Saturday, 14 March 2015

Soft drinking in London

In 23 days, my dry spell ends and the heavens will open (actually they probably won't because I've realised that I absolutely do not miss hangovers, and have also happened upon some pretty tasty mocktails so I imagine my drinking may continue in a less dramatic way than I've just made it sound...)

Anyway, the reason I write is two-fold. As I say, I have discovered some great alcohol alternatives since this January, but I have also noticed a distinct lack of my type of bars in London.

When I say 'my type of bars', I refer to favourite Norwich haunts such as The Workshop, House Café, Franks Bar and The Bicycle Shop, where hot drinks machines are not turned off after a certain time and only alcohol is on offer. These café-bars not only have a huge variety of tea on offer all through the day and night but they also provide games to play and the music in the background keeps the mood alive no matter whether one is intoxicated or not!

The most amazing breakfast at House Café over Valentines weekend

Now I'm not saying nowhere like this exists in London, but sadly it's certainly not the norm, and reaching these 'unique' places involves travelling far and wide! So, I write to sing the praises of those establishments that have kept me very happy over the course of the past two months, but also expect that I may continue searching in this final stretch, so continue writing too!

I take you back to January now, when it all began for the second time. I've honestly hardly noticed I've not been drinking this time. I do remember struggling last year, so in comparison this year (so far) has been a breeze! One downside however has been the fact that not drinking definitely has not saved me money. I seem to have replaced going out for drinks with going out for food; good job I noticed so this month I should finally be able to save some money!

Anyway, in early January I found myself at the BFI bar on the Southbank. I've actually frequented the bar on several occasions, but most often for alcoholic beverages. However on this occasion I discovered that they have a very interesting tea selection. Feeling a little under the weather (as seems to be a running theme), I went for an Elderflower & ginger or something similar (quite honestly it was a while ago now, but I know it was tasty and good for a cold)! The BFI boasts a good selection of drinks, great cake (I had lemon & lavender to be precise) and incredibly comfy sofas!

Lately I seem to have found myself wandering along The Kings Road quite often since being delighted to discover that it is actually not ever so far away from home! One particular day began at the Chelsea Physic Garden where we admired snowdrops (I particularly adored those hanging in moss balls)! Left with freezing cold toes, we of course had to take shelter in a pub, so we found ourselves in the The Trafalgar which I loved because it was so quirky and we happened to be there for an evening of jazz too! On this occasion I can't actually remember what I drank but Sunday roast was very tasty and I loved the decor so we'll definitely be going back!

A cosy greenhouse at Chelsea Physic Garden

One of my favourite places to eat and drink lies just outside Liverpool St Station. First discovered between night buses on a very cold night, the Polo Bar is open 24 hours! Serving the most yummy breakfast items and tasty pastries it's the perfect stop-off at any time of day, whether you are in search of tea to begin winding down or something a little stronger to keep you going. All really reasonably priced as well which is a big plus in Central London!

Throwing caution to the wind, I have recently discovered my passion for milkshakes. Love Shack on Kingsland Road is one of my favourite places to go, but when told upon my arrival there one evening that they had run out of milk (!?), they directed us further along to The Diner, where we were more than satisfied by their incredible selection of both hard and soft shakes! We are definitely returning for a day of food; breakfast, lunch and tea!

During the Half Term, I was lucky enough to meet up with friends from my PGCE. We spent the afternoon around London Bridge and ventured down Bermondsey Street, a street that I have only ended up along if lost, in which case I have usually turned around and gone back the way I came. However, we happened upon a very intriguing pub (Tanner & Co) serving pancakes (as it was Shrove Tuesday, a pancake menu was priority for me) so we decided to stop for lunch. Service was incredibly slow and we waited almost an hour for food (I think judging by the tables scattered with empties and crumbs, we had just missed a very busy lunch hour and the waiting staff had decided to go on an exhaustion strike), but once it arrived we had no complaints, and as a result of the poor service we received our post-food hot drinks free. The tea selection was great and the old PE equipment reminscent of our childhood that provided the decor was, as I say, intriguing. I'll definitely go back again, but perhaps not on an empty stomach!

(Photo credit: Crazy Cow events)

I wrote recently about a gig I went to where Iyes performed in a really intimate venue. The venue was Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, and the pre-gig food and drink was a great way to start the evening! I arrived a good half an hour before my friend was due, so ordered an Earl Grey at the bar while I waited. When she arrived we ordered chicken burgers which were ideal to tide us over as we waited a couple of hours for the headliners to perform. Despite having visited less than a week earlier, we actually ended up at The Diner for milkshakes on this occasion too as we had not realised just how late the gig was starting! When it did eventually begin, we watched with the most satisfied tummies!

I have frequented House of Vans quite a bit since it opened last year, and in doing so always stop to admire the graffiti below the arches on Leake Street. Nevertheless, I did not know it was Leake Street I was admiring until a friend invited me to go there for a look around. Of course I agreed (I'm always keen to venture to unfamiliar pastures), so we spent an afternoon around Waterloo; first wandering along Leake Street, then having a nosy in The Vaults before zig-zagging along Lower Marsh as we went in and out of shops luring us in with their vintage, food and general eccentricity. Having enjoyed myself so much, I then invited another friend to come with me the following weekend. This time we stopped for a while inside The Vaults which played host to the best selection of tea I have seen in a long time. Sitting in low deckchairs listening to the most eclectic playlist whilst sipping honey & herb tea; pure bliss.

So the search continues for tea (and/or alcohol for those that way inclined) and games. I'm pretty happy to have found so many places to suit my needs in the meantime though, and worst comes to worst, I'll just stay at home and half tea-for-one from my oversized teapot!

Smoky Russian Caravan from Wilkinsons of Norwich

Can't beat a good mug of Lavender Earl Grey. Wins every time!