The world of bars and drinking venues is in a constant state of flux. But with nearly 60 racecourses and heaven knows how many bars amongst us we felt it was time for the RCA On Tour team to knuckle down and go on a bar crawl.
A gallant group of researchers from racecourses including York, Goodwood, Ascot and others set off, suitably after the yard arm, to work through an itinerary covering everything from the branded group to the most bleeding-edge independent.
Round 1. The Folly, from Drake & Morgan
Drake & Morgan really are the masterclass in the large format combined eating and drinking venues which have popped up, masquerading as independents, across London. Set over two floors in the City of London The Folly seats 300 in an environment which suggest that drinking without eating is ‘so very last year’.
A high percentage of the customers are women, with an interior carefully crafted and dressed to encourage relaxed conversation over a ‘cheeky glass of Prosecco’.
We may be indooors but ‘would you like a snuggle blanket – or perhaps a hot water bottle’?
Fresh mint on the bar.
It’s clear that the stylists have been busy in here and they know who they want to talk to.
For group bookings only sharing platters, pre-booked, are available, together with pre-bought wine and prosecco.
Check out the delightful ‘reserved’ glasses display and giant ice bucket. Shame it’s only 12.30.
Only let down by the bland, cheap tasting sharing platters which, all agreed, didn’t cut the mustard. Perhaps the bankers don’t care.
From the big chain to the biggest street food cluster you may have ever seen. To edgy Shoreditch and to the most fun we’ve had in street food and cocktails for years.
Seemingly haphazzard but doubtless carefully curated, this two story street food fantasy is clipped together from scaffolding poles and neon. But the overall effect is brilliant.
Dedicated chefs delivering the latest food crazes in the simplest of serveries, menus with only one or two items – ‘You must try our legendary…’
With steel drums for tables, AstroTurf for grass and with totally ‘a la mode’ giant sharing tables this is truly a hard place to draw yourself away from.
Onward and upwards..
Just across the way from Dinerama is The Tea Building, a Shoreditch behemoth, housing the achingly fashionable Pizza East. It may be only a pizza joint but when it’s next door to ultra-hip Shoreditch House hotel we know to expect more.
Being a group we were ushered into ‘The Pantry’ a space like a kitchen discovered in some rambling French château.
With bottles and aged zinc beer taps set into the communal table, there’s no bar of course, and with baskets of fruit and cheese you virtually help yourself to drinks and snacks.
Deliciously named cocktails
Select hams, what’s not to love?
Resisting the temptation, yet again, to settle in we moved on. Up the Bethnal Green Road to a ‘rediscovered’ traditional London pub.
The old ‘Well & Bucket’ is a traditional Truman’s pub, just down the road from the famed Truman Brewery on Brick Lane.
All the elements of the old London pub and Oyster House appear to be intact. But on closer examination you find that this pub reflects the largest social change recorded in London in the last 80 years. Gone are the Pearly Kings and Queens, gone the rhyming slang. In its place we have the Hoxton Hipsters with the trimmed beards and a flat white in hand.
No longer operated by Truman’s this sheeshy independent delivers only craft beers and rare-breed gins to a more prosperous audience accompanied by a reassuringly expensive menu including oysters and lobster and salads of kale and walnut. Yes indeed!
Mines a Fin de Claire..
Sliders are still in fashion, now enhanced with delicious and unusual ingredients accompanied by that timeless classic Heinz Tomato Ketchup.
It’s around this time that we lost some of our team
Round and round…
Perhaps the coolest, and most popular places in London just now are the ones you can’t get into. These are the new generation Speakeasies of which The Mayor of Scaredycat Town (yes that’s a real name) is one of the best. On the ground floor these innocuous eateries hide a dark secret. For each has a large fridge, and through the fridge (yes you walk in through it) is a private passage to a basement speakeasy. Of course we no longer have prohibition – now we just have marketing and social media. It’s just as effective.
Strangely only two of our group, both younger and more female than the others, managed to make their way in, using the secret password. Yes it’s a secret and we’re not telling.
Round about 6
Strolling on we arrive at Mission, one of East London’s most celebrated new world wine bars.
Well this may be famous but it really didn’t do it for me. Obsequious staff, one ‘that’ll be cool Guys’ too many for me and an interior which I cannot remember. Most memorable of all was being offered a chilled bottle of orange wine, perhaps it was getting late. Duly tried and rejected by our discerning team we drank up (waste not want not!) and shuffled along.
That Paul Swain, who is from Hull and knows his pies, is a bit of a fan of our last haunt, Hawksmoor. This highly regarded temple to beef is known for its excellent and full priced steak. What fewer people seem to know is that they also run a mean cocktail bar in Spitalfields.
Off we go downstairs and are ushered into a deep booth seating ten. It’s been a long day but the team push on. All I have to say about this last venue is pure quality. Excellent at-table service, beautiful cocktails, well chilled beers, thrice fried chips in Lime Pickle Mayo, try that one at home, and the very best XO Chicken Wings.
Round and round
After 8 hours of eating and drinking the grown ups in the group crawled off, team Goodwood were off to a party and the younger members went in search of another speakeasy. For those of you who couldn’t make it we’ll try and update this next year – so get your drinking boots on and we’ll see you there.