The Ledbury

October 20, 2014
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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!

Hoxton

October 10, 2014
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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:

1901

1901

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

Benares

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.

Hoxton

Hoxton

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

Kopapa

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-restaurant-alfresco-terrace-british-london-riverside-1

Northbank

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-AboutUs-bar-310x166

Bluebird

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
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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’!

The Rollz Motion is a rollator which converts into a wheelchair

October 7, 2014
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Two Mobility Aids In One: Our Rollz Motion Rollator Review

The Rollz Motion rollator converts into a wheelchair

The Rollz Motion is a rollator which converts into a wheelchair

A couple of weeks ago, Topro Ltd generously lent us one of their fabulous Rollz Motion Rollators – made by Dutch company, Rollz – in order for us to film and review it. We had a great time playing around with it and, despite our rollator using tester unfortunately being unable to make it, I stepped in to try and show on video a little bit about how it looks, works and feels. I must confess that I don’t actually use any mobility equipment normally so may not be the best judge in the world but I was really impressed with it and we all enjoyed our time with it.

OK, time to get a little bit more serious, otherwise I may get in trouble… Compared to other models, the Rollz Motion is easy to use and looks fantastic too. There were a lot of compliments for the rollator going around at BBS Towers but we did also agree that it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, as we hear from some rollator users who say that they want something that blends in, whereas this really does stand out. We liked the fact that it has certainty in its look and though it’s not particularly small it is storable and comfortable to use.

Best of all is that the Rollz Motion can convert from rollator to a lightweight wheelchair – something that we believe to be a unique feature. The conversion is incredibly easy to do and only takes a moment. Take a look for yourself in this more serious clip, where we also discuss some of the other features.

We would definitely recommend the Rollz Motion for people with reduced mobility. It’s so versatile and practical. It’s slightly pricey at almost £600 but considering that you get two mobility aids for the price of one we think that’s fair enough.

We want to say thanks to everyone at Topro Ltd for lending us the rollator and to the guys at designed2enable for helping set it up! We had a tonne of fun making the videos and hope that everyone gets something out of them and enjoys watching them too.

Folds up reasonably compactly but the wheelchair function requires it to be slightly chunky

Folds up reasonably compactly but the wheelchair function requires it to be slightly chunky

IMG_0288

October 5, 2014
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Weekly Wrap – King Charles III, Late Night Eating & Brunel University Challenge – ‘Stylish’ Wheelchair Accessories!!

Just back from a week in Mykonos where we stayed in a very accessible villa unfortunately the rest of the island was less so. We spent most of the time digging the hired BMW out of gravel and searching, unsuccessfully, for restaurants with disabled toilets. All will be revealed in a further article. It was restful, good fun and a lovely tan was had by all!

Moving on, my first job back was to go to the Wyndham’s Theatre in Leicester Sq. to see King Charles III starring Tim Pigott-Smith. I hadn’t read any reviews but was told it was funny. It was in parts but it was more like a mixture of Hamlet (with King Charles as the troubled Prince of Denmark), Macbeth (where Kate M was akin to Lady Macbeth) and King Lear where his children turn against him.  There was even a comic ghost in the form of Diana. Written in a Shakespearean style of prose, it worked but I’m not sure if the author was being egotistical or brave in doing so. Tim Pigott-Smith was excellent and gave a very believable performance of our future King.

Tim Pigott-Smith As king Charles III - An Intelligent Portrayal of a Troubled Royal

Tim Pigott-Smith As king Charles III – An Intelligent Portrayal of a Troubled Royal

It was definitely entertaining but long at 2hours 45 minutes. I mention the length of the play as the wheelchair seats were in a box at the back of the stalls and not to be recommended if you’re claustrophobic. The box is down three steps (two ushers lifted me down), and it had its own disabled toilet but down one more step. It was the depth of the box that was troublesome as it was long and narrow and you were so close to the outside door that you could hear what was going on outside e.g. the noise of police sirens. However, the staff were excellent and offered to get us drinks even though my companion was able-bodied. All in all they tried their best with an old theatre but it’s definitely in need of some modern rennovations. I would only go again if it was an ‘unmissable’ play such as King Charles III. We award them 2 BBS Ticks.

The Wyndham's Theatre Leicester Sq. - Tricky Access, Not For the Claustrophobic

The Wyndham’s Theatre Leicester Sq. – Tricky Access, Not For the Claustrophobic

After the theatre it was difficult to find somewhere decent to have supper at 10.30pm. A McDonald’s or a kebab doesn’t do it for me. Luckily we found Tredwell’s just round the corner on Upper St Martin’s Lane, opposite Stringfellow’s “Gentlemen’s” Club. Great location to see the comings and goings at such a famous venue!?! Nevertheless we went for the food as it’s the new restaurant in the empire of 2 Michelin Star Chef Marcus Waring (of Gilbert Scott fame). The Evening Standard gave them a pretty bad review saying,

“This food, so packed with salt, fat, sugar, peppers and smoke, is designed to make an impact on customers used to eating fast food, industrial snacks, barbecues and curries.”

Tredwell's - Modern London Eating With an Emphasis on Sharing Plates. Accessible & Full 'Facilities'.

Tredwell’s – Modern London Eating With an Emphasis on Sharing Plates. Accessible & Full ‘Facilities’.

However, we disagree as we enjoyed the food, especially as we had sharing plates as there was no need for a large meal late at night. We really recommend the superbly cooked ‘Lamb Chops with Minted Green Chutney’, and to follow the  ’Muscavado Sponge, with coffee & walnut’. We sat on the very accessible ground floor – no steps – and there was a highly acceptable disabled toilet at the back of the room. Sitting at the front of the restaurant the tables were at a good wheelchair height and there was plenty of room. The upstairs bar was a bit noisy so I don’t recommend it as a romantic destination but a great pre or post theatre venue and again, just like the theatre, the staff were excellent and attentive. They get a resounding 2.5 BBS Ticks despite the review from the Standard!

Finally, this week I asked Brunel University if they would be interested in designing some badly needed, well designed and stylish accessories for a wheelchair. They agreed and I presented the idea to 120 final year students. It’s going to be a short project and we’re aiming to have some progress within the next few months. The best ideas will be shown here and it’s up to our reader’s to decide which they would like to see produced as the Blue Badge Style Wheelchair Accessory Range. Watch this space, we may yet see an end to the current rubbish……….