An Olympic Alternative: Three Drinking and Dining Options in London
The London 2012 Games are just around the corner and everyone is trying to get a piece of the Olympic pie. With the flurry over everything from tickets, to mascots, to the possibility of catching a glimpse of a beach volleyball player (uniform optional), London is definitely sparkling a little more than usual. The sceptical locals, however, are far less interested in how TeamGB fares and much more concerned with how the Games will impact their local watering hole. Yes, there is life outside the Olympics and if you know where to look, you may even find a calm from the 5-ring storm that has taken over every part of the city. For those of you who don’t enjoy watching Triple Jump, Table Tennis or Trampoline, here are a few options to cool down the Olympic fever.
Located in the heart of Smithfield Market, Smiths of Smithfield (or SOS as it’s known to regulars), is a brilliant way to avoid the tourist traps that so often make up London’s bar scene. I love the versatility that comes with SOS: part pub, part wine room, part restaurant, and all hipster. SOS is a favourite with local architect s, and it’s no wonder – this Grade II listed four-storey building is worth the visit alone. Once a working factory, the exposed brickwork and beams can make the average punter forget they’re in foggy London town, and temporarily transport them to Brooklyn. Yes, SOS is definitely ‘cool’ but it does not make the mistake of taking itself too seriously. The bar, located on the ground floor, is a great place to enjoy a pint or a cocktail. The SOS Mojito is packed with a punch but for something a little different, I recommend you sip on the SOSwizzle to get your weekend started. If you really want to keep the party going, SOS is conveniently located next to the famous late-night spot, Fabric. Be forewarned: it’s not for the faint of heart!
For those who don’t fancy a pint, I love Gordon’s Wine Bar. This London institution was once home to Rudyard Kipling but is now known as one of the busiest after work spots in central London. Located just off the Strand, Gordon’s plays host to all kinds of visitors with one thing in common: a love for wine. In the sunshine, this is a great place to stand outside on their newly refurbished terrace, but the heat lamps and comically oversized umbrellas will also do the trick if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Although not a place for those in search of a substantial meal, this is a great spot to nibble on snacks while engaging in some competitive people watching. While the cheese at Gordon’s is not of the same calibre as that found at, say, Borough Market, the price is right and the atmosphere lends itself nicely to everything on offer. When the sun is shining, I recommend the Pecorino, which is hard and slightly nutty, and can endure the heat much better than one of its gooeyier companions like a Camembert. If you are lucky enough to catch some sun, the Italian Pinot Grigio can’t be beat! For those who struggle with whites, even in blazing sunshine, Côtes de Provence Rosé may be the perfect middle ground to quench your thirst. The biggest challenge with Gordon’s is bagging a table due to their strict no booking policy, so I cannot stress the importance of arriving early. It’s definitely worth it!
If you’d prefer to book ahead and money is no object, it is vital that you get to The Cube by Electrolux immediately. Not only is the food amazing, but the dining experience cannot be beat. Literally a cube installed on top of the Royal Festival Hall, this white haven seems to float above the Thames on London’s Southbank and has ‘smug factor’ written all over it. The table, long and white, can seat up to 18 people. The most extraordinary aspect of this experience was the interaction with the kitchen – not only is it basically in the seating area but guests are encouraged to watch, ask questions and have fun. The beauty of this pop-up restaurant is that a variety of top chefs are part of the project, and luck would have it that Sat Bains, a chef boasting two Michelin stars, was working the opening weekend. Seven courses may sound like a marathon of eating, but Chef Bains made it all work. The portion sizes and timing were designed so beautifully that the only thing heavy at the end of the meal was each of the diner’s hearts as they had to leave! Highlights included the lamb, which literally melted in the mouth on course five, and the treacle sponge, which was a particular hit because of its surprising bubbly accompaniment. When a sparkling drink appeared, we naturally concluded that it was Prosecco. Upon first sip, it was difficult to tell exactly what this explosion of flavour was, but there was a hint of something that I couldn’t quite identify. Was it apple? Possibly pear? All became clear when the sommelier revealed that it was in fact a sparkling…….sake. There is nothing left to say other than you should run, walk or swim to get there before it closes at the end of September.
London-based Amanda Murdoch has been involved in a variety of major world events including the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, the Virgin London Marathon and the London 2012 Olympics. Born and raised in Vancouver, Amanda loves cheese and crackers, cups of tea and bouquets of gerber daisies.