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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

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