1 | For A Winning Weeknight Dinner: Balls & Company (above)
*Insert pun here* And now that that’s out of your system, let’s talk about the best meatballs around. They’re slap bang in the middle of Soho and are so good that you may be forced to queue a little bit, but we promise it’ll be worth it. This is comfort food, yes, but done with such simple style it gives the humble dinner staple some effortless panache. And why not? Craft good meat into spherical shapes and that shouldn’t entail anything unhealthy, nor cumbersome. So here you get little copper skillets containing four perfectly formed balls of either wagyu beef, salmon and dill, chicken and thyme, pork, or quinoa. Top with your choice of sauce and go for chips or spaghetti if you’ve had a rough day, or salad if you’re being good. Daily specials include things like the watermelon, feta and mint side salad, which is not only virtuous, but ridiculously tasty.
The wine list is super streamline, which leaves you mental space to focus on the important stuff; and whilst you ruminate on your balls (sorry), the mac ‘n’ cheese arrancini are a devilish starter to keep you going, made for sharing. If you can manage pudding, the chocolate brownie gets topped with a fluffy, sugary concoction.
With gimmicky food outlets at an all-time high, this is hearty goodness done with care and class. It’s Bonny Porter’s first restaurant following stints at Mayfair’s Arts Club and Village East, and, previously, the finals of Masterchef: The Professionals in her native Oz. This girl knows her stuff.
58 Greek Street, London, W1D 3DY; ballsandcompany.london
2 | For Moody Cocktails: Joyeux Bordel
All a bit dark and mildly clandestine, Joyeux Bordel is the new basement bar from the guys behind Chinatown’s Experimental Cocktail Club and Covent Garden’s swish wine bar, Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels. Translating as a “happy mess,” it looks a bit like a Parisian boudoir with rich velvety seats, deep turquoise walls and very dimmed lighting (this, added to the mirrored hallways makes finding the loo a bit tricky after one of their cocktails – just a warning). And what a cocktail list; though compact, it is top notch. We recommend the Softly Softly (a martini with a chilli kick) and the Jolly Mess (bourbon with chocolate bitters and cardmom syrup – a fragrant twist on an Old Fashioned). You’re in good, if dangerous hands here.
The best thing about this place is its opening hours: 6pm – 2am during the week, and until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. So if you’re in the Shoreditch area, you’ve got a new, slightly swanky late night haunt. And they take particular care not to let too many people in at once, which means that you’ll never be elbowing your way to the bar, nor loitering to steal seats. Add that to the mega sound system, and the DJs they’ve employed, and you’ve got yourself a winner. Just look for the plain black door.
147 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3QE; joyeuxbordel.com
3 | For Unexpected Treats: Abra Kebabra
Copyright: Tom Bowles
The much-maligned kebab has an understandably bad rep but, when done well, what a dish it can be. And five London chefs are out to prove its worth to you with a special event this Saturday, held amid the shabby chic of MC Motors in Dalston. Courtesy of Ruby’s bar, you’ll get a Turkish mojito on arrival (rum and fig flavour) and a Camden beer to accompany the five – yes, five – kebabs that you’ll be consuming. Don’t worry – they’re not massively sized ones, so you should be able to manage them all. And you’ll want to, with a lamb shoulder and BBQ sauce, feta and olive one from Lucky Chip, Neil Rankin’s smoked brisket and fattoush flat bread with chilli and garlic sauce, the lamb kofte from Mangal 1, Szechuan chicken skewers from Carl Clark, and chicken shawarmas with green chillli ketchup, tahini, bread and butter pickle from brilliant new restaurant, Berber & Q.
Tunes will be blasting all afternoon, there’ll be Camden Town beers everywhere and a wine bar there for you to find the perfect pairing for your gourmet kebabs. Oh and fireworks, too. It’s set to be a fun – and tasty – afternoon, with tickets only costing £25.
Doors open at 3pm. Tickets and further information available at designmynight.com
4 | For Something A Bit Smart: Summer in Provence @ Aubaine
On the other hand, if quintessential summeriness and a bit of refinement is what you’re after, then you might need one of the Aubaine restaurants. A small chain dotted around London, they are light, airy and incredibly pretty, serving equally elegant French cuisine (not too pricey either). So they're prime date night venues anyway but from this Saturday and for the rest of August, they will be invoking a sense of Provençal summers with a special menu featuring oodles of lavender.
Kick things off with a Lavender Collins of Bombay Sapphire, apple juice, lime and lavender syrup. Dishes include healthy options like the Salad Nicoise done with quails eggs, and the deliciously punchy bouillabaisse (chunky fish soup). The Tarte Tropezienne – a traditional desert of light brioche filled with crème pâtissèire, with some crunchy nibbed sugar on top - rounds things off nicely, evoking a welcome sense of lazy days in the balmy French sunshine. They’ve got Brangelina’s rosé on the wine list, too.
5 | For Outdoor Cocktails With A Prime Minister – The Churchill
Finding a good outdoor spot to enjoy a quality cocktail in central London can be surprisingly tricky – often, they're spoiled by being so close to Zone 1's busy streets you spend more time inhaling exhaust fumes than you do your Old Fashioned. Thanks heavens then for the newly refurbished Churchill Bar in the Hyatt Regency Hotel near Bond Street, whose terrace area is not only cleverly covered from the traffic outside but looks and feels like stepping into a summer garden thanks to their award-winning design.
In the company of Mr Churchill himself (well, a rather fetching statue of him at least), you can enjoy an impressive menu of summer cocktails (our favourite: the gin-based Eton Mess-Take that comes with a meringue nest of whipped cream and strawberry) as well as some excellent finger food. Personalised picnic hampers are also on offer if you want to push the boat out and impress, though the surroundings and wonderfully attentive staff mean this a special spot even if you're just popping in.