Saturday, 17 September 2011

Champagne & Shopping

Myself and Cara were doing some shopping in Shepherds bush (West London) the other day and we came across something that we thought was quite bizzare. It was a champagne bar, in the middle of a shopping centre. I guess we found it so strange, because we don’t have these sort of things in Australia. It is one thing to have a food court, or a small cafe in the middle of a shopping centre, but to have a (very classy) champagne bar was new to us. I wouldn’t have thought there would be much of a market for shoppers who fancy a quick glass of ‘bubbles’ whilst doing there shopping, but after speaking to the head bartender of “Searcy’s Champagne Bar”, he told us that even he is amazed at the amount of shoppers who have a sneaky glass of champagne whilst shopping. He said that some shoppers fancy a glass as early as 10am.

As we walked past Searcy’s in amazement at the amount of people sipping on their champagne, we had to see what all the fuss was about. As we sat down and looked around, we soon realised, what looked out of place at first, doesn’t look out of place anymore. Searcy’s is located with shops like Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany&Co (just to name a few) surrounding 360 degrees around the bar. This classy establishment fit right in with all the expensive designer brands.

As we sipped on our glass of real french champagne, we decided to order a little cheese board to go with it. The head bartender was again happy to help. He recommended which cheeses go with the champagne that we were drinking and even went as far as to explain how drink the champagne and eat the cheese to get the most flavour out of both.

We thoroughly enjoyed our champagne and our cheese board, and also we really appreciated the time that the bartender spent with us going though the menu. So after a quick glass of ‘bubbles’ and a light snack we continued on with our shopping.

Football, Work, Cocktails & The OXO Tower

Well.... What a busy last month It’s been for Cara and myself. It’s been a long time since my last blog post, which is mainly due to us starting our new jobs. However just before we started, we were fortunate to make a trip to Wigan and visit some of my family, and we also got the opportunity to see the opening game of the premier league season for the Mighty Wigan Athletic. It was our first time to the north of England, and despite the unpredictable weather, it was an amazing trip. We’ll defiantly be back.

So then it was time to begin our working lives in the UK, and begin to earn some coin to fund our upcoming adventures. During our intense 4 weeks of work, Cara and I did manage to make it out to a bar that I’ve been dieing to check out, The OXO Tower Cocktail Bar. The OXO Tower has an interesting history, which was part of the reason we wanted to go and have a look. The tower is located on the banks of the River Thames. It originally started off as a power station, before it was taken over by a large UK meat company (The same company who produces the OXO stock cubes). The company, "Liebig Extract”, converted the power station into a storage warehouse. The company wanted to display the three letters “O.X.O” in neon lights at the top of the tower. But when the request was refused, they decided to rebuild the top of the tower to include this advertising into the frame work of the windows.  Because the framework of the windows were conveniently shaped like a circle, a cross and another circle, nothing could be done to stop it.

In the early 1990’s, the tower was refurbished to include offices, housing, art galleries and on the top floor was the cocktail bar and restaurant. When Cara and I arrived on the top floor of the OXO Tower Bar, we instantly felt under-dressed. The bar was packed with businessmen or people who looked like they were off to the theatre later that night. We didn’t let this stop us from taking a seat and looking over their extensive cocktail menu. With a menu which consisted of house specialities, classic variations and genuine classics, it was hard for us to make a decision. Cara went for a sparkling cocktail called “Undercover Lover”. This consisted of citrus flavoured vodka, Licor 43 (a Spanish vanilla flavoured liqueur), Frais de Bois (a type of strawberry liqueur), shaken with crushed strawberries, strained into a champagne glass and topped up with prosecco. Instantly, Cara told me that it was too sweet. After I had a try, I 100% agreed with her. It was like drinking pure strawberry sugar. On paper, the drink sounded very nice, but when i thought about it after, I soon realised that there was nothing to balance the sweetness of the 2 liqueurs used. So the “Undercover Lover” I’m sure will be a great drink for the sweet-tooth, but It didn’t go down to well with us. My choice on the other hand, was a winner. I choose a cocktail called “The Port of London”. Judging by the title, I guessed it had port in the drink, and having never had a port cocktail before, I had to give it a go. The Port of London, consisted of Port, Beefeater Gin, lemon juice, lime juice and topped up with a bitter lemon mixer. This drink had all the qualities we were looking for. It was well balanced, refreshing, there was no dominate flavour, with every sip you got something different out of the drink.

So we spent an our afternoon, sipping our cocktails, looking over the Thames towards St Pauls Cathedral, and after an intense last few weeks of work, we finally had a chance to reflect and remember why we are over here and how lucky we both are.

The OXO Tower’s
“Undercover Lover”
(In a mixing glass)
15ml Ketel One Citrus Vodka
15ml Licor 43
15ml Frais De Bois
Muddled Strawberries
Shaken and strained into a champagne glass
Topped with Prosecco

“Port of London”
(Built in a tall glass)
30ml House Port
30ml Beefeater Gin
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml fresh lime juice
Topped up with Bitter Lemon