Dirty Bones, Kensington

A hidden den serving hot dogs and cocktails sounds very much like an East London venture, Dirty Bones however brings the grime and groove to West London’s elite.

With a few notable characters in the Dirty Bones team including Ross Clarke, of Fat Duck fame, there has been much hype about this Kensington opening. The name has perhaps been detrimental to its initial reputation, liable to be confused with similarly titled outlets – Dirty Burger, Bones in Dalston, Bone Daddies, and Fishbone.

From the American diner style exterior, you are led to believe this is just a retro takeaway joint, indeed during the day that is exactly what it is… but at night the camouflaged door leads down to a bright neon lit, vintage-styled drinks and dogs den. An old pinball machine is the welcoming desk and a scruffy drinks dispenser is a secret door through to a dining area. Cocktails are served in the bar, there is a selection of creative long and short drinks. I particularly enjoyed the Mutt’s Nuts: a smoky warming combination of Woodford Reserve and vanilla infused maple syrup, lemon and apple juice. For a pre-dinner tipple, the sugary sweet Big Apple is a caramelised treat.

There is a limited selection of fast food: dogs, bones, sides and salads. Dogs are available in different meats with the choice of pork, beef or veggie sausage. We tried the Mexican with a pork sausage, it comes with pulled pork, cactus salsa, lime sour cream and guacamole. It was a nice balance of soft brioche style bun and meaty, spicy filling. The crispy, spiced fried chicken is a must-try, tender chicken thighs and wings coated in an addictive crunchy coating and spritzed with charred lemon. Fries were a massive disappointment however – a tiny portion of limp supermarket-type chips, but glazed sweetcorn is a tasty alternative.

You’ll want to steal the playlist from the sound system, it comes from miracle music man Rob Wood of Music Concierge. It is a carefully curated soundtrack which adds to the character of the place and will make you want to dance whether you’re sitting or standing.

In the first weeks of service a few discrepancies can be forgiven, though Dirty Bones did try my patience. We waited for over an hour for a table, and nearly another for the food and then got asked to move to a neighbouring table. The embarrassed waiter apologised profusely and offered complimentary cocktails, but the hanging around was a tad tiresome.

Big groups can book at Dirty Bones, which I would definitely recommend. The venue is thoughtfully designed and the vibe is painfully trendy; better still, the food and drinks are tasty and reasonably priced. The grungy retro look definitely encourages a cool crowd and I feel blessed that my side of town finally has a desirable dive.

More information here: dirty-bones.com

The Ampersand Hotel, South Kensington

When you live in London, staying in the city’s hotels will never be a necessity, instead it is a luxury reserved for special occasions. The Ampersand in South Kensington is currently top of my London hotel list; a modern, stylish and creative central London hotel which offerss for individuality and exceptional quality.

Housed in an old fashioned Victorian townhouse, the interior is the very opposite of the exterior: exuberant, exciting and inventive… with an emphasis on Ampersand inspired art, showcasing innovative furniture and artwork wherever possible. It is an unrecognisable renovation from the previous shabby three-star hotel. The Ampersand is now enjoyed by staying guests and locals alike who use the communal areas for meetings and meals.

The rooms are categorised and thoughtfully themed, our Deluxe Room had hints of ornithology throughout its detailing. Other rooms are inspired by concepts such as astronomy, music, botany and geometry. The luxurious Deluxe rooms are smallish but snug; the design embraces the architectural quirks: in our room the King-size bed was squeezed into an awkward space behind two pillars, unconventional but very cosy and comfortable. With a big tv and numerous plump pillows it is the perfect place to wrap up in a duvet and watch a film… and lying in my decadent bed, Great Gatsby felt like the ideal movie choice! The mini-bar is stocked with soft drinks, all of which are complimentary… a rare bit of generosity for a London hotel.

A dinky sofa and desk allows space to work and relax, though the noise from the nearby main road may interrupt you. The super slick and stylish monochrome tiled bathroom includes a walk-in shower, branded rubber duck and lovely Miller Harris toiletries.

The fantastic eatery, Apero, is located in the basement, and the décor has a seductive, casual New York vibe with exposed bricks, filament bulbs and simple wooden tables. The food is Italian, tasty and unpretentious, and very reasonably priced. Cocktails are blindingly good too, expertly mixed and beautifully presented. Breakfast is served at Apero too, an array of fresh fruits, rustic loaves and pastries are on offer, as well as an irresistible menu of a la carte dishes. I indulged at breakfast with a big frothy cappuccino and Brioche French Toast with Cinnamon and Red Fruits.

A civilised and pretty Afternoon Tea is served in the vividly coloured Drawing Rooms, eclectically designed, it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. Then for private dining and special events, the Wine Room is an elegant option.

The Ampersand manages to present a happy venue ideal for hanging out at any time of day for any purpose. I loved the meticulous library, curated and created by Philip Blackwell of Ultimate Library. Ampersand endeavour to be different and with this personalised library and handpicked playlist from Music Concierge, they achieve something unlike any other space in London, totally unique and original.

Minutes away from London’s most famous museums and shops, The Ampersand is wonderfully convenient… but this is not what you’ll remember when you depart… beautiful design, scrumptious food, and friendly service make this hotel unforgettable for all the right reasons.

More information and book here: www.ampersandhotel.com

Mr Fogg’s, Mayfair

Whimsical and wacky, Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair has all the makings of a great bar. It certainly doesn’t conform to the classic standards of its neighbours!

Based on the wild adventures of the eccentric Phileas Fogg, the bar is decorated with dusty books, vintage globes and intriguing artefacts. Hidden behind an unassuming black door, the secrecy of the place makes the interior all the more wonderful when you step inside. The soundtrack, designed by DJ and music guru Rob Wood and his company at Music Concierge, helps set the scene.

A huge bar holds hundreds of glowing bottles of spirits and liquors, all waiting for their turn off the shelf. The menu is long and rather laborious to search through. After explaining our preferences, we let our waiter choose us suitable drinks.

The drinks are well mixed, and attractively presented with raspberries and cucumber slivers. I fail to recall the names, and I wasn’t allowed to keep a menu. I do remember however, mine was a little too sickly sweet but my friend’s had a refreshing citrus kick. The bill amounted to £30 which for just two drinks is definitely too steep for the good but not spectacular drinks. If you are going for the experience Mr Fogg’s is a fun bet, but for the best cocktails save some money and wander into Soho or Marylebone where the real mixologists are at work.

More information here: mr-foggs.com