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London’s Best Vodka Bar

Samarkand, London’s ultimate Uzbekistan restaurant, is not your run-of-the-mill spot in this city’s culinary scene. The inspiration comes from the name itself as Samarkand happens to be a city found along the Silk Road in Uzbekistan. The menu features traditional dishes from Uzbekistan with a modern twist and while the food is superb, the vodka collection may just be one of the best in London. I had the chance to try out the extensive collection filled with more than 45 luxury varieties at a special cocktail evening they were hosting and I was truly impressed with the entire restaurant and bar.

samarkandSamarkand is located just off Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. It’s not the easiest to find, but I think that adds to the allure of the restaurant itself. Once you find the door, and head down the stairs, you will walk into a breathtaking dining room filled with dramatic chandeliers, plush booths, a beautiful open plan kitchen and gorgeous gold and teal accents. The interior design is inspired by the many different cultures you would experience if you were travelling on the Silk Road. It’s truly one of the most stunning restaurants I’ve been to in London.

vodka-cabinetWe headed to a separate bar area and was met with a beautiful illuminated vodka cabinet that I couldn’t quite keep my eyes off. Pretty crystal decanters filled with an array of infused vodkas – everything from coffee to Bergamot to Duck Fat, sitting in an illuminated rose gold shelf. Interior Goals… 

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vodka-cabinet-6We took our seats whilst the expert barmen crafted our welcome cocktails.

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samarkand-2While I am more of a wine or beer person, I do love a good cocktail and vodka is hands down my spirit of choice. Our welcome cocktails were a stiff mix of Tuaca and Vodka – the perfect post-work libation when you need more of a strong one. Whilst we sipped on our drinks, the head bartender talked us through the history of the Silk Road, which lies between China and the Mediterranean. Samarkand was once one of the greatest cities in the World and at the forefront of science, medicine and astronomy. Vodka is a staple in Uzbekistan culture and goes with every single meal. Why is this? Because the vodka downing Russians had invaded and dominated Uzbekistan for more than a century, thus leaving their mark in the form of alcohol.

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samarkand-foodAfter our intriguing history lesson, we sampled some out of this world Uzbekistan cuisine paired with a few different vodkas. The above was the slow cooked beef short rib with pomegranates, fried noodles, and egg. The meat melted in your mouth and the fried noodles were addicting. We all went back for seconds and thirds.

samarkand-food-4We also sampled these scrumptious traditional Uzbek hand-made dumplings filled with beef and lamb or pumpkin with a marinara dipping sauce. These little parcels were bursting with flavour  – the perfect snack to have while drinking.

vodka-cabinet-3We all had a chance to sample an infused vodka of our choice, which was a real treat. Some of these vodkas have been infused for months.

coffee-vodkaI went for the coffee-infused vodka served in pretty navy and gold teacups. Samarkand primarily serves high end vodka, making it incredibly smooth and goes down a treat. You won’t find any head-ache inducing vodkas here.

vodkaSamarkand stocks some of the hardest-to-find vodkas in London. I sampled the “Holy Grass,” one of the rarest and most difficult vodkas to find. The vodka is infused with an unsual botanical called Holy Grass that was discovered on the banks of the Thurso River. The grass has a sweet, vanilla taste and although the vodka served straight definitely had a sharpness, it was softened by the sweet taste of the grass. The vodka was so pure, we all agreed we could drink a cup of it straight.

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samarkand-3Our time exploring the immense vodka collection and learning all about the different kinds began to came to a close, but not without a parting cocktail for the road.

skullA gorgeous Berry Shampanski, filled with a sweet, sugary foam and fresh berries, which was well-received by all.

I fell in love with Samarkand, the decor, the staff, the drinks and the food are all superb. The barmen are incredibly passionate and knowledgable. The talent is evident and it was a delight to listen to their stories and hear about the history of how vodka evolved. I think they are on to some great things in the bar world and I’m excited to see what’s in store for them next.

As for the food, I only got a mere snapshot, but a great one at that. I can’t wait to come back and have dinner. If the food I did try was any indication of what the rest of the menu is like, I reckon it’ll be fantastic.

If you’re a big vodka fan, head to Samarkand to sample some of the best in one of the most beautiful restaurants in London. Cheers!

Samarkand | 33 Charlotte St | London | W1T 1RR | Book Now

British Tapas at St. James’s Hotel & Club

Sometimes, there’s nothing like a hearty, quintessentially British meal to cap off your day – especially when it comes in the form of an array of beautifully presented small plates to share between two. Located down a charming side street in Mayfair lies the beautiful St. James’s Hotel & Club in London, which has recently introduced a delightful British Tapas menu that we couldn’t want to tuck into.

image1Upon arrival, we were shown into the gorgeous lounge area, where guests are able to relax and have an aperitif before dinner on the plush couches and lounge chairs. The lounge is the epitome of chic, with large sofas, a sweeping bookcase to grab a book and relax and a toasty fireplace that will be perfect to warm up in the winter. After having a look around, we were led in to William’s Bar & Bistro, a comfortable and sophisticated dining room with a sweeping bar and relaxed atmosphere. We felt right at home from the moment we walked in.

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_R015883We took our seats at the window whilst the lovely general manager, Salvatore, poured us two crisp glasses of English white wine from the Biddenden Vineyards in Kent whilst we looked over the British Tapas Menu. Created by the hotel’s talented and michelin starred executive chef, William Drabble, the menu is made using the best of British produce sourced from a number of small suppliers who share William’s passion for the best ingredients. There are nine delectable tapas options to choose from. They all sounded great, so we let Salvatore surprise us with a few different options. 

_R015950Before we knew it, we were presented with the best of British, including Welsh Rarebit, Pork Rilette with Galette and Apple Puree, and Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes with Tartare sauce to start. Welsh rarebit is a favourite of mine and these little morsels were exceptional and comforting The Fish Cakes were perfectly crisp and the Pork Rilette was hearty topped on fresh, out-of-the-oven bread.

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_R015912Salvatore poured us a light rose wine to pair with the next set of Tapas, which included Confit Lamb Breast Fritters with Apple and Mint Jelly, Smoked Salmon on Rye Bread with Creme Cheese, Potato Velour and Maderia Jus, Tutworth and Mushrooms slider with walnuts and truffle dressing and finally Haggis Beinets,

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_R015929It was a lovely selection that even King Henry VIII would be content with! I was pleasantly surprised by the Haggis Beinets, as Haggis is quite an acquired taste, but these morsels were moreish. The Lamb Breast Fritters were also a highlight, light and crisp, it was a fight for who got the last one!

We finished off our evening on a sweet note with the Vanilla Cheesecake with mixed berries that was beautifully presented in a Martini glass. It was delicious, so much so, that we both agreed we should have ordered two!

_R015954All of the dishes we sampled were stunning and ideal for two people to share. The menu is ideal for a light lunch or cocktail hour before dinner. It is also a great foray into British food for those from out of town who want to try the classics whilst they are in London. It was a superb dinner with impeccable service and gorgeous surroundings. It will definitely become your go-to place for dinner or drinks! Salvatore and his talented bar team are also launching a series of cocktail masterclasses, so keep an eye out for more info!

St. James’s Hotel & Club | 7-8 Park Place | St. James’s | London | SW1A 1LS | Book Now 

Wining & Dining at Humble Grape on Fleet Street

There’s a lovely new wine bar that has been making waves in London called Humble Grape, located in the vaults of St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street near St. Paul’s. This little wine bar is special for many reasons – the best being that it specialises in wine from sustainable, independent growers from around the world, with 30 varieties available by the glass or carafe and more than 200 by the bottle. Needless to say, it’s a wine lover’s idea of heaven.

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_R013896When you walk into Humble Grape, you’re automatically stunned by the space – with exposed stone vaulted ceilings, recycled cork walls, and rustic tables and chairs – it feels as though you have tumbled down the stairs and into an idyllic wine cellar filled with some of the best wines you could imagine. There is a lovely bar area where you can relax with a post-work glass of wine as well as plenty of seating throughout the rest of the venue. While Humble Grape is primarily a wine bar, they do have some fantastic food options for dinner as well as a Daily Express Lunch Menu, so we decided to give it a go.

PicMonkey CollageWe kicked off our lunchtime soiree with some vino of course – 3 glasses of delicious Malbec. We were all admiring the packaging on some of the bottles as a quite a few of them are very unique and would make great gifts for for friends or family.

PicMonkey Collage 2Our knowledgable wine sommelier showed us a few more rare and  unique bottles of wine, including this Mother’s Ruin, which I plan to go back and get as the label was one of the most original ones I’ve seen. I must also note that the bottles of wine for sale are quite reasonably priced starting around £20 a bottle.

_R013880The Daily Express lunch menu is ideal for city slickers on the go who want to have a lunch meeting or just pop-in for a quick bite to eat. We all opted for the Sweeney Todd, aka steak sandwich with dry aged sirloin steak, carmelised onions, horseradish and watercress with some pico de gallo on the side, which complemented the sandwich quite well. The steak sandwich was delicious and full of flavour – it was the perfect lunchtime option. Other sandwiches include Smoked MackerelParma Ham, Rocket and Parmigiana; Roasted Aubergine, black olive, halloumi and rocket as well as thinly sliced Tenderstem broccoli, asparagus, alfalfa sprouts, black rice and toasted sunflower seeds. 

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_R013901After lunch, we had a wander around the space. I love this piece of art on the wall as it is so bold and bright, which is a stark contrast from the rest of the lovely rustic venue and really makes the dining room come alive. I’d love to have something similar in my flat! It’s the perfect centre piece and a great conversation piece.

_R013903One of my favourite areas of the venue is the actual cellar, which holds several bottles of fantastic wine. Couples can opt to have dinner in this special room, which is small and intimate – perfect for date night or special occasions.

_R013886And of course, the wine shop – filled with dozens upon dozens of different and unique wines that you can peruse and take home with you! Humble Grape also host several wine tasting events throughout the year and you can even curate your own wine tasting experience in the private dining room area – which would be awesome for parties or to do with family and friends.

Humble Grape Fleet Street is a fantastic wine bar to head to for so many different occasions, whether it be a quick lunch, drinks after work, dinner, wine tasting with friends, private parties, you name it – it’s the ideal spot in London! The space is beautiful, service is friendly and incredibly knowledgeable about wines, and they have a fabulous wine selection. You can even check out what types of wine they have in stock online (it’s ever evolving).

If you’re a wineaholic, head to Humble Grape for your next evening out! You’ll love it.

Cheers! x

Wine Tasting at Bedales of Borough

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of going to a wine tasting at Bedales in Borough Market in partnership with Loire Valley Wines. My friend Sarah and I were in need of a catch up and what better way to catch up than over a few glasses of quality French wine?
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_R013915The wine tasting took place in the gorgeous upstairs area of Bedales and was hosted by Helen McGinn of the award-winning “The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club,” book and blog. Helen’s motto is life’s too short to drink bad wine, which is a sentiment I am definitely on board with! I’m excited to read her book – which is all about finding the right type of wine for every occasion.

_R013912We started off the tasting with some bubbles – the Domaine Cahmpalou from the Vouvray region of the Loire Valley in France. This sparkling wine was mouth-wateringly good. Helen had us take a sip and breathe some air in, which really enhanced the flavours of the wine. It was a great sparkling wine to enjoy before dinner.

_R013926Out came some lovely cheeses, meats and spreads locally sourced from artisan traders at Borough Market. We began to pair the next few wines with the different cheeses, paying extra attention to how the flavours of the cheeses enhanced and altered the taste of the wine. Some tasted so much better with different cheeses and others were better without.

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_R013935The Domaine Hureau Tuffle above was one of my favourite wines we tasted. It is a Cabaret Franc and is made with the skin of grapes. It was crisp, delicious and juicy and paired really well with the blue cheese.

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_R013971We moved on to tasting a few red wines and the Domaine Olga Raffault Cabernet Franc 2003, which was incredible. It’s aged really y well in oak and had a lovely smokey flavour to it. We got to try the 2nd to last bottle of this lovely wine and we savoured every last drop.

_R013954We also sampled a couple dessert wines, which were a bit too sweet for my taste, but would pair really well with pecan pie or a dark chocolate. The Domaine des Petits Quarts Chenin Blanc was my favourite of the two. We learned that the colour of these wines tells us a lot about the age. This one in particular is from 1994!

_R013980Helen was super knowledgable about all of the wines we sampled and a really fun host! I love learning more about wines and the tasting notes of each one. Wines from the Loire Valley are some of the best in my opinion and many of them do go unnoticed, so if you do have a chance to try one – I highly recommend it! They were all very great quality. A wine tasting trip in the Loire Valley is definitely on my bucket list!

Bedales holds regular wine workshops fortnightly for just £30, so I am definitely going to try and go to the next one as well as bring my mom when she comes to visit. What are some of your favourite wine workshops in London?

Bedales | 5 Bedale Street | London | SE1 9AL 

Drinks at the Dalloway Terrace

A few weeks ago, I was with my best friend Lizz and we stumbled upon the gorgeous and hidden Dalloway Terrace located behind the Bloomsbury Hotel. What we didn’t fully realise is that we were in for quite a lovely surprise…

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I had read a few articles about this clandestine al-fresco spot in the centre of London and knew I had to check it out for myself.  It was love at first site. Caution: Prepare yourself for serious balcony dècor envy.

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The magical Dalloway Terrace is located down the secluded Great Russell Street, just a stone’s throw away from Tottenham Court Road station. From the moment you step forth on terrace, it feels as through you are no longer in the middle of London. It’s a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and the ideal spot to unwind with a glass of wine or a cocktail.
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I was truly inspired by the simple and chic outdoor décor, with marble topped circular tables, gold lanterns, hydrangeas, black and white rattan chairs, grey booths and colourful cushions to relax on. Lush greenery with twinkly etherial fairy lights created an unforgettable ambiance that I would love to replicate on my own balcony at home. To say I was smitten with the space, is an understatement.

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The décor was stunning. However, I was also impressed by the attentive staff as well. They were so lovely and kind and made a conscious effort to top Lizz and I up with bubbles periodically. We did only go for drinks, but I have read fabulous reviews about the afternoon tea and brunch, which I definitely plan on trying sometime this summer.

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Lizz and I had a ball and chit chatted away in the sunshine with champagne in hand as Frank Sinatra tunes flowed in the background and transported us to another era.

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The bill was delivered cleverly in a Virginia Woolf ‘Mrs. Dalloway‘ novel, which I thought was a really cute touch. After toasting to our last glass of bubbly, we decided to say our goodbyes and stroll on home.

I loved the Dalloway Terrace so much, I had returned two times later that week – once for a business meeting and another  for an evening with a friend for some post-work tipples. There had been a special event booked on the terrace on one of the occasions, so we decided to duck underground to the stunning Bloomsbury Club Bar, which is just as special as the Terrace. If you have time to check out both, I highly recommend! 1950’s classics softly played in the background and we enjoyed the quiet, old-fashioned atmosphere as we caught up on wedding planning. It’s a charming spot for cocktails on a date or with a friend.

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The Dalloway Terrace has officially stolen my heart and will be a go-to during the summer. I’m excited to bring my mom and sister when they visit in a few months time. What are some of your favourite al- fresco spots to enjoy a drink in the sun? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Thanks for reading x

Dalloway Terrace |16-22 Great Russell St | London | WC1B 3NN

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-Mark Twain

An Underground Squiffy Picnic

Deep beneath the trudge of unwitting feet is a garden party happening underground at the sensational Cahoots, located in Soho’s Kingly Court. Determined to beat the cold-weather blues, Cahoots has launched the splendid Squiffy Picnic in a bid to keep the summer sun shining all autumn long… Trust me, you’re in for a delightful treat. 

When we got to Cahoots, we were whisked away, down the apples and pears to our lovely picnic table, complete with a cosy tartan blanket, flowers, and a Sipsmith Summer Cup to kick off the festivities.

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At our beautifully laid table, we found brown paper bags filled with ration-inspired sarnies including cucumber, smoked salmon and cream cheese, salt beef horseradish and jam, served on classic blue and white china – I loved it. (I need to get a set for our new home – any suggestions on where to find a cute set, let me know!)

Teacups

Sandwiches

Menu

Hungry picnickers are given three scrumptious options of hampers to choose from with different tipples in each. We went for the Aristocrats and Fat Cats – Classic English Sparkling Wine and a hip flask of Damson vodka and tonic water. There’s never a bad time for a little champagne in my book.

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We sipped our Summer cocktails, chatted and enjoyed some brilliant live tunes from the lindyhop band on stage. Oh, and we also played dress up – you can’t have a picnic without a vintage sun hat.

Champagne

Before we knew it, our vintage wicker hamper had arrived filled to the brim with quintessentially British fare circa 1946. Porkie Pies, sausages, grapes, tomatoes, apples, indulgent homemade tiffin, sweet lavender shortbread, Victoria sponge cake, chocolates, and of course, English sparkling wine, a deck of playing cards and some flying gliders for good measure. Where to begin? We sifted through all the goodness and pick and chose what to have first, whilst we popped the corks and tucked in.

Pouring

Squiffy Picnic

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Chocolates

Cookies

biscuits

My favourite was the lavender short bread – I couldn’t get enough. The Victoria Sponge Cake was a sweet highlight also!

Victoria Sponge Cake

We were full to our heart’s content – between the two bottles of champagne, sandwiches, sweets and desserts, we had definitely over indulged, but it was worth it. The food was delicious (and the libations weren’t bad either). We sat back and relaxed until one very last hamper made its way over to our picnic table…

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A hip flask of SipSmith Damson Vodka, tonic  and of course, cheese and quince jelly – because no traditional British meal would be complete without the cheese and biscuits!

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vodka-tonic

I had never had Damson Vodka before, but Ciaran has been raving about it for months now and unable to find it anywhere to buy. I’m not a huge spirits person, with that said, I thought it was delicious. I could have enjoyed it straight without any tonic at all – it was so smooth. A winning choice to end our lovely Squiffy picnic with.

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We polished off the cheese and jam (my favourite part of any meal), and stumbled on up the apples and pears into the streets of Carnaby, happy and satiated. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Squiffy Picnic has officially launched and will take place every Sunday from 3-6pm. It’s a great alternative to brunch and a traditional Sunday roast. Bring your family and friends from abroad – they’ll love it too. I can’t wait to bring my mom when she visits – it doesn’t get more traditionally British than this! Book a table by clicking this link here. Cheers!

Cahoots

13 Kingly Court 

Soho, London