Tucked away down the industrial alleyway of 8 Holyrood Street, Cecil’s is a basement venue that on weekends goes from bar to 1930s glam with their galas. With Cecil himself on stage and the wonderfully charismatic Jim McMahon as host, the night wasn’t short of incredible entertainment and fantastic service. We have been to Cecil’s before, as we covered their Paris in London Grand Marnier pop up in London Cocktail Week (Click HERE for review!).
The UFF Tea Ball is characterised by its focus on the 30s and formal wear (always a good excuse to throw on a tux), with varying themes now and again, this time: 1930s Shanghai; with Cecil singing classic tunes on stage in front of a small dancefloor, two large booths on either side of the room and a scattering of tables among the indoor foliage.
Greeted at the door with an Oolong tea based punch, downstairs we begin with a New York of the East: Maker’s Mark Bourbon, a splash of Umeshu plum wine, sugar, bitters, orange twist. Essentially an Old Fashioned with Umeshu, it brought a brightness to the classic, with a lasting earthiness in the aftertaste. An interesting twist. The Cecil’s Rum Swizzle is one of those effortless and classic drinks that demands no pretention or fascination, and in many ways epitomises the style of Cecil’s cocktails, it’s quietly confident and here to get the job done: Santa Teresa Claro rum, Velvet Falernum, spiced sugar syrup from Barbados, lime juice, bitters. I’m going to go ahead and assume the ‘spiced sugar syrup from Barbados’ is the spiced sugar cane syrup that is mixed in with rum to make Velvet Falernum, but I could be wrong. What you get is a clean, soft cocktail that really is a quintessential rum swizzle.
The star of the evening would definitely be the Aperitif No. 20: El Jimador Reposado tequila, lemon, marmalade, sugar, splash of Kamm and Sons – bright, spry, lively, and effervescent. Citrusy, but only the best of ways, the tart sweetness of the marmalade and warm earthiness of the Kamm and Sons preventing a dreadful leap into sourness.
There was, still a hiccup with the Cecil’s Club Vodka Highball, which might appeal to some, but came off a bit *too* plain: Belenkaya Vodka, Umeshu, stripped cucumber, soda. Besides a distant umeshu after-taste, my bias against this might be the same reason I dislike so many of Hendrick’s Gin signature drinks, you could just eat a cucumber with a shot of vodka. So I am reluctant to judge this harshly since it could be a personal dislike, although it wasn’t a hit across the table for its plainness.
Service-wise, as aforementioned, Cecil’s was flawless. Especially with their hosting and shout outs of several birthday parties that seem to take place there. Maybe a *slightly* stricter policy on the formal dress code, after all, ticket holders paid for an event to come out in gowns and tuxes, and the random fellow with shades indoors and his shirt hanging out over his jeans is bit of a dampener – but I suppose everyone needs comic relief.
In short? Cecil’s UFF Tea Ball provides a stimulating night out without the oppressiveness of say, the Blitz Ball, or the general offishness of most of the London Vintage scene. Along with fabulous hosts, and simple, classic cocktails, it’s definitely worth a knees up.
8 Holyrood Street,
London, SE1 2EL.