Wednesday 6th March - It's been a busy end to the week, rehearsing the awesome Verklarte Nacht with KSO for a concert last night and attending Feast on Friday (get your tickets for today before they are all gone) so Wednesday seems like a long time ago. Let's see what I can remember...
I thought it was time to start ticking off some of the Soho places on the List having made a start on Shoreditch and after defeating Battersea last week. First up was Flat Iron Steakhouse in Soho. I met up (at about 6.15) with Natalie, Ali and Felix (who put in a solid first performance before he departs for Afghanistan, rivalling Max's pre-Mexico efforts last week) in an effort to beat the queues, but by the time we were all there the wait was already between 60-90 minutes for a table! Luckily though Flat Iron has this covered as downstairs there is an underground cocktail bar selling pre-dinner drinks and St. John's doughnuts (there's nothing wrong with a bit of pudding before your main course). The £2.50 doughnuts were delicious - we went for a rhubarb filling (piped in to the dough in front of you). The craft beers from Redchurch brewery also went down a treat. We didn't sample the cocktails but they use interesting spirits such as Chase Rhubarb Vodka and several made by Few in Illinois - thanks very much to Daniel behind the bar for giving us a taster of the Few Bourbon which was pretty special. Before we knew it, our table upstairs was ready...
The ordering process is pretty simple - how do you want your steak (go for rare) and what sides do you want? That said there was a special burger on offer but as first timers none of us could face not getting the steak. They generously provide free popcorn (which seems to be everywhere at the moment?) whilst you wait for your food, though this would perhaps be better put to use in the bar downstairs. The sauces were all tasty and the dripping-cooked chips were good but the main show is the steak and it doesn't disappoint. You get the satisfaction of using a mini meat cleaver to cut it up, which helps to make it last that little bit longer! The steak itself is £10 and sides are £2-4 each. It was well worth the wait and I will definitely go again (if I get through some more of this uber-long list first).
We headed off in search of a bar and decided to see if we could get in to Mark's Bar tucked away underneath Hix restaurant on Brewer Street. It's not advertised on the street itself so walk through the giant restaurant door and you'll see a neon sign pointing down the stairs. We had to wait for about 40 minutes to get downstairs which wasn't ideal but it did give us time to peruse the inventive cocktail menu and make up our minds before heading to the bar. There are queues because they don't let it get at all crowded downstairs which is great once you make it in and gives it a member's club feel. It's also not as pretentious as the waiting times and cocktail menu suggest with a truly random mix of music playing in the background and a bar billiards table on offer.
I went for the Shipwreck Blazer (served hot) which contained beetroot molasses and 10 year old cider brandy aged in barrels reclaimed from a shipwreck on the Dorset coastline. Natalie's Stiff Upper Lip was also interesting containing green pea-infused gin, ginseng spirit, cider vinegar, nettle cordial and smacked mint. The cocktails are fairly pricey at £10-£12 but the quality is very high and the menu is extremely varied - worth a visit!
Felix and I decided to squeeze one more place in so we headed down the road onto Old Compton Street to find Mizuwari - a Japanese Whisky Bar that has recently opened underneath Bincho. We were greeted by the knowledgeable Niya who gave us very detailed tasting notes on the Yamazaki single malts, Hakushu single malts and Hibiki blends. Whisky cocktails are on offer too but we decided to try the Yamazaki and Hakushu straight up - both were nice but the Hakushu edged it. They also provide bizarre free Bincho-tan water that is filtered through high-grade charcoal called Bincho (which is left in the carafe for you to see).
They don't take reservations and apparently it gets busy very quickly at the weekends but it was pretty much empty when we went in at 10pm. It's a great little place to go for something a bit different especially at the end of an evening, and it is a must for whisky drinkers, but beware you will run up a pretty hefty tab quite quickly. Thanks to Team List - Natalie, Ali (Flat Iron, Marks) and Felix (Flat Iron, Marks and Mizuwari) - Natalie takes the lead with 7 trips to her name.