5cc Singer Tavern, Old Street

Type of Bar: Basement, Speakeasy
Damage££
Ideal for: Party, Small Groups, Large Groups, After Work

 

Way back in the day, the reviewed the 5cc‘s other branches in a blog post (Click HERE for Review!) – but the launch of the new Singer Tavern, 1 City Road venue demands another look with a total change of the 5cc vibe!

Which I mean, kinda like its Hoxton brother, this venue is much bigger than the elder siblings – more than enough space to easily fit a 100 guests, with massive booths, couches, and even a semi-private room. And space to dance! Walking down the stairs from the Singer Tavern (yes, Singer as in the sewing machine company, and the venues décor won’t let you forget that) – the Hoodooist is greeted with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins blasting on the stereo – a volume level that never really goes down, which makes it great for a night out – not so much for private conversation. Come here for an evening out with a group of friends, not on a first date.

 

This manifestation of 5cc takes on the crypt-like surrounds of the Bethnal Green venue, as well as the modern décor of the Farringdon branch, with the Hoxton spot’s upbeat tempo – definitely an after-work spot.

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As for the cocktails, we’re seeing many updates from the slightly more demure 5cc standards.

The Montgomery is one of the most classic cocktails served: a Dolin dry vermouth based gin Martini using No.3 Gin – served short and fairly wet (at least for the Hoodooist). Easy drinking for a Martini, No.3 has to still be one of the Hoodooist’s favourite Martini gins, simple, crisp citrus with powerful juniper. The Dolin is a game changer though, with a potently floral and sweet flavour – which made this drink rather divisive at the table, some enjoying it, others turning away pretty quickly. If you’re a Martini fan, consider the sweetness of the Dolin, and go for it if it works for you!

 

5cc Singer Tavern cocktails

The Saints & Sinners

Along the short and Martini-esque route, the Saints & Sinners is closer to a dry twist on a classic Hanky Panky. Dictador aged gin and Lillet Blanc, mixed in with Fernet Branca and vanilla bitters, garnished with an olive. I… have no idea what this cocktail is trying to achieve. Now, the Hoodooist has used the Dictador aged gin in a basic gin Martini with Lillet Blanc before with pleasant results – however this goes in a totally different route. If you haven’t come across this gin before, it made the controversial decision to age the gin for 35 weeks in rum barrels to provide a rounder, sweeter flavour. Instead we get this bizarre confused mix of dry flavours that were just difficult to decipher. Universally abandoned at the table.

5cc Singer Tavern cocktails

Then came the East End Old Fashioned: Elijah Craig 12, lapsang souchong cordial, chilli and orange bitters. I think the lapsang souchong cordial and chilli were meant to complement the Elijah Craig 12’s slightly spicy and fruity character, but instead, making the tea a cordial left the cocktail a bit flat. There seemed to be a hint of spice that stops short. Unfortunately, it comes off a bit ineffectual and unmemorable.

For a longer drink though, the Knock Out does the trick: ELLC Demerara rum, lime, strawberry and blackberry cordial, topped up with soda (seemed more like ginger beer?). Now, if you’re thirsty, this would be it. It may not be the Hoodooist’s style, but it does its job and a sweeter thirst-quencher. It’s nice to see the East London Liquor Company’s Demerara rum! With a hint of vanilla and woody flavour, the rum works well with the ginger beer – and surprisingly well with the berries. If you want a simple long drink, this would be it.

Finally, Frida’s Tropical Margarita: 1800 coconut tequila, lime, pineapple and chipotle cordial with coconut and salt rim. When it says ‘tropical’, it ain’t kidding. However, again, the cordial-isation of the ingredients leaves it a bit flat, and what was agreed on was that the most exciting part of the drink was the coconut rim.

 

5cc Singer Tavern cocktails

The Knock Out

The Montgomery and Knock Out seem to do exactly what they mean to – but also have the simplest combinations when you look at them. The two cordial drinks, the East End Old Fashioned and Frida’s Tropical Margarita, somehow go a bit flat on flavour. The Saints & Sinners, at first glance, has a problematic combo of flavours (The Minestrone Cocktail effect, as Alessandro Palazzi would put it).

So with a keen eye, you’d actually be able to spot what would work and what doesn’t – though probably easier said then done, as witnessed by the East End Old Fashioned, which sounds good in theory.

 

However, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a cocktail tailored to your tastes, since the service at the bar is wonderful – although do keep in mind that this is a bar that can certainly get rather busy! But like we all know, a busy bar means a more effervescent atmosphere to find yourself partying in, and a space to dance is what too many cocktail bars in London are lacking.

 

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

 

5cc, Singer Tavern, 

1 City Road, Old Street
London, EC1Y 1AE.

http://www.5cc-london.com/

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Bunnychow, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, South African
Damage£
Ideal for: Food, Date, Bunnies

 

The popular Bunny truck has gotten a foothold in Soho to open the new Bunnychow Bar on Wardour Street! Serving up South African Durban street food, Bunnychow also offers various South African snacks and mixed juices with added spirits if so liked.

Bunnychow Soho Interior

Bunnies themselves are pretty brilliant – a mini-scooped out loaf of bread – all healthy options! From charcoal brioche, to matcha green tea loaf – packed with various fillings with international influences thanks to the trade route passing from India through Cape Town to Europe. Served with a slaw on the side at 6 pounds what’s not to love? You’d be surprised how filling a bunny is.

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A Bobotie Meatball Bunny gets you beef slathered with signature Nokey Gland BBQ sauce, with cloves, nutmeg and pepper, and a Chakalaka Bunny brings in the Indian flavours with spicy chicken and ginger, garlic, chilli and lemon, with a Peri Peri sauce – and if it ain’t spicy enough, you haven’t tried their hot sauce (yowza). Hell, the Hoodooist’d pop by just to take away a side of chewy Biltong. Don’t worry, the recently added Veggie option of roasted aubergine, butternut squash, fennel and onion and quinoa, served in a courgette and pea sauce is on the menu – let’s not forget gluten-free and bread-free options!

The menu is meant to be short, simple and specific – and thankfully the recent addition of a dark chocolate part in a mini brioche is a great bitter-sweet dessert to finish off your spicy meal.

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Cocktails run at 5 pounds each! Bunnychow isn’t a cocktail bar, so the simplest combinations work: bottled mixed drinks come in for 3 pounds, with a measure of spirit thrown in for another 2 quid.

An Invictus – Greek Yoghurt, nut and raisin mix, chilli and mint- with a measure of spicy rum – comes up a as a spicy side to your already spicy meal. On the other hand, a Cucumber Mojito – Cucumber, mint, elderflower, lemon and lime juice – ticks all the right boxes! A bright, spry drink, wins this round.

I certainly see myself returning for a Madiba – Orange, vanilla elderflower, lemon and lime juice in the summer.

Bunnychow Cocktails Soho

The Soho Bunnychow Bar itself is miniscule, and simplistic, with very outdoor furniture and the occasional Donnie Darko Frank mask (Oookay.), and service is excellent, helpful and explanatory.

For a little pitstop to grab a bite before running off to your next adventure, or some much needed protein and carbs after a hard day’s drinking – Bunnychow is an excellent addition, and hopefully fixture, in Soho’s food scene.

 

Drinks: *** (Value for money!)
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

Bunnychow

74 Wardour Street, Soho,
London W1F 0TE

http://bunnychow.com/

Jackson + Rye, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, American
Damage£ (for cocktails)
Ideal for: Rye/Whiskey, Food, Date, Small Groups

Jackson + Rye has been a Soho staple for a while now, and seems to be almost constantly full – with good reason! The American South meets a Wild West saloon meets a glance of Corbin and King styled suaveness results in J+R’s dimly lit, two-floor hardwood den and take on a zinc bar.

Something about the décor is still very European – even the menu is set out very brasserie-style, though the dishes themselves are from the hearty South. Chilli and garlic grilled shrimp on a bed of grits and sweetcorn and showered with shallots accompanied by and easy and citrusy Rittenhouse Rye to cut through the grits without over powering it. A main of buttermilk fried chicken and sweet potato fries with the warm spiciness of High West Double Rye, and finally, pecan pie with a spectacular rye whiskey ice cream alongside a thick, sugary sweet Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye.

Rye Whiskey cocktails

Background: Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan; Foregorund: Woodford Reserve Rye Old Fashioned

For cocktails, the evening begins and ends with a Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan (classic Gangster recipe) of whiskey, Martini Rosso and Luxardo Maraschino to provide a smooth, sweet, but bold take on the Manhattan that isn’t served in London that often lest asked for.

Finally, a classic Woodford Reserve Rye Old Fashioned is heady and not kidding around with the citrus – classic in every sense of the word.

Besides the (incredibly) filling meal, a rye whiskey tasting that will soon be a regular attraction at Jackson + Rye!

A preview got us a history of rye, and the relationship between the UK and the USA regarding rye imports – and a tasting of four ryes;

Rye Whiskey Tasting

Tasting of four Ryes

Beginning with an everyday Jim Beam Rye, it comes off a bit more like a bourbon than a rye, a bit thin and flat. The nose is a myriad of spices, the palate begins with a vanilla sweetness, then a collection of spices and distinct warmth and a peppery finish.

The High West Double Rye is a lot more fun – with an immense rye content, you can smell the spiciness from a mile away, as well as a caramel. The mixture of old and young whiskeys that make HWDR result in a contradictory mix of powerful pepper and cinnamon, as well as a thick honey and nutty caramel. A fun ride, this one!

Bulleit makes an appearance – more famous for their bourbon, their new rye is popping up everywhere in London these days. (Personal note? I feel I’m a bigger fan of their bourbon.) Initially, you get kicked in the face with the spice and…tobacco? Followed by a light sweetness of fruits, strongly orange zest. All smoky.

Finally, the Smooth Angler Old Scout 7yr arrives to the table. Probably the most unique in the tasting, this was also the sweetest. It comes off in the nose too, chocolatey. The palate is as well, along with Demerara sugar, but still warming and spicy. A fantastic digestif.

Fun, conversational, and informative, the quality service at the tasting extends to the bartenders upstairs. No complaints here.

Rye Whiskey

Jackson + Rye provides a beautiful environment (if not a bit noisy, it’s crowded enough, the Imelda May soundtrack doesn’t have to be as loud), with excellent service – substantial meals with quality cocktails and an excellent selection of ryes. And the tasting – excellent for introductions to rye – have a confident, conversational environment to both learn, *and* get drunk in. What’s not to love?

 

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

Jackson + Rye

56 Wardour Street, Soho,
London W1D 4JF

http://www.jacksonrye.com/

Kilburn Ironworks, Kilburn

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

 

Kilburn gets the East London bare-wood/exposed brick treatment with its Ironworks! Copper stills and lighting dot the area around a beautifully displayed bar, with a spectacular collection of spirits. Service is smooth, polite, and informative – commendable, all in all.

 

Food is hearty and meaty, and the craft beer numerous. Meantime, Camden, Beavertown, a great selection for the beer fan, and even better: their beer cocktails (think Monkey Shoulder, toasted porter reduction, Anspach and Hobday Smoked Brown, Gosling’s Black Seal rum and lemon).

But panic not, there are non-beer cocktails here too! And excellent ones.

 

Kilburn Cocktails

L-R: The Stoke Me A Clipper; and the Smoked Manhattan

The list is short, but varied – been considered carefully so that there’s something here for everyone – great job on creating this menu.

The first spirit-heavy Stoke Me A Clipper brings Four Roses bourbon, Pedro Ximinez sherry, Cocchi Americano and Marca Negra Mezcal served short and straight up with lemon twist. Now this is a drink! Right up the Hoodooist’s alley, the nose is heavy on the Four Roses, with hints of caramel and orange. Palate-wise, we get the dryness of the Cocchi, balanced wonderfully with bourbon’s oak, honeyed sweetness and winter spices, with a sudden underlying whisper of the mezcal’s roasted agave – finally lacquered with the lick of sweetness from the sherry. A spectacular balance of flavours.

 

The drink that turned out to a massive hit across the table was the Kilburn Crude – El Dorado 5yr rum, Taylor’s Velvet Falernum, ginger beer reduction, Angostura bitters on the rocks. A sweet drink for those who generally don’t do sweet, this satisfies anyone’s dessert craving whether or not you have a sweet tooth. The El Dorado contributes most to the drink, rich and buttery sweet, balanced well with the bitterness from the Angostura and Falernum – the hints of ginger beer doing fantastically (thank god for reductions, who wants to dilute drinks?). An absolute must if you visit the Ironworks.

 

Kilburn Cocktails

The Kilburn Crude

Finally, an off menu Smoked Manhattan compared less to the other two cocktails, but I suspect it is more a matter of taste than of quality – if you like your Manhattans dry, I say go for it – though I think I’d have preferred it more on the perfect-side, meself.

The rest of menu provides its share of fizzes, tiki twists, takes on espresso martinis, the shebang – appreciate the carefully selected drinks highly.

 

It’s great to see the Ironworks arrive in the area for the Hoodooist who finds himself in the area for academic reasons without many places to go to after – with late hours, affordable prices, great service and excellent cocktails – what’s there to complain about? A definite bar to return to.

 

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

 

Kilburn Ironworks,

332 Kilburn High Road,
London, NW6 2QN

http://www.kilburnironworks.co.uk/landing

Bó Drake, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Mexican, Korean
Damage: ££ (for cocktails)
Ideal for: Food, Small Groups, Dry cocktails, Soju

Long awaited Jan Lee Koreo-Mexican joint finally opens on Soho’s Greek Street! After a lot of date push-backs, the venue opened just in time for the Lunar New Year and participated in the Baijiu Cocktail Week 2015 (Click HERE for Review!).

Casual and chilled out: Stripped back décor, a long bar perfect for an evening hang out for some anju, and curling around with multiple seats for groups to hang out. A few low tables on the right, and a cavern in the back for larger groups, with the occasional blast of heat from the smoking in the kitchen. And participating in the delightful return of disco and cheese (much like the playlist at Cocktail Trading Co., click HERE for Review!) – the Hoodooist loves the atmosphere here. Especially just before sunset, when the light is just right. At night, all the venue’s light seems to come from the bar, where Demetris and Darren are either shaking or smoking for their soju-focused menu and the repeatedly changing bar-specials up on the board.

Bo Drake's Bo Ssam and Brisket Bao

Bo Drake’s Bo Ssam and Brisket Bao

Since we’re cocktail-focused, we’ll give food only a glancing look: a major focus on Korean and Mexican cuisine, Bo Drake takes a cuisine popular in Seoul and among the Aenikkaeng immigrants in Mexico and finally brings it to London. We have to admit – the ‘Smalls’ were our favourite part of the menu, by far. The Mushroom Tostada stole the show with enoki mushrooms and red pepper slathered in cheese and sesame butter, followed by the Brisket Bao with their 12 hour beef, the cucumber adding a delightful contrast to the general sweetness of the dish. The Kimchi Quesadilla was hit-or-miss with the meagre filling. I’d return entirely for drinks and Smalls.

In terms of mains, I couldn’t help but feel they could be less expensive for what is provided (at the 13 pound mark and above). The Bobo Chicken was a tad dry, but with a loud accompanying sauce. However the Bo Ssam was classic, the ssamjang just spicy enough. Spectacular pickling of the kimchi, and rice was wonderful. And the dessert offering is limited to a sesame soft-serve ice cream, which after all the BBQ and warm flavours is absolutely perfect. Couldn’t think of a better end to the meal.

Onto the cocktails!

The short list is very soju focused, but Demetris is more than happy to prep other classics for you, or shake something up himself.

The signature Soju de la Vida slushie – mezcal, soju, strawberry slush – might *just* convert the Hoodooist to a slushie fan. The mezcal is exactly what we need to spice up the tedious margarita slushie trend – adding an intense smokiness to the sweet. Brainfreeze material, great for dessert on the way out.

The Soju de la Vida slushie

The Soju de la Vida slushie

The Soju Fiction screamed out to me, so absolutely had to order the Yamazaki 12, soju, bamboo syrup and Antica Formula vermouth concoction. Whisky nose. Smoky, both from the whisky and the added smoking of the drink. Dry, the Antica Formula’s sweetness stands out. I’ve yet to decide how I feel about this drink – it isn’t unpleasant, certainly not. But there is one thing that keeps nagging at me. I think it is the smoking of the drink – it interferes with the otherwise excellent flavours of the cocktail that are in themselves, quite relaxed and laid back. Good cocktail, less or no smoke, please.

L-R: The El Greco; the Soju Fiction

L-R: The El Greco; the Soju Fiction

Then from the temporary ‘Bar Specials’ on the chalkboard, the El Greco certainly went for some very Hellenic flavours: Metaxa 7yr brandy, Mastiha, Cocchi Americano, Cointreau and orange bitters – there is a word for this that escapes me. Sylvan. It screams a decadent springtime with saps bursting out of treebarks, with the air filled with pollen and petals – as well as the on-coming heat of summer and the sickly sweetness of bees nesting in lion corpses. Debauched and over the top, enjoyed it, but couldn’t finish it with the intensity of flavours – I’d serve this in a Tokaji glass.

The Metaxa 7’s brandy/muscat wine mix with its range of sweet botanicals (especially rose) stands out strongly – spicy on the sides of the tongue. Only reinforced by the gum mastic of the Mastiha (Mastika. Mastikha.); which would be the source of the resinous chewiness. The Cocchi Americano is absolutely necessary to thin the drink a bit and assault the back of the throat with the Cointreau. Garnished with petals, the drink is intensely floral and fruity, but with sweet, thick texture. Again, as enjoyable as it was, there is too much of a good thing, and could be served in smaller glasses. An acquired taste, I’d think.

Smoked Hibiki and Vermouth

Smoked Hibiki and Vermouth

When asked for a whisky drink off-menu, the Hoodooist was provided with blend of Hibiki, Noilly Prat vermouth, smoked with Hickory and Cherry wood, and garnished with the spiciest damn jalapeno this side of hell. Nose was apple, maybe cinnamon (or was that the jalapeno?). A Dry Manhattan minus the bitters – I decided to drop the now-bitten Jalapeno in for a bit of kick – a slow drink, the Hibiki’s fermented fruits stand out, and it’s nuttiness. Malty, slightly, balanced against the Noilly Prat’s piney flavours. A decent dry drink you want to really take your time with, with a batch of nuts, preferably.

Finally, a classic Negroni – dry, smooth. Just right.

Smoking Cocktail

There is a distinct attraction to dryness in the menu – which Bo Drake does best, in comparison to the other drinks, I’d say. The drinks are all at the tipping point into great – but with the very good price range of 8-9 pounds, are just right. I certainly wouldn’t charge more than that. I’d suggest to stick with the drier drinks for their complexity and slow-sipping.

As for service – wonderful. It’s what defines the venue and make me want to return. Hostess Martina steals the show with her liveliness and humour, and will go out of her way to accommodate the diners. Demetris and Darren are incredibly entertaining and bring a casual dive element of fun to a venue of complex cocktails (which in London, for some reason, many feel are mutually exclusive). Between mezcal shots and agave worms, their chemistry is brilliant to be a part of and make sitting at the bar a necessity – especially with their experimental attitude to cocktails.

Bartender Cocktail Ice

The family at Bo Drake make visiting a pleasure, and see it as a space to pop by in the afternoons for a drink and nibble at the mushroom tostada or bao (which, should totally be offered for take away!). The casual vibe at Bo Drake is a fun pairing with the more complex menu of both food and cocktails, and recommend a visit – note: a new cocktail menu is expected in a couple of weeks, and with the regularly changing bar specials, expect the menu to be generally rather mercurial and ever-changing.

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

 

Bo Drake

6 Greek Street, Soho
London W1D 4DE

http://www.bodrake.co.uk/

The Dolls House, Islington

Type of Bar: Members, Late Night
Damage££
Ideal for: Night Cap, Small Groups, Party

 

In a fantastic display of impermanence, the exit of Islington’s House of Wolf and Hoxton Square’s Dead Doll’s Club means the latter possesses the former’s space – manifesting as the all new Dolls House!

Doll House. Dolls House. Doll’s House. Confusing syntax.

 

Now before we go further, I’d like to clarify that Highball Hoodoo never had any intention of covering members clubs, since the Hoodooist’d like all our reviews to be of venues that are easily accessible.

However we are willing to make an exception for DH since the ground floor Parlour is open to the public, and that membership is easily attained by filling out a form, and bringing a bottle of the club’s requested spirit on your first visit: List found HERE

Dolls House Islington

Spaced over three floors, the ground floor public Parlour is a large open space with a stage – the launch night opened the stage up to the awesome Kansas Smittys to entertain the crowd – shame about the repetitive fire alarms. With a decent sized bar, no complaints about this space that provides us with jazz bands till 4AM.

 

The first floor provides us with two intimate private rooms: the Drawing Room and Library. The Drawing Room is a slightly larger space than the Library, with windows open to the Islington Town Hall. Both make most of their space by eliminating décor in favour of hand-illustrated walls, which left the table divided as to whether or not we’d prefer furniture instead. The Library is where we found ourselves most comfortable, though we’d wish our bearded bartender would teach his beardless colleague the secret of stirring a cocktail without causing such a racket. Canapes were sparse, which was tragic.

 

Finally, the upstairs member’s-area-after-dinner, the Ballroom, is a beautiful space. Fogged mirrors, decent seating, gorgeous chandeliers, it’s not a large space, but a stunning one.

 

Dolls House Islington Negroni

Dolls House Negroni

Menu-wise, options are limited (9 in total), but very decently priced. Think Negronis, Old Fashioneds, Aviations, et al – all classics. Flavour-wise, decent. Glad to see Antica Formula used in the Negronis, Old Fashioneds were – for some unfathomable reasons – only being served on the top floor bar and not in the Library. Bartenders also refuse to make any classics off menu, which is the first time I’ve ever really encountered such a philosophy. The rules here stopped making sense after a bit.

Except for one bartender, service is half-hearted. Exhausted. With complete lack of interest.

I sense I have been using the word ‘decent’ an awful lot. Because that’s exactly what the Dolls House is. Decent. A *shrug* and pout. A friend on the top floor caught a total of one canapé.

Dolls House Islington

The sadly lacking number of late night cocktail bars in the area means that your major options past midnight is either the Dolls House or Pisco Embassy (Click HERE for Review!) – although past 10PM non-members expect to be charged 5 pounds for entry – don’t worry members, you can bring 3 non-member friends along.

Although then I must ask – why? Other than the late night opening, there I very little I find particularly fascinating about the venue, and it’s incredibly limited menu.

Some things are just… Decent.

 

Drinks: *** (Although risking a ** with tiny menu)
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ** – *** (Depending with whom you’re dealing)

 

The Dolls House

181 Upper Street, Islington,
London N1 1RQ.

http://www.thedeaddollsclub.com/Islington/