healthy and lovingly prepared mousakas with crispy fried onions and fresh pomegranate seeds on top – it doesn’t sound like it should work but it does. A mouthful of this feels a bit like a giant duvet wrapped around you, it’s delicious, warming and will leave you feeling comfortably full.

The pudding selection is a bit of a must. There are lots of beautiful looking sweet treats, from rose water macaroons to more varieties of baklava then I ever thought possible and as they’re so tiny you can almost believe they’re calorie free.

All the dishes are around £7 which is a bargain given the location and the quality of the food. It’s a little bit like Leon but better and the bright paintwork and pictures create a cheery atmosphere which is a must at this time of year.

One thing I would avoid next time is the wine. Despite the good value and tasty food, the wine was expensive and the quality was no where near as good as the food. Instead I would go for one of the freshly made juices or some traditional green tea.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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Adventure Bar

Adventure BarIf you find yourself in Covent Garden and in need of a cocktail, the Adventure Bar is here to quench your thirst. It’s located about 10 minutes from the tube station on Bedford Street and is a small underground bar offering almost every cocktail imaginable.

It’s got all the classics, such as a Margarita or Tom Collins, but also numerous twists on these and new creations. Take the Flaming Zombie, an exciting drink to watch being made, it’s mixed with a selection of rums, lemon juice, mango puree and pineapple juice and to top it off a flaming passion fruit shell is artistically balanced on top.

Or maybe the Fallen Angel – a slightly more sophisticated cocktail made of a light blend of vodka, pear liqueur and apple juice. If you’re on a heavier night there are also shots available (unsurprisingly) and you can choose from a whole host of retro sweet-flavoured spirits like sherbet flying saucers or rhubarb and custard.

A lot of the cocktails mix unusual blends together, such as pineapple and chilli or basil and cucumber, but it works well and if you’re not the adventurous type the bar staff can make up anything you fancy.

The bar is small, dark and slightly dingy with music to suit most tastes but verging on cheese. In the few hours I was there I heard (and sang along to) Abba, Oasis and Guns and Roses to name a few. The customers inside were mainly made up of male workers in suits (on a week night) and it’s a good place to go with a group as the tables are laden with party hats and poppers and you’ll get a free bottle of champagne with bookings of eight people or more.

But what didn’t really mesh well were the impressive, but expensive, cocktails in the grungy environment. It seemed like a mix of sophisticated cocktail bar with cheesy night club and there was a whole lot less adventure than I had hoped for. Maybe my imagination is a little too extravagant but I was imagining hands-on games, quirky furniture and décor or maybe a retro cartoon or two adorning the walls. But sadly for a bar (and a website) with so much promise it was all a bit too minimal for me.

It’s a handy bar to know about if you’re looking for a good cocktail away from the crowds of Covent Garden, but at around £8-9 per drink for a pretty average bar, I’d recommend visiting in happy hour (5-7pm) or taking advantage of the free drink voucher you can get when you sign up to the bar’s newsletter.

This article was originally written for Who’s Jack.

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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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V&A late night and Bombay Sapphire Imagination Bar

What better way to spend a Friday night than surrounded by craft workshops, original and exciting new designs and a few specially designed gin-based cocktails.

This is exactly the concoction created for the latest Friday late night at the V&A, based around the recently launched Power of Making exhibition.

Crafting has become an overnight sensation and more people than ever are donning a needle and thread and knocking out anything from bunting to a floor length dress. The V&A has trumped on this trend creating a lovely collection of hand crafted curiosities from the puppets from 2009 film Fantastic Mr Fox and a six-necked guitar to a working wooden bike, a lion-shaped Ghanaian coffin and a spun metal rotating chair.

The exhibition isn’t huge but it’s well worth a visit – even if you’re not into craft you’ll be impressed by some of these creations, such as the giant gorilla made from coat hangers.

To match the eclectic nature of these crafts – Bombay Sapphire made some perfectly suited cocktails to enjoy. For gin lovers this bar is a little piece of heaven offering twists on classic drinks. The most impressive visually was the Imagination cocktail – served in a giant martini glass with the words “Imagine” magically formed on top in a bright blue sherbet. The light cocktail is made with lemon juice, Maraschino liqueur, Crème de Violette, gin (obviously) and egg white and the flavours balanced each other perfectly creating a mythical-looking summer cocktail.

The Imagination Bar was located in the V&A courtyard – an excellent choice for such an unseasonably hot night – and the bar was busy all night with thirsty crafters. This was a great end to the V&A’s series of summer camps and we hope they will return (along with the nice weather) next year.

This article was originally published on Who’s Jack.

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David Nicholls Talks About One Day

It’s been described as the love story of the century and the iconic orange cover is instantly recognisable as One Day – the best selling novel by David Nicholls.

This week he spoke to John Mullan in the Guardian book club series about how he came up with the idea for the 20-year romance and was extremely humble throughout. In fact the author spent a lot of the hour talking about ways he could have improved the book if he could go back and write it again.

The story if you haven’t read it (do you even exist?) follows two students who meet at university in Edinburgh and spend just one night together before graduation.  This day is St Swithin’s Day in 1988 and the novel follows the couple through the various twists and turns over the next 20 years of their life – always going back to the same date.

Emma and Dexter have little in common. She is your typical “normal” working class girl from Leeds and Dexter is the polar opposite – a posh, pretentious and arrogant boy from the Cotswolds.

One Day follows the story of how these two people cross paths over 20 years and shows how friendship and love make us better people.

Nicholls said the novel was planned in immaculate detail and although he always knew what would happen  – there were a few details left out which he shared. For example, Dexter was originally going to walk into a job as a journalist with GQ after graduation but Nicholls decided he probably wasn’t clever enough for this (no offence TV presenters) and our heroine Emma, was very nearly called Maeve.

Another change was the title – St Swithin’s Day in the planning stages to the catchier One Day.

It’s not a traditional romantic comedy and although there are many funny moments – the overtone of the book is a touching love story. Real life is captured effortlessly allowing the reader to see their self and friends through the characters.

Within the pages there are many direct speeches lifted out of Nicholls’ life. One especially touching moment is when Dexter tells Emma the one gift he wishes he could give her is the gift of confidence. This is something a friend once told Nicholls during the mid 1990s when he was stuck trying to break into acting.

The recent movie version was touched on briefly but Nicholls jumped to Anne Hathaway’s defence and pointed out that adaptation means change and any film will never match a reader’s imagination.

First published in 2009, One Day has seen extraordinary success. If you haven’t read it already you should make it a priority – just try and avoid anyone giving away the ending.

This article was originally published on Who’s Jack.

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