1 | The Intimate Dinner: Oldroyd
To call Upper Street’s newest eatery cosy would be an understatement. A former caff, you walk into the downstairs wondering if you are accidentally wandering through the staff entrance, squeezing past the only three tables (which are saved for walk-ins) to the kitchen counter itself. If it weren’t for the welcoming smiles of the chirpy front of house team, you’d worry about being shouted at for getting in the chefs’ ways. Twist up the spiral staircase and you come to an endearingly petite dining room with deep blue walls and simple settings. Because, as one would hope, the point about this place is most definitely the food. And oh boy, the food.
Tom Oldroyd was chef director at the Polpo restaurants for more than five years, and left earlier this year to go it alone. So we already know it’s going to be tasty, and we can have a pretty good idea of the style: pan-European small plates, rustically but charmingly done. But you need to sample this stuff to appreciate it fully.
The menu is relatively short, but that doesn’t make deciding between its contents any easier. Just try not to over-order too embarrassingly (a strong possibility), or else you’ll miss out on the silky, fluffy chocolate mousse for desert (speckled with pistachio and salt, raspberries keeping it perky rather than saccharine, a satisfying crunch of caramel on top). Before all that, you need to try the seaweed and cider salami, which makes a great nibble alongside the wax-sealed Negronis, the bitterness cutting straight through that lovely fat, or the crispy smoked pork belly and pea croquettas, which come to your table piping hot with truffle mayonnaise to cool them down. To follow, crab tagliarini is light and delicate, sturdy lamb and almond meatballs are pepped up by fresh romesco with pickled garlic, and you’ll want to try the grilled pork ribeye with beans. Oh and the confit swordfish. And the whole roast monkfish for the table to pick at… Gluttony, though forgivable, will be your downfall.
344 Upper Street, London, N1 0PD; oldroydlondon.com
2 | The Rooftop Pétanque Court: Boulers Hackney
Over the bank holiday, some enthusiastic people will be bopping around Notting Hill hoping not to get pick-pocketed, but there is another option available: pétanque on a Hackney rooftop. I mean, you’ll practically be able to see Notting Hill anyway. There will be delicious food served up by Richard Handiford (of Hawksmoor and Flamin’ Liberty) and Orangina – yes, Orangina – cocktails with a summery twist.
Goes on the pétanque course can be booked online as half-hour slots, and there are few more delightful ways to while away a long weekend. The old French game is both satisfying and simple to master in terms of rules, if not execution (depending on how those Oranginary beverages go down). Get yourselves there around dusk and the view will be spectacular. You’ve only got a week to give it a go.
Tickets cost £15 in advance, or £20 on the day; 27 August – 2nd September
Roof East, Floors 7 & 8, Stratford Multistorey car park, Great Eastern Way, London, E15 1XE; boulers.co.uk
3 | The Funky New Cocktail Bar: Showdown
There is a new cocktail bar in town. It resides beneath The Lockhart in Marylebone and complements the main restaurant’s Deep South theme with all manner of concoctions dreamt up by Matt Whiley, otherwise known as The Talented Mr Fox. So you’ve got ‘ice tee’ on tap (milk, Jack Daniels, maple and ‘lemon’ earl grey tea) and all sorts of weird and wonderful creations boldly blending sweet and sour flavours, with a lot of bourbon and rye whisky thrown in. Doughnut vodka anyone? Gin with popcorn and absinthe? Well how about some fermented honey with your rum? And if you need a kick up the backside, then the Woodfoord Reserve and kimchi Pickleback should do the job.
Whiley’s creations can be mopped up with snacks designed by the restaurant’s Brad McDonald, which include catfish goujons, devilled eggs, cornbread, and shrimp and grits. If it doesn’t all induce a heart attack, it will certainly make you very, very happy.
The Lockhart, 24 Seymour Place, London, W1H 7NL; lockhartlondon.com
4 | The Geeky Option: Mind Sports Olympiad
Ok, so it’s not The Ritz but if you want something a bit different and are up for embracing your inner geek, then give the Mind Sports Olympiad a go. It’s a veritable feast of board game competition that you can not only watch but take part in (entry fees start at £10). There are more than 60 contests on the go, with everything from Scrabble to Tetris included, with Chess, Sudoku and even a Monopoly tournament in between. If you don’t want to pit yourself against the pros then there’s a ‘Learn-to-Play’ room, where you can have a go at new games for free, with staff on-hand to explain the rules if you get stuck. You know how you’re getting really bored of praying for something good on at the cinema for date night? Well this Bank Holiday option doesn’t even require good weather.
And when you’re done, you’ve got the delights of West Hampstead to entertain. We recommend the delicious and wholly comforting fare at Sarracino, a traditional and welcoming Italian restaurant where you can mull over good food and wine, dissecting your wins (or losses). The pizzas are ace.