Category Archives: Bars

LA pizza in the heart of east London

Pizza East has been on my eaterie radar for quite some time now, so when my mum came down to visit last week, I thought I would make plans and actually book somewhere in the neighbourhood, rather than trawling round Soho in the hope of finding somewhere we both liked.  Ok, my neighbourhood is actually Hackney Central, but the Kingland Road stretch just seems like a hop and a skip away when there’s good food to be had.

We tried to book a table for three and each time I rang, they only had availability for ‘early bird suppers’ at 6.30pm.  However, it was suggested that we’d have more luck if we turn up and wait for a table at the time we wanted to eat.  I guess this is quite a democratic system, as it stops the restaurant being jammed up with bookings for weeks ahead and prevents such pretentions as ‘waiting lists’.

pizza east centre bar

 We were told we would have to wait an hour for a table but they would try to get us seated earlier, although it did end up this long, so we had a bottle of Peroni at the bar. The bar had a great atmosphere and was a veritable ‘who’s who’ of Shoreditch fashion and media types, with Brix Smith-Start buzzing around, waiting for her table.  Despite trying to appear patient and happily lost in conversation, everyone looked so restless that they might have grabbed one of the Italian hams hanging from the ceiling and gnawed away on it there and then. 

So, why is everyone falling over each other to dine at Pizza East when there are plenty of pizza joints in the east end?  Well, it’s the latest venture of Soho House group founder Nick Jones, also the owner of Shoreditch House, directly above Pizza East in the Tea Building (on the corner of Shoreditch High Street and Bethnal Green Road. 

pizza east chairs

The pizzas are apparently inspired by the wood-fired sourdough those at LA’s Pizzeria Mozza, with a mix of classic Italian combinations and house speciality pizzas like veal meatballs with sage, lemon, parsley and cream and another with duck sausage, artichoke, parmesan and boschetto al tartufo.

We started with two orders of garlic bread to share, which came on rustic wooden chopping boards. Each potion consisted of two massive hunks of ciabatta oozing delicious garlic butter with fresh parsley, so luckily we didn’t go for one each.

Our waiter was a chatty Italian guy with very cool Ray-Ban glasses, who recommended his personal favourites and came over almost every time he passed to see if we needed anything.

pizza east garlic bread

Next up was the much-anticipated pizza, although the garlic bread and Peroni had mellowed my growling stomach enough not to wolf it down without wild abandon.

I ordered the speck with rocket, my mum went for the portobello mushroom, shallot, parsley and egg, and Steven chose the hottest pizza on the menu so he didn’t have to share (sorry, maybe it’s just a coincidence), which was salami, red onion and red chilli flakes.

The sourdough base was unlike any I’ve ever tried before and had a crisp, bubbly crust and soft but not too flimsy centre. There was a generous covering of smooth tomato sauce made in-house and the most flavoursome mozzarella clustered near the middle. The speck tasted well-matured and the rocket was super fresh and robust – all in all, everything I could have hoped for in a pizza and more.

pizza east pizza

There was a bit of cross-table swappage and I can report that the salami had a much more meaty texture and flavour than the generic, uniformly thin and greasy versions and the portobello mushrooms had a slightly nutty, garlic taste.

Pizza East also claim to source seasonal and local produce, although I’m sure most of the pizza ingredients are imported from Italy, as they taste so authentic.  The guy next to us ordered the most tender and slow-cooked beef cheek, so perhaps the meat and staple ingredients are from home turf.

We were left feeling pretty full after the starter and main meal (rarely would I go for double bread action in one sitting), but it would have been a shame not to try the desserts, so we ordered the salted chocolate caramel tart on the recommendation of our ‘new best friend’ waiter.  It only seems logical that when sharing between three, you go for the richest, most decadent dessert to make up for all that spoon clashing and thimble-sized portions.

The waiter told us we would get a surprise and in fact there were two – our tart was covered in snowflakes of rock salt and we were given a taster of delightful Moscato dessert wine, that was made in the village next to where he was from.

pizza east caramel tart

The salt really complimented the velvety, sweet caramel and dark chocolate and the pastry was exceptional, with a sandy texture that is really hard to achieve.  With the flaked almonds and mascarpone/soured cream, the dessert took on the taste of a really posh dime bar – absolutely delicious!

I expected that due to Pizza East’s location and lineage that it may be somewhat standoffish and have the tense atmosphere of hipsters experiencing carb-guilt (a neurosis I also suffer from at certain strong-willed times of the year).  However, the staff were so welcoming and open and there was a great buzz of everyone getting stuck in Italian-style and chatting freely.  There are also small touches from Shoreditch House such as Cowshed handsoap and lotion in the bathrooms that remind you that it’s not just your regular pizzeria.

I also kind of like the communal dining aspect, as you never know who you could be sat next to, and as I usually end up next to the village nut-job, they’re often keep you entertained.  It did feel like I was sitting on a wooden  toadstool though, so a proper bench or comfy seat wouldn’t go amiss.

pizza east bar

I’m looking forward to Pizza East’s take-out service that’s due to launch in December and I like the idea of having a deli counter where you can buy store cupboard items like oil and sauces, as well as branded products from the restaurant.  I’m also tempted by the charcuterie and cheese boards on offer at the centre bar – great for avoiding the pizza-induced mid-afternoon slump and the tedious queuing.

Not only is Pizza East the most exciting new restaurant in the Shoreditch area, but it has the friendly feel of a neighbourhood restaurant that could quite easily become my ‘local’ for years to come, and that’s not a decision I take lightly!

Pizza East, 56 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6JJ

Pizza East on Urbanspoon

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From Prado to Palm Beach in Marseille

Ever since studying French hip hop and the lyrics of rap group IAM at uni, I’ve been intrigued by Marseille. So, to get some end of summer sunshine, Steven and I booked a cheap Ryanair flight and headed to the south of France for three nights.

Marseille is like an intruder on the chichi vibe of the Côte d’Azur (its nickname is planète mars) due to being a large port town with North African influences and a laid-back Mediterranean culture. It can be a bit dodgy in places (we almost got pickpocketed in the old port), but it’s ancient history and super friendly people add to its rugged charm.

vieux port

Being on a pretty tight budget, we decided to spend two nights at the moderately priced Mercure Marseille Prado and stay for the last night in the luxurious Pullman Palm Beach spa hotel.  I’m not usually a fan of big chain hotels, as they always seem to have more properties than they can cope with, but Mercure has been pretty good to me over the years.  This one was comfortable and basic (we got it for £156 for two nights and wouldn’t pay much more) but the main draw was the incredible breakfast, served on the terrace each morning.  The hot selection was dubious, but there was a good selection of mini pastries, fresh baguette, local cheeses and heavenly buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup. 

The location is quite far out from the centre on foot, but it took less than 1o minutes on the metro and it is just 20 minutes down the tree-lined avenue to Prado beach and our next stop, the Pullman Palm Beach.   

ocean view at Pullman Palm Beach

The Pullman Palm Beach is a sleek design hotel that overlooks the famous Corniche J.F Kennedy, next to a yachting club, and has an outdoor infinity pool, jacuzzi, sauna and gym.

We were in a double patio room which was decorated in a subtle nautical style and featured prints by a local artist, a massive flatscreen TV and the most incredible bed that felt like you were curled up in a marshmallow. 

The bathroom had both a shower and a bathtub, bois d’orange toiletries by Roger & Gallet, some seriously fluffy bathrobes and velvety slippers – everything you need for a relaxing spa stay.

bedroom at Pullman Palm Beach

Most of the guests were business delegates and I was so tempted to gatecrash their champagne and macaroon receptions at night (I resisted, of course), but there are probably more regular travellers in the high summer. This wasn’t a bad thing though, a we almost had the pool and sauna to ourselves.

The hotel is all about relaxation, so it’s very quiet and peaceful, especially in the library on the first floor, where you can read coffee table books and international newspapers in an armchair, overlooking the sea.

Library

We didn’t eat at the restaurant, although the food looked amazing, but we had a drink at the bar before going into town for dinner.  We had a Pina Colada and a Tequila Sunrise (both 12 Euros) from the classic cocktail menu, but maybe a spirit or beer would be better, as they were a bit too weak and filled with ice.  We got a massive tasting plate of olives, nuts and tapenade bruschetta with our drinks though, as well as a sunset view, so it was well worth it.

Pullman at night

The best thing about the Pullman is that staff are around when you need them, but they leave you to get on with your own thing without hassle.  The spa facilities were amazing and there was no shortage of towels, sunbeds, extra toiletries and even free healthy snacks in the spa area.  We were even upgraded to an ocean view room on arrival. 

We got a decent deal at £130 a night, as a double room at walk-in price costs upward of £300, but it was one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in and was worth every penny.  I’m already plotting a way to return next year – I wonder if Marseille has a film festival to be reviewed?

Mercure Marseille Prado, 11 Avenue de Mazargues  13008 Marseille

Pullman Palm Beach, 200 Corniche J.F Kennedy 13007 Marseille

Afternoon tea at Yauatcha

Earlier this week, the lovely Sheena Appadoo from Aramis invited me for afternoon tea at Yauatcha.  Sheena keeps me in delightful scents and replaced my summer daily staple of DKNY Be Delicious Fresh Blossom with the richer, Autumnal DKNY Women limited edition scent in gold and bright purple – I’m addicted already!

Back to Yauatcha, I’d already tried the macaroons from their patisserie and my favourite is the champagne flavour embellished with goldleaf, but I was excited to sample ‘the full works’ in the tea room. 

Yauatcha

The michelin starred dim sum restaurant and tea house, created by Alan Yau (he who launched Wagamama and Hakkasan) looks more like a boutique from the outside and is an oasis of calm with low seating, blossom-embroidered banquettes and blue-tinted facades half concealing the kitchen.

There are three types of afternoon tea available and we ordered the Oriental Afternoon Tea for one (£24.50) to share, which comes with a selection of dim sum instead of sandwiches.  I chose a pot of Darjeeling First Flush from a huge range of teas including blue, green, black and white tea.

 The dim sum selection included a baked venison puff, char sui bun and scallop siu mai – the former two were tasty but unusually sweet. I’m always more excited about the cakes and they didn’t disappoint!  There was a layer of sweet sandwiches – a bright pink rasberry and lychee jelly filling packed between layers of fine sponge and one with vanilla sponge and bitter chocolate ganache.

Yauatcha

The top layer resembled a mini version of the patisserie counter and included a rich chocolate macaroon, a lemon and cola tartlet, chocolate chip marshmallow, chocolate financier, a piece of shortbread and a shot of apple and kiwi mousse.

Just as I had worked my way through the sugary layers, then came two mountainous scones (one Matcha green tea flavoured and one plain) with a tray full of oriental jams and mascarpone cream – I was defeated!  From other reviews, I’ve discovered that had we managed to wolf these down too, there were still flavoured marshmallows, mini chocolate slabs and truffles to come!

The service was unobtrusive and we were served at a steady pace, although this should be the case, as we went on a quiet weekday afternoon.

Yauatcha

The only criticism is that they won’t box up the left items to take away, due to ‘health and safety’.   At many afternoon tea establishments like Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley, they package up what you can’t eat for you to munch on at home. It’s no biggie though, just take a paper napkin with you and drop a scone or two into your handbag, in case you get peckish on the bus.

You can of course go to Yauatcha for a simple pot of tea and a cake from the patisserie, but the Oriental Afternoon Tea is perfect for sampling a little bit of everything in exquisite surroundings and believe me, it’s more than worth it!

Yauatcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, London W1F 0DL

Yauatcha on Urbanspoon

Extreme ice cream!

Selfridges is a regular stop on my lunchtime route when I’m at work – in the name of fashion features research, but more just to admire the food hall and add to new jewels and gadgets to my Wonder Room wishlist.

So, with an hour or two to languish away, I headed down the Ultra Lounge to sample the finest ice cream available to humanity at The Icecreamists’ punk-luxe, guerilla ice cream installation.

Icecreamists

The Icecreamists have reclaimed ice cream from weepy, Bridget Jones drudgery and made it seriously sexy, with decadent flavours and extravagant frozen cocktails in a luxurious boutique parlour.  The ‘installation’ is decked out like the backstage area of the ultimate glam rock concert with black PVC sofas, a silver banqueting table and small stage with splashes of hot pink.  The decor gives a nod to Stephen Sprouse’s punky neon graffiti and there is even a souped up icecream van driven by HRH herself!

Icecreamists

We tried a scoop of the Axl Rose-Water ice cream – a pastel pink concoction of rose water, vanilla and dried rose petals.  The ice cream is based on traditional artisan gelato methods, using less fat and less air than American versions, making it smoother, healthier and more flavoursome.

The flavours are classics remixed with crazy names like Obamarama (milk chocolate, funnily enough), Gingiana Jones (Asian spiced ginger), Glastonberry and The Molotoffee Cocktail.  They’re not cheap at £4.99 a tub, but it was the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted, out of Italy, anyway!

But if you want more Heston Blumenthal-style molecular bells and whistles, there’s God Save the Cream – a cryogenic ‘reverse’ flambee cocktail created at your table and served at a ridiculously cold -196 degrees.  Or, save your lips from frostbite with the Sex Pistol ice cream cocktail that promises to get you going with natural stimulants, absinthe ice cream and a shot of absinthe in a pink water pistol.

Ice cream

There’s scheduled live music from opera singers to girl bands and rock boys, so check out The Icecreamists’ Facebook page for more info.

For a better idea of the…ahem, ‘atmosphere’ of the installation, watch models Tolula Adeyemi and Mel Rose’s informative guide, directed by Pussy Glamore’s Marissa Montgomery.  Well, it’s just them getting all sticky and creamy, but why not, ice cream is sexy now, after all!

The Icecreamists’ God Save the Cream installation is open now until 1 November at Selfridges.

A life in mono

Glasgow is vegan cafe central, but mono is the only one that can keep my sworn carnivore friends happy with their exceptionally delicious veggie burgers and homebrewed pink lemonade.

Mono

Mono is the kind of place where you can waste away an afternoon drinking organic beer on the sofas, swapping a book at their library exchange or getting crafty at one of their regular Stitch and Bitch events.  It’s in a quiet, rogueish part of town, down by the Clyde and just far enough from trendy Merchant City and Argyll Street’s uninspiring shops.

The soundtrack is provided by in-house record store Monorail, which has an amazing mix of records and CDs from every Scottish indie album you could ever want to antifolk, glitchy electro and obscure film scores.  At night, mono turns into a gig venue with a tiny stage that has seen all the greats like Arab Strap and Belle and Sebastian and now plays host to the kind of bands on Domino and ATP Recordings, oh and their own jazz night.

Monorail

But more about the amazing, wholesome vegan food!  If Stella McCartney has got you into Meat Free Monday, then you’re in for a treat – 3 delectable course for £10, all day Monday.

On the menu are Indian or Greek platters and thai stirfrys, a variety of tapas and snacks like crostini with aubergine and chilli.  My longtime hangover cure was a veggie burger with spicy chips and garlic mayo, but if you’re after total obliteration, go for the Big Mono (£7.50) – it’s a burger with the full works, chips and a side salad.

Mono home-brewed beer

Mono is lucky to have some pretty good neighbours, with treasure trove vintage shop Mr Ben just two doors down and 13th Note across the road. The only problem is, it’s kind of hard to tear yourself away!

Mono, 12 Kings Court, Glasgow, G1 5RB

Marquis de Sade lives on in Prague

Prague seems to have been reclaimed by stag and hen parties (or so the Daily Mail would have us believe), so visiting a bar named after the most famous purveyor of filth for a cold glass of Pilsner Urquell could be deemed cultural suicide.  Not so, as Marquis de Sade has the louche feel of a downtown bar, despite being a few streets off the old square, and faded decadence

used to be a brothel. underneath is an early 20th century ballroom. ten metre ceiling, now in ruins.
decadent, debauched,
sex on the beach cocktails, absinthe or pivo
off the Old Town Square

Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade

Open 11am – 2am daily.
Happy Hour: Monday through Friday, 4pm-6pm
Metro: Námestí Republiky