The Cooperage, Greenwich

Type of Bar: Basement
Damage£
Ideal for: Small Groups, Date

Greenwich finally gets its own cocktail bar! In the basement under Davy’s Wine Vaults, The Cooperage offers a whole host of twisted classics, with an enthusiasm for infusions. Dim-lit, sprinklings of armchairs and larger group booths makes the venue reminiscent of the Worship Street Whistling Shop in many ways, and unsuspectingly took up a speakeasy meets pub vibe.

Down to business, let’s start with the star of the night: the Pepper and Paprika Margarita. Pepper and paprika infused tequila, Cointreau, lime and a dash of bitters with a spiced rim brings for a spectacularly bright and exciting cocktail that raises the bar for the rest of menu – if in Greenwich, it is certainly worth stopping by the Cooperage purely for this beauty.

The Fig Sidecar, fig infused Martell VSOP, Cointreau and lime, as one can imagine, tastes pretty much exactly like your everyday Sidecar considering a fig’s subtle flavour, which only makes an appearance as an aftertaste – if you’re looking for it. On a similar note, the Cucumber and Elderflower Collins provides a simple long gin/sugar/lemon/soda combo with a cucumber and elderflower kick.

A drink that surprised though, would be the vodka/lime/ginger beer Chilli and Lemongrass Moscow Mule infused with, well, guess. The first few sips were bit disappointing, but further in, the lemongrass comes in full force. A drink that could do with better presentation.

There was a hiccup though, with a friend’s Rittenhouse Rye Sazerac, where I have to thank our eagle eyed bartender for spotting the reaction to, and switching it out for the Cucumber Collins above. This did not come as a massive surprise though, since I’ve found Sazeracs tend to be a risky order in most venues. The Hoodooist avoided the Old Fashioned for a similar reason, call it a louche’s intuition.

Service was very positive, bartenders were attentive and chatty, and happy to help if your drink doesn’t work for you. With great value for money, The Cooperage might have a small case of hit and miss, but can be avoided if you rely on your intuition. In short, simple, affordable, effective, a great spot to chill on a weekday.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

The Cooperage @ Davy’s Wine Vaults

161 Greenwich High Road,
London SE10 8JA

http://www.davy.co.uk/cooperage

 

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Loungelover, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Lounge, Bar/Restaurant
Damage££
Ideal for: Small groups, Food, Sushi

Lounge Lover has certainly been through the motions for the past couple of years. 2012 it was the Shoreditch centre for sushi and the fashionable, 2014 brings with it tolling church bells of Buddha Bar-esque anonymity.

I’m not entirely sure what the look was they were going for, but in the line of similarly styled bars as 98, and the Looking Glass, ‘oppressive’ may have been it. The chaotic, smattering of various paraphernalia with no central theme running through it except ‘quirky’, was a bizarre trend of the late noughties that favoured no one except the most precise. Because ‘cute’ it most certainly ain’t.

After being shoved in a scorching hot (and loud) corner of the bar (‘I’m sorry, it’s just hot here, there’s nothing we can do’), and a server repeatedly forgot our orders before dropping our drinks smashing onto the floor, we finally got our hands on something to sip on.


Let’s start with the fairly decent one and make our way downhill from there. The Jubilation is Beefeater gin, muddled green and red grapes, elderflower cordial & lemon topped with Rose champagne. This is fairly successful as far as champagne cocktails go, which get lost in the bubbles – hence the necessity of the champagne being balanced with another spirit, the gin here. But, like most drinks with elderflower cordial, it begins to drown out the flavour. Eventually, you get a muddle of flavours you can’t quite dissect – which seems to be a theme at Loungelover (as most amateur cocktail bars – where, in lieu of a short, but carefully considered menu, you have a long long long list of less well-considered drinks. Apparently size matters; the length of the menu to bars, at least). 

The Unfaithful : Cachaca, rhubarb, plums and pear was similarly muddled, with the fruits not quite syncing well with the cachaca.  And the Angel’s Share, of Havana 7yr old Rum, apricot liqueur, homemade lemongrass and ginger syrup with muddled kumquats and kaffir lime leaves tasted entirely of apricot with a bit of ginger at the end.

Service was slow, due to how crowded the place was. Many groups of people were standing at the bar, while several tables suited to fit a dozen people would only have about 5 persons drinking there.

Loungelover feels like a haunting memory of when cocktails came back in a big way to London in the noughties, and feels confused in the modern state of the cocktail world. In the future when cocktails warp again, many of the currently excellent bars will get lost in the past as well – immortality in the bar scene is rare. Especially with bars like Loungelover that bet all their money on being fashionable instead of innovative.

Drinks: **
Atmosphere: *
Service: ***

Loungelover

1 Whitby Street
London E1 6JU

http://www.loungelover.uk.com

 

Powder Keg Diplomacy, Wandsworth

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Victorian
Damage££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Food, Date

Powder Keg Diplomacy – cousin to the Lost Society & Lost Angel (Review HERE) offering drinks of the same nature, trend and quality as its brethren, but in a much calmer restaurant setting.

Disclaimer / Trigger Warning:

Honouring tradition while subverting convention”, the PKD motto announces; but this bar nostalgic to times very few living people can remember, has distinct similarities and differences to its relatives – in a concerning way. The pseudo-Victorian nature of the décor in the LS & LA is taken to the extreme at the PKD – but in the worrying theme of colonialism and empire – proudly described as “an urban colonial environment”. Derridans, do with that as you will. The designer seems to forget there is a difference between patriotism, and pride in colonialism. As a descendant of British emigrants and soldiers of the empire to foreign conquered lands who themselves chided colonialism upon witnessing the result of colonialism in these countries, I couldn’t help but be a bit uncomfortable with the giant mural in front of my table painting the establishment of empire in countries I share homes and relatives with. Should’ve guessed considering the word ‘Diplomacy’ here is defined by a keg of gunpowder. Maybe I just don’t get the irony?

Here, and Here are handy lists about atrocities committed by the British Empire.

This bizarre misplaced nostalgia of empire is served up alongside “approachable seasonal British fare”, “sourced solely from the land and sea of the United Kingdom”, which is at best, irony or mistake in philosophy; or at worst, the normalisation of colonial politic. Rendered almost funny by a friend’s comment about how the Victorian Empire was just a search for decent food, which is why it ended when it found curry.

Before anyone launches at me for being uncomfortable with the décor, I’d like to say that there is a way to have a Victorian theme to a venue without going down this route (See: The Lost Angel, Zetter Townhouse). But really it’s up to you, this is just a disclaimer.

Henry Martini Rifle

Henry Martini Rifle

 

Cocktails: On the ball. Excellent value for excellent drinks (Don’t you love Zone 2?)

Whitley Neill Gin, ‘gunpowder’ green tea vermouth, maple syrup, dandelion & burdock bitters came together for the Henry Martini Rifle, is apparently ‘inspired’ by the rifle used “to overpower and subdue colonies”. Right.
The drink was a decent wet Martini, the primary flavour being the initial hit of the gunpowder smokiness after the gin bite (the green tea infused vermouth itself being distantly reminiscent of jasmine), followed by the dandelion & burdock bitters being surprisingly strong; served in a tiny coupe while the rest is chilling in an ice filled tumbler. Well rounded, and an excellent aperitif.

The Ben and Jerries makes an excellent drink for the sweet tooth, Appleton VX & Santa Teresa rums, strawberry shrub, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and a natural yoghurt powder rim. I love that the (though intense) flavour of the strawberry shrub does not overpower the drinker, so well balanced with the spicy oak of Appleton VX – and the very different kind of subtle brown sugar sweetness of the Santa Teresa. You don’t have much time to worry about the drink before you lick the powder from your lips and the sudden clashing appearance of the powder hits you, the sweet-sour yoghurt powder finishing the drink off wonderfully.

The Bourbinheim seemed to be the hit of the night – hibiscus & sour cherry smoke, Woodford Reserve, Maraschino liqueur, Punt e Mes. Punt e Mes & Maraschino are always a winning combination to add to dark spirits; and the whisky is smoked excellently but the sour sweetness of the smoke. For a deep, enveloping, sweet-but-not, cocktail, the Bourbinheim is fantastic.

 

Bourbinheim

Bourbinheim

BUT, there were problems: A (unfortunately) particularly disappointing drink was the Hanakatoba Sour was meant to combine “the honey and citrus in the ginseng to really stimulate the senses”: Umeshu, ginseng liqueur, King’s Ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice and egg white. At the end of it, it was straight citrus through and through. There was a hint of umeshu deep in the distance, but that was about all. Would love to try the drink without the last two ingredients, just as a wine-based umeshu drink. The Gincess Gimlet was another little hiccup, but not as much of a problem as the Hanakatoba; Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, rhubarb and rosehip syrup and lemon juice felt confused and reminded me instantly of the PortSide Parlour’s (Click HERE for review)Grace Jones’ (which we eventually described as ‘soup’).

A drink we didn’t try, but referenced the misplaced notion of positive-colonialism would be the ‘Silk Road’ – apparently a “respectable nod towards the trade route that was central to cultural interaction of Asia and the Mediterranean… Flavours from far and wide brought together”. And yet, 3 of the 4 ingredients come from Central America and the Caribbean an ocean away – Mezcal, tequila, curacao, pomegranate molasses. Were the words ‘respectable nod’ sarcastic? You decide. Baijiu, arak, arrack, raki, Huangjiu and various Mediterranean alcohols & flavours still exist that could have been used.
The Lost Angel does a drink called the Silk Route Martini, which is at least inspired by the idea, with Opihr gin and its various spice-botanicals that were traded on said route.

IMAG0690

 

Service was spectacular for a venue with loudish music. Swift, attentive, always up for a little chat; Maskell and his team are once again at the top of their game when it comes to hosting. Excellent points for hospitality!

 

In short, well, I don’t know if there is an in short for this venue. Drinks are not really hit and miss, since the drinks that didn’t work out seemed suspicious just from their list of ingredients, so didn’t surprise me. But the drinks that worked well, were absolutely wonderful. The excellent service was one of the best parts of our evening. It just kept getting tainted by the theme, the names of some of the drinks and their descriptions. For some of you, this might not be a problem, but I feel it is something that should be highlighted and acknowledged by a visitor before going there, in order to not be…. Surprised.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: “I dub this country BongoBongoLand”
Service: ****

 

Powder Keg Diplomacy

147 St. Johns Hill,
London SW11 1TQ

http://www.powderkegdiplomacy.co.uk/

Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown

Type of Bar: Speakeasy
Damage£££
Ideal for: –

This concerns me.

When we arrive at what is meant to be a discreet door (the glaring bouncer hardly makes it discreet) on Gerrard Street, we have to scramble through our phones for the ‘passwords’ sent to us only that day. Our party of 3 arrived the same time as some other party of 4 strangers who booked a table a few days before us, mind you, is forced to wait because they can’t access their emails.

Said party was turned away.

Yes, their name was on the list.

They fit the dress code well enough.

Announcing the silly password (‘Marie Antoinette’, oh my, how libertine. In any case 2014 brings the death knells of speakeasies.) we are led upstairs and forced to share an extended couch with about a dozen other people at least. Suffocating just to drink. Searching for the WCs, I find the upstairs area with empty tables all round. These were never filled in the hour we were there. If this is their definition of optimism, I grant them they deserve an award for it (If it was a concern about clashing reservations, see: Zetter Townhouse’s 2 hour slots).

On the other hand: my drink was very good. La Medicacion contains Calle 23 Reposado Tequila, Ramazzotti, St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, agave nectar, ginger syrup and Del Maguey Mezcal mist. Strong, full of kick, with harmonious flavours.

I would have enjoyed it, if I could shake off the memory of the party downstairs.

London gives one many, many, many places for an excellent cocktail. A bar is meant to offer respite, and is meant to care for its visitors. A bar is meant to show concern and welcome its customers. And the attitude at the door, added to the forcing of people onto one floor, not to mention the cold service – stole a major part of what could have been a night with wonderful drinks.

It is out of principle that I don’t return here. The drinks may have been pleasurable, but it can be anyone the next time they show up at the door, expectant after having made their booking 10 days prior.

If they have hired decent staff now, the best to them. Otherwise, a bar is meant to cater to you. You are not meant to cater to a bar. Never forget that.

Many people seem to suffer this illusion that a bar has to be ‘exclusive’. That you have to fight your way in to have a decent cocktail. This is complete nonsense. The best bars in London have the utmost respect for the customer, and their care at heart – not their own arrogance.

If you feel you deserve to be in a venue that appeals to your sense of ‘exclusivity’, by all means, go ahead and enjoy the ECC. Meanwhile you’ll find me at award-winning bars like the Artesian.

Please refer to my List of Reviews for other attitude-less bars who rival & even beat the ECC in drinks, and serve up fantastic scores for Atmosphere and Service that ECC fails at. Some examples are: the Zetter Townhouse, Megaro, etc. And if you’re looking for ‘Experimental’, check out Peg + Patriot for some serious experimentation.

Also, Opium opened next door, they delight in hearing stories about the ECC. Order The Feather of the Phoenix with extra chilli.

I’ve never liked a place with the word ‘Cocktail Club’ in the name, mind you.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: ** 
Service: For the first time, here is a 0.

ECC Chinatown,

13a Gerrard St, Chinatown,
London W1D 5PS

http://www.chinatownecc.com/

KERB Food: An Ice Cream Adventure, King’s Cross St. Pancras

The street food market KERB KX is back with a twist: An Ice Cream Adventure!

Every Saturday till 20th September is going to bring 12 ice cream and lolly phenomenons to Granary Square, along with a handful of food and dessert stalls of the likes of Bill & Beak, Kimchinary, Grilling Greek, & Bleecker St. Burger – a pretty bloody decent bunch, if you ask me.

Today’s review will limit itself to must-try ice cream stalls, because there’s only so much double creamy goodness you can consume in one day (BUT, there are vegan options at the venue!).

Kerb
Although the Hoodooist wished he could, couldn’t manage to eat a proper lunch, because the ice creams and cocktails were more than enough to satiate him at this point. Starting with The Manhattan Project’s Asian Bloody Mary – Stoli, Tomato, Wasabi, Calamansi, Soy, Sriracha, Fermented Chilli – a spectacular combo since Bloody Marys have not usually been the Hoodooist’s first choice. We made our way to the excellent Ruby Violet, whose horseradish ice cream we then added to the Bloody Mary for a wonderful extra kick.  At first I certainly wasn’t sure, but was happily surprised at how well it worked! The horseradish ice cream isn’t the sweetest, so doesn’t throw off the flavour of the Bloody Mary, worth a shot if you’re feeling adventurous. On that note, props to Ruby Violet for the adventurousness of a horseradish ice cream!


Sorbitium Ices
 (from the previous Street Feast reviews – Click for Hackney, Dalston Yard & Lewisham, you know they’re an old favourite), knocked it out of the park with their Olive Oil, Pine Nut & Candied Orange ice cream. I preferred it at the Hackney Street Feast without the candied orange, but it didn’t hurt! Other great combos like the Dark Chocolate & Whisky (bit intense on the whisky), and Strawberry Balsamic ruled the menu, whereas the Melon, Cucumber, Buttermilk & Chilli was a nice tangy choice.

I walked up to Drunken Dairy a bit wary, but was pleasantly surprised but the lovely Dark Destroyer: Dark Chocolate & Grand Marnier, definitely stood out in the massive barrage of orange flavours all the stalls put forward. Similarly surprised was I by Jolly Nice’s savoury Plum & Star Anise – couldn’t have too much of it, but was a spectacular production! The depth provided by the anise was incredible – absolutely necessary to try.


Finally, one that definitely stood out, and though I am choosing no winners today, but a painfully high ranker: La Gelatiera’s Porcini Mushroom & Chocolate Cream.

Don’t ask me by what sorcery or defiance in the laws of physics that this works: but it does. And it does so with confidence and humble panache. The earthy porcini complements the chocolate, and does so with strong flavour, but without overpowering it, blowing La Gelatiera’s other ambitious flavours like Basil & Chilli out of the water.

All the choice at the KERB Ice Cream Adventure can be a bit overwhelming, but don’t fret too much – follow our little guide for suggestions toward the most adventurous and exciting of the ice creamiers – and throw that weighing scale out the window 😉


KERB’s Ice Cream Adventure
Every Saturday till 20th Sept ‘14,

Granary Square,
King’s Cross

http://www.kerbfood.com/kerb-saturdays/

Floripa, Old Street/Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Bar/RestaurantEasy-goingBrazilian
Damage: £-££
Ideal for: FoodPartyShamelessly Drunk

 

Floripa has gone through many changes over the years, from seedy house of debauchery, to carnivalesque party venue, to what it is today.

Floripa still has a good vibe and a party atmosphere, but a half a year after the last time I was here, things have changed a bit. On the cocktail side. It’s still a large open plan space with an outdoor area and a stage for both bands and DJs, with large groups of people coming in for dinner and drinks.

 

Beginning with the Fogo de Floripa: Cachaca, pomegranate syrup and far, far, far too much Temepero Baiano (a spice combo much like the Indian garam masala, where every family has their own combination of various spices. This was pretty much plain cinnamon, maybe nutmeg as well;). The result was, in a word, obscene. Chokingly sweet, no one at the table could ingest this. So sweet that it didn’t taste of anything. Regrettable in every way.

6 months ago, Caipirinhas over here were actually pretty good. Recently things have taken a turn for the worse.

We thought, hey, the last time we got decent ones, and how can one mess up a Caipirinha? It’s a Brazilian venue after all. The Velho Barreiro Cachaca muddled with lime and sugar just came tasting of artificial flavouring and refined sugar. Just. No.

Whereas this venue is great for parties, I wish I’d be able to drink something.

The food was mediocre.

flor

I was also more annoyed by the general attitude of the venue, making it a headache to book spaces using bank detail etc., it ain’t Claridges. It just ended up feeling like such a waste.

Service was alright, nothing special, but not bad, either.
Next time I have a cachaca craving, I will remember to go back to Made in Brazil, Camden Town (Review HERE).

Drinks: *
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ***

Floripa

91-93 Great Eastern Street,
London EC2A 3HZ

http://www.floripalondon.com

Casita Bar’s 8th Birthday, feat. Ocho Tequila

Yes, that wonderful cocktail shed in Shoreditch has celebrated its 8th birthday this week, partnered with Ocho tequila (Ocho, geddit); if you haven’t been acquainted with Casita yet, check out its review, HERE.

And unlike most birthday parties, Casita had the idea of inviting spectacular bartenders from around the city to showcase their skills over the course of 8 hours – and what a brilliant idea that was. As if the wonderful Sophie Mackay and Oskar Klimaszewski weren’t enough, owner Will Foster shared the stage with the likes of Chris Dennis of Trailer Happiness, and Jesse Estes of El Nivel (Find review of El Nivel HERE). Only rules for the cocktails: All drinks had to be made with Ocho (not that anyone was complaining!).

CasB1

Will El Generalisimo Foster’s ‘El Fenix’ encapsulated Casita’s spirit perfectly: a long spicy-sweet tequila drink of jalapeno, basil, and raspberries topped up with pink Ting – it’s by Casita, you know it’s going to be good, just go with it.

Jesse Estes, working with his own tequila brand, Ocho – knocked it out of the park as expected. The ‘Mexican 55’ – Ocho blanco, lemon juice, agave syrup and sparkling wine – was exactly what I was waiting for all night. A clear, refreshing drink that was a perfect pick-up after the dark and heavy ‘N’Ocho Average Negroni’ (Ocho blanco, spiced Guinness, Campari), by Penkul & Banks’ Simon Toohey.

CaB2


Trailer Happiness
’ Chris Dennis presented another winning drink: the ‘Bipolar Daiquiri’. Ocho blanco, green chartreuse, lime juice and Falernum made an excellent tangy drink that wasn’t as herbal as one would suspect at first glance. Finally, Ian Macintyre of the wonderful NOLA (Find the review of NOLA HERE) presented the ‘Baloma’: Ocho blanco, grapefruit shrub, Campari and Sagres – a drink with a distinctly NOLA flair. One of us ordered the Baloma with Ting instead of Sagres and both had to admit that the Ting worked better with the drink than the Sagres, which drowned out the flavours of the other ingredients.

To end, Casita’s Sophie Mackay presented a deep Mexico-meets-Italy drink in the form of the ‘Dirty Mexican’: Ocho blanco, Martini Rosso and Fernet Branca (In a party bag!) and the 86 co.’s Dan Warner came with an Ocho Paloma.

 

For 8 nights Casita presents these discounted cocktails, and what a winning combo they are! Props to Casita for a fantastic mid-week night out! Even after, as long as they have the ingredients, the Casita bartenders will be happy to knock one of these out for you (as long as you remember the ingredients!).

Casita,
5A Ravey St,
London EC2A 4QW