Friday, 14 June 2013

Loading Café/Bar - Galeto - Garlic and Shots - El Cantara Shisha Terrace - Chukka at Archer Street

Friday 7th June - Last Friday was meant to be a quiet night.  It had been a long week and I had some teaching to do early the next morning so me and my friend Mary decided to meet for a quick drink or two in a couple of new places in Soho at 18.15.  Six hours later, I found myself back in the queue for some Gelupo gelato with Mary and List Leader Natalie (I blame her), having tried out 5 places that were new to us.  Hopefully some self control will kick in soon before I stop being able to pay my rent.

N.B. Loading Bar has now moved to London Game Space at 97 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston, N16 8BX

Our first stop was a gamer's paradise called Loading Café/Bar that has set up shop very sneakily in the back of the crazy mango café Madd (Mango + Addiction = Madd).  Skip ahead a couple of paragraphs if video games don't do it for you!  Spread over two small rooms, they have squeezed in as many TVs, consoles and arcade machines as possible.  There are also excellent board games on offer (eg. Settlers of Catan, Battlestar Galactica, Carcassonne) though these may have already been there courtesy of Madd.  The arcade machines have loads of games loaded on the system to choose from, plus there are a couple of gaming tabletops to play on too.  Best of all, the gaming is free - I guess there is no easy way for them to charge (entry/membership?) and there are probably issues about charging people to play computer games that they have bought.  There are some comical gaming themed cocktails (eg. Earthworm Gin, Ocarina of Lime and Deus Ex on the Beach) and Shot challenges (single or two player?).  Bear in mind the prices shown below and on their website are for their Falmouth based bar.  The Soho prices are predictably but not unreasonably higher.



Mary and I went straight for the Snes for some Mario Kart - it took us a while to remember to point the controllers at the actual console.  I also returned the next day with Sam after Soho Food Feast to kill some time with some Fifa - we ended up playing against two randomers for an hour or so, proof that video games are sociable!  Loading Bar haven't had much time to announce their arrival in Soho as they spent this week hosting ETOO (nothing to do with Samuel Eto'o), an alternative to the massive E3 gaming conference that was on at the same time.  Now that is over, they will be able to focus on getting some more publicity.  Get in there soon before it is discovered by more people!  Alternatively, head to Meltdown on Caledonian Road that has also just opened.


Mary trying out Puppeteer demo on PS3

Natalie arrived as we were finishing our drinks, so we decided to head off to the recently opened colourful Brazilian restaurant/bar called Galeto for some food. NB It looks like Galeto has now closed. Mary is obsessed with Nandos so she was pretty delighted to find that the main thing on the menu is 1/2 chicken, marinated in house for 24 hours served with chips and a choice of sauces.  We all went for it with the fruity barbecue sauce, plus beers and wine on the side.  We were all very impressed, not least because it is extremely affordable considering that it is right in the middle of Dean Street.  Caipirinhas are £6, all desserts are under £4 and so on - cheap cheap cheap!  I might need to go for the Rump Cup Burger next time if I can tear myself away from the chicken.  Street artist Milo Tchais has done a great job decorating it too:




Our next stop was very brief indeed though not because it was terrible.  Garlic and Shots is a mad little restaurant/bar (with a beer garden) that does what it says on the tin.  There are other versions (set up by the Olsson Bros) in Palma and Stockholm.  Here's what they say about the food - "No dishes are served without garlic.  You can always order extra garlic, but never less.  As you leave the restaurant, you should feel like you have been garlic marinated.  That is our mission from God".  As a certain Mr.Rascal might say - bonkers.  Downstairs is a little bar that serves 101 different shots to a death metal soundtrack, and looks like something out of Buffy.  Get there early to nab the cool cave table at the back.  I had the signature Bloodshot (Vodka, tomato, garlic, chilli and spices) whilst Natalie had Garlic Honey Dark Rum and Mary had Chilli Tequila, all from pre-prepared bottles.  I was expecting it to be vile, but it was actually delicious and the garlic totally worked.  Had it been a big night out, we would definitely have stayed for some more, but we stopped at one shot each and moved on to our next place.

"Phones and Chainsaws turned off at all times"



A few doors down the road is El Cantara - a Spanish/Moroccan restaurant with a secluded outdoor shisha terrace bar two floors up that I would definitely never have found pre-blog.  It's a tiny space that they pack full of people (all seated, just about) with a fantastic relaxed atmosphere.  Most of their fancy Shisha options were off so we fell back on reliable apple, alongside some Casablanca beers and Bellinis.  The meze food being brought out to neighbouring tables looked incredibly tasty.  We were briefly entertained by a guitarist and a flamenco dancer, which was an unexpected bonus.  This place will be perfect for hot summer evenings (if they still exist).

The drinks were starting to take hold by this point and that always leads Natalie to say the same thing - "I want to go dancing!".  Normally, I just mock her Northern accent by repeating her in the style of Orville the duck, finishing with "I wish that I could, but I can't!", but this time we decided to actually go for a quick boogie in Archer Street on Archer Street - surely they could have come up with another name?  Our aim was to try out the Polo-themed Chukka bar/club downstairs so we sidled up to the bouncer who was busy doing 1 in 1 out (there was no queue).  We were pleasantly surprised to find that there was no door charge, and even better no cloakroom charge either, and we were in within a minute - not bad for a Friday night.  An important looking member of staff did however give us a good look up and down before letting us in, which made us slightly worried about what/who we were about to encounter.



The décor is really impressive for a club, and I would imagine it works just as well as a bar before it gets busy.  The music was awesome - from funky Earth, Wind and Fire type stuff to Mysterious Girl, the DJ kept the young crowd very happy, and made us stay for an unplanned second (expensive) drink.  Occasionally an (extremely talented) Archer Street singer in a polkadot dress stood on a table and sang along to a backing track with a microphone, which really made it feel like more of a party.  The clientele were on the whole what we expected, elbow pads and big teeth all round, but we couldn't complain since we had invaded their realm, and they are pretty entertaining to watch after a few drinks.  I eventually managed to drag the girls out with the threat of Gelupo closing, and we finished off our night with some yummy ice cream which is becoming a dangerous habit at the moment.


Chukka Bar regular, James William Bottomtooth III
5 Team List points go to Mary, giving her a much needed boost up the leaderboard, whilst Natalie finally makes it past 50 points, over 20 clear of everyone else!

Square Meal Square Meal
Square Meal Square Meal


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