Monday, 10 June 2013

How sleazy is your speakeasy?

So where are you having drinks these days? Pubs are for losers. Bars? Are you from Essex? No, we all know that the only place to drink in London these days are speakeasies. Little back room dens of debauchery, hidden away, often with no sign or visble entrance. Drinks are stylish cocktails, made for you by winking experts in granddad shirts and people there are sophisticated intellectuals, needing their drinking places to be witty, bohemian and private. But how do you know if your speakeasy is the real deal, or just some band-wagon jumping imitation? My handy quiz will tell you all you need to know.

1. Buzz
Did you find out about your speakeasy:

a. In the 'speakeasy' section in the Guardian Weekend trendy London places for nice middle class people to go and avoid chavvy types pullout?

b. Overheard being whispered about in a queue at your local street food gathering?

c. It was 3am and your barman directed you too it after passing the secret initiation 'test' to check you're not wearing a wire, working for the government, or a member of a rival hoodlum gang, complete with splurge guns and men with greasy faces carrying violin cases wearing suits with wide chalk stripes?
2. Location
is your speakeasy:

a. actually just a redesigned bar in quite a pleasant part of Balham?

b. Hidden in the back room of a Hackney kebab shop?

c. Behind a closed door with an ironic sign fooling you called 'Disabled Toilet' or 'No Entry' or something?

3. Name
Is your speakeasy called:

a. Something British and double-barrelled, like 'Tomkins and Copperpot' evocative of some Victorian importing company using overtly flowery and slightly out-of-date words such as 'purveyors of fine inebriation'?

b. Something daring and seedy, slightly piratey maybe, like 'cutthroat joe's dirty dog death room'?

c. Nobody knows your name, you are just a rumour, and your spirit is so damned wild and free anyway a name would be too constraining.

4. Decor
Is your speakeasy decor:

a. An ironic reworking of the tea rooms from Last of the Summer Wine, complete with gingham, window nets and coloured tinfoil ashtrays?

b. mish-mash of Edwardian mahogany parlour furniture, chesterfield sofas and leather trunks, evocative of your sophisticated, eclectic yet laid-back tastes?

c. The complete stock of a local taxidermy and curiosity shop, complete with human skeletons wearing top hats and jewellery, two-headed lambs and schoolroom biology diagrams?

5. Staff

Do your speakeasy staff wear:

a. Chemistry lab coats?

b. Waistcoats, wax moustaches, slick back hair and appearing like they work in a solicitors' accounts department in 1935?

c. Vintage mix channeling Talloulah meets Bet Lynch?

6. Drinks
Are your speakeasy drinks:

a. The speakeasy's 'own range of in-house cocktails, dreamed up by a skilled mixologist to excite and delight your senses'?

b. Botanical gin-based classics blended with a hint of nostalgia and served in china teapots, mini school milk bottles with straws and jars of Bonne Maman jam? (Editors note - those are all real btw)

c. A collection of illegal contraband whiskies fresh from a recent hold-up by Tommy two-guns on the outskirts of Chicago?


All 'a's : Wheezy. Your speakeasy is nothing but a thinly veiled pastiche, about as authentic as a wetherspoons pub.

All 'b's :  Semi-sleazy. Your speakeasy is in the zone. Still a bit accessible though, needs to crank up the eclecticness somewhat, work on it's edgy points.

All 'c's. Greazy. Well done, your speakeasy is the real deal. You wouldn't even be able to find it again, and don't even know if it was actually real of just a mysterious dream you had.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Round-up of Soho lunches under £10- June 2013

Here's a round-up of a few really cheap lunches available in Soho right now, most under £10 with a few exceptions. Rules are: sit down place where you eat with a knife & fork or chopsticks (ie no stalls or sandwiches). Some will say this list is not interesting or full of stuff that's been there years. I say good because there is a reason places stay open for years.
London has never had so much great value eating options!

Dozo, 32 Old Compton St London W1D 4TP- Bento boxes in miso soup + other options £6.90
Great new Japanese place with loads of options with this lunch menu. Really tasty miso. Friendly service.

Prix Fixe, 39 Dean Street London W1D 4PU- 2 courses £10.90‎
This place is always busy. About the least fashionable place in town (my faves always are) but there is a charm about it, and the consistently full room underlines it. As the queues next door at Burger & Lobster begin to wane, I reckon this will still be busy.
Ricotta & Spinach ravioli a highlight.

Made in Italy, 14a Old Compton St  London W1D 4TH - 2 courses around £9
Tomato & mozzarella salad or asparagus & parmesan then a pretty darn good pizza for £9? Musn't grumble. Until pizza pilgrims open in Dean St this about the best for the price in Soho.

Forty Dean Street 40 Dean St London W1D 4PX - 2 courses £10.90‎
Decent basic Italian if you ask me, with all the bread and oil and bits and bobs you want. Bit stretched (lunch can take 1.5 hrs) but good value. The spaghetti meatballs is a big enough portion for two, easily.

Amico Bio, 43 New Oxford Street London WC1A 1BG - 3 courses £10
Not really Soho (not at all Soho actually) but dying to try this vegetarian Italian place in Holborn, and recently discovered it has a branch in Smithfield Market too.
Interesting fact: Italy has the highest percentage of vegetarians in the EU at 10%. (UK is 7%)

Bistro 1, 27 Frith Street | SohoLondon | W1D 5LE - 2 courses £8.50, 3 courses £9.90‎
Not been for a while but presuming they still knock out the acceptable mediterranean offering they always have.

Amalfi, 29-31 Old Compton St  London W1D 5JR - lunch menu £8.95 (website not updated because they say £6.95)‎ Not been.

Stockpot, 18 Old Compton Street London W1D 4JL - 2 different menus 2 courses £6.70, 2 courses £6.80
The cheapest 2 courses in Soho. The tiniest tables in Soho (second only to the little marble ones in Buen Gusto) I love the 10p difference in price between the menus. Some say 'bloody awful' but I say you know what you're going to get, and sometimes it's exactly what you want. Try beating this on a freezing February Tuesday with a raging hangover when all you want is bland stodge.
Leek & potato soup is as tasty as I've had anywhere else anyway.

Duck Soup, 41 Dean St  London W1D 4PY lunch special 1 course +wine £12
Stylish and interesting, still hip. `

Mele e Pere, 46 Brewer St London W1F 9TF  - 'Express lunch- All courses £8.50'
Can't vouch for lunch but been for dinner twice and loved it.

@SIAM, 48 Frith St London W1D 4SF ‎-  2 courses £8.95. I went, it was fine.

Cookhouse Joe 55 Berwick Street London W1F 8SJ £5-6
 Not been yet... reports please??
Picture from @wilkes888


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