31 January 2014

Vivat Bacchus

I may have mentioned before that I love cheese. In fact, I adore cheese. Soft cheese, hard cheese, blue cheese, goat's cheese - I eat it all. Even Stinking Bishop. Yesterday I headed to the city to meet Paul for a much needed catch up. Cheese with red wine was the order of the day so I'd booked us a table at Vivat Bacchus - a bustling South African-owned restaurant in Farringdon.

Although it serves a great selection of main meals (apparently the pies are amazing) it's the cheese boards, platters and huge range of wines and champagnes that creates the real winning formula.

We decided upon the French cheese board consisting of Fourme d'Ambert, honey-drizzled Comte, Coulommiers and Reblochon served with biscuits, delicious chutneys, fruit and nuts. To accompany, we ordered the French and South African platters which provided us with Bayonne ham, saucisson sec, pork rillettes, cornichons, sourdough, biltong, droewors, corn bites and fruit roll. Oh, and we had the artisan bread and an ice cream sundae, just to stick a further two fingers up at the low-carb low-sugar diet!

It was the perfect 'picking' meal to sip our red wine with. We only realised there was a fantastic walk-in cheese room when we'd already finished which was a shame but I'll just have to create my own board next time. We couldn't fault the efficient service we received on this incredibly busy Thursday evening and we were even treated to a glass of port on the house!

A winner of a venue for my fellow cheese and wine lovers.


So is your mouth watering yet?

Vivat Bacchus - Farringdon
47 Farringdon Street
EC4A 4LL

Vivat Bacchus - London Bridge
4 Hays Lane
London Bridge SE1 2HB

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29 January 2014

Vinegar Infused Cocktail Tasting at Bart's


Being invited to test out cocktails is probably one of the best things anyone could ask me to do. The thing I find so compelling about cocktails is how there are so many different combinations of spirits, juices, syrups, spices, herbs, cordials and seasonal fruits that you never really know what you're going to get. Of course some venues do it better than others and one of the things I like to do on this blog is seek out the ones at the top of their game.

Bart's is a little speakeasy hideaway cocktail bar by the same people who brought us Mr Foggs and Disco. You'll find it, as the websites states, "somewhere on Sloane Avenue". But I'm sure they won't mind me saying it's inside the Chelsea Cloisters apartment building (well I don't want you wandering around lost in this never-ending rain, do I?).


Once you've located the black door with the lantern, ring the bell and wait to be met by a pair of eyes though the little hatch. The owner of these eyes will hopefully let you in (perhaps book ahead to be sure). It's very quirky inside; dimly lit - so apologies for the below-par photographs - with Prohibition style knick-knacks decorating every wall.

I was here to try their new drinks range called Uncle Bart's Gets Pickled - a menu of vinegar infused cocktails.

"Vinegar?!" I hear you cry "Surely that won't work at all!". Au contraire, my fellow cocktail lovers! The trend has spread from New York where cocktail bars use vinegars as a replacement for acidic ingredients such as lemon and lime juice producing something distinctive and delightful. Having posted a vinegar-based recipe myself last year, I was well aware of how this combination can work.


We tried three great tipples:

The Queen of Tarts - a tangy Martini made with Belvedere vodka, strawberries, home-made balsamic jam, lemon juice and sugar. Garnished with a caramelized strawberry and balsamic glaze. 


The Twelve Years - made with Woodford Reserve, infused with cooked apple and balsamic vinegar then mixed with a cube of sugar and home-made apple bitters. 


Lastly, the Mon Cheri (in homage to the famous Ferrero chocolate) - made with chocolate and cherry infused apple vinegar, stirred with Grand Marnier and Pampero Añejo. Garnished with a chocolate sprig.



And damn, they were good. The flavours worked so well together and despite the gentle sourness of the acidic flavours, they're a lot sweeter than one would expect. Both Laura and I fell in love with the fruity Queen of Tarts. Fresh strawberries, jam and sugar? There really was nothing not to love! You have to try these vinegar cocktails yourself to appreciate why they're so popular across the pond. And with me, of course!

If you look on their jolly website, you may notice that the cocktail menu isn't there - it's top secret after all. However, I have to mention to you the fabulous Basil Fawlty Martinis made with basil, pineapple, Russian Standard vodka, lemon and sugar. They were so tasty and refreshing.


We visited Bart's on a Sunday evening which is when they have their delightful house jazz band somehow squeeze into one of the corners and entertain the punters. Laura and I had a fantastic time and the staff were so friendly. This little bar makes some of the most inventive cocktails I've experienced.

And before I sign off, another of their secret cocktails that I must tell you about is the Pickled Ploughman. Made with blue stilton (yes, really) muddled with gin, Chambord, grapes, honey and grenadine, it sounds absolutely fascinating. I didn't get round to trying this time but I think it's one for our next visit! 


You can follow Bart's on Twitter to keep up with all their goings on!

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27 January 2014

Check On's Sunday Dinners at The Dead Doll's Club


I've missed my roast lunches. On deciding to do all this extra healthy eating business, mine and Alex's Sunday roast was sadly one of the first casualties. How I long for my Yorkshire pud! For this reason, it was with great gusto that I booked my ticket to one of catering duo Check On's latest run of pop-up Sunday lunches (remember, the calories don't count when you're eating out..).

Pigsaw is a 4 course meal all based around the main meat - pork. On their website you'll see that there's also a choice of chicken (see my past experience here) and beef so take a look at the menus online and see which one floats your boat. George and Terry's food is creative and exciting so I couldn't wait to see what slightly mad concepts they would come up with this time! I was also pleased that it was being held at Hoxton venue The Dead Dolls Club; a place I'd heard a lot about and was very keen to visit.

It may have been a rainy Sunday afternoon but mine and Laura's choice of footwear told a different story!


The Dead Dolls Club was a derelict textile factory that was picked up and transformed by owners Adam and Katy. The understated entrance is easily missed but inside it's a different story. Each of the 3 floors has been hand illustrated using a marker pen to depict ornate rooms in a grand manor house. There are disco balls hanging from the ceiling and a sun terrace at the top. It's a member's bar but in order to join, you don't need to pay ridiculous amounts of money or work in a particular industry, oh no. All the owners ask is that you bring them a small gift for the house; a bottle of spirit, a china dog for the parlour (Adam loves dogs) or a bunch of white flowers. How sweet is that?


Adam asked if it was okay to seat us by the window. Today, Check On was completely sold out and he explained how he'd unexpectedly run out of table space. As an apology, he offered us free cocktails all afternoon. How could we be even slightly annoyed with that deal??


Proceedings got underway. The event runs over the period of about 3 hours so don't come if you're in any kind of a rush. 

The first course was the Pork Balls - Tamworth pork, ginger, garlic, spring onion with sweet and sour apple dip. Served up in a cardboard takeaway box.


They were yummy little balls. Disappointingly, with only 3 piggy balls to speak of, it was a very small portion....I could have eaten a dozen of them! But the classic combination of pork and the sour apple was undeniably delicious.

Next up was the Pig & Peas; black pudding (I'm loving black pudding at the moment), pea puree, roasted onion, pea shoots and English mustard. Intriguing! And rather arty...


The black pudding didn't disappoint and went well with the freshness of the peas and shoots. The softness of the dish didn't really compliment my cocktails particularly well but that's hardly chef's fault!

Then there was the main course - Rolled Roasted Pork. Loin and belly, fennel stuffing, pine nuts, toffee apple and gravy served with a bowl of roast potatoes and cabbage.


This was what I'd been missing! Both cuts of the pork were succulent matching up perfectly with the tangy apple and stuffing. The gravy was delicious and the roast potatoes were gloriously crispy (smooth roast spuds are a bugbear of mine).

Finally, there was the Black Rice Pudding - vanilla black rice, spiced poached rhubarb, a ball of fudge, mini marshmallows and caramelised milk. And why not.


It may have looked unusual but it tasted just great - very sweet and creamy - and we loved the addition of the fudge ball sitting in the middle of the plate. A real sugar hit!

By the way, the Dead Doll's club do a mean cocktail. You should visit just to try them out. Our favourite was the expresso martini, presented to us in cute teacups.


We had a fantastic afternoon. My second Check On experience was even better and more unique than the first and we were made so welcome by everyone at The Dead Doll's Club. I'm pretty sure we'll be back soon, armed with our china dogs and flowers!


You can buy tickets for Check On's Sunday Lunches here!

The Dead Doll's Club
35 Hoxton Square
N1 6NN

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25 January 2014

Annie Haak Giveaway


This is my blog's first ever giveaway!

As an early birthday celebration for Cocktails & Caroline - my first post was on 1st February 2013 - I though I'd take the opportunity to give something back to you. 

I wrote a post last year about my favourite jewellery boutique.

Annie Haak create beautiful necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets gently jingling with little flowers, hearts, butterflies and dragonfly charms. I adore their stuff and rarely does a blog post go by where I'm not wearing one of their gorgeous creations.


I wanted to make sure that my first giveaway truly reflected me and my blog so I decided this would be just perfect: introducing the Annie Haak 'Girls Just Love To Have Fun' bracelet featuring beautiful faceted glass crystals alongside 14 carat Gold Filled beads and a large open heart charm.

I chose it in pewter and sterling silver - the top one.

The bracelet will arrive to you in a cute Annie Haak jewellery pouch and box.


This giveaway is open internationally to anyone, whether you're a blogger or not, and will run until 1st February. 

All you have to do to enter is log into the Rafflecopter below using Facebook or your email address.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Or if you don't fancy the Rafflecopter, you can just:

❤ Follow me on Bloglovin'
❤ Follow me on Twitter
❤ Then tweet the following message: 

 There's a beautiful Annie Haak bracelet up for grabs! Blog  here!    

Good luck everyone!

P.S. You can also find me on Facebook and Instagram! :)

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23 January 2014

Blanchette

Not the beautiful Golden Globe winning actress, no. Today, I'm going to tell you about a new French bistro that's opened its doors in the heart of Soho. But first, here's what I wore - another purchase from my favourite little online shop, Sugarhill Boutique. I love the colour and I thought the camera print suited me pretty well considering my Lumix is usually attached to my hip!


I smile a lot in photos, that is noted. It just comes naturally to be honest - you aim a camera at me, I smile! But just to prove I have more strings to my bow, here's a serious pouty picture which also shows off my necklace from New Look.


Perhaps I'll stick to smiling!

Run by three brothers Maxime, Yannis and Malik, Blanchette serves simple yet inventive French food, the concept based upon the idea of tapas-style sharing dishes. There are also charcuterie plates, homemade terrines, oysters and lots of cheese (yay!).


 As I waited for Nichola to arrive, I decided to order some bread and Baked St Marcelin - a Camembert-style soft cheese made from cows milk (I couldn't resist it).


The bread arrived at the table in a brown paper bag and the cheese was served on a board with a fruity chutney, jalapenos and more crusty bread. All that delicious gooey-ness was a cheese lover's delight. And this was just to start!


We were advised to order three dishes each from the main menu which were split into Fish, Meat and Vegetable sections. This is what we chose:

Fish: Smoked Haddock a la Arnold Bennett

Meat: Chicken with white beans, savoy cabbage and smoked aioli
Grilled beef onglet with snails, salsify chips and red wine sauce
Black pudding, chargrilled pork belly and spiced quince and parsnip puree
Ox Cheeks Bourguignon with Ventreche (French bacon)

Vegetables: Frites and bearnaise (lol)


I'll start with the negative because there was only one - the chicken dish was rather disappointing and bland. The meat was well cooked but didn't have much taste to speak of and the white beans didn't add much in that respect. However, the other dishes were fabulous. The cheesy haddock was creamy and gorgeous. The perfectly cooked beef was succulent with the parsley coated snails adding to the excitement of the dish. The Ox cheek was so tender that it fell apart in the mouth and the sauce it was in was deep and flavoursome.

But my favourite dish by far was the black pudding with pork belly. The combination of the flavours on that board was just fantastic and I could have eaten a whole main course of it. I didn't even know I liked black pudding!


We sipped on mint tea as we chatted life, food and babies (Nichola is due to give birth in April...very exciting!). There is a lovely relaxed atmosphere here. I'll have to return one evening to just while away the hours sipping Bordeaux and eating soft cheese....and five plates of black pudding and chargrilled pork belly!

You are given a choice of five or six desserts on the menu. We decided to share a chocolate daqouise with homemade vanilla ice cream along with the rice pudding accompanied by ginger syrup and gingerbread crumbs.


I loved the contrasting textures of both the desserts; the crispy hazelnut topping with the nougat centre, the creamy rice pudding with those lovely crumbs and sweet sauce. 

A delicious ending to une belle déjeurner! Très bien indeed!


Blanchette
9 D'Arblay Street
London W1F 8DR

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