1 | For A Swish Dinner: German Gymnasium (above)
That funny old brick building up between Kings Cross and St Pancras stations (where the swing in the birdcage is), has finally opened its doors. A bit like a tardis, you walk into what appears to be an odd little warehouse and are faced with a vast Grand Café that blurs upwards through a double-height atrium of sleek blackness and glowing lights to become a balcony restaurant and the cooler than cool Meister bar up top. The venue’s name alludes to the fact that it was built in the nineteenth century for use by the German Gymnastics Society and, incidentally, it was the first purpose-built gymnasium in England, so that also explains the artwork adorning the walls.
Chef Bjoern Wassmuth (who is, appropriately, of German extraction) has created a modern European menu with beautiful steak tartare, a fresh native lobster salad with marie rose sauce, and winter-friendly truffled beef broth with dumplings among the restaurant’s starters. Mains include a veal schnitzel plentiful enough to elicit ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the table, and brilliantly posh kebab sticks of Scottish scallops and pork sausage. It’s fabulously comforting food done with a slick hand and serious class: nothing too flamboyant, yet nothing to disappoint.
The ground floor is open from breakfast onwards, serving coffee and cake (or Kaffee and Kuchen, if you will) when the clock chimes 4pm each day. Adorable, smart and very impressive.
1 Kings Boulevard, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4TB; germangymnasium.com
2 | For A Gratifying Pastime: Wine Car Boot
With Kings Cross in mind, Wine Car Boot is back this weekend and it’s bigger than before… which means there’s more wine. Now we’re talking, right? This is precisely what it says on the tin, with the chance to buy from a whole host of London’s wine merchants: Corney & Barrow, Vagabond, Vinoteca, Borough Wines and Esquire favourites Berry Bros & Rudd are all due to appear, among others.
A ticket gets you five free tasters, a bottle carrier, a tasting glass and plenty of water (for obvious reasons). You can also soak up the booze with pizza, charcuterie, tacos, burritos or lobster rolls. And there’s chocolate. If you really want to get into the swing of things, there will be a Carr’s Water Biscuit Challenge (never pretty, we will warn) plus wine books by Jancis Robinson, gadgets from Coravin and glassware by Zalto all on-sale too.
Tickets from £12
West Handside Canopy, Kings Cross, London, N1C 4AA; winecarboot.com
3 | For Drinks And Tapas: The Modern Pantry
Given that the Clerkenwell site has been so successful over the past few years, Anna Hansen has opened up a second Modern Pantry, this one in Finsbury Square. It’s a calming and pretty option amid many City haunts, open for breakfast onwards but the hot tip is the bar: sit up on stools, enjoying sherry and vermouth-focussed cocktails whilst nibbling on delicate yet inventive tapas. At £25 for five, it’s completely affordable and therefore great for no-fuss weeknight assignations that still require a bit of character.
Start off with the house take on a Sherry Cobbler, made with Manzanilla sherry alongside black cardamom, saffron and clementine sugar, plus slices of lemon and orange. Then move onto the rather dangerous Trident – Fino sherry, Cynar, Aquavit and some peach bitters – which is decidedly punchy, yet too interesting to miss. The delicious range of bites is difficult to choose from but don’t miss out on the salmon sashimi or the dramatic smoked cassava croquettes – blackened bundles brightened up by vibrant quince aioli.
The Alphabeta Building, 14 Finsbury Square, London, EC2A 1AH; themodernpantry.co.uk
4 | For Booking Ahead: Cocoa Runners’ Chocolate Salon
Taking place at The Winemakers Club over the next few weeks is a series of chocolate masterclasses hosted by the Cocoa Runners. In case you haven’t heard of them, these guys scour the globe to find the best chocolate out there. So – no joke – this is not just any chocolate but the most painstakingly made artisan stuff, which contains none of the crap that most mass-produced bars do. (Thus, you can claim that this is a healthy way of consuming chocolate…) And rather than being snooty about it, the idea is just to try a bit of everything and find what kind of thing you like. With wine. If this doesn’t have “DATE NIGHT” strapped across, we don’t know what does.
On 9 December the theme will be Best of British, with chocolate served from the country’s finest chocolate makers including the phenomenal Pump Street Bakery. 19 January will explain the concept of dark milk chocolate (these experts preach that milk chocolate is just as good as dark), and the final evening will pit French and American producers against one another on 16 February. Tickets are a mere £20 and guaranteed to earn brownie points.
The Winemakers Club, 41a Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4AN; cocoarunners.com