1 | For Mind-Blowing Fusion Food: Asia de Cuba (above)
St Martins Lane hotel is a glassy beast of a building in the heart of theatre and opera land. But don’t let that put you off, because if you wander through its reception and into the softly-lit restaurant at the back, you’ll find yourself in an altogether separate, zen-like world; a soothing sanctuary set in a swish hotel library. Incongruous, maybe, but – much like the food here – that works. Under the direction of executive chef, Luis Pous, Asia de Cuba has reopened its doors after a mega refurb, and is a must for impressing that certain someone with a fusion menu that is imaginative, playful, modern, and magnificently tasty.
Raised in Cuba, Pous’ menu takes inspiration from his predecessor in celebrating the Chinese influence on Havanan cuisine, which started mid-Nineteenth century. So this isn’t gimmicky fusion – it’s just really, really good. You end up with things like shrimp churros (like prawn toasts but light and puffy, accentuated by both thai coconut curry and jalapeño). Then there are fiery salads mixing seafood with fresh watermelon, cucumber and then sesame and wonton; tuna dusted in cumin with chorizo; peppered black cod served with bitter orange sauce and avocado puree; and juicy, buttery steak freshened by ginger and papaya. It’s got all the boyount flavour of Cuba with the delicate touch of China, and a whole lot of chilli in between. And you can’t forget the ceviches; with a dedicated bar at the side of the restaurant, this citrus-cured raw fish is the zingiest thing you’ll taste this year, and not to be missed.
There are cocktails aplenty and the staff couldn’t be more charming, so you’ll definitely impress the missus with this one.
45 St Martin’s Lane, London, WC2N 4HX; asiadecuba.com/London
2 | For Turbo Cocktail Night: Espresso Martini Month @ Soho Grind
Soho Grind is one of a family of espresso-to-cocktail bars across London, there to see you through the day with coffee and into the night with booze. Also located in Shoreditch, Holborn and London Bridge, the baristas are a laugh and the venues are easy-going and buzzy affairs – the speakeasy-style downstairs of the Beak Street one is intimately sized (to put it mildly) and a great little hideaway for a date.
This month they’re celebrating that wondrous blend: the Espresso Martini. Legendarily created for a supermodel in the Eighties, (she wanted something that would “wake me up then fuck me up,” apparently), it normally contains vodka, coffee liqueur and a shot of espresso. Soho Grind is taking that one step further by replacing the vodka with cognac, and adding a smoky coffee-flavoured cognac too to give you a double flavour hit. The Merlet family has been producing cognac since 1850, and their new C2 Café Cognac is rich, syrupy and made with a 100% Arabica Brazilian coffee blend. Combining that with their signature (plain) cognac, that all-important dose of espresso and a dash of sugar syrup makes for a gluttonously good, and very addictive cocktail. If you need something to wake you up, this will certainly do the job. And it’s only a fiver for the rest of the month.
19 Beak Street, London, W1F 9RP; sohogrind.com
3 | For Food, Food and More Food: Taste of London
Once again, the finest chefs in the capital have descended on Regent’s Park, meaning that you can jump from stand to stand, watching them in action during masterclasses, sampling tasters from their restaurants, and generally basking in the summer foody vibe created by over 200 exhibitors of food and drink brands. You’ll need a good few hours to mosy round, but this is a weekend afternoon option with many talking points.
Our advice is to make a beeline for the Laurent Perrier area, where you can enjoy a glass of premium pink fizz alongside some posh popcorn (strawberry and elderflower flavour from Joe and Seph’s). It could be a romantic breather if you go a bit overboard on the other food. But if you’re still hungry, there’ll also be beautifully paired lobster brioche rolls from the Bob’s Lobster guys. Make sure you also stop by The Wild Kitchen – a fun and theatrical stand where you’ll get demonstrations from exciting chefs like Neil Rankin, Monica Galetti and James Golding (of the favoured Glasto rehab, The Pig). There’ll be wine tastings with Oz Clarke in the Celebrity Cruises Lounge, an all-round wine education with new digital wine guru, Mr Vine, and a chance to muddle your own Mojitos in Havana Club rum's shack.
17 – 21 June
Regent’s Park, London, NW1 4NR; Buy tickets at tasteoflondon.seetickets.com/tour/taste-of-london
4 | For An Alternative Rooftop Experience: Magic Roundabout
Copyright: Thomas Bowles
Old Street roundabout’s techy residents may have been the reason for that “Silicon” nickname, but now the dreary traffic hub is playing home to some far snazzier lodgers. So make your way to Magic Roundabout (much better, right?) for food, drink and lots of music at one great big rooftop party. Open since the beginning of this week, it fits 500 people and is the result of a Kickstarter campaign to bring a bit of verve to this area of London by burger king Tom Reaney (more anon).
Start off in the morning with your coffee fix at the cafe, Relax, which will turn into a cocktail den once the sun is over the yard arm (or, you know, lunchtime hits) with drinks designed in collaboration with the guys behind the prestigious White Lyan bar. A DJ booth plonked right in the middle will be providing the beats, with food from lunchtime onwards provided by Prawnography (crab meat fries, 12-inch Black Sea tiger prawns and giant sharing platters) and Burger Bear. Our hot tip? Go for the Greedy Bear – a juicy burger of free-range Herefordshire beef with double oak smoked bacon and bacon jam. Yes, bacon jam. What other excuse could you possibly need?
Every day, 7am – 11pm; Old Street, London, EC1Y 1BE