Attendant, Fitzrovia

 

Forget Soho, Great Titchfield Street has less people and better coffee. This underestimated road is fuelling the London coffee craze with cafes popping up regularly offering deliciously brewed blends and awesome snacks.

Attendant is the most recent addition and quirkiest hang out of the lot: a brand new underground coffee and sandwich house located in a converted subterranean Victorian gentleman’s toilet in the heart of Fitzrovia (on the corner of Great Titchfield and Foley Street). They are not the first to transform a toilet, but it is perhaps the most stylish conversion, skillfully using the original features to create a fashionable and attractive venue. The little kitchen is in the old attendant’s office, hence the name.

The exterior is gothic and intriguing, an intricate black metal cage leading down to a coffee cave. Once you have daringly taken a peek inside, you will discover a bright and cheery retro interior. The cafe offers ten covers downstairs, and kerbside service up on the street. The Attendant crew use Caravan beans and the best equipment to make their coffees. Tempting snacks sit stacked on the counter: epic NYC inspired sandwiches (think sliced smoked turkey, pastrami on rye, cuban, sloppy joes, cheese melts, lobster rolls, dill pickles, pulled pork etc), salads and incredible cakes.

I sat at one of the remaining ‘urinals’, which still stand with the original bathroom tiles and an additional inserted wooden table. It took me a while to adjust to my surroundings but I have to admit the old loo serves a purpose, perfect for solo visitors or private laptop browsing as you feel contained in your little cubicle.

I enjoyed an immaculately made flat white, creamy and smooth and just the right strength for me. The ideal afternoon pick me up. Had I not just eaten a burger for lunch, I would have tried a foodie treat as well – all the choices looked divine.

The coolest coffee club in town and my favourite new haunt – great brew even greater venue.

WARNING: Not open on weekends, only 7.30-17.30 Monday-Friday.

More information here: http://www.the-attendant.com/

BYOC, Covent Garden

We assumed we were in the wrong place… a tiny deserted juice bar open later than expected, surely not the location for London’s newest prohibition cocktail bar? Well in fact this isn’t a cocktail bar, because the venue doesn’t have a liquor license. BYOC is a new, fabulous kind of ‘bring your own’: pay your £20 entrance fee, bring a bottle and the expert bartender will magic you an exquisite drink (or four), using just the ingredients on his trolley.

This is the kind of basement bar you dream of. Pete Urch, mixologist mastermind, weaves through the tables, making round after round of cocktails for the guests… It is a tiny cramped venue, reached only through a mysterious and inconspicuous trap door at the back of the juice bar, down a rickety staircase and into a small candlelit room with a claustrophobic low ceiling and a hushed excited atmosphere. The place oozes character with a gramophone pumping out lazy tunes and a hint of incense in the air. You are surrounded by bare brick walls and with no sign of natural daylight or the outside world, you are easily transported back in time.

Pete wheels a beautiful silver antique Italian drinks trolley, laden with fruit and vegetable juices from upstairs, fresh fruits, herbs, spices, flavoured salts, bitters, syrups and cordials. Then he looks expectedly to you as you produce your oh-so-important bottle which will determine which flavours he picks and ultimately what drink you will receive.

We originally planned to take something annoyingly obscure, violet liqueur for example, but not surprisingly I ended up buying a bottle of rum last minute from Morrisons. My friend had bought a flask sized bottle of gin that morning from Tescos on her way to work and had to put up with various onlookers’ disapproving looks. Luckily, despite our predictable alcohol choices, Pete was on hand to make them into very interesting drinks. Beginning with a simple short cocktail with gin, cucumber, mint, lime and sugar, strong but refreshing, and moving onto more eccentric concoctions like the rum based creamy chocolate orange drink.

Brilliant, Yummy, Outstanding, and Creative – I want a bar like this in my basement.

For £20 you are given a two hour slot at BYOC.
Book at reservations@byoc.co.uk, and check their twitter for regular updates @BYOClondon

www.byoc.co.uk

Evans and Peel Detective Agency, Earl’s Court

I’m having trouble remembering my experience of Evans and Peel, the basement bar “detective agency” in Earl’s Court serving up mean drinks. My evening in this dark and mysterious venue feels like a distant, hazy dream. Hidden down an insignificant side street in West London, this prohibition style bar expresses its theme without compromising. Find the door, wander downstairs and ask for an appointment to see the detective. If entrance is granted, you will be taken through the dusty bookcase to discover an atmospheric bar area. Once inside you can drop the pretence and enjoy your drink without the silly acting!

Food and Drink is available and guests can sit at the bar or further back at the proper tables. Naturally I chose the bar stools, keen to see the mixological activity. ‘The Smoking Kitchen’, as it is known, offers an appealing menu of plates, sliders and full three course dining options. Three or four generous sized plates (priced between £4 and £7) was plenty to satisfy us at dinner time. The food is seasonal and homemade on site, using traditional techniques and their very own custom built smoker. I can recommend the Mac’s cauliflower cheese made with white wine sauce, macaroni pasta, swiss cheese blend and cauliflower, utterly indulgent, gooey and delicious. The E & P wedges are twice cooked, perfectly Southern States seasoned and served with a divine speciality aioli-like dip. I also loved the Go Ho Hoat’s Cheese Fritter: cold smoked chèvre, breaded and fried with maple syrup reduction. The menu changes regularly.

To drink we tried a few of the most popular Evans and Peel developed cocktails. They are strong and inventive, and many rate these barmen among the top cocktail connoisseurs in London. Our favourites were ‘La Petite Mort’ and ‘Auntie May’s Pisco Sour’. The first combines both sweet and sour elements with a clove and almond base, complimented by lemon juice and rum; a few drops of Angostura Bitters complete the drink. This cocktail is perfectly balanced, and as the the ice begins to melt, the flavours loosen and change. Auntie May’s drink is a take on the classic Pisco Sour, with apple & lemon curd sweetening the spirit, simple but very tasty.

It’s rare to find such a special cocktail bar in West London, with most located around the Hoxton or Soho areas, so I am wary of telling too many people about this little gem. Evans and Peel offer drama, creativity, brilliant food and cocktails all under one roof, it is a special discovery.

More information here.

 http://www.evansandpeel.com/