1 | For Pre-dinner Drinks: Dandelyan
Brand-spanking new to the Southbank is Mondrian London at Sea Containers, a new hotel that looks all swish, like a transatlantic ocean liner. Getting a good drink along that painfully crowded part of the river has never been an easy feat but Dandelyan – the ground floor bar – will mark the end of your quest. It’s a grand-looking thing with a huge green marble bar running down the center of the room and, as you can imagine, incomparable views (which you don’t have to reach the 200th floor to enjoy).
It's a plush but relaxed little sanctuary away from the hubbub, where you can people-watch, river-watch and sample some quirky concoctions from Ryan Chetiyawardana (also known as Mr Lyan), who has twice been crowned the UK’s best barman. Everything has a botanical theme, and you won’t be stuck choosing between the boring old classic cocktails here – the menu is categorised into ‘cereal’, ‘vegetal’, ‘mineral’ and ‘floral’ – with highlights including the Southbank (an alternative Mojito) and the Evil Manhattan, which contains Mr Lyan’s very own botanical beer ‘vermouth’. It’s “rich and boozy” according to them; which sounds like a promising start.
Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PD
2 | For Dinner With Foodie Credentials: New Michelin Picks
It’s not necessarily going to mean a lot to most of us that this year’s Michelin awards were announced last week. Still, 14 new restaurants have been garnished with one of those coveted stars and two of those on the list are firm Esquire favourites and decidedly worth a visit. Given their extra kudos in the wake of the awards, they’d make rather impressive date locations, too.
Gymkhana in Mayfair has earned nothing but rave reviews since it opened last year. It serves modern Indian food of exceptional quality but is a modestly-sized venue, making booking somewhat tricky. Worth putting your name down for though, particularly for the Lamb Nalli Barra, aka the best lamp chops you will ever eat – a mouthwatering synthesis of Indian spices engulfing juicy and yet crunchy meat.
3 | For Dinner Without Reservations
Slightly further down the pricing scale, yet just as tasty, is Barrafina, on Frith Street (above). There’ll be no booking issues either, as they don’t take reservations. Annoying? Maybe, but they have just opened at a second location (on Adelaide Street in Covent Garden) so there are now far more seats to be had. You’ll get straightfoward yet top-notch tapas here, inspired by the owners’ own Spanish experiences, and the sherry list is not bad, either.
4 | For Something A Bit Different: House Of Peroni
For one month, The House of Peroni will open its doors in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Having been hugely popular in the past, this pop-up promises the best of Italian style in the form of design, film and, most importantly, food and drink.
Each week sees a separate schedule of events that you can book into (the chocolate or pasta masterclasses look especially appetising, and there’s a perfume-making one if you’re brave enough). Otherwise, you can simply saunter round, stopping off at one of the three bars, or the restaurant along the way should the art and architecture wear you out.
Admission is free and, when in Rome, it’s fair to assume that food and drink will be involved – it’s definitely worth a go. 3rd – 31st October, The House, 64 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, WC2A 3JX
5 | For Booking Ahead To Make You Look Sorted: London Cocktail Week
It’s only been going for five years but London Cocktail Week just gets bigger and better every time. In fact, it’s now the largest drinks festival in the UK. If you get yourself – and a friend – a wristband, you will also be equipped with a map directing you to the 250 establishments across the city that are opening their doors to reveal weird, wonderful and incredibly alcoholic treats.
If you’re looking to take the Mrs to anything, may we suggest the Angostura Butterfly House in Shoreditch? There, you can walk among (real) butterflies and press your own sugar cane while, obviously, supping on appropriately themed drinks. Then there are the Tanqueray masterclasses at Hixter in Liverpool Street, should gin be your preferred poison. Or you could just sit back for a romantic ride along the canal, on the Vestal Vodka floating distillery. And have you ever seen a pedal-powered cocktail shaker before? Thought not: the world’s first will be at work in the festival’s main hub, Seven Dials.
Wristbands are currently at a reduced, ‘earlybird’ price so it’s worth investigating now (although you can also just rock up on the day, so no need to panic).
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