Steps at the entrance but they have a portable ramp

October 23, 2014

Gymkhana, Mayfair – Another Award Winning Restaurant Without A Disabled Toilet!

Gymkhana is an high class, Michelin starred Indian restaurant which opened just over a year ago in Mayfair. Nine months after they opened for business the restaurant was voted No 1 in the National Restaurant awards, Restaurant magazine’s annual countdown of the top 100 restaurants in the country. This is a startlingly quick rise to the top, but we have to ask why don’t they have an adapted toilet for disabled guests?

Gymkhana is inspired by Colonial Indian gymkhana clubs, set up by the British Raj, where members of high society came to socialise, dine, drink and play sport. This results in a restaurant with the feel of an old Indian colonial club with retro ceiling fans, marble table-tops, and yesteryear photos of polo and cricket teams.  Patron-chef Karam Sethi delivers what Time Out described as “a splendid spread of modern Indian dishes based on regional masalas and marinades”. In The Telegraph, Gymkhana was named “a stunning addition, not just to the posh-curry fraternity, but to the entire restaurant landscape”.

Clearly the food is stratospherically good, but Gymkhana rather lets itself down when it comes to access and facilities for less able customers. On the positive side, they do have a portable ramp which can be put down at the entrance where there are a couple of steps. However, inside they do not have an adapted toilet. They say the ladies toilet is on the ground floor if that helps, but we tend to find that for people looking for a toilet with grab rails etc it doesn’t help much at all.  So reasonably easy to get inside but a let down on the facilities inside.

It’s irritating to see yet another case of a restaurant winning a top award despite not having adequate disabled facilities. We think that if restaurants aren’t made inclusive for all of the population then they should not be eligible for these accolades. Perhaps restaurants’ accessibility should be taken into account as part of these processes? This could also provide added incentive for less accessible restaurants to up their game.

Having said that, despite a heavy deduction for not having an adapted toilet, Gymkhana does still get a provisional 1.5 BBS Ticks. It is a fashionable place to go, the food is of the highest quality and they do at least provide a ramp to enter the building. We just think that accessibility should be a prerequisite at ‘the top restaurant in the country’.


The Five Fields

October 21, 2014

The Five Fields – Luxury Chelsea Restaurant With Fresh Produce And Good Access

The Five Fields is a fine dining restaurant, off the King’s Road, in what was once the Chelsea Spanish restaurant El Blason.

Chef Patron Taylor Bonnyman, working in collaboration with Head Chef Marguerite Keogh, offer elegant and playful modern British cooking which emphasises the use of artisanal, fresh British ingredients – particularly vegetables which feature everywhere, including the dessert menu. The restaurant’s name comes from the 18th-century, cartographer John Rocque who recorded the local area as Five Fields and from the fact that in the 21st century, all their vegetables and herbs are cultivated in the restaurant’s own gardens in East Sussex

Zoe Williams, in The Telegraph, described ordering the foie gras with shimeji mushrooms and rainbow carrots as “the smartest choice I have made all year” and said her companion told her the restaurant “does the opposite to what you expect, and forces you not just to enjoy it, but to confront how good it is.” Time Out is similarly positive, saying that their experience there was “stellar”. Their website gives the restaurant five stars – one for each field – and their readers give it the same top rating, although it’s worth noting they also put it in the top, luxury, price bracket (a three course meal costs £50 per head).

As the Five Fields was refurbished eighteen months ago it is – as it should be – up to date with the latest accessibility regulations. The restaurant has a well equipped adapted toilet for disabled guests, with vertical and horizontal hand rails on the wall side and a further adjustable bar on the other side. The entrance has a the slightest, almost imperceptible step but inside it’s step free, although the room is not the biggest so may have closely packed tables. Outside, the footpath may be a little narrow.

They ask for less able visitors to mention any requirements they may have when making a reservation which isn’t something you’d always want to do but at least this isn’t a call that able bodied people wouldn’t need to make. You will definitely want to call ahead to make a reservation as there are only five dinner services a week for 40 seats in the dining room.

The access is up to scratch and the food is by most accounts indulgent and outstanding (although expensive). We give the Five Fields a provisional 2.5 BBS Ticks.

The Ledbury

October 20, 2014

The Ledbury – The Nation’s Favourite Restaurant Is One Of Ours Too

This weekend The Ledbury was named the UK’s favourite restaurant in a vote in the Observer Food Monthly supplement. It’s by no means the first accolade for this 2 Michelin Star modern French restaurant in Notting Hill, helmed by the well known Australian chef Brett Graham. As well as the latest honour in the OFM awards, the Ledbury is also ranked tenth in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, has a five star rating in Time Out and the number one Zagat ranking amongst London restaurants.

Harden’s restaurant guide describes the food at The Ledbury as “genius” and scores the food as a one, service as a one and ambience as a two. Jay Rayner interviewed Graham as part of the Observer Awards edition and described the Ledbury’s food as “a menu of earthy British ingredients, treated with respect and imagination rather than processed to within an inch of their lives”.  He also presented the restaurant as a constant work in progress, constantly changing to remain fresh – something demonstrated by the recent arrival of former Fat Duck creative head Jocky Petrie.

The people at the Ledbury pride themselves on not being too stuffy or pretentious and making the restaurant feel like somewhere people can relax, enjoy themselves and want to return to regularly. The front of house staff are told their job is not to follow rules and regulations but to adjust to everybody’s needs. This leads to a more relaxed and unstuffy environment and should also lend itself to the staff being really helpful for less able customers.

One of the great legends of The Ledbury is of an occasion during the 2011 riots in which the staff really went the extra mile to look after their customers. When about fifteen looters turned up unannounced at the restaurant and started to break windows and mug people in the restaurant, the staff fought back. The story goes that, realising that trouble had kicked off in the dining room, the kitchen staff came out wielding knives and rolling pins to protect their customers. It’s unclear if this is exactly what actually happened, but there is clear evidence that rioters did attack the restaurant and it became one of the defining stories of the riots. Such bravery and commitment only makes The Ledbury more endearing.

We adore the The Ledbury and gave them a maximum 3 BBS Ticks as well as honouring them at our own BBS Awards last year. The access is very good – step free entrance via a ramp and a fully equipped disabled toilet behind reception. When we last went, the chocolate souffle dunked with honeycomb was worth the trip itself!


October 10, 2014

London Cocktail Week 2014 – The Year’s Accessible Recommendations

It’s Cocktail Week again!

Last year we ran a post on London Cocktail Week in which we made our top ten recommendations for cocktail bars in London. This year we’re back with ten more highly accessible and trendy bars taking part in this year’s festivities. Thanks to the £4 cocktail tour, this week is a once in a year opportunity to sample some of London’s best cocktails without your bank account taking too big a hit. You pay £15 up front for a wristband and then you can try out each bar’s four pound cocktail, tailor-made for Cocktail Week, at all 200 bars taking part.

Many of the city’s finest bars take part in Cocktail Week (and none of the naff ones are invited) with each tailor making their own specialist cocktail to show off. We absolutely love a cocktail and looking through the list of participating bars, we see we’ve reviewed around 40 of them for accessibility. Some of last year’s list aren’t involved this year, so we thought it especially necessary to update for 2014 with ten new bars to try and ten new £4 drinks to taste:



1901The Secret Temple: Vodka, Limoncello, fresh passion fruit, grapefruit and pineapple juices garnished with caramelized grapefruit.

One of the best bars and restaurants in the City. In our experience 1901 has never failed to impress with its elegant but modern style. The access is a perfect 3 BBS Ticks quality – something we seldom give out. There is a lift at the front entrance at pavement level and a disabled toilet in the foyer which is “snug but very clean”. The 1901’s Wine Bar will also be transformed into a Pop-Up Cocktail Bar for the week, featuring a live DJ from internationally recognised Scratch Music Group, a special cocktail and sweet snack pairings and a bespoke bar snacks menu. The bar is closed on Sunday.

The Avenue

The Avenue

The AvenueOld Victorian: A British take on the Mojito. Fino Sherry mixed with elderflower liqueur, lemon, peach puree and mint – a cocktail to keep the summer alive!

The bar at the Avenue restaurant is a D & D venue so it has that Conran style with a very sophisticated look that encapsulates the vibe of a Manhattan bar and restaurant. It was recently refurbished with a contemporary new look and the low lighting can be a blessing after a couple of cocktails! There’s a step at the entrance but they have a portable ramp if needed. There are low seats near the bar and the disabled toilet is on the same level. We gave the Avenue 2.5 BBS Ticks.



Benares - Mumbai Martini: A spicy mix of vodka shaken over muddled curry leaves, fresh root ginger, fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup.

Benares is a Michelin starred Indian restaurant with a dark and plush bar to visit this week. The Indian influence travels from the food to the cocktail menu and the Mumbai Martini, with a blend of curry leaves and ginger, sounds like an unusual and interesting experience. Definitely something worth trying out if you feel like a different and slightly spicy libation. Benares is in Berkeley Square and is accessible via a lift. There is a disabled toilet inside too. We gave them 2.5 BBS Ticks.



The Hoxton Hotel – Cocktail Unknown

The Hoxton is the perfect level of Shoreditch cool, with trendy, casual and efficient style, without going over the edge into ironic hipsterish territory. One of our favourite venues, we gave the Hoxton 3 BBS Ticks and declared it the most disabled aware place we’ve ever visited. The access is step free and the disabled toilet is on the ground floor. The whole hotel is accessible and, although that’s not particularly relevant here, it highlights that disability is accommodated at the Hoxton without compromising on style and ‘inclusion’ is the norm!



Kopapa - Lychee Cosmo: Element 29 vodka, lychee liqueur, pomegranate, fresh lemon juice and sugar served in a Martini glass.

Seven Dials is one of the hubs of London Cocktail Week and Kopapa is one of the area’s finest bars.  It’s a casual all day eatery but you can visit for a drink. The small plates, from Peter Gordon’s kitchen, are superb if you feel like grabbing a bite at the same time but no pressure. Access-wise it has flat access, bar a small trip-up lip at the door, and one of the most well equipped disabled toilet you’ll see for a long time – a whopping 5 grab rails no less. Koappa is a 2.5 BBS Tick venue.



Northbank - Jasmine & Hedegrow Punch: Beefeater Gin, Creme de Mure, Velvet Falernum, lemon juice, mixed berries and Rare Tea Company jasmine tea.

The North Bank is where our editor sits when he goes to watch Arsenal at the Emirates but Northbank is the name of  a stylish modern restaurant and bar tucked under the Millennium Bridge. It’s a stand out choice for anyone who wants to enjoy a cocktail looking out at outstanding Thameside views. It really is in a perfect location. We gave Northbank 2.5 BBS Ticks so we can vouch for the fact that the accessibility and facilities will live up to the rest of this stylish bar.

Old Bengal Bar

Old Bengal Bar

Old Bengal Bar - Gin Spot Sour: The Botanist Gin, lemon juice and fresh egg white, shaken with fresh passion fruit and sugar syrup. Served short on the rocks

Another D &D joint, between the City and Shoreditch, the Old Bengal Bar is a chic and atmospheric cocktail bar set in a historic 18th century warehouse – the oldest surviving warehouse in town apparently. It’s therefore to their credit that this bar is fully accessible. With a refurbished layout,  lift to get in from street level and an adapted toilet. The lift was broken when we went, but a team of staff to help people in and a generous reduction on the bill meant we gave them 2.5 BBS Ticks.



Bluebird -  Cointreau Fizz: An elegant yet simple cocktail – with only three ingredients, Cointreau, fresh lime juice and sparkling water, it is easy to make at home and has endless twisting possibilities with fresh fruit and berries.

The glamorous Bluebird is found in Chelsea in the old Art Deco garage built for the Bluebird Motor Company. It’s a bright and spacious bar which we’ve enjoyed visiting many times. The building is Grade II Listed, so again we give them a lot of credit for finding imaginative ways to incorporate disabled facilities. We originally gave the 3 BBS Ticks but we eventually knocked them down to 2.5 BBS Ticks. They have a lift to get inside and an accessible toilet. The only concern may be that there are cobbles on the way in. Bluebird is also one of London Cocktail Week’s wristband collection hubs, so you may as well have a drink while you’re there.

Smiths of Smithfield

Smiths of Smithfield

Smith’s of Smithfield - Smoking Gun: Chivas Regal 12yo, Tequila Ocho and chilli-infused agave syrup

Another awesome bar in another listed building. It shows that the age of a building is only an obstacle to accessibility if you want it to be. The bar is on the first floor, with a lift to get to it. They have a disabled toilet on the same floor, but there is a really small step at the entrance. We gave Smith’s a max 3 BBS Ticks. A very trendy bar with a buzzy, lively atmosphere. The second floor’s for the restaurant and the ground floor may be a little too lively and buzzy (i.e. loud), especially during this week, but the first floor cocktail bar is just right.

Union Street Bar

Union Street Bar

Union Street Bar – Time: Bacardi Superior Yellow Chartreuse, lime & grapefruit juices, basil toped with Dandelion & Burdock Bitters.

This is a bar with a funky warmth, from Gordon Ramsay, in Southwark. Given the high culinary standards of the owner, the fact that the bar has been more warmly welcomed than the restaurant upstairs suggests that this a very fine bar indeed. There’s flat access and the bar downstairs is accessed via a lift. This is where the adapted toilet resides with all the grab rails needed. It’s one of the best options south of the river, but we should warn you that, if you’ve heard the rumours about David Beckham being involved with this bar, he’s not and he won’t be walking in. We still gave the ‘sans Beckham’ Union Street Bar 2.5 BBS Ticks though.

Graphic Bar

October 8, 2014

Graphic Bar in Soho – Gin and Tonic and Paint Pots

Graphic is a trendy Soho bar, with top quality, reasonably priced cocktails and an artistic influence that is clear without being pretentious.

The bar blends a fairly laid back contemporary style with innovative urban art on the walls. It looks great, as does the astonishing list of gins, with 235 different types of the stuff on the menu at last count. Gin is, as they say, “so hot right now” and anyone on the bandwagon, as well as longer term gin-lovers, really should try to make a visit.

With a name like Graphic, the bar has to show some kind of artsy roots (without the unwanted fartsy suffix) and they don’t let down with their signature Paint Tin Punches. These are delicious colourful cocktails which you can order as individual tins, or, if you feel generous, can come in larger sharing pots. The bar also shows off the works of top graphic artists – including Ben Allen, Jim Sharp, Ben Eine and Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger - with a changing selection of work, rotating every six months.

This week is London Cocktail Week and Graphic is one of the 200 bars taking part. Some of the best bars in town are throwing open their doors to offer £4 cocktails to people who buy a £15 wristband for the week. At Graphic the £4 cocktail is Bols Genever, sweet Cassis liqueur and fresh lime juice – served in a paint tin, shaken and topped with ginger ale.

In terms of accessibility things are excellent. The entrance is step free and inside the bar is all on one level. They have a fully equipped adapted toilet which is locked by radar key, so you won’t find any able bodied people in their when you need to go! If you don’t have or forget the key, you can of course use the one they keep behind the bar. There are tables at different levels – some at dinner table height and some lower – and the only problem we can really see right now is that it may be a bit narrow when crowded.

Graphic is a cool looking bar with good drinks and good access. We give them a provisional 2.5 BBS Ticks and will look to get there during Cocktail Week to see if it’s a ’3 ticker’!