THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: The Parlour’s Peroni Bar pop-up, Canary Wharf

Before last week, I would not have said Canary Wharf was a staple destination in TMM’s London repertoire. Well from now on if I find myself out that far East this summer I know where I’ll be visiting.

The Parlour‘s popup Peroni bar has more going for it than plosive alliteration. It occupies a corner of Canada Square, which represents a pocket of comfort and relaxation in a slightly stiff part of London often dominated by multinationals and boxy suits. More than the location, this summer the outdoor bar is offering a series of beer-based cocktails, offering lighter and easier-drinking summer alternatives to more traditional spirit-heavy tipples.

The Italian Bramble (lemon, gin, Peroni and Crème de Mure liqueur with blackberries) is simple and refreshing, with enough citrus kick and berry sweetness to taste indisputably of an English summer with an Italian twist. The Italian Spritz (Peroni, elderflower and Sauvignon Blanc, garnished with cucumber, citrus peel and rosemary) brought the traditional wine cooler slap bang up to date and added more complex hoppy notes to what can so often be an underwhelming beverage. For those of you more adventurous (or to be precise, exactly as adventurous as TMM), there is the Bullet Dodger which utilises a chilli-infused bourbon to spice up the house Mint Julep. Fiery it ain’t, but the drink comes in the  impressive signature Julep cup.

One has the option of accompanying your drinks at The Parlour with nibbles and larger bites – TMM indulged in the smaller plates, the highlights of which were the rustic mozzarella and rocket flatbread, and an altogether pleasing deep-fried panko prawn lollipop with sweet chilli and soy dipping sauce.

A thoroughly pleasant evening was had, therefore, and if you happen to be in the neighbourhood in the coming months, TMM heartily recommends that you do just the same.

More information on The Parlour here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, James Bomford.

Bao, Soho

I once did an internship in Soho. Lunchtimes were a dizzying excitement of food options – popular market stalls and cafes, fragrant pop-ups and busy boutique delis, all vying for my lunch order. If Bao had been around then it would have been a big contender on my lunch list.

Bao began life as a humble street food vendor, serving up simple but irresistible steamed buns filled with indulgent pork belly, sticky sweet sauce and onions. I tasted their fare at Netil market and then enjoyed their short stay in the Harvey Nichols Food Hall. Now they are proud owners of a neat little eatery on Lexington Street, and the vast queue outside proves their success. The Bao team have been helped by the business minds behind Gymkhana and Trishna, but after trying their offerings at the new permanent home, I can assure you it is the food and stylish venue that is bringing in the customers.

The venue is heavily influenced by slick Japanese design, with simple wooden tables and chairs and shelves displaying the range of exotic beers on offer. Diners tend to come and go within an hour, with such fast and flavoursome food, it’s not a lingering all-evening affair. This means the queue moves at an encouraging speed.

The cute custom cartoons suggest it is all about the filled fluffy white steamed Bao buns, but the concise order slip also illustrates a range of hot and cold small Taiwanese dishes (known as Xiao chi). Special delicacies include Eryngii Mushroom with Century Egg and Pig Blood Cake.

You will be invited to annotate the order slip, numbering how many of each dish you would like. I would recommend at least three plates per person, and a can of Taiwan Gold Medal beer each. Try all the Bao variations if you can… there is even a fried Horlicks ice-cream option for dessert! My favourites were the Confit Pork which is stuffed into the bun with pork sauce, hot sauce and sprinkled with dried shallots. The fried chicken with Sichuan mayo, golden kimchi and sesame BAO bun is also divine with the magical soy milk marinated chicken. Vegetarian delights include Aubergine and wonton crisp, a mushy intensely spiced aubergine with light crispy crackers. Trotter Nuggets must not be missed, tender rich slow-cooked pork with a crunchy breadcrumbed edge and a khaki burned chilli sauce dip on the side.

Both times I have visited there have been dishes that have already sold out. Foam tea (a chilled light oolong tea topped with foam cream) is a favourite but never seems to be available, and the century egg seems to go fast too. Soon they will be offering a takeaway service but until then, I hope they can keep up with the demand. I will definitely be returning soon for my bao bun fix.

More information about Bao here: www.baolondon.com

Pret a Diner, The Bohemians, Cafe Royal

You never know quite what to expect at a Pret a Diner event. The concept was founded by KP Kofler who hoped to create an extravagant sensory experience combining Michelin star food, cocktails, art and music. Recently the creative company returned to London for a stint at Cafe Royal’s exclusive private members club. This season they present ‘The Bohemians’, an evening which shakes up the tradition of this historic hotel and assaults you with inventive food and expressive artwork.
 
The Cafe Royal’s executive chef Andrew Turner is joined by two New York based chefs: Patti Jackson (Michelin star restaurant, Delaware and Hudson in Brooklyn) and West Village resident Ryan Tate (Blenheim, Le Restaurant). The three have teamed up to create an indulgent four-course menu which is paired with an optional wine flight. Drinks for the evening are curated by Tiziano Tasso (Club Bars Manager at Café Royal) and Dominic Jacobs (Jacobs Chase and The Whip).
 
Walking into the glamorous but discreet Cafe Royal Hotel, everything seemed to be running as normal with no indicators that a bohemian bonanza may be underway somewhere in the building. First we were taken through to the bar area to trial the bespoke bohemian cocktails, which were strong and delicious. Colourful paintings by Ryan Hewett and Jake Wood-Evans clash with the ordered and sensible surroundings.
 
At 7pm we were taken through to the dining room, a smart interior which has clearly been given a Pret a Diner makeover. The room was ablaze with a pink lighting that suddenly made it feel much later in the evening than it actually was. Despite the wacky decor and grungy beats from the DJ on the decks it was a civilised scenario, hip waiters in t-shirts and tattoos attending to the tables with the utmost decorum.
 
The food was refined yet quirky, some of the dishes excellent, others less inspiring. The plate of mini bites arrived slightly haphazardly presented but intensely flavoured with strong luxurious ingredients. We particularly enjoyed the cheese and truffle mousse and the NYC inspired Dutchy Pretzel bread.
 
The Tuna Carpaccio with pickled vegetables was created by Andrew Turner – the tuna was smooth and silky with a zingy sauce and a little boiled quail’s egg for a touch of richness. For main course there was a choice between Duck or Seabass. The duck was a little undercooked for me but deeply flavoured, served on a bed of seasonal asparagus. The highlight of this dish was the crispy croquette which was cooked to perfection and filled with slow cooked tender meat. The seabass was light and fragrant on a pretty bed of red pepper sauce and delicate fennel and dill.
 
Dessert was a child’s paradise… a giant meringue holding strawberries, maple vacherin and buttermilk. Paired with a lovely glass of French dessert wine which made it a more grown-up affair.
 
We visited Pret a Diner early in the evening, and it whizzed by in flash as we enjoyed the decadent offerings that were continuously brought to our table. I imagine later on, with the room filled to capacity it might be a less sober and more thrillingly raucous evening. Walking out into the daylight, it felt like we’d stepped out of a bohemian bubble and back into the real world. 

Continues until 23 May, more information and book here.