Saturday, 5 January 2013
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Expect light, tapas style dishes with a British/Mediterranean flavour that are good for sharing and grazing. My waiter kindly advised me that I shouldn't miss the crispy pigs ear with apple sauce and he was right. This is the kind of bold offering that the Empress does very well. The ham croquettes, on the other hand were rather bland and underwhelming. Other appealingly strong dishes are centred around snails, mackerel or shoulder of lamb. The menu changes frequently according to which seasonal British produce is available and is pleasingly paired down, which tends to signal a confident kitchen.
The light-flooded interior makes an equally powerful statement. Diners sit under large pendulum lights surrounded by exposed brick decorated with giant dog prints, while drinkers at the long pewter bar can catch glimpses of Victoria Park from the enormous windows. I will return for supper, but not before visiting to sample a dish or two from the delightful sounding brunch menu.
Sunday, 12 February 2012
I pride myself on knowing Hackney well, so it is beyond me how I managed to miss Night Jar which has been open over a year. Admittedly, it deliberately keeps itself a bit 'underground'. This little find is tucked away between two unassuming cafes on City Road and you would never know it was there unless someone told you.
Go for the good music, even better cocktails from pre-prohibition to modern signatures and intimate, speakeasy vibe. It's open every night but make sure you reserve on Wed to Sat nights. I thought the people at Night Jar were taking the prohibition theme a bit far when our arrival had to be announced downstairs by radio, but when you get down there it's soon clear this procedure is not just for show: space is strictly limited in this exclusive basement venue.
As bossa nova from the fine Brazilian band bounced off the walls I set about ordering my cocktail as the people around us knocked back their drinks as if Prohibition were suddenly about to hit London. Night Jar, I am told, is about celebrating those of another age who made drink one of life's pleasures, not one of its evils. I am afraid I can't tell you the name of my first cocktail: just that it was laced with vodka and prettily decorated with a tiny starfish and that it was so smooth that I nearly downed it in one.
Night Jar has an exciting programme of events which included a tempting Menage a Trois with live music and cognac cocktails, and the appealing Top Shelf – fine purveyors of filthy swing. My husband suggested 'hanky panky' for my second cocktail because it sounded nice. It was. And arrived with a delicate egg shell filled with grenadine floating in a pool of apricot coloured brandy.
The tapas menu is designed to accompany the drinks – not the other way around - with some tempting charcuterie and flamboyant flambed dishes. One one side of us were two first dates – I guess the Night Jar is somewhere to take someone you want to impress. On the other side of us was a couple from West London who had been having a long term affair (the seating is intimate), with the mistress announcing after one or two post prohibition cocktails: 'you have been married for 20 years. I have been single for 20 years.'The verdict: never a dull moment in Night Jar and always a superb cocktail.
Thursday, 22 December 2011
A Taste of Vietnam in Shoreditch
Friday, 2 December 2011
London’s Best Panto – Oh Yes it Is!
I got a sneak preview before the rest of the press were allowed in and found myself grinning, giggling and roaring with laughter pretty much the whole way through this relentlessly-paced performance. And I was not the only one. The whole audience ranging from toddlers and teenagers right through to pensioners lapped up this gag-a-minute show, eagerly joining in with the audience participation and swaying their arms and singing along with the songs.
The stars of the show were the sluttish Ugly Sisters described as ‘fastidious’ because one was ‘fast’ (and Jamaican) and the other ‘hideous’. They made their memorable entrance belting out the soul classic ‘Hold on, we’re coming’ from a (nicked) hot air balloon descending onto the stage. Their hilarious headgear included a cupcake, flowerpot, candelabra and giant cocktail. Cinderella and Prince Charming (who happened to be Indian) was a suitably pretty pair with the requisite pop star voices.
There were a few local references that only locals would get – jibes at upmarket Islington and a mad horse named Clapton after one of the city’s most diverse neighbourhoods. There were cracks too about the new Westfield shopping centre and the upcoming Olympics – both major East London features. But this was inclusive entertainment and the audience was from all over the world, with the United States and Australia particularly well represented.
‘Our professor told us that pantomime is an important English tradition and this one was the best in London’, an American student told me in the interval. I was pleased to hear her teacher had done his homework. Hackney Empire’s pantomime has been hailed as the city’s best for several years now. And its high energy never flags – I saw it right at the end of the run last year in the dog days of January (read my review here) and the performers were just as impressive.
With tickets from £9.50 there’s no real reason not to go but I would suggest you book as soon as possible though the Hackney Empire as tickets go very quickly and it will sell out – it does every year.
This article appeared in CD Traveller.
This article appeared in CD Traveller.