Bar Americain, Sherwood Street, London

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This is a bar hidden beneath Piccadilly Circus. It is through a quite unassuming entrance in Sherwood Street. There is a café with some tables outside called Zedel, if you go through this café, down two flights of stairs, you will come to a surprising bright French looking foyer with a cloakroom,  a French restaurant called Brasserie Zedel and Bar Americain.

It is a beautiful, low lit, late art deco decorated room. It has lots of dark wood, the marquetry columns are particularly attractive. It has light jazz playing in the background, just audible but not intrusive. The atmosphere is that of a set of a 1940s film noir. The waiters are in suits or formal white jackets.

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The cocktails are very good, the list is classic. The martini was perfect and the whiskey sour was both tart and had a nice kick. They have a good wine list and also a nice selection served by the glass. The tariffs aren’t low, but the price is around what you would expect for somewhere this attractive so central and it is good value for the experience that you receive.

Its the perfect place to meet if you are eating in Brasserie Zedel as the waiters will come to fetch you and carry your drinks when your table is ready. It is also very handy to meet if you are attending the theatre in Shaftsbury Avenue or Haymarket as it within a three minute walk from either.

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A beautiful quiet cocktail bar in a very central position, a lovely place to meet for a quiet catch up or for a quick drink before or after an evening out.

The Other Palace, Victoria, London, SW1

The Other Palace started life as St James Theatre in 2012 when it was the first newly built theatre in Central London for over 30 years. It was bought by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s, Really Useful Group, last year and has been rebranded and it intended as a place to develop new musicals.

The opening season looks very promising.  The first show was  “The Wild Party” which was an auspicious start . This was my review of it. The Wild Party, The Other Palace, Victoria, London.  Later in the year The National Youth Music Theatre will be bringing “Sunday in the Park with George”. A musical based on Fellini’s “La Strada” should be interesting too.

The complex itself, is a space containing two theatres, a restaurant upstairs and a ground floor bar. The building is glass fronted on the ground and first floor making the entrance, bar and restaurant feel bright and airy. The main theatre is relatively small, with around 300 capacity, nicely laid out, with every seat giving a good view of the stage. The studio is quite intimate, capacity around 100, it was laid out as a cabaret bar, but seating arrangements could be flexible. The cabaret tables and chairs worked perfectly for the show on at the time.

The upstairs restaurant, is modern and light. The setting is lovely. I have not eaten there since it has been rebranded as The Other Naughty Piglet but I have heard good things about, Naughty Piglets, their other restaurant, in Brixton.

The bar is set slightly lower than ground level, it catches the light well and it is a comfortable place to chat. It’s not huge, though, and does get crowded during the interval, this is a bar where it is definitely worth pre-ordering your interval drinks. The house white and house rose were both dry and good quality.

The Really Useful group have made a shrewd buy in this handily located theatre. It is  very close to Victoria Station and right across the road from Buckingham Palace.

I love the idea of it being a place to refine new work and I wish them every success in their endeavour.

Jackson & Rye, Wardour Street, Soho, London

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This restaurant looks fantastic. When you step inside from the hectic lunchtime crowds on Wardour Street, it feels like you have walked into a vintage upscale diner in Midtown, New York. It has dark wood, leatherette banquettes, soft lighting and brass rails. The menu is high end American comfort food too – there is lots to choose from. The a-la-carte is relatively expensive, I guess we are right in the heart of Soho, but it has lunch and brunch special menus that look very good value.

The salt and pepper squid was great as a starter. We also had tomato soup which came lukewarm, but was delicious after we had it reheated. The hamburgers and fries were really good too – meaty and well cooked.

The cocktails were a bit more mixed in quality, the whiskey sour was not sour enough for me but the margarita was good and the martini excellent. It is a shame that they had no bottled beers that we had ever heard of on the menu and that the only draft beer was unfiltered.

The service was good and although we lingered over lunch, we were never rushed. All four of us enjoyed our lunch in Jackson & Rye and I would happily return.

The Comedy Loft, Camden, London

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The Comedy Loft in Camden has got lots of things going for it.

It serves food; burgers, nachos, chicken wings, falafels – we ate and it was good quality.

The drinks are reasonably priced for central London – and you can pre-order them and have them delivered to your table during the intervals. Very sophisticated!

The show starts at 8pm, which is enough time to get a couple of drinks and chat before the start.

The 8 o’clock start means that the crowd is still restrained enough for the performers to deliver their acts without having to shout over drunks and sober enough that if there is a heckler there is a chance that they might be funny.

The reception and service were the best I’ve ever had in a comedy club.

The comedians were funny – that’s always good in a comedy show.

Finally, if after all this, you still haven’t had good night; it’s in Camden, so you are very likely to get offered drugs on your way back to the tube!

 

McQueen, Shoreditch, London

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4 of us came here for dinner. We met in the bar first. The room is good, it feels light, bright and spacious. The music is a bit irritating, surely “café del mar” chill-out is past its sell-by date now, but at least it is not loud enough to disturb the conversation. The sofas are nice and the chairs comfortable.

The restaurant is designed in much the same manner as the bar – with big brown distressed leather chesterfields and smaller chairs opposite. We ate from the set menu, the starters were good – the smoked salmon was with a grapefruit salad, which suited it well. The mains were steak; lovely with nice jus and great chips, lamb: nicely cooked with mashed potato and green veg, cod which was also reportedly very good and a risotto that we didn’t try. Between us we tried the house red, white and rose – all were very nice.

They mention on their page on Time Out London that they do a bottomless brunch, and although I haven’t been able to find any details, it would suit the place very well. I can easily imagine reading the weekend papers in here with a giant cup of coffee or Bloody Mary, nursing a hangover…….

The service was very good. I liked all the old Steve McQueen posters around the place.I’d recommend it as somewhere to meet friends especially in the daylight when all the windows make the place so bright and airy.