Cocktails and a Chinese Meal in London’s West End

Last Saturday took us into London’s west end for a bit of shopping and more importantly a slap up feast at Wong Kei in China Town, but first we took a diversion to the old Simpsons of Piccadilly (203-205 Piccadilly) for cocktails on the 5thView cocktail lounge.

View from the Coctail Lounge at the Waterstones bookshop

View from the Cocktail Lounge at the Waterstones bookshop

The old Simpsons is now a monster huge Waterstone’s Bookshop with the 5th floor converted to a cocktail lounge. the photo above was taken back in 20011, the present view is blighted by a bunch of cranes. To be honest the cocktail lounge seems a bit blighted too, the decor is looking decidedly shabby, despite the website’s claims of refurbishment and the service is slow and unknowledgable. As to the cocktails they are I suppose average priced for London at between £7 and £11, but the snacks (£3 for a tiny bowl of nuts) are a bit of a rip. I had a gin sour, it was nothing special, but the £40 bill for the four of us left me feeling a bit sour too.

Wong Kei (41-43 Wardour Street) is a bit of a Soho legend. It’s one of the largest Chinese restaurants in the UK with seating for 500 guests and a reputation for having some of the rudest waiting staff in the UK. Oddly enough this is one of the things that drags people in and although service is shall we say a little brusque it is quick and efficient as diners are processed as quickly as possible to make way for more customers. Personally I found that most welcome, as there is nothing I hate more than having to hang around for the bill and my change. If you are dining as a couple or a small group, be warned that you may end up sharing a table with other diners, a bit like Chartier in Paris.

Wong Kei

Wong Kei

There are some odd things on the menu including deep-fried intestines and chicken with jellyfish, but I went for the vegetarian pancake rolls to start followed by the Sweet and sour chicken with rice. The pancake rolls were delicious, especially with the lethally hot chili and black bean sauce and the chicken was pretty good too. What with a bottle of Pinot Grigio I liked the bill too, when it only came to £58 for the four of us (Cash only no cards).

The building Wong Kei is situated in has an interesting history as it used to belong to theatrical wig maker and costumier Willy Clarkson (1861-1934). You can if you look up to the clock see the words costumier and perruquier on its face. Designed by the architect H M Wakeley, plaques by the restaurant’s door attest to the foundation stone being laid by  Sarah Bernhardt in 1904 and the coping stone by sir Henry Irving the following year. Clarkson occupied the premises until 1940.

How to Build the Perfect U-Boat

No not one like this.

U3 - Museum of Technology and Seafaring, Malmo Sweden

No it’s a drink made from lager and a shot of Jagermeister

Cheers

Now some people might say ‘that’s a Jager bomb’ but a U-Boat is a bit more sophisticated than just chucking a glass of Jagermeister into a pint of lager.

The first thing you need to do is place a shot glass on top of an upended highball glass and fill it with Jagermeister.

Stage 1

Next place a pint glass over the two glasses like so

stage 2

Turn the whole confection upside down and take out the highball glass.

stage 3

You should now have the Jagermeister neatly trapped inside the shot glass. Top up the glass with nice cold lager, Czech lager is especially good for one of these.

Stage 4 and ready to drink

Now as you drink it the shot glass will gradually tip over and gently disgorge its contents into the lager. The name, so I believe, is derived from the way that the Jagermeister gradually leaks out like oil from a depth-charged U-Boat.

Sinking a U-Boat at the Beer House Tallin, Estonia

I sunk my first U-Boat at the Beer House, a German style beer hall in Estonia’s capital Tallin.

Shipscook has a Brazilian – with Salto Cachaca

Well there’s nothing like a cheap laugh to draw readers in is there? However the sort of Brazilian I had in mind has nothing to do with hair removal.

No more to do with this stuff – Salto Cachaca, which the nice people at Salto asked Shipscooksstuff to sample.

Salto Cachaca, two strengths - 27% and lethal

Cachaca is the national spirit of Brazil. Like rum it is derived from sugar cane, but where rum is usually made from molasses, cachaca is made from fermented sugar cane juice which is then distilled. I have never been to Brazil, but I first sampled regular cachaca in a Caipirinha or two in Ibiza about ten years ago. Salto is different to regular cachaca as it has a citrus flavour added which means that a Caipirnha made with the spirit will have a far more intense lime flavour. Salto also comes in two strengths. The stuff in the green bottle is 24% while the clear bottle is 37%.

So what’s the stuff like?

We tried it as a shot first. The 24% was quite pleasantly lemony, while as you would expect the 37% was similar but with more of a kick. Overall opinion was that it was better on the rocks though as the lemony taste didn’t cloy so much as when drunk neat. A change from tequila or vodka, but it would not be my first choice as a shot, I think it’s more a spirit for mixing. Next up was the Brazilian classic cocktail the Caipirinha

Salto Caipirinha

So how do you make a Caipirinha? Cut a lime into wedges and place two in the bottom of a tumbler, add two teaspoons of brown sugar and muddle together. In other word give it a bit of a bashing with either a muddler or a pestle. Then top up the glass with crushed ice and add the cachaca. This was very nice with an intense lime flavour nicely offset by the sugar, just the thing for a hot summer afternoon. Overall opinion was that the 37% worked better as the ice tended to dilute the alcohol too much to get a good hit off the drink with the 24%.

So finally the Brazilian. this is a long drink usually made from cachaca and lime juice topped up with lemonade. This we agreed was quite refreshing, with an intense citrus hit, a great drink for a long hot summer afternoon in the garden so long as you are not operating any machinery. We did give it a go without the lime and it worked equally well that way too.

So overall this stuff works well drunk over ice, as the base for Brazil’s national cocktail or with a mixer. As a shot though I found the citrus flavour too cloying. So would I buy it? Well to be completely honest I don’t think I’d bother with the 24%, it’s pleasant enough, but I do like booze to have a bit of poke and in a long drink the 24%  just does not do that.  The 37% is a different matter altogether and with the added citrus flavour it’s a great cheat for making summer cocktails.