Can the Chinese God of Love save Valentine’s Day?

Two Valentine's Day cocktails tied together with red silk ribbon
Valentine’s Day cocktails tied with silk ribbon

Yep, it’s almost here. Valentine’s Day. The day that we can unashamedly celebrate how we feel about our significant other or anyone else for that matter. Year after year it raises the inevitable question of how or where is best for celebrating love. Restaurants are over-booked, bars over-crowded and weekends-away will almost always be spent with other couples who also attempted to get away. So who can save Valentine’s Day?

Cue Yue Lao, the immortal Chinese God of Love. Yue Lao translates to old man under the moon. In Chinese mythology he appears at night under the moon and ties divinely fated couples with silken cord. It’s believed that once this is done nothing can prevent their union.

This February we invite Yue Lao to work his magic over London. GŎNG Bar at Shangri-La at The Shard has created two his and hers cocktails bound together with a red ribbon to evoke the spirit of Yue Lao.

His is a peaty mixture with a meaty bite; Talisker, Mastiha, Cocchi Americano and yuzu with lavender bitters. It’s served with a cone of beef biltong. Needless to say the flavour pairings of salted beef with the smokey whisky and yuzu is heavenly indeed.

Hers is shaken Champagne in a flute garnished with rather romantic crushed rose petals. It’s crafted with Peter in Florence London Dry Gin, Noilly Prat Dry, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, lapsang, cranberry, orange blossom and raspberry blanc de blancs foam. Sip it slowly and it transforms into a full bodied, perfectly balanced drink.

Yue Lao cocktails can be ordered together in any combination; His and His, His and Hers or Hers and Hers. Be sure to experience them between 11th – 17th February at GŎNG Bar. Cocktails cost £20 each or together with single red rose for £45. Book in advance so you won’t have to share your romantic moments with anyone else.

A romantic table setting overlooking Tower Bridge
A candle-lit Valentine’s Day dinner over London

Once your romantic fate has been bound you may continue your evening on the 35th floor at TĪNG Restaurant which has created a very special Valentine’s Day experience. Between 14th – 17th February London can enjoy a three course menu priced at £85 per person or £140 per person with wine pairing and a glass of Champagne.

Scrumptious dishes on the menu include Cornish halibut and parsley velouté and braised haunch of roe deer with smoked beetroot and red cabbage. A meat-free option of foraged mushrooms, pickled onion, Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom tea is also on offer. Has Yue Lao saved Valentine’s Day? I certainly think so.

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Gin and Tonic for London Girls – G & Tea Lounge Masterclass


Is there anything more satisfying than drinks and dinner with friends? I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening. Lucky for me that my wish was granted; I was invited to a gin masterclass at G & Tea Lounge followed by dinner at Manhattan Grill, both of which are part of London Marriott Hotel, West India Quay. Of course to top it all off I got to share my evening with the wonderful Rosana McPhee, Cooksister and Seen in the City.

The Masterclass

The class happens once a month at G & Tea Lounge. I recommend booking in advance as the festive season approaches. I had tremendous fun at the masterclass. It was light-hearted, energetic but most of all I found myself utterly relaxed; such a fabulous way to unwind before dinner.

Headed by G & Tea Lounge’s Head Bartender, Pasquale Parascandolo, we began with a brief history of gin and led on to identifying unique characteristics of unusual gins such as Old Tom, Hayman’s and London Dry. For me, as a food writer, it was intriguing to learn the more unusual notes of the botanicals used in the making and infusing of gins; an interest previously reserved for wine. We sampled three gins and explored a range of botanically brewed tonics which complement them. Pasquale was kind enough to share the bar’s favourite combinations and secrets; quite a task for a bar that holds the largest collection of gins in Canary Wharf. He encouraged us to try brave new flavours and infusions. By the end of the class I certainly felt a greater appreciation for gin. Its recent revival, with many London-based micro-distilleries, finally began to make sense.

Dates, Times and Costs

The class takes place on the last Thursday of each month between 6pm and 7pm at G & Tea Lounge, London Marriott West India Quay. The price of £20 per person includes tasting of three gins and a glass of Gin and Tonic of your choice. So, if you have a gin-lover in your life what a perfect gift this experience would make.

Manhattan Grill


The masterclass was followed by a thoroughly enjoyable dinner at London Marriott West India Quay’s Manhattan Grill. What a treat this evening turned out to be. Spectacular views across the quay set the tone for a wonderful evening that was to unfold. I always maintain that London is full of surprises of the pleasant kind. Manhattan Grill turned out to be just that.


The Menu

My favourite part of relaxed dining is the element of sharing. The menu here appears to have been created for doing so. The kitchen awed us with a selection of starters. King prawns with chilli and garlic, scallops with caramelised onion and pressed beef with pickles kick-started the meal. Each dish was more delightful than the next.

The pièces de résistance were a variety of steaks, cooked medium-rare, as recommended by the Head Chef. USDA beef fillet, (a superior grade tender steak of fine texture), Scottish beef, Scottish rib-eye and Aberdeen Angus steak arrived with peppercorn sauce and sides from the á la carte menu. We enjoyed perfectly crisp sweet potato fries and divine macaroni and cheese cooked and served in a miniature dutch oven. Wine pairing, which is an optional extra, glued the dishes for an unforgettable evening of dining.

A selection of bite-sized desserts, including childhood favourite, Battenberg cake, cherry tart and chocolate mousse cake covered all manner of sweet teeth. The evening drew in to the night with great conversation and good company long after the last coffee was sipped; a sure fire sign of a wonderful gathering. This one is not to be missed.



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Shangri-La London launches new cocktail menu at Gŏng Bar


It’s October and we’re finally allowed to utter the C-word. Yes, it’s cocktail season and we’re ready to indulge. London’s Gōng Bar has taken this readiness to dizzying new heights. The bar’s new cocktail menu entitled A Miscellany of Inventions was unveiled just in time for the festive season.

It’s an acknowledgement of the incredible innovations that have impacted society and transformed the world we live in today. A total of 18 cocktails follow the journey of inventions which changed the course of humanity; an ambitious undertaking as well as an unusual one.

A Miscellany of Inventions is divided into five categories; floral and delicate, fruity and citrusy, bitter and sweet, punchy and long finish and non-alcoholic. My favourites of the menu included Director’s Cut (pictured above) which celebrates the birth of the motion picture. Served with buttered corn it combines Don Julio Blanco, elderflower and lime. Cooperman which is an aperitif with fruity notes honours the invention of the barrel; Nikka single-barrel Whisky, Ginjo sake infused Mastiha with melon and citrus make for a supreme cocktail.

The creation of the menu has been a labour of love for head bartender Christian Maspes and his team. He says of the new menu,

The cocktails bring to life inventions that have been real breakthroughs. It is hard to imagine the world we know today without screwdrivers and computers, and movies and guitars. Creating a new invention is like taking a leap of faith and being open to the possibilities and the same goes for the creation of a new cocktail. We really enjoyed bringing our ideas to life and we look forward to entertaining our guests with our unique creations.

For those with a more adventurous spirit there is also Look no Hands which celebrates the invention of the bicycle. The drink combines Copper Dog Whisky, triple sec, an IPA reduction and Fernet-Branca and is served complete with a bamboo bicycle.

If you’re Sober for October you might try La Dolce Vita which is one of the non-alcoholic options. With flavours of  coconut milk, halva, grapefruit and lime blended  to create a creamy and zesty finish it’s a fitting tribute to the creation of gelato.

As London begins to shift gear for the holiday season Gōng offers a fresh approach to the new season. Being the highest hotel bar in Western Europe, with unparalleled views across the city, it invites us to change rhythm in graceful refinement. Combined with Shangri-La’s exquisite hospitality it’s surely a call we must heed. Who would we be to resist?



Gōng Bar is located at: Level 52, Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard, London SE1 9QU. For more information visit:

The quiet grace of Sussex ends Champagne’s reign

South Place Hotel
South Place Hotel

Sparkling Winemaker of the Year

Cherie Spriggs, Chief winemaker at Nyetimber, won the coveted accolade of Sparkling Winemaker of the Year this monthIt’s the first time the highly-regarded International Wine Challenge has awarded this honour to a winemaker outside of Champagne. Big deal? Of course it is. It’s David and Goliath except there’ll be no throwing of stones. This is a story of the quiet grace of Sussex ending Champagne’s reign.

Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and Anne of Cleves

The 1000 year old Nyetimber estate is first named in the Domesday Book of 1086. Henry VIII, no less, obtained it through the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536. It was passed on to his minister Thomas Cromwell and then on to the King’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of the annulment settlement of their unconsummated marriage.

The end of Champagne’s reign

Very few places in the world, outside Champagne, have the treasured conditions required for producing fine sparkling wine. Eric Heerema, present day owner and chief executive of Nyetimber,  recognised them in his estate and was convinced that English sparkling wine had a future. With the unparalleled expertise of Chief winemaker, Cherie Spriggs, the first batch of the holy trinity of grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, were planted in the chalky soils of West Sussex.

Today the vineyard produces four sparkling wines; Classic Cuvee, Demi-Sec, Rosé Multi-Vintage and Blanc de Blancs. With the refined elegance of its expertise, passion and pioneering approach Nytimber has gently won over the connoisseurs. Its sparkling wines continue to be awarded for their elegance and refinement and its undisputed supremacy sealed with the accolade bestowed upon Cherie Spriggs. 25 years in the making of a 1000 year old estate.


Nyetimber Terrace

It’s fitting then that Michelin-starred Angler Restaurant at South Place Hotel will celebrate the ascendancy of English sparkling wine. The roof terrace at the hotel has been transformed in to a celebration of English summer. From now until 16th September it will serve a special menu of Nyetimber sparkling wines exquisitely paired with light bites by Michelin-starred Executive Chef Gary Foulkes. It’s a stylish combination which adds more than a sparkle to London’s rooftops. Rabbit and chorizo rice balls, crispy Cornish squid and Giaraffa Sicilian olives can be ordered with Classic Cuvee, Demi-Sec MV, Rosé MV or Blanc de Blancs 2010. It’s a dignified, noble celebration of a product of England; the likes of which have never before been seen in the history of winemaking. A shattered glass ceiling has never looked so good.


South Place Hotel is located at 3 South Place London EC2M 2AF. For more information visit: