These days my idea of a perfect Saturday night mostly involves a curry, the cat curled up on my legs and staying awake until the end of Casualty. Sometimes, though, it's nice to hang with the cool kids; if not just to prove I've still got it.
Not to do things by halves, I managed to get a table at hip Shoreditch hotspot Callooh Callay. While this may be rather removed from my preferred pints of bitter and pork scratchings at the pub, I realised my plaid shirt would be equally at home in Hoxton as it is in the Home Counties.
Our booking was for the lounge, which is accessed through a wardrobe door (insert Narnia reference here). Yes, it might all sound a bit too cool for school, but it's actually rather fun and the back room proved a bijou and lovely little spot for a few sophisticated bevvies. Our waitress, Tara, was also a gem and looked after us admirably all evening.
First up the libation I was most looking forward to, the Salt and Vinegar Martini; a Dirty/Gibson mash up with Belvedere vodka and sherry vinegar syrup, finished with a sea salt spray that is spritzed tableside. Not as bracing as it sounded, this had a pleasingly sweet backnote and was dangerously quaffable. Bonus points for both pickled onions and olives as a garnish.
Stealth had (I believe, and I should know as I ended up choosing all her drinks during the evening) an Ike and Cynar, accurately described as 'punchy' on the menu, this was a lethal yet tasty mix of El Dorado rum, PX sherry and Cynar and peach bitters.
We had time for another round and this time the Ewing went for the 20 Regal, 'an old fashioned smoky number, just like Dot Cotton', that's served in a smoke filled Kilner jar. Fun, although a tricky to drink, even when (relatively) sober. I had a Rolla Pisco, a refreshing concoction of walnut bitters, pisco, apple sherbet and pickled celery, and topped off with cider.
Who knows what Stealth had, but she looked rather suave modelling it and it got her sufficiently (belligerent) merry.
Next stop was going to be a restorative Vietnamese on the Kingsland Road, but first we had to wait for Abi, our wing man for the evening. This lead us to the Bedroom Bar, almost directly opposite Callooh Callay, for another round of drinks.
While first impressions were not terribly auspicious it was busy enough to be buzzing and quiet enough to find a two top free in the corner. With Stealth dispatched to get painkillers, the Ewing decided to venture down past the bar to try find a larger table.
It was only when we were ensconced at our new perch at the other end of the venue - snuggled up to our new friends from LA - that I clocked the fact that they were hosting Jubo, 'an exciting late night Korean style chicken canteen, drawing inspiration from the K-Towns of Wilshire Blvd and Manhattan'; a spot I'd had my eye on trying after my Twitter feed exploded with crispy wings and ssäm.
Abi's arrival heralded another round of cocktails, including a Bed Head for Stealth - 'a mixture of three rums and guava juice and limited to two per person'. - and my Seoul Bliss, from the Jubo menu, served with soju, vodka, pineapple and lime.
The wisdom of ordering cocktails that are restricted due to potency can be illustrated by the above picture which perfectly contrasts Abi's sophisticated entrance and the Ewing's drunken photobombing. Keeping in theme with her dreamy appearance, Abi drank a Duvet Cocktail - a mix of vodka, berries, Chambord and cream, tasting like 'a Petit Filous', while modelling Stealth's beer.
The menu is short and to the point; subs with steak or chicken, noodle soup, fried rice, Korean fried chicken and steamed buns. The organised can also pre-order ssäm (two servings are available each night); a kilo of either bavette or slow roasted pork belly, served sliced with ssamjang, sesame oil, spring onion, little gem and rice.
We split the Chicken Dinner Platter, eight strips, eight wings, three sides - two orders of the steamed pork buns and an extra portion of pickles. The chicken, a mixture of hot and sweet and soy garlic, was very good; crisp, crunchy, juicy and remarkably similar to this recipe for Korean fried chicken I knocked up for the blog, even if I am tooting my own horn.
The buns were also on the money, a simple marriage of pillowy dough, fatty meat, pickles and Sriatcha that makes them the ultimate drinking snack. Sides were so-so, chips cold and cardboardy, slaw without much of the advertised kimchi punch. The pickles were good though, even if the shitaake mushrooms had the unfortunate resemblance to slices of raw liver.
To accompany, a Hackney Hopster, from the London Fields Brewery went down a treat. The chicken plate for one comes with a bottle of Hite if you prefer the beer to match your food, rather than your location.
Food dispatched, it was time for another round of cocktails; a very nice Bedroom Margarita, with passionfruit elderflower and lime; a punchy Tequila Expresso; the Hoxton Fizz with apple vodka and mint; and Stealth's Maggie's Kiss, a drink that somehow took three attempts to order and was memorably described by its recipient as 'innocuous, pointless and sugary'. It probably could have done with a dose of her bile...
Post chicken blow out, we decided to roll back across the street for a nightcap at Callooh Callay, helped past the doorman by Abi's befriending of Byron, the bouncer at the Bedroom Bar and a thoroughly nice chap.
Who knows quite what else we managed to imbibe during the rest the evening. Looking at my photos (or, more accurately, scrolling back through the Ewing's iphone the next day) it seems to confirm I had a No. 38; Bombay Sapphire gin with Indian takeaway syrup, and lemon, all wrapped in brown paper with a lager shooter. Spicy and refreshing, and served in a handy paper cup that made dancing to Cameo and Justin Timberlake easier. That was quickly followed by a Va Va Prune with Appleton VX rum, prune liqueur, egg white and black pepper, the remnants of which are still on my jacket sleeve.
There was definitely another Rolla Pisco for Stealth, and a Spruce Collins with Ketel One, Amontillado, spruce and Aperol for Abi. The Ewing, somehow, recollected really enjoying her Disco Gin Pernod; a mix of Tanqueray, orange syrup and Pernod absinthe; and there was something fruity and frothy with cucumber floating in it at some point; answers on a postcard...
Somewhere around this point we tried, and thankfully failed, to order a giant glass skull of intoxicating liquid, adorned with four straws, that we had just seen going out to another table - I think they had run out of ingredients - but we were subbed another round of drinks on the house, which was very nice and fuelled a final bout of drunken dancing.
Staff were saved from more star-shaped shenanigans - Stealth's moves are quite something to behold - by the rush back down Old Street for the last tube. A top night that was crowned among the pantheon of recent greats with the discovery of the good old 'pile of hands' shot on my phone, combined with surprising lack of hangover come the next morning.