Drake & Morgan, Kings Cross

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Chances are you’ll have headed to a Drake & Morgan establishment. They’re dotted around the city, spreading their special brand of charm and quirky frivolity, each slightly different from the last. Whether it’s the industrial chic of The Refinery, the whimsy of The Folly, or the delightful library-esque style of The Happenstance, they’ve been gaining fans since the first site opened in 2008.

Flying The Flag

And now there’s a new arrival on the scene – one that is proudly announcing itself with the official Drake & Morgan name, and touting itself as a destination drinking and dining spot in King’s Cross. Sir Francis Drake and Captain Henry Morgan are the influences behind the title, and this pioneering influence seems to be a factor here. King’s Cross might not be the first place you’d think to head for a night of revelry, but this is due to change. Drake & Morgan has firmly settled itself with promises of a lively hub for anyone wanting a memorable night of cocktail culture and great, unpretentious food – with two gorgeous bars, a buzzing dining room and lounge area, as well as private dining options, unique ‘kitchen pods’ and an outdoor terrace, it is catering for every whim of the good time Londoner.

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I Spy With My Little Eye

Drake and Morgan have always offered little escapes in the city – respites from the world where imagination can run wild. Their new site is no different. As we approached, charming clusters of tables outside and splashes of greenery from the terrace foliage drew us closer – no doubt in the summer this is going to be a buzzing and popular sun spot. The main dining room is spread over two levels, with plenty of seating – banquettes, booths and raised tables all offer a variety of options depending on the kind of visit you’re intending. On a Friday night there was an lively and infectious atmosphere – the glow from the open kitchen gave a warm, inviting feel to the large room, while the glass windows ensured there wasn’t any stuffiness. Soft leather furnishings, exposed piping and wooden floors create a comfortable mishmash and the feeling of eating in someones extended dining room. It felt much larger than the other D&M sites I’ve visited, and has an extra sense of elegance about it. Still, the charm remains, and I loved the large painting of the cow’s face that stares calmly at diners.

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Drinking Destination

On first arrival, we decided to descend the dramatic sweeping staircase to the lower floor, where a rather resplendent bar holds court. Marble topped, with glassware glinting seductively, it’s the ideal place to perch and catch up with friends, or ensconce yourself in a leather booth. There’s a wonderful feeling of voyeurism here, as it almost feels like you’ve been granted entrance to the test kitchen of a mad mixologist.

Drake and Morgan have made a name for themselves as cocktail maestros, and I was pleased to see some brand new concoction that make the most of current spirit trends. Although heavily tempted by the Bourbon Washed Negroni and the Goodnight Tommy (combining tequila and Aztec chocolate bitters), my eye eventually settled on the Naked Slap and Tickle. Combining Aperol, Tanqueray gin, yellow chartreuse, rhubarb, vanilla shrub and my favourite tipple of the moment, Mezcal, it arrived in a coupe glass a lovely shimmering gold. The taste was fabulous – the smoky pow of the mezcal had been tempered expertly with gin and the more delicate flavours, to create a complex and layered drink. My partner was indulging in a Lemongrass Collins – I snaffled a sip and was impressed by the balance of exotic ingredients. I can definitely imagine sinking a few more exciting libations in this underground den, forgetting that there was a busy world stomping above my head.

Food, Glorious Food

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Delicious yet unfussy food; beautifully presented; using locally sourced ingredients; all made lovingly. This is the calling card of Drake & Morgan dishes, and is reflected in the new menu by Head Chef David Green. The focus is on small plates, the grill and comforting larger dishes – ideal for autumn. We began with two small plates that both shone in their own way – the Seared Rare Tuna fairly melted in the mouth, leaving behind the zing of sesame and ginger, while the Blackwood Cheese Curd served with courgette was unlike anything we’d had before, and was lifted in sensational style with a curry emulsion.

On to the main course, and the chill autumnal night outside, combined with the golden glow of the open kitchen, had me in the mood for comfort food. Enter the Lobster Mac n’ Cheese – decadent, luxurious, and yet also delightfully hearty. It arrived piping hot, the top bubbling slightly and coated in crisp breadcrumbs. When it had cooled I dug my cutlery in to find huge chunks of succulent lobster nuzzling next to curls of pasta, all swimming in gooey melted cheese. Needless to say, the dish was devoured, along with a sensational Pencarrow Estate Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough, New Zealand.

For dessert I couldn’t avoid the Salted Caramel Tart, combined with an Espresso Martini. It was rich, indulgent, with sweet pastry and just the right amount of salt to lift the caramel.

As my dining partner and I fought over the last mouthful, laughing over the wonderful dinner we’d had and wishing we didn’t have to actually leave into the cold night, I realised the attraction that Drake & Morgan in King’s Cross would have. It’s the ideal place to just sit and relax. It does all the hard work for you. Don’t know if you want a chic cocktail bar or somewhere a bit more casual? Shared nibbles or a hearty meal? An intimate meal for two or a booth for a group? They have it all. All you need to know is you can arrive, put yourself in the expert hands of the staff, and be assured of a good night where you’l leave feeling satisfied. And that, surely, is what will make it a key destination restaurant going into 2016.

Drake and Morgan King’s Cross

@DrakeAndMorgan

BOE Magazine

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Lotus Fine Dining Indian, Charing Cross

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Rebecca Anne Milford continues on her mission to track down the best places to eat and drink in London. Here she discovers an Indian restaurant serving innovative and exciting cuisine, where an expert chef has drawn his inspiration from the whole country. 

In three words: Unique, Inspiring, Vibrant

The Lowdown:

There may be those that think they know Indian restaurants inside out – that there is no real sense of excitement to perusing the dishes, since their order will be on their lips before they even open the menu. Well, think again – those that want to explore a fascinating new side of Indian cuisine can do no better than head to Lotus, a new fine-dining experience in Charing Cross.

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Heading up the kitchen is chef Bhaskar Banerjee, who’s list of impressive experience is rather staggering. He’s honed his skills for luxury hotel chains such as the Taj Group, as well as fine dining restaurant brands such as Bukhara, Dumpukth and Dakshin. Oh, and he’s cooked for Bollywood stars and international political leaders too, so you’re in safe hands.

When it comes to food, the idea for his menu is relatively simple – although the actual dishes masterfully merge complex flavours and various ingredients. Bhaskar wants to bring dishes that draw on all of India to the tables of the West End – and offer some plates that you will find no-where else in London. The result is a fascinating and thrilling selection that sings with flavour and authenticity.

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Location: A very easy location on Charing Cross road, not 5 minutes from the station and a skip from Trafalgar Square and top tourist sites like the National Portrait Gallery.

The Occasion: Come to enjoy Indian food that will blow all preconceptions out of the water. It’s fine dining, but without the pomp and ceremony. Portions are still decent, but look lovely. Anyone who has experienced the varied cuisine of India will love it here, playing I-spy with the menu to spot the roots of each dish.

Decor: Sleek and chic, with very little unnecessary adornment. Walls are a gunmetal grey, with banquettes and seats being a more calming stone colour. The glow of orange lights adds warmth, while the coloured glasses and bottles on the bar shimmer pleasantly. It allows the food to stand out wonderfully, and when the pristine white tablecloths are filled with an array of dishes they look even more vibrant and tantalising.

Atmosphere: Cool and calm – the staff are very competent and give feeling they are here to completely ensure your time is the most restful and enjoyable as possible. Simply relax and give yourself up to a gastronomic adventure.

Menu Concept: Looking at the menu is like perusing a culinary map of India – it is a vibrant accumulation of the many states and areas, merged with creative aplomb. The concept is a Fine Dining gourmet experience, while also ensuring guests leave with a sense of well-being.

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What We Ate and Drank:

The dishes can be matched to wine, recommended by the marvellous sommelier Debbie Henriques, so we were more than happy to acquiesce and take her advice on complementing tipples.

And so began our gastronomic tour of India – we started with some fizzy prosecco and dove into our starter nibble of Corn Chaat Golgappa. I’d never experienced this before – a little pouch containing corn, accompanied by mint and coriander water. Fill the edible gourd, bite in one go, and voila – a little bomb of flavour explodes in the mouth.

English ingredients such as game are dotted throughout the menu, and so we decided to try Pigeon Masala Dosa with Coconut Chutney. This was a delicately spiced pile of tender meat underneath a conical pancake – it wasn’t too rich and made for a lovely starter. We also had the Rabbit Kheema with Green Pepper corns and Missi Roti, accompanied by a fruity, slightly spicy Spanish Izadi Rioja Reserva; it was wonderful with the game and slight heat of pepper.

Duck Seekh kebabs were delicious when dipped into zingy citrus orange sauce, with an accompaniment of Navarra Garnacha that lent its earthy spice and bright red berries to the dish.

For main course we were drawn towards the Lobster tails and Queenie in a Ginger, Curry leaf and Coconut Curry. This korma-like dish was magnificent – coconut milk made the terracotta-coloured sauce soft and silky, and lumps of succulent lobster tail and nuggets of sweet, juicy scallops were abundant. We scraped the dishes clean, every now and then stopping to add more 14 hour cooked dahl to our plate, and mopping up the final morsels with freshly cooked ciapiattis.

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You wouldn’t think we could fit in desserts, but they were ideal – luxurious and yet not heavy. A silky and vivid mango Shrikhand (strained yogurt), served with indulgent coconut cream, was perfect, and I tried Angoori Rasmalai for the first time – another example of the authenticity offered. It came with vermicelli strands of falooda in rose syrup, and was the perfect end to a truly unique dinner.  

Overall: Lotus is like no Indian I have tried before. The flower is the national symbol of India, and is often used as a symbol of divine beauty and purity. And there is also the idea that the roots go far, far down, back to the native land of India. Chef Banerjee has taken this love for his culture and merged together various parts of his country. The menu shows many examples of this, such as the dish featuring a lentil wrap from North India, and a scrambled eggs breakfast wrap from the Punjab region – both are combined to create a wholly original starter. Speaking to him about the creation of the dishes, his enthusiasm is obvious, and translates itself into the exciting food that is delivered onto the plate. And when this much passion is put into a menu, it can’t fail to be a culinary success.

Lotus Fine Dining

@LotusLDN

BOE Magazine

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