MASH LondonAn underground masterpiece, MASH is big, bold and definitely beautiful. Reminiscent of cruise ships from a more decadent era, this Soho staple is perfect for post-work tipples or massive steak dinners.

Nab a seat at the massive island bar to delve into their hearty and confident menu. American bourbons take front row, so it’s best to start there. Try the sweet, smoky and unctuous The Binchotan, a take on the Manhattan, with Bulleit bourbon, Cynar, coconut and cardamom, served with a piece of binchotan charcoal. Or if you’re throwing all that detox malarkey to the wind, then indulge yourself with a 5 Dollar Milkshake. An utterly delicious combo of bourbon, hazelnut liqueur, vanilla ice cream, bourbon biscuit and a bit of mint. For one to sip on, naturally you’d have to get the Sipper – a room-temperature neat serve that comes in a specially designed glass, think something between a decanter and a brandy balloon.

Since MASH stands for Modern American Steak House, it’d be a pity to leave without some meaty eats. And if you swing by for a steak-filled Sunday, bring along some vino too — corkage is FREE!

Best Bars tip: If you’re looking for an award-winning drink, see if bartender Steve can knock you out one of his French Pride cocktails. A balanced combination of white truffle honey, Noilly Prat Dry vermouth and Bombay Sapphire gin. Plus it comes with truffle-stuffed olives. Delicious? Hells yes.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

MASH London

Belgrave Music Hall

Belgrave Music hall LeedsLeeds’ north quarter channels east London vibes with this trendy, bustling venue. Across Belgrave Music Hall’s three floors you’ll find food, live music, an art market, film screenings, a token french bulldog or two (of course) and the city’s most impressive roof terrace.

Serving a wide selection of cask ales, premium lagers and craft brews (including the venue’s own craft beer made with Northern Monk Brew Company), this is the ideal drinking spot for beer lovers. If you’re not into hops you can choose from straight up mixers, no-fuss slushy cocktails, a short wine list or get a caffeine fix with fresh coffee courtesy of Laynes Espresso. Canteen-style street food is served up by Dough Boys, the in-house “pizza pilgrims” who deliver a constantly changing menu of locally sourced products and vegan and gluten-free options. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Belgrave Feast which takes over the venue every second Saturday of the month to showcase independent food vendors from all around the country.

It’s easy to see Belgrave Music Hall as one of the most exciting spaces on the Leeds scene. Its east London-inspired décor with industrial touches and minimalist bold designs make the perfect backdrop for the eclectic roster of music, arts and film performances. The large roof terrace itself is enough to draw a crowd, decked out with fake grass, quirky heated huts, deck chairs and its own mini bar. Whether you’re up for food, booze or art, this is the ultimate year-round hangout for any culture vultures, foodies and beer enthusiasts.

Best Bars tip: Love dough? Pizza slices are half price until 7pm, Sunday – Thursday and 5pm Friday and Saturday.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Belgrave Music Hall Leeds beer garden


MOJO Leeds“Good Times Forever” is a pretty weighty motto for a bar to live by, and whilst we know that 18 years isn’t quite forever, since its opening in 1996 MOJO has shown no sign of straying from its hardy original promise. This is a party bar that never disappoints.

Drinks stay true to the bar’s fun, fast-paced nature. There’s a decent, rotating beer selection, a short but sweet wine offering and quick-serve cocktails – based on the staff’s best tried and tested recipes. MOJO has always made a big deal about being fanatical about rum, which is shown through perfected signature mixes such the Rumirez — a rum twist on a Martinez, and the best-selling MOJO Hurricane that comes garnished with your own little voodoo doll. Hardshakes are also not to be missed. Try the Dr Kraken Float — Kraken spiced rum and Dr. Pepper with an ice cream float and cherry on top. Americana-style bar bites are made fresh on site including burgers, wings, garlic butter fries and mac & cheese. Gluten-free alternatives and dessert dishes make a nice addition to the menu.

Bar staff are not only hired for drinks expertise but also for their impressive knowledge of music, so it’s no surprise that MOJO’s soundtrack borders on the epic. Those behind the bar run the show here so anything goes from reggae to rock and roll, funk, soul and indie. It’s an eclectic mix but fine tuned to whatever mood the crowd’s in for … which is usually hard-core partying.

Best Bars tip: The bar’s Rhum Room is one of our favourite Leeds spaces. It houses 100 rums, including incredibly rare blends, hosts intimate rum masterclasses and has a fantastic weekend vibe.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

MOJO Leeds

Thanksgiving in London 2014: The 5 Best Places to Celebrate

Thanksgiving in London 2014While Thanksgiving is really for the Yanks to give thanks, London has welcomed the holiday with open arms. And why wouldn’t it? Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and more food than you could ever imagine — resulting in some of the best leftovers outside of Christmas. And if you’re not planning on cooking up a feast yourself, then book in to one of these spots to revel in the food-filled fun.

balthazar london covent garden1. Balthazar

Since it’s sister restaurant is in NYC, it is only fair that it offers Londoners some Thanksgiving treats. For £55 you can indulge yourself – American-style – with dishes like spiced roasted butternut squash soup, roast turkey, baked cod and pumpkin souffle for dessert.

big easy covent garden2. Big Easy Covent Garden

Feast yourself silly for just £30. A three-course meal with a pit-smoked turkey, stuffing, cornbread, candied sweet potatoes and creamed spinach. Plus some pumpkin and squash soup and freshly baked pumpkin pie. Now THAT’S something to give thanks for.

Chiltern Firehouse Marylebone exterior

3. Chiltern Firehouse

Now we doubt you’ll be able to nab a table, but if you’re a celeb (or are mates with someone “in the know”) then treat yourself to Nuno Mendes’ special Thanksgiving dishes that will be served all day long. The first is a slow-roasted turkey with truffled stuffing and liver parfait – plus sides of French beans and maple bourbon sweet potatoes, all for £32. Then for the sweet stuff, it’s a spiced pumpkin and brown butter pie with raisin caramel and bourbon cream for £9.

Honky Tonk Clapham

4. Honky Tonk

Since it’s all about the ol’ US of A here, Thanksgiving is going to be big. For £19.95 you can get three courses that will include buffalo wings, potato skins or pumpkin soup as starters; turkey burger, ribs or “not fried” chicken for mains; and pecan pie, sticky toffee pudding or Mississippi mud pie for dessert.

The Lockhart fried chicken5. The Lockhart

Here you’ll find some of London’s best southern USA classics. Dinner costs £60 a head, with tasty treats like fried turkey legs, country ham and smoked brisket. Not to mention the cornbread which is cooked to order and, we reckon, the best in town. For more of a bang for your buck meal, nip in for the lunch version at £40.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

The Lockhart

The Lockhart Marylebone“Another day, another American joint”, you sigh. Well, you’re wrong. This Mississippi-sprung restaurant is the real deal. Combining the heart of the deep south with the refinement of the Marylebone drinking and dining scene, US chef Brad Macdonald, and his charming team, work hard to showcase the best of stateside hospitality at The Lockhart.

Spread over two floors, the upstairs restaurant follows the format of bare brick walls, hanging lightbulbs and antique furniture. Downstairs, copper stools line the bourbon and Mescal-heavy bar. The wine list is a rundown of some of America’s best, not only in taste but in name too (wandering bear, velvet devil and boom boom!, to name a few). It’s the cocktails here that really fly the flag, though. Our favourites? The Louisiana Jam with bourbon, apricot jam and lemon is seriously good, and it would be rude not to order a Manhattan, considering the bourbon on show. And all averaging at around £9.50 — yep, probably a good idea to make use of those stools.

Now, don’t get us wrong: the drinks alone merit a trip to The Lockhart. But it would be a crime not to try the food here. The southern USA classics such as fried chicken, Jacob’s ladder short ribs and shrimps and grits are incredible. Not to mention the cornbread which is cooked to order and, we reckon, the best in town.

What makes The Lockhart stand apart from most of the other American joints that London has to offer is its authenticity. There aren’t any gimmicks but it isn’t pretentious either. It’s just honest, seriously good fare from our friends across the pond.

Best Bars tip: Set yourself up for a good week by going for its Sunday Night Game Time, where from 6pm until 10pm, you can enjoy drinks with a choice of food from both the lunch and dinner menu. Our pick? The indulgent muffaletta sandwich. Go on, treat yourself.

— Millie Milliken, @milliemilliken

The Lockhart fried chicken


MEATmission Hoxton Square
Design by Shed. Photographer: James Medcraft.

The meat trend is showing no signs of slowing down in London, but the chaps at MEATliquor were early into the game. And their Hoxton outpost MEATmission is as beefy and buzzy as ever.

Order the House Grog for a rummy surprise or get their take on the Boilermaker – the Widowmaker – a shot of Sazerac with a Hobo beer. Food comes out on plastic trays and isn’t about elegant presentation, this is about meaty eats. Get some fried pickles and a burger of your choice (hard to go wrong here). But we reckon if there’s bacon and cheese involved, it’s a beautiful thing.

Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re on a bit of a trip when you walk in, the stained glass ceiling and neon red lights create a pseudo-religious atmosphere (gone off the rails). With the DJ spinning tunes and long sharing tables, this isn’t one for an intimate catch up but rather for those nights when you want to get a bit greasy and a bit boozy — and it’s all a lot of fun.

Best Bars tip: We know it’s all about the beef here, but if you don’t get the bingo wings – then you’re missing out. Just be sure to have some paper towels on hand.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

MEATmission wings

Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms EdinburghParadise Palms is a little bit of the Vegas Sunset Strip dropped into the centre of Edinburgh’s Potterrow area. The décor is a mixture which goes beyond the eclectic into the downright fun: neon, green foliage, disco balls, cabaret club velvet and a huge stuffed boar’s head above the bar to complete the theme of having almost no theme. Somehow it all gels into an environment which is unique yet comfortable.

The Palms have teamed up with local street food mercenaries Ninja Buns who have committed a full kitchen takeover. We tried one of their signature efforts, a Taiwanese steamed bun packed full of Aberdeenshire pulled pork marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and star anise – those sneaky Ninjas know their buns! The bar team have put a big focus on tequila and mezcal – so the Paloma, a thirst quenching mix of tequila, fresh grapefruit and Caribbean soda Ting, was their recommendation. But there’s a great selection of beers too if that’s your thing.

The Potterrow area is the heart of the local university district and students and locals alike flock here for a great mix of music, killer cocktails and gourmet street food. The entertainment on offer is a mix of fresh local bands, DJs and cabaret nights.

Best Bars tip: Check in and chill out. The Best Bars team could have spent all night here and will the next time. Enjoy the atmosphere and ask the guys what’s going on later at night as that’s when the stage comes to life.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Paradise Palms Edinburgh food