After-work drinks? Date night? Dinner with the girls? This is a column dedicated to sharing the good and the great of where to go when it’s time to clock off.
Lately, I’ve noticed a trend developing in my social life – in that I’m fitting more of it between Monday and Friday, and less of it into the weekend. My twenties were spent filling Friday and Saturday nights, cramming summer weekends with festivals or girlie weekends in Manchester, Newquay, Bristol, Liverpool. Birthdays called for booze shoes and no plans the following morning. And if there was no occasion, there was always an excuse to gather at the local. Back then, it seemed weeknights were reserved for work – work socials, client events, or most likely, deskbound until 9pm, ‘carving my career’.
Now – dare I say it – I’ve sort of struck a balance between work and life outside of it. At weekends, I find myself slowing down, recharging. Which means cocktails happen more on Tuesdays, or Wednesdays, or Mondays, or Thursdays (you get the picture). Thus, with less of a scramble to find tables, and bars actually being more accessible, I’ve been able to quench my passion for London’s bar and restaurant scene – during the week.
Like many Londoners, I have a few favourites, but there’s nothing like the buzz of trying somewhere new. This week, it was Antidote.
Going out for drinks on a Monday is dodgy territory. It’s the schooliest of school nights. Luckily for us, Antidote has a lengthy list of organic wines, which are known for being purer and therefore less likely to result in a headache the next morning. Of course, me and my buddy could just practise some restraint, but when certain friends get together, who are we kidding?
Antidote is in the Newburgh Quarter, home to the eccentric Choccywoccydoodah, the trendy Pitt Cue Co and lots of independent boutiques and creative concept stores. Arriving into the downstairs wine bar at 7pm, it wasn’t as busy as I was expecting, and with no music, the atmosphere was stark and I felt a bit on display. But being surrounded by Carnaby, Oxford and Regent Streets, around an hour later Antidote was buzzing with people, presumably there to refuel after battling the local shops and shoppers.
Most of its wines are from small vineyards in France, which makes the wine list confusing – I usually go for a safe Malbec from South America, a Provencal rose, or a good old New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So, I didn’t beat around the bush, and straightaway asked the waiter to choose for me. She came back with a deliciously easy red that wasn’t too light or too heavy – perfect.
Antidote has a restaurant upstairs, but we opted for bar snacks. The charcuterie board was plentiful and came with a little bowl of very scrumptious and very naughty duck rillets. The olives were some of the tastiest I’ve had in a restaurant – I hate the fat watery ones, and these were oily and unctuous. A bit left-field on the bar menu was a strawberry, tomato, basil and ricotta salad – it looked and tasted just like summer, and was a light treat compared with the heavy meats and cheeses.
Altogether, a solid thumbs up. The lack of music actually meant that the pleasing hum of conversation filled the small bar, making it convivial and easy-going. The location couldn’t be better – it’s traffic-free and less crowded than other places in Carnaby Street. And the verdict on organic wine? Delicious. I awoke the next day fresh as a daisy.