What do you get when you combine dim sum, cocktails, neon lights and a DJ? Fu Manchu, the ‘New Social Experience’ that brings together club, restaurant and bar under one of Clapham North’s railway arches. This isn’t your standard ‘bar, club and restaurant’ combo though. There’s no microwave food and Woo Woos here. The music is loud, but the food and cocktails are on par to satisfy the pickiest of London’s foodies, with plump har gow and char sui bao winging out the kitchens, and the cocktails blended with Asian spices and Chinese tea infusions. Try the Secret Essence of the Poppey Hill: a hybrid of elderflower & rose liqueur, fresh cucumber and sake that’s like an Asian twist on English afternoon tea.
FuManchu, 15-16 Lendal Terrace, London SW4 7UX, UK, +44 2033 978 844
Melt Room is a genius concept – it’s a wonder no one’s thought of it before. Melt Room is Soho’s first gourmet toastie shop, where the menu is as loaded with exciting toasties (or ‘melts’as the menu calls them) as the toasties are loaded with cheese. There’s The Classic, that’s bursting with gooey special cheese blend. Then there’s slow cooked lamb shoulder, pulled pork, roast beetroot and even a nutella and marscapone melt for dessert.
Melt Room, 26 Noel St, London W1F 8GY, UK, +44 2070 962 002
Blind Spot Bar
A speakeasy updated for 2015, you’ll find newly-opened Blind Spot Bar in the foyer of the refurbished St Martin’s Lane hotel, hidden behind a counter of loose leaf tea. Ironic, as it’s definitely not a cup of tea you’ll be coming here for. The cocktail menu was created by mixologist Andrew Loudon, and borrows from the bar’s camouflaged entrance, fusing tea-time and happy hour with drinks inspired by the ancient tea trade, and colonial-style snacks on offer. The inspirations may be of old, but the interior is thoroughly up to date, with intimate booths to scooch into, and touches of gold everywhere.
Blind Spot Bar, 45 St Martin’s Ln, London WC2N 4HX, UK, +44 2073 005 500
There’s no sweeter combination than jazz and juleps, and Kansas Smitty’s does both very well. Hidden under Broadway Market street, it’s an homage to Kansas – the city that ignored Prohibition – and there’s now no better place to get your bourbon and jazz fix. The house band are regulars at Ronnie Scotts and Nightjar, and the drinks are designed by Sean Fennelly of Milk & Honey fame. As the saying goes, never judge a book by it’s cover: the interiors are lacking in spit and polish but hot damn, the music’s swinging and the sippin’ is far, far too easy.
Kansas Smitty’s, 63-65 Broadway Market, London E8 4PH, UK, +44 7731 016 744
Following London’s current trend of one-item menus, Top Dog does, you guessed it, hot dogs. And it does them better than pretty much anyone else in London. That’s the kicker with one-trick-pony dining – picking one kind of food means you learn how to make it really, really well, and in this case, with lots of cracking variations. These aren’t your standard ‘dog and fries combo. Hot dogs here look like works of art, and come with everything from kimchi to pulled pork and homemade baked beans. The Soho with fried onions and house sauce is our favourite though, because sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.
Top Dog, 48 Frith St, London W1D 4SF, UK, +44 2030 192 380
Taberna Do Mercado
You may have heard of a little spot called Chiltern Firehouse. You know, only the buzziest, most hard-to-get-into restaurant in town. It’s talented Head Chef, Nuno Mendes, is behind Taberna Do Mercado, making this opening one to definitely take note of. A complete switch from the former paparazzi hotspot, this is a low-key homage to the Portuguese tapas of Nuno’s childhood. Taking old school recipes and updating them with modern technologies and techniques, the food is full of flair and excitement, but always suitably delicious for those who aren’t fans of clever culinary tricks. Get to this one sharpish – despite its distaste for the limelight, London’s foodies will be filling it to bursting soon enough.
As the seasons change, so too does the Q Grill pop-up at Selfridges’ gorgeous rooftop terrace. Following on from the success of their Alpine-themed Le Chalet winter occupation (think loads of bourbon-laced hot chocolate and melted cheese on potatoes) comes Vintage Salt. Inspired by a Cornish-fishing village, here you’ll find summer seafood, G&Tea cocktails, and strawberries and cream for pudding. It’s all terribly British and done to our notoriously high standards. One can’t be doing with sub-par Earl Grey after all. It simply won’t do. We recommend a Vintage Violet to wash down your tea-smoked salmon: a mix of gin, violet liqueur, lavender syrup and sparkling wine.
Vintage Salt, Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street, London W1A 1AB, UK, +1 44 2073 183 287
The Wonderland Bar
Les Enfants Terribles have taken up residence at The Vaults in Waterloo, with an amazing new immersive performance of Alice in Wonderland. Even better, it’s brought with it the very best pop up bar for literature-aficionados in London. Wonderland-themed, it’s unimaginably imaginative, and riotously wonderful. Get tipsy on curious cocktails (warning: heavy amounts of gin is involved, although no-one’s quite sure what the mystery “Drink Me” cocktail contains) and then jive along with the jitterbugging characters of Wonderland to the strains of a live jazz band. You can even play flamingo croquet, if you fancy risking it with the Red Queen herself so close-by. Post show, The Wonderland Bar fills with members of the Wonderland cast ready to share a drink or two.
The Wonderland Bar, The Vaults, Leake Street, London SE1 7NN, UK, +44 2074 019 603
By Emma Cooke