Raise a Glass to Tipple Box | Review Giveaway

This decade is the decade that food and drink subscription services took off. Whether it’s British charcuterie, recipe meal kits or cheese toasties through the post, the selection of fantastic treats now available to buy online for delivery direct to your door has never been so wide and it continues to proliferate with new ideas and brands popping up every month.

Tipple Box is one such service, sending monthly craft cocktail boxes featuring spirits, mixers, extras and recipes for you to make two delicious cocktails each month.

Launched by Sonny Charles in December 2014, I first tried Tipple Box at the beginning of 2015. Back then, I thought it was promising but needed a few tweaks. I wanted to see small batch spirits by indies (rather than the big brands I could readily find in my supermarket) plus higher quality mixers and custom-made extras such as flavoured syrups, bitters or salts. I also suggested dropping the jam jar to focus solely on ingredients, and making sure the recipes worked flawlessly and deliciously every time.

All these suggestions have been taken on board, and Sonny’s latest box is a far more professional and appealing proposition.

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There is more focus on smaller brands now – the kind I may not readily find in my local supermarket – and Tipple Box also work directly with small producers to provide own brand ingredients.

All cocktail boxes include at least four 5cl bottles of spirits plus any other ingredients you will need. Recipe cards are clear and easy to follow.

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French Martini

My box contains two recipes – a French Martini and a Bloody Mary. For the French Martini, pictured above, I have Ruby Blue Vodka, Tipple Box Raspberry Vodka Liqueur, Strawberry Sugar Syrup and Frobishers Pineapple Juice. Egg white is listed as an optional extra, though I made my cocktail without it. The Bloody Mary ingredients are the same Ruby Blue Vodka plus a Chilli Pepper Vodka and a bottle of Isle of Wight Tomato Juice.

The cocktails are delicious, and there’s enough to make at least two of each, with some ingredients left over to experiment with further.

Tipple Box also offer a Batch Spirits subscription of three 5cl bottles from a different producer each month.

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The craft cocktail box is priced at £24 (including delivery) for a one off, with the price per box dropping for 3, 6 and 12 month subscriptions. For the batch spirits box, it’s £15 for a one off, with similar discounting for subscriptions. There are also a range of tasting sets and cocktail boxes available to select and buy from the site’s online shop.

GIVEAWAY

Sonny is giving away one Kavey Eats reader a three month subscription to the Tipple Box monthly craft cocktail box (RRP £69). The prize includes delivery to a UK address.

HOW TO ENTER

You can enter the giveaway in 2 ways – entering both ways increases your chances of winning:

Entry 1 – Blog Comment
What is your favourite cocktail and what do you love most about it?

Entry 2 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter! Then tweet the exact sentence (shown in italics) below.
I’d love to win @TippleBoxUK craft cocktail boxes by mail from Kavey Eats! http://bit.ly/KaveyEatsTippleBox16 #KaveyEatsTippleBox
(Do not add my twitter handle or any other twitter handle to the beginning of the tweet or your entry will be considered invalid. Please don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either; I track twitter entries using the competition hash tag.)

RULES, TERMS & CONDITIONS

  • You must be over 18 to enter this giveaway.
  • The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 2nd September 2016.
  • The winner will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
  • Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
  • Where prizes are to be provided by a third party, Kavey Eats accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of that third party.
  • The prize is a three month subscription to Tipple Box’s craft cocktail box, one box per month. Delivery to a UK address is included.
  • The prize is offered by Tipple Box UK and cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
  • One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. You may enter both ways but you do not have to do so for each individual entry to be valid.
  • For Twitter entries, entrants must be following @Kavey at the time of notification.
  • Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contact.
  • The winners will be notified by email or Twitter so please make sure you check relevant accounts for the notification message.
  • If no response is received from a winner within 10 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.

Kavey Eats received a review sample from Tipple Box.
The winner of this giveaway is Sandra Henderson, who entered via a blog comment.

Tipple Box (2016) on Kavey Eats (tall)

Old Tom & English | A Members Club Without The Membership

Old Tom & English is not a members club but it feels like one. By that I don’t mean stuffy, exclusive or expensive; rather it’s a hidden gem, a welcoming space that calls forth a surprising sense of belonging.  Its only frontage onto Wardour Street is an impressive but subtly labelled blue door behind which a tiny reception space leads downstairs to a sweet little bar. Seating areas for diners include several intimate corners and alcoves, affording privacy and cosiness. Lighting is subdued but not nightclub dark; design by Lee Broom is low key, retro and classy.

A reservations-only restaurant and bar, Old Tom & English is the brainchild of brother and sister team Costas and Maria Constantinou, stalwarts of the Soho dining scene. It offers modern British food, vintage-inspired cocktails and a short but carefully curated wine list. The name, for those who don’t know their vintage spirits [my hand is up!], is a nod to a popular 18th Century recipe, Old Tom Gin which is experiencing something of a resurgence.

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Light; Crash Landing cocktail

As the menu consists of small plates designed to share, dining with a small group is the perfect way to experience the many menu highlights, not to mention the well-designed cocktail list.

The Crash Landing (£9.90) is based on the flavours of classic cocktail, The Aviation but here Sacred gin, maraschino liqueur and violet liqueur are topped with Pol Roger N/V. Bartender Alex skips the lemon juice of the Aviation but wipes the rim of the glass with lemon, so the aroma is still part of the experience.

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Irn Bru Margarita and Coffee Cocktail

For Burn’s night (the day before my visit), Alex created an Irn Bru gomme (syrup) for his celebratory Irn Bru Margarita. A nice take, though I will never develop a taste for salt-rimmed glasses.

The Coffee Cocktail (£9.90) is right up my street, not least because of the much-needed caffeine. Vodka infused with fresh ground coffee, with Tia Maria. I may have had more than one of these!

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From the Veg section of the menu, egg and mushroom on toast (£7) which comes with jerusalem artichoke and an umami-rich Marmite butter.

And chips (£4), triple cooked and served with mustard mayo to dip. These are super!

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From the Fish dishes, we have pan fried king scallops (£8), with bacon, goat’s cheese foam, chervil & sorrel. Two fat and tasty scallops; I thought the other flavours would overwhelm, but they complemented nicely.

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And battered seabass (£9) with peas, watercress, spiced remoulade. Perfectly cooked fish with delightful crispy batter but oh my goodness, the star of the plate is the remoulade beneath!

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Carnivorous to the last, we try all four items in the Meat selection of the menu (there are additional choices in the Specials). First, crispy pig cheek (£7), crumbed and fried and served with cider apple and fennel. Very tasty, though the pig cheek isn’t quite as soft as it could be.

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One of the highlights of the meal, an impressive feat given the competition, is the generous plate of confit smoked guinea fowl (£9) with anchovy mayo. Beautifully tender with a deep and satisfying smoke and perfect with a dab of the butter.

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I find seared rump of lamb (£11) a little pricy for the portion but there is no denying that it delivers on flavour and tenderness. The crispy shallots are a lovely garnish.

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Another of my absolute highlights of the night is this lamb sweetbread salad (£8) served with pickled spring onions, charred leeks and crispy croutons. Sweetbreads soft and perfectly cooked. A really super salad.

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I don’t enjoy the desserts as much as the mains. They’re decent, but none of them really touch on the excellence of the savouries for me. And you know I certainly have a sweet tooth.

The top two for me are the lemon & thyme baby doughnuts (£7) with smear of chocolate sauce and pistachio crumble – a touch dry and too little lemon or thyme coming through on the palate – and the rice pudding ice cream (£7) served with almond crumble, cinnamon and salted caramel; a light and refreshing dessert.

The flourless salted chocolate cake (£7) is OK, not as moist as I expect from a flourless recipe and not as rich in flavour either. My least favourite dish of the meal is the banana bread with whisky cream (£7) which is also a little dry, overly cinnamoned (not great with whisky) and lacking in whisky punch.

Old English & Tom is a lovely setting for a tête-à-tête, though it’s also perfect for an evening with friends; go with a small group and try as much of the menu as you can. Around four dishes per person (including desserts) is about right, with a few portion of those triple-cooked chips added to the mix.

Kavey Eats dined as a guest of Old English & Tom.

Old Tom & English on Urbanspoon

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

The new Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar is both a new venture, for restaurateurs Huw Gott and Will Beckett, and a return to their starting point, located as it is in the basement of their first restaurant, Hawksmoor Spitalfields.

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Unlike the bars at their Guildhall and Seven Dials restaurants, the latest bar feels like a much more separate space, and indeed the regular restaurant menu is not available here, due to the small size of the kitchen. (The main restaurant upstairs uses the original kitchen, also pretty small).

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Bang on trend, the space is dark and intimate with retro tiling and a simple decor. There are three huge booths, of which we are lucky enough to be seated in one, and a number of tall tables with stool chairs around them.

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Some things are familiar though, such as a list of original cocktails and a short sweet list of mainly local beers from brewers such as Meantime and Kernel. A handful of cocktails are on the permanent list. These are joined by the Desert Island five, which will be devised and selected monthly by the large bar team across all three properties.

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The menu is short and sweet, split into food, sides and puddings.

We order four items from the sides list, thinking some will work as starters and some as sides to our main order.

I’ve already heard great things about the shortrib nuggets (£6) and they don’t disappoint. Served piping hot with a vibrant and punchy dipping sauce these bread-crumbed beauties contain soft flakes of deeply flavoured meat, chopped pickles and oozing melted cheese. There are 6 in the serving and they don’t last long!

Smashed cucumbers (£3) seem a little steeply priced but are rather good. Very lightly soused in a mild, sweet pickling liquid, they still have the taste and texture of fresh.

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The oxtail poutine (£6) comes out with our mains and is not an attractive dish. That’s because it’s all about the eating, and believe me, on that front it definitely delivers. Fantastic chips, fluffy inside but with a decent crunch on the outside, are smothered in gravy, melted cheese and immensely savoury oxtail meat. There’s gravy beneath them too, so the bottom chips get good and soggy by the time you reach them.

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I am unable to resist the lobster roll, which is priced at £15 rather than the £20 listed on the online menu. That’s just as well as it’s not very large, though it’s reasonably generously filled. The roll is soft and sweet, which brings out the sweetness in the meat. Although the meat tastes really great, it’s a touch too soft, either overcooked or cooked and left aside for too long, I’m not sure which. In any case, it’s a minor quibble and I enjoy every bite.

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Pete’s chilli cheese dog (£10) is also a little expensive though it tastes fantastic, with a lovely smoky dog, punchy chilli, though very little of it and some oozy cheese. However, the roll it’s on is far too small for it, so small that it’s actually not possible to pick it up in the conventional way, as the roll doesn’t extend at all around the sausage. It’s a delicious dog but a tenner ought to buy a big enough roll to hold the thing!

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The Tamworth laab (£6) is the one thing on the menu that just doesn’t make sense to me. Laab is a Laotian / Thai ground meat salad and the Spitalfields Bar version is good and tasty – strong flavours and a pleasant but not too strong chilli kick. It could do with a few more lettuce leaves with which to parcel up the meat, I think, but the dish is decent. However, it doesn’t fit with anything else on the menu, and I can’t work out what it’s doing on there.

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I am already full but, like a moth drawn to a flame, am unable to resist once again, when I see peanut butter shortbread with salted caramel ice cream (£7) in the puddings list. Served hot out of the oven, this is magnificent! I’d venture to say it’s one of the best desserts I’ve had for ages, and the mix of hot, crumbly pastry, a gooey melted peanut butter filling and the tangy sweet salted caramel ice cream is worth busting a gut for!

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So good is my own sweet that I don’t even want to taste Pete’s lemon meringue pie (£6) as it’ll mean one less bite of my own that I’ll be able to manage! He assures me it’s a good example of the dish.

So that’s the food, what about service? We’ve been looked after by Miguel all evening, and he’s enthusiastically helped us with understanding some of the menu items, making our selection, and checked that everything is OK during our meal. Staff seem well trained and on the ball, as they do at all the Hawksmoor venues.

I know that if I worked locally, this is just the kind of casual bar restaurant I’d love to have around the corner, to drag colleagues into for a quick drink and tasty bite after work.

 

Kavey Eats dined as guests of Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar.

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar on Urbanspoon

Pretty In Pink

Roselle (known as Rosella in Australia) is a species of Hibiscus, a genus of flowering plants numbering in the hundreds and native to temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.

It’s also known as red sorrel, Jamaica sorrel, Indian sorrel, Guinea sorrel, sour-sour, Queensland jelly plant, jelly okra, lemon bush, Florida cranberry, amongst a whole list of other names. Jelly okra doesn’t sound too lovely to me!

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is commonly grown for bast fibre, which is used in the manufacture of rope, matting, carpets, paper and even furniture. The red sepals (part of the flower) are used as food colourings in America and Europe.

And flowers and syrup are used to flavour a variety of dishes, restorative infusions, diuretic tonics and medical ointments in places as far afield as Senegal, Burma, Sudan, India and Brazil. The Senegalese use the leaves too, as a vegetable green.

More recently, roselle seems to have become trendy in Western European bars and restaurants, where preserved flowers and syrups are now available.

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When I was offered a jar of the flowers in their own syrup, I was curious, having heard of them only in the last year, but never having tried them. The 250 gram jar contains 11 flowers.

I decided to keep things simple and opted for trying the flowers in champagne, one of the most common serving suggestions. To my good fortune, I discovered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rosé in the cupboard. How serendipitous!

I took both Rosella and the champers along on a visit to friends and together, we gave it a try.

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Our flowers never opened as beautifully as those in the marketing shots (no big shock there) and the rosé champagne did, perhaps, subtract a little from the beautiful colour that the syrup imparted.

However, we liked the fruity jam aroma and the sweet floral taste. And certainly, we enjoyed sipping our rather elegant and unusual aperitif…

…before tucking into a takeaway curry from the local curry house!