After the lingering economic bite of recent years, it’s high time to shed the gloomy frugality of this period and grow a little indulgent once again. With Spain’s economy out of recession in Q3 of 2013, and the London property market booming, there’s a tangible echo of excitement in the air, can it be that the good times have returned?
Traditionally the tipple of the elite, there is no sound more indulgent than that instantly recognizable pop, signaling frivolity, celebration and excess. Our greatest moments are marked with bubbles; few great occasions do not call for the pale fizzy wonder of a delicate flute. However I have recently discovered several fabulous spots where I can consume a glass of my favourite tipple without the price tag and formality of a glittering Gatsby-esque soiree…. conveniently located a plane-ride apart for the serial travellers among you.
Concept: Hotdogs and Champagne.
Feels Like: Wendy’s meets the Dorchester.
Fitzrovia, quieter than neighbouring Soho, was once home to writers Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw. Now it is the centre of the capital’s media vortex; the BT Tower, Time Out, Skype HQ – the who’s who of tech are playing house in the neighbourhood. Within skipping distance of Oxford Circus, there is a growing abundance of imaginative concept bars and restaurants to match the expectations of the most discerning, thirsty and hungry hordes.
Bubbledogs has popped up with hotdogs in hand to sweep away our preconceived notions of how to drink champagne.
Despite the traditional sausage and bun pairing, these are no ordinary ‘dogs. They are meticulously constructed and 100% british, ranging from the simple “dog between two buns” to the elaborate BLT with bacon, caramelized lettuce and truffle mayo. We opted for the Jose – with hot salsa, avocado, sour cream and jalapenos – Arriba! £6-8.
You certainly wont find any caviar here, although you could have fooled me, with dapper waiters in sharp monochrome suits and a soundtrack of clinking glassware. The venue is small, with exposed brickwork and simple barstool banquettes.
“All of our champagnes are made by hard working farmers that tend to their own vines and lovingly craft their own champagnes. These smaller champagne houses have very little to compete with the grand marques, therefore this is our support for them.” £6-£11.50.
La Xampanyeria, Can Paixano, Barcelona.
Concept: Tapas and Cava.
Perfect For: A lively drink with a band of amigos.
Feels Like: New York Stock Exchange meets a 1950s Spanish market.
If Bubbledogs is clever urban sophistication, then the iconic Can Paixano is wonderfully disorganised chaos. This second generation establishment is tucked off quiet Calle Reina Cristina (which doesn’t remain quiet for long during opening hours) and bears a strong resemblance to a stable. Enter to relive the atmosphere of the old bars of Barceloneta (the city’s old fishing district), and feel transported to the atmospheric era of Shadow of the Wind. With humongous hams dangling overhead and a supremely masculine team of Spanish gentlemen slicing up meat to sizzle and stick in doughy baps, the vibe is distinctly local. The menus are in Catalan and I wouldn’t hedge my bets on the servers speaking English, although impressively, they remember every single item you ordered when drawing up the bill at the end (which always amazes me, with such huge crowds).
No matter when you go, La Xampanyeria will be packed. Not “20 minute wait for a table” busy, but real standing-room-only, wall-of-humans, sardine-tin packed. The energy here is akin to the Wall Street of the late 80s – all order-shouting and napkin waving and glasses overflowing and corks popping.
Can Paixano is not the place for a leisurely lunch or a first date, but it is a genius pitstop, bursting with energy. There are no stools and certainly nobody to gracefully pop your coat on the coat stand, but what you will find is the most authentic delicious Tapas matched with sweet, refreshing, homemade Catalan Cava.
Cava? I hear you cry! “We’ve been sold a dummy…this aint no champagne!”.. perfectly in keeping with this mad setting, try it and I dare you to label it inferior. I recommend a hot Sobresada bocadillo with melted queso (2 euros) – a surefire winner when teamed with a glass of luscious Rosado Cava. Hearty, great quality food in an uncomplicated setting, bringing delicate bubbles to the people! Woopah!
Don’t Miss the shop at the very back, selling all manner of local delicacies and of course Can Paixano Cava – take the party home with you.