It’s been open only a couple of weeks, but City Social by Jason Atherton has garnered quite a bit of attention. Rightfully so, bar manager and 2013 UK World Class champion Gareth Evans (of The Blind Pig, Berners Tavern, and Pollen Street Social fame) brings his trademark style 24 floors up. If one hasn’t tried his work yet, think of it being what Steam and Rye *tries* to be, but can’t.
Anyway, City Social is an Art Deco gem. Black and gold, and understated without trying its hardest to rub it in your face (cough certain Mayfair bar cough) – and still has a typically Atherton feel to it. A friend called it ‘mature’, but in the best of ways: relaxed and besuited. The atmosphere changes drastically at night when the crowd picks up – but arriving in time for the sunset is glorious for the view.
Right, the cocktails. As aforementioned: Typically Evans. Adventurous, quirky, addicted to puns and garnishes. Although I’m fairly sure is completely different from the menus at his other bars which tend to share majority of the same drinks. I was enthusiastic since his ‘Dill or No Dill’ and ‘Piscotheque’ were rather impressive.
We began with the Kammaraderie: Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit, Garriguette strawberries, Maraschino, lemon juice, and strawberry paper (ie, a chewy strawberry stripe). It’s a strawberry assault with a subtle spice to it. The Robin Hood brings Somerset 5 year apple brandy, quince liqueur, honey mead, lemon juice and a ‘mini-apple bullseye’ (a tiny unripe apple, bright and citrus). Not quite sure what to say about this one, it was definitely still a good drink, but you can’t really say what the exact flavours were – which, with such powerfully flavoured ingredients, you’d think would be more prominent. If I had to describe it, I’d definitely say the quince and honey mead, with its texture thinned by the brandy.
The Robin Hood does fall prey to trying to mix too much of a good thing, but it doesn’t take away from the overall experience as a bright and light drink.
We decided, to suit the venue, to order a pair of classics, which the bartenders actually seemed rather excited by. A Perfect Manhattan (Buffalo Trace bourbon) came out perfectly and worthy of applause. The Sazerac (Hine cognac, Bulleit Rye blend) was commendable, though perhaps with a smidge more absinthe than necessary (though that is up to taste).
I will also point out the number of people ordering The Root of All Evil. Probably the quirkiest of the drinks: walnut rum, bramley apply syrup, Poire William, root beer, lime juice, with a garnish of USD.
Service at the bar was excellent, bartenders Omar and Wayne were professional and approachable. Table service was incredibly attentive, almost to a fault. Bar snacks were spectacular. Fried baby Cornish squid with chilli and lime salt were generously portioned; but the goat’s cheese churros with truffle honey stole the show as a savoury bite for the sweet tooth.
All in all, City Social is a welcome arrival amongst the lacklustre high-rise bars in London, blowing them out of the water. And whereas I generally would recommend classic cocktails here in this exquisitely designed space, it does not take away from the house cocktails still being pleasant and original. Not to mention the food!
The Hoodooist looks forward to return to City Social for a meal with a few Old Fashioneds.
City Social @ Tower 42,
25 Old Broad Street, City of London,
London EC2N 1HQ