There are few pleasures as universal as dining out with family and friends. Grabbing a pint in the pub with an old friend or going to dinner with loved ones are some of our favourite ways to spend quality time social time with our nearest and dearest. Far from being merely a place to eat and drink, restaurants, cafes and bars are social spaces - social spaces that across the UK we elect to spend our time, and our money.
London has been a great place to drink for many a year. This year, for me, it seemed even better than before. My favourite watering holes continued to please while a handful of bars and pubs new or otherwise previously unknown to me caught my attention with great service, comfy digs and - most importantly - quality quaffs.
Buried deep inside the walls of The Savoy Hotel's American Bar lies a 90 year-old cocktail shaker filled with Plymouth Gin, Cointreau and lemon juice: The White Lady cocktail. It was lovingly laid down in 1927 by Harry Craddock - then head bartender - during an Art Deco refurb at the height of the Jazz Age. But despite many attempts to locate the ancient silver vessel, it has never been found.
On a recent trip to San Francisco I had the pleasure of visiting a most intriguing cocktail bar run by a Mr Timothy Snookey, a veteran of the City's bar scene. Tim now runs the excellently styled Stookey's Club Moderne in the center of town and before I drank myself into a coma one evening I suggested he might want to fill me in about all this cocktail business, old-school style.
Tucked away in an exclusive corner of Mayfair, only a brisk walk away from Buckingham Palace, lies Dukes Hotel. Stroll down St James's Street and take a side-street to enter the minute courtyard to find this discreet spot. Dukes Bar may come across a touch pretentious at first glance, mainly due to the imposing décor and grand location, but don't let that put you off.
The Edinburgh Fringe is over and while that may be a disappointment to many art enthusiasts and tourist hot spots, it is good news for those of you who really want to explore the city. The crowds are clearing and you can finally get your foot inside many of the secret delights Edinburgh has to offer.
As can be expected in the City, dining at Eastway is a very different experience depending on when it is visited. Go in during the week and there will be the usual mix of busy City workers, lawyers and bankers but brunch at the weekend is a slightly subdued affair with a far more laid-back atmosphere.