Whisky-by-Post, The Dram Team

I was keen to get thoroughly amongst this whisky-by-post service developed and launched by whisky connoisseurs.  Although the idea isn’t new, The Dram Team hopes to offer up extraordinary tastings which aren’t provided by other subscription services.  It’s up to you how often you get a tasting box of six whiskies, and it could be as frequently as every month.

The boxes are letterbox slim and contain five 25ml samples, each from bottles which cost around the £50 mark, along with a bonus 10ml taster, drawn, almost always from an expensive bottle.

Dram Team Whisky

Each box contains tasting cards and a guided tour of each flight in letter form.

Dram Team Whisky

If you want a one-off gift box that will set you back £30, but if you want to send or receive something more regularly, there are subscriptions which run on a one month (£25) 3, (£85) 6 (£165) and six months (£300).

You don’t have to sup alone; they have a monthly Twitter Tasting which is great fun, where like-minded whisky-lovers have the chance to make their thoughts known in 140 characters.

The Tweet Tasting I took part in was relaxed, made no judgements and was an enjoyable experience.

Dram Team Whisky

The Drams in my box were:

Inchmurrin 18 (Highland) (retails around £83.00)

A two-time award-winning Highlander (San Francisco World Spirits Competition) from Loch Lomond Whiskies.  A sweeter whisky with malt biscuit notes.

Auchentoshan 3 Wood (Lowland) (retails around £45)

Aged in three different types of wood (American Oak barrels, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks) starting in the bourbon and working their way up.  Think Christmas cake, spiced and fruity.

Glen Scotia Double Cask (Campbeltown) (retails £37.00)

Another award winner from Loch Lomond (World Whisky Awards).  Grass, pears, vanilla and smoke.

Bowmore “Darkest” 15 (Islay) (retails £55.00)

Burnt toffee and a moderate peatiness with a green apple finish.  Lovely warming finish with typical sherry cask characteristics.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength (Speyside) (retails £38.00)

Creamy, nutty with a hint of smoked coffee.  It’s toasted nuts and a touch of Armagnac in the mouth.

Bonus dram

Highland Park, 21 (Island)  (retails £143.00)

This is terrific.  Smooth and sophisticated, this had me wanting more.  Chocolate profiterole or Terry’s chocolate orange this had a wonderful nutty aftertaste, along with a just opened box of cigars.

The Dram Team box subscription gives you a perfect balance of whisky available, and I’d say it’s a kind of cool gift to get.   Ideal for the whisky-lover or for those who like spirits and haven’t wandered through the door marked ‘Whisky’ just yet and want to explore the room alone.

I was sent a box to take part in the Twitter Tasting.

Shrimp, Cinnamon Kitchen

Restaurant Hopping, London Festival Week, Devonshire Square

An invite to restaurant-hop around Devonshire Square as part of London Restaurant Week, I’d be mad to say no, wouldn’t I? So as I made the most of my day off by doing housework, I treated myself to a night out last Tuesday exploring the theme of Women of Wine and tried out paired dishes in the Square.

If you’ve not walked through the Square, it’s tucked between the City and Shoreditch and is slap-bang opposite Liverpool Street Railway Station and full of offices shops, homes, restaurants and bars.

Cinnamon Kitchen

The Cinnamon Kitchen is a modern Indian restaurant in the Square. Two choices of dish were on offer, paired with a glass of Viognier wine from the Bogle Winery in California. Jody Bogle told us how for nearly 50 years her father and brother began the first vineyard near Clarksburg in California. Whilst it may have expanded with two more siblings joining the team, the vineyard continues to embrace its boutique philosophy. This fruity orchard fruit white was perfectly paired with a generous portion of stir-fried shrimp with an apricot and chilli glaze. The vegetarian option included a goat’s cheese salad alongside quinoa, watermelon and kohlrabi.

Bogle Vineyard

Shrimp, Cinnamon Kitchen

Next up, a short stroll around the corner to Pitt Cue and a delicious Mangalitza cured sausage with ‘kraut. Mangalitza pigs look more like sheep than the traditional, almost hairless pig. One thing is for sure; they taste delicious. Yealands Winery provided a Reserve Pinot Noir; sadly we weren’t able to chat with Tamra Kelly-Washington, but the representative from the distributor here in the UK brought the group up-to-speed. Bright, with cherry, violets and spice on the nose with plums and spice in the mouth.

Zealands Pinot Noir

Pitt Cue Sausage, Devonshire Square

Kenza serves up homemade style Lebanese and a very generous platter of hummus, babaganoush, tabbouleh, batata harra and sambousek cheese was served up with pickles and pita. This was paired with a crisp dry Vermentino from Chalmers Wines in Australia. Kim explained how the family business, which has been going strong for 30 years, continues their pioneering work with Italian grape varieties.

Platter, Kenza, Devonshire Square

Market Kitchen, Devonshire Square

Sweetcorn, haddock and bacon chowder was on offer at The Fish Market and a chance for fizz with Monica Gallonetta. Ruggeri Valdobbiadene is one of the finest wineries in the area for Prosecco.

I had to shoot and missed the opportunity to try out The Old Bengal Bar and a peri peri Picanha steak (which adjoins the New Street Grill) paired with the Etna Rosso from Planeta in Sicily. Penny Murray, the label’s Export Director, was on hand to talk to visitors about the vines grown on land forged by grape growers over seventeen generations.

If you fancy ordering any of the wines mentioned above, add LRF2016 at the checkout for a 20% discount code for use at Great Western Wine. Code runs until 30/11/16 and is only for the wine mentioned in this post and no mixed cases.

The London Restaurant Festival runs until 31 October.

I was a guest of Devonshire Square.

Shaken, Stirred & Poured it’s London Cocktail Week

Tia Maria was a bottle that was sure to be found in my Mum’s ‘drinks cabinet’ and because she never drank it, or any of the contents bulging from it. It was often swiped by my Brother and me, topped up with heaven knows what, meaning she never suspected a thing. This coffee liqueur was one of my first forays into drinking. I think you should be aware that age 12, I didn’t take to it.

Now it’s had something of a total makeover. New look new bottle, still the same great taste.

With the advent of Espresso Martini some 33 years ago, Tia Maria was an essential ingredient. During the daytime sessions at this week’s London Cocktail week (3-9 October) the brand are offering coffee masterclasses with Square Mile Coffee Roasters with Anette Moldvaer and Tia Maria Ambassador, Rod Eslamieh. By night, visitors can sample a newly crafted menu of coffee cocktails, created by expert baristas and renowned mixologists, at the Tia Maria + Coffee Project bar. I tried three delicious Tia Maria Martinis; Salted Caramel, Black Cherry and the regular. If you’ve not had the pleasure, TM is 100% Arabica coffee with a hint of vanilla and Jamaican Rum.

The legend of Tia Maria dates back to the mid-17th century when a Spanish aristocrat fled colonial war brought to the island of Jamaica. One family treasure was saved a small jewellery box with black pearl earrings which contained a manuscript containing the recipe for a mysterious liqueur. The recipe was named after the woman, Tia Maria. Rediscovered in the 1950’s by Dr Kenneth Leigh Evans who began to produce and market it. It’s still made today to the original Caribbean recipe and distributed to over 60 countries worldwide.

Plenty is going on during the week, and there are two main venues the Cocktail Village in Old Spitalfields Market and The World Class House in Piccadilly. It’s one of those things you have to plan carefully to avoid missing out. Two hundred bars across the capital are taking part and cocktails are £5 with a pre-purchased London Cocktail Week wristband (£10 online or at the venue). The village is open until 9.30pm every night except Sunday when it closes at 7.30pm.

Morgan Rum has a pirate ship on site, and they’re serving up cocktails, in coconuts, of course.

It’s not all about alcohol, well it is, and Monkey Shoulder get involved each year and never fail to deliver. This year at Spitalfields they’ve brought Dave ‘Flat’ White, from the Dead Parrot Bar in Horsham, who’s the winner of the Ultimate Bartender Championships, along and he’ll be serving up coffee cocktails and tea-tinged tinctures. Bring on the ‘Coffee & Doughnuts’, conceived from whisky, cold brew coffee, caramel with a doughnut infusion.

Sipsmith rocks up with their Gin Shop and some impressive serves including a hot G& T, for me, not one to miss. Try their Lemon Drizzle Gin, long with tonic. Superb.

The Departure Lounge (With Angostura and Luxardo) is where the London Cocktail Club and Brand Ambassadors are serving up The Aviation, with a twist. One hundred-year-old celebration continues in full swing here at London Cocktail Week. You may even bump into Brand Ambassador G Franklin or Matteo Luxardo, Export Director and face of Luxardo Maraschino THE key ingredient to The Aviation cocktail.

Make sure to grab yourself a guidebook to London’s best bars highlighting where you can enjoy discounted drinks during the festival. Alternatively, jump on the website where you’ll be able to plan your week without missing a beat.

"A good bakery is not just like a French patisserie, where you see gold chandeliers and everyone wearing white gloves. For me, it has to be fun."

Dominique Ansel

Dominique Ansel, London

He’s here.  It’s opened.  Cronuts and DKA’s are available to us here in the UK.  Dominique Ansel may have created cronuts some years ago, but they’ve taken a while to get here.  I was lucky enough to be invited to his friends and family opening night and spent most of the evening with his charming PR Jessica.  Without boring you, I’m a massive fan and think that maybe a gallery might tell a better story than me.  Rest assured it’s not just sweet stuff on offer here at his Elizabeth Street shop; I tried a wicked Croque Monsieur and a noodle and vegetable rich beef broth and both will be on the menu.

But there is plenty of Viennoiserie, for which he’s famous.  Made-to-order mini Madeleines and a few other offerings which you won’t find in his stores in New York or Japan.  Here are a few images from opening night.  Do visit.  I look forward to afternoon tea in the garden, coming soon.

Dominique Ansel Bakery, 17-21 Elizabeth Street, London, SW1W 9RP
020 7324 7705


Ninja Coffee Bar

Ninja Coffee Bar

The Ninja Coffee Bar is an all-in-one coffee-making wizard. From hot to cold, strong to weak, it even sets a timer to make sure your first cup of the day is ready for you when you wake.  If you’re a coffee snob, looking for the perfect brew, then you’ll probably continue spending £3.00 for a coffee every day.  I’ve test driven this machine, and although not pressurised like a barista-pulled coffee, the results are smooth, rich and enjoyable, and it’s saving me money.


Ninja Coffee Bar

You are in total control of the cup of coffee you make from strength to size, all controlled by buttons and your choice of ground coffee. It features what they call SmoothBrew Technology, a button that does all the work for you through temperature, infusion and saturation of coffee. In the box, you’ll also find a double-walled mug and carafe. The travel mug button allows you to fill your vessel as you shoot out the door to work. A carafe takes roughly 8 minutes to make while a cup around 4.

Coffee spout

Each size and brew type produces a different amount of coffee, dependent on the blend chosen.

Ninja Coffee Bar Measuring Spoon

Options include:

Classic – a smooth, balanced flavour from your favourite coffee
Rich – a more intense richness that works well with milk and sweeteners
Over Ice – mild coffee, balanced to work with the addition of ice
Cafe Forte – rich aromatic for a long smooth coffee, black or white
Con Late Recipes – a potent brew that allows the inclusion of milk without spoiling the coffee flavour.

Ninja Coffee Bar panel

To help with frothed milk, the Ninja Microfrother is included and is designed to transform hot or cold milk into that thick creamed foam needed for cappuccino and latte drinks.

Ninja Microfrother

The lid has a spiral beater which allows the user to pump it up and down and in turn froth the hot, or cold milk.  A quick minute and a half in the microwave and you have a piping hot cappuccino or a milky latte.  I love that the mug function allows you to make yourself just one cup of coffee. I’ve not used instant for convenience since I got the machine.

Ninja Mug

Ninja coffee

Water is added to the large water reservoir, and the lid flips to allow easy pouring.

The Auto IQ function tells the machine how much water to dispense, and the 24-hour clock lets you set your coffee to brew automatically for when you want a full pot.

When the machine wants a deep clean, a button lights up; it’s time to give it a decent clean, this may come on more if you live in a hard water area like me.

You know that freshly stewed coffee taste? Well, this won’t happen with the Ninja because the warming plate automatically turns on after brewing a carafe and keeps the coffee warm without burning it.

Ninja Coffee Bar, Glass carafe

If you’ve got the room for this worktop brewer and love coffee, then this is hard to beat.

Ninja Coffee Bar is available with two different carafe options; glass, £169.99, and stainless steel, £179.99.