Category: Reviews

Azulito Bar, Wahaca

80 Wardour Street, Soho London, W1F 0TF

Azulito Bar, Wahaca

Wahaca is all Mexican street food but underneath the Soho venue lies the new Azulito Bar, the purveyor of a fine selection of tequilas. Descend the staircase from this popular Wahaca into a Mexican bar of fun.

Décor and Ambience

Like Wahaca upstairs, Azulito’s colourful décor projects fun – it’s all about the bold red, flashy blue and lime green. While the vibrant colours thrown together aren’t exactly harmonious, they somehow work for this pocket of Mexicano. The furniture, similarly, are an eclectic mix. You have your wicker swing chairs, your low wired stools, your strong wooden benches, your cushioned recliners – in short you have quite a selection of comfortable seating options to choose from. And in case there wasn’t enough of a crazy mix, there is also table football to the side so you can indulge in something a bit more than just good food and tequila. Olé!

Atmosphere and Clientèle

Azulito’s Soho location means that it’s filled with a mixed crowd. There’s no dress code and the venue is relaxed so the crowd rather reflects the décor – colourful. Lots of people will have filtered down from Wahaca above as they wait for their tables or after they’ve eaten, but of course there is no reason why you can’t just pop in for a drink or two (or three..or four…)

The capacity of the venue means that while there’s a buzzy atmosphere, it never feels over-crowded which for Soho is a god send. Most people seem to go there to catch up with friends over a love of tequila as despite the music, it’s not a place to throw your shapes and embarass yourself on a dancefloor

Food and Drinks

There is only one drink you should have at Azulito – tequila. The bar is stocked with an impressive 80 different tequilas, all made with 100% agave. In case you’re wondering, it takes at least 51% blue agave (Azulito means “little blue” in case you were wondering) for a spirit to be classed as tequila so 100% is as good as it gets. Prices start from a little over £3 for a 25ml shot to £45 for that same measure depending on quality and rarity. Of course when they measured it out in shot glasses, they really wanted you to sip and savour as each listing in the tequila menu is accompanied by a short tasting note…a very impressive touch.

The other drinks on offer are also very affordable. Cocktails, all tequila based, barely tip £7 and wines peak at £20 a bottle though you can buy it by the glass or in carafes too. But if you wanted food, it’s best to head upstairs and indulge in something spicy and filled with black beans, because downstairs is all about la tequila.


The music in Azulito is unmistakably Latino – it’s probably not something that you’ll recognise, unless your bag is Mexican of course. But it is all about the Spanish guitars strumming away in a speedy pattern that will get your hips moving and feet tapping. You might even hear the occasional brass to really drum up the fanfare. The music is loud enough so that, should the mood take you, you can do a little salsa, but not loud enough to drown out the hubbub of chatter.

In Summary

Azulito is central, it’s fun and it’s inexpensive – that’s a pretty good combination for a great night out in London. Suited and booted isn’t quite its style though so make sure you leave the office at the door. But invite some friends, grab some change and find the tequila that tickles your taste buds.

(First seen on Design My Night)

Terroirs Wine Bar, Covent Garden, Review

5 William IV Street, London WC2N 4DW

Terroirs menu

Terroirs is the sort of place that you’re warned away from if someone you know despises natural wines. That’s the only sort of wine it serves you see. The determined deterrence is not necessarily because the wine is bad but rather, it’s out of principle and perhaps ignorance. The truth of it is that wine, whether natural or not, can be good or bad. Terroirs, equally, offered a sizeable selection of wines, some of which shone brilliantly whilst others were much less impressive.

Having recently returned from a wine trip to Georgia, the cradle of wine, and in particular, natural wines, I’ve found myself gaining an affinity for this contentious product. Listening to the likes of Alice Feiring and Isabelle Legeron talk about their love of natural wines, how of the hundreds of thousands of wines they have tasted during their careers, the natural ones were the most vibrant and limitless, I couldn’t help but be impressed by their enthusiasm.

While it’s true that a natural wine will never stand the test of ageing because of the ultra-low levels of preservatives present, it is also true that the minimal chemical intervention helps the characteristics of the grape, the terroir, the weather and numerous other contributing factors in the wine making process to develop in the final wine. There’s a market for fine vintages with complex characteristics but there’s also a market for wines for drinking right now, which equally deserves to be something other than bland and homogeneous. And that is what the appreciation for natural wines is largely about, and perhaps Terroirs too.

Back to the restaurant – it’s more of a wine establishment than a restaurant really but a fellow journalist with a love of natural wines suggested it for dinner. Partly owned by Les Caves de Pyrène, the biggest importer of natural wines to the UK, Terroirs always gave me the impression that it was just a wine bar. While there is a bar in the restaurant to lean to with your drink and bar snack, they also have space on three levels for diners who are looking for something a bit more substantial.

A bit more is probably the operative phrase here though – the food is more or less a side serving to the wine with majority of the menu made up of cheeses, charcuterie and small plates. The food was good though. Really good. And seasonal too.

Dining with a reasonable appetite, we opted for a serving of pumpkin, chestnut and parmesan soup each plus duck rillette and pigs trotters with celeriac remoulade to share. The pumpkin soup was lusciously smooth, richly creamy and well contrasted with the nutty, sweet crumble of the chestnut. Pigs trotters, perhaps a little too rich as the last thing to arrive, made for sumptuous comfort eating. The thing that really excited, though, was the duck rillette. Intensely flavoured and well textured, it wholly satisfied the game rillette craving which I’ve been harbouring for some two weeks.

The wines we sipped as we supped was a selection of white and sparkling, all available by the glass. The 2009 Thierry Germain Bulles de Roches Saumur Brut was a particular favourite while the 2010 Cascna degli Ulivi Bellotti Bianco didn’t fare so well. The other two wines, 2010 Domaine du Moulin Pet Nat Bulles Rosé and 2010 Bodegas Ameztoi Txacoli de Guetaria, lied somewhere in the middle of the two, towards the positive. There it was, the good and not so good of natural wines.

With talk of wines, food and juxtapositions of the two, we could have happily stayed and indulged in our romantically framed window seats for a few more glasses. But with a running tab of some £60 and adventures with a travelling bar planned, it was time to pay up. Besides, the elegant service allowed a young night of interesting landscapes to navigate for a pair of girls in the most fabulous of heels.

Cocktails at Artesian Bar, The Langham Hotel

There’s something richly sumptuous about cocktails at the Artesian Bar in The Langham Hotel. Winter, particularly, is a good time to visit. Everything seems to sparkle a little with glamour and there are even hot toddies. But that’s not to say the luscious fruit in their cocktails aren’t every sip of summer. A recent and rather magical visit proved that to be the case, with cocktails going by the name of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Best Kept Secret”. It’s no wonder that they’re one of the best bars in the world.

Here are a selection of cocktail photos from the night:

Vista Bar at Trafalgar Hotel Review

2 Spring Gardens, Trafalgar Square, London SW1A 2TS

The Trafalgar, Vista Bar

Vista, one of the most renowned and best rooftop bars in London, has reopened after a short closure for expansions. At over 350m2, it’s now central London’s biggest rooftop venue and has a capacity for 200 discerning guests.

Vista’s location and altitude means that the venue boasts spectacular panoramic views of some of London’s most notable landmarks, including Big Ben and the London Eye. The venue itself offers plenty of visuals too with its eclectic mix of chequered and striped seating surrounded by heavy foliage. And when the sun sets and London becomes illuminated, the shimmery glow is even more impressive and simply breathtaking.

Of course the lovely views would be nothing without the fantastic cocktails and great nibbles served from its Nuttalls designed bar and kitchen. Expect to sample exclusive cocktails made from premium spirits like Gin Mare and Black Moth Vodka (made with black truffles!), or if the mood takes you, champagne. It is the Hilton after all! Food wise, there is an outdoor grill serving up platters and salads to share, perfect for its ‘place to meet’ ethos.

It is expensive with spirits and cocktails upwards from £9 but if you a yearning for a special atmosphere, incredible London views and feeling very very special then for me, Vista at The Trafalgar is a must.

Vista is open from 12pm to 1am, Monday to Saturday, and 12pm to 12am on a Sunday. There is an entrance fee of £5 but one of those pounds will be donated to charity; Hilton in the Community Foundation and Cancer Research UK (if you wanted to know!

(First seen on Design My Night)

London’s Cocktail bars: An Aperitif

They say that cocktails are great lubricators of conversation and amazing catalysts for fun times. True, but they should do all that and more. Cocktails should inspire you. And, when drinking fabulous cocktails, one should expect the venue to be as interesting as the cocktail itself. Why would you want to sip an outstanding drink somewhere that’s duller than the patina on a Bronze Age statuette? It would be like drinking Château Latour 1982 with your blueberry pancakes in a shed-like Texan diner: utterly unthinkable.

69 Colebrooke Row

So, here are some suggestions for suitable venues in which to imbibe a cocktail or three. Let’s start with something gentle to ease you in.

I say gentle but it’s really quite dramatic. Good Godfrey’s at the Waldorf is the epitome of the glamorous hotel bar with a West End twist. In fact, it’s positively theatrical. Nestled among the cream of the theatrical crop, the bar screams opulence with its original, listed panelling and illuminated marble and chrome fixtures. It’s named after Howard Godfrey, the bandleader of the ‘Waldorfians’ house band back in the 1920s – and everything else is inspired by drama.

Take Very Very Pretty; the name is a reference to the only stipulation of the ‘Gaiety Girls’, performers at the neighbouring Gaiety Theatre, who didn’t require any particular skills. And Thé Dansant, inspired by the tea dances at the Waldorf’s Palm Court. Then there’s the Hot Gin Punch and the Astor Hip Flask, which are served up in a giant teapot and a hip flask respectively. All, rest assured, are expertly created by the award-winning Nelson Bernardes.

Good Godfrey barElsewhere on our map there is something thoroughly modern. Not the Millie but The Folly, a garden-themed venue with multiple bars and endless space for eating and drinking. It’s probably the biggest venue within the Square Mile and it could be the greenest place in EC3 too with its Norwegian Spruce tree trunk at the bar, the plant pot lighting over the restaurant and the potted plants in the deli-come-bar. You can pick up a gardening kit with your customised cocktail or a bunch of flowers with your sandwiches. And that’s just upstairs; there’s another whole level downstairs with even more subtly different pockets of microcosms.

Those conscious of alcohol calories will be pleased to hear that there’s a range of ‘skinnies’ to choose from, complete with calorie count to help you make an Informed Decision. The Watermelon and Raspberry Ripple is simply bursting with health, but the Ziggy is the one that’s been created by Ezekiel Maledon at The Folly – call it the house special. If you want something outrageously left-field though, there’s always the Thai Tini – it comes with a prawn.

Speaking of left-field, the London Cocktail Club has a courageous cocktail list with a décor to match. Where else can you enjoy a Bacon and Egg Coupet under spidery glow lights? The LCC is tucked away in a Goodge Street cellar space, but there’s also a sister venue on Great Newport Street called The Covent Garden Cocktail Club (which was formerly, and confusingly, also called the London Cocktail Club). Although each venue has its own unique character, both follow “that classic LCC/CGCC theme”. I’m still trying to work out what that is exactly but their outrageous wall paper and extensive cocktail list simply intoxicate me; the Brixton Riot (peach, cranberry and lychee liqueur, flamed with Wray & Nephew overproof rum) is a real flaming eye opener.

It seems that every other cocktail here comes with a helping of food for garnishing (bacon, bread, shortbread, ice cream and so on), but if you did fancy something a bit more substantial, the bar snacks are Raymond Blanc-approved. That is, the LCC co-owners JJ Goodman and James Hopkins were the winners of the third series of the BBC’s The Restaurant and have since been working with Raymond and other notables to create these unexpected cocktail clubs.

The Folly BarIf the upstairs lounge is more your thing then you might enjoy Tempo, the Curzon Street Italian. It speaks Mayfair in volumes in the restaurant downstairs but the first floor bar is a whole different Regency period, all decked out in original Rococo Revival panelling and mouldings. The plush and contemporary seating will leave you in no doubt over the modernity of your cocktail. The Tempo Punch isn’t bad and the Basil Grande adds something extra to your strawberry purée – ground black pepper and basil to be precise – but there is one cocktail that defines this venue: the Mayfair Gem.

There’s a gem in the East End too. When you walk down Rivington Street in search of the double C of Callooh Callay, you’ll probably wonder what could possibly entice anyone not wearing brogues, skinny jeans and an oversized t-shirt with safety-pinned sleeves to tackle this part of town. It’s in the heart of Shoreditch with The 100 Club in one direction and some ‘invitation by word-of-mouth only’ abandoned warehouse rave in the other. But when you brush past the bouncers, doing your best to refrain from attempting a secret nod, and push through the heavy double doors, it’s all shirts and frocks inside.

The first room will be so dark that you’ll barely be able to read their outlandish menus but even if you could, you won’t be sure what you’re going to get. What does violet liqueur taste like anyway? Beets Me! is the thing to have either in the back room (much brighter) or upstairs in the Jub Jub bar (the seats are velvety). Of course, if you are a member of the Jub Jub bar – and that helps if you hope to get into Callooh Callay when it’s really busy – you could always order something on the Jub Jub menu or go off-piste.

The Botanist BarAfter all the dimly lit venues you will need The Botanist on Sloane Square. The quirky ‘nature’ theme here is subtle and reminiscent of sunny days out in Kew Gardens except, instead of the sun, there’s floor-to-ceiling glass to make the most of that natural light streaming in from the similarly proportioned windows, and the plants engraving the walls give all the air of botany without any of the hassle of hayfever.

Of course, that is not to say that it doesn’t offer the usual trappings of Sloane Square. After all, more than a few young Royals have been spotted propping up the bar.

That fact has definitely rubbed off a little on the cocktail menu, with the suggestively named Indigo Royale and God Save the Quince. I’m partial to a little Tea House Martini myself, but I hear the non-alcoholic (gasp!) Boost is also a popular choice. Should you happen to find yourself ravenous and the attractive clientèle not quite sating your hunger, there’s always the option of eating from the bar menu or popping next door into the restaurant.

Similarly Royal-inclined is Awana, down the road. The gourmet Malaysian restaurant has a bijoux alcove opposite a well-furnished bar looking out onto Sloane Avenue. If you’re not a member, this is the perfect place to spot who’s stumbling in and out of Bart’s next door while sipping on cocktails and enjoying a satay something. (I hear Prince Harry has been seen deep in conversation with a ‘mystery caller’.) The house classic is Havana-Banana-Awana but if that’s a bit of mouthful, go for Blooming Hibiscus.

For something that’s a bit more grown up, maybe even old fashioned, try the bar at The Zetter Townhouse (ZTH for those down with acronyms). It’s the latest venture of Tony Conigliaro, the man behind the now infamous and award-winning bar with no name at 69 Colebrooke Row, in collaboration with The Zetter. Inside is a boudoir of dramatic nick-nacks including taxidermy and old paintings. The dolled-up cat is a bit disconcerting and you wouldn’t want to get into a boxing match with the kangaroo on your way to the bedrooms after one too many, but the staff have the most adorable little outfits; you’d wish they were minuscule enough to pop into your pocket and take home. Figurines should definitely be the next thing on their agenda.

Tony Conigliaro and mixologistThe Master at Arms is the drink created for ZTH, which will be adored by all port lovers, but the Harvard is just that bit more aromatic. If you discover their games room with the ping pong table, you will almost certainly need reinforcements. The food at ZTH is provided by Bruno Loubet, chef/patron of Bistro Bruno Loubet just across the square. In fact, you can probably spot him dashing between the two once in a while. The charcuterie platter is particularly good, but just make sure you order plenty of bread.

Of course if you don’t mind venturing further afield, the bar with no name comes highly recommended, by everyone. In the lab above 69 Colebrooke Row, Tony concocts some of the most interesting cocktails around. With mini distillation devices and water baths to play with, there’s certainly a lot of experimenting going on. There’s even a Manhattan up there that’s five years in the making. The menu is completely different from ZTH, of course. If it wasn’t so seasonal I could drink the Rhubarb and Hibiscus Bellini forever, but for now there’s a Lipstick Rose and a Liquorice Whisky Sour to keep me company.

Now that you have a handful of recommendations to take you through at least a week and half, I hope, go forth and explore. But please, report back interesting findings. And do drink responsibly; fabulous cocktails aren’t made for binging, you know.

Good Godfrey’s, The Waldorf Hilton, Aldwych, WC2B 4DD. Tel. 020 7836 2400. Website.

The Folly, 41 Gracechurch St, EC3V 0BT. Tel. 0845 468 0102. Website.

The London Cocktail Club, 61 Goodge St, W1T 1TL. Tel. 020 7580 1960. Website.

The Covent Garden Cocktail Club, 6-7 Great Newport Street, WC2H 7JA. Tel. 020 7836 9533. Website.

Tempo,  54 Curzon Street, W1J 8PG. Tel. 020 7629 2742. Website.

Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street,  EC2A 3AY. Tel. 020 7739 4781. Website.

The Botanist, 7 Sloane Square, SW1W 8EE. Tel. 020 7730 0077. Website.

Awana, 85 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DX. Tel. 020 7584 8880. Website.

The Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ. Tel. 020 7324 4545. Website.

69 Colebrooke Row (the bar with no name),  N1 8AA. Tel: 07540 528 593. Website.

(First seen on The Arbuturian)

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