The evening started well as I met my friend Andy (picking up only his second List point so far) at The French House pub for a quick drink. It is a Soho classic (which I must admit I have somehow missed) that is frequented by many recognisable faces, though we didn't spot any on this occasion. We were joined by List Leader Natalie and Molly, and crammed in to the outdoor space. You bizarrely have to be fastened in by a bouncer type who controls the outdoor barrier lock in system The French House is extremely popular as it sticks to its strict social policy - no music, no machines, no television and no mobile phones. Beers are served in French portions and Breton Cider is handed out in bottles. Food is served at the bar and upstairs, and is available until 4. They recently got some celebrities together to film a Live at the French DVD to raise money for the local Soho Parish School, just as Soho Food Feast did.
Andy and Molly moved on for a meal at Prix Fixe Brasserie down the road, whilst Natalie and I went off to find her flatmate Arwa. Our next stop was Retro Feasts and Voodoo Vaults at Embassy Mayfair in Old Burlington Street. Retro Feasts is a 6 month pop up set up by young chef, Luke Thomas, which opened in May. It's a casual diner/bar that serves up childhood favourites such as cheese and pineapple, fish fingers and rice pudding alongside excellent cocktails from Tom Rayfield. The décor is fun though not over the top retro. We settled with a drink around the table football table (which didn't stand up very well to ones at Bar Kick, Azulito and Floripa) and enjoyed people watching - Retro Feasts seems to attract some pretty entertaining characters. We sadly had that Friday feeling of not being very hungry and so didn't stick around for the food. Read this comprehensive review to get a better idea of what is on offer - it does sound great.
It was also the launch day for Voodoo Vaults downstairs - "A new Southern States inspired speakeasy". Speakeasy has been wrongly used all year in London but this is the worst example so far - it's effectively a standard (pretty tacky looking) bar/club. It was fairly early on so the crowds and atmosphere weren't there yet, be we weren't going to hang around. We promptly ran back upstairs and out the door. It also describes itself as a live music saloon, club and eatery - apart from the word saloon, that is probably a fitting description, and the music, drinks and food are no doubt high quality, but there are so many better looking, cheaper places to go.
With no set plans, we decided to try a couple of places on the fringes of Soho and Mayfair. First up we went to have a look at Kemia bar - a Moroccan live music bar underneath Momo restaurant on stunning Heddon Street. There was a gig starting soon with £10 entry which we decided to skip this time, but it looks like a wonderful place to spend an evening.
Next, we went to investigate the various bars at Sketch, surprisingly run by the same people as Momo (and Andy Wahloo in Paris that Tim and I failed to get in to many months ago because of a private party). Sketch is a quirky site with 5 beautifully designed restaurants and bars dotted around set up by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire and restauranteur Mourad Mazouz. The Gallery is a brightly coloured gastro-brasserie, The Lecture Room and Library are Michelin-starred dining rooms, The Parlour is for pastries, afternoon tea and cocktails, The Glade is a magical, woodland bar and The East Bar is an ultra-modern bar and lounge. It is hard to explain, so watch the video below, enjoy the pictures and have a good read of their website!
|The Lecture Room|
|The Glade Bar|
|The East Bar|
Now, it all looks great, but we didn't go to any of them. The awful woman at the front of house decided, after looking us up and down in turn in the most obvious and snooty way possible, that Team List was too under dressed to enter her fine establishment. I have no problem with there being a dress code, and we were certainly not properly kitted out for a night of fine drinking and dining in Mayfair, but there's no need to be so rude about it! I am really keen to return but I hope (mostly for her sake) that she isn't there next time. Knowing List Leader Natalie's Northern temperament, she may not come off too well at a second meeting. This sent our usually chirpy List Leader into a royal grump, and we tried to find somewhere to go as quickly as possible before the whole evening folded. She was in an indecisive mood, so we ducked inside Urban Tea Rooms next door to Aint Nothin' But Blues Bar on Kingly Street for a drink.
Urban Tea Rooms opens at 7.30 am for breakfast, and keeps going throughout the day, serving "Great British produce" and fine teas, before turning into a wine bar at night. The atmosphere is relaxed and just what we needed after wandering around Mayfair - good old reliable Soho. Our relaxation didn't last too long, as Natalie accidentally set fire to her jacket by leaving it on top of a candle, burning a whole through it. The bottle of wine seemed to help her come to terms with it though, and we ended our evening in good spirits. Food is available right throughout the evening as well, and there is always the excellent blues bar next door if the mood takes you.
|Watch out for those candles.|
A tough evening for Team List but we soldiered on - not sure how many List points to count from all of those various attempts! Donations for Natalie's new jacket are now being taken - contact me directly. How else will she be allowed into Sketch?