You want a summer bar? We have a summer bar.
Bank Holiday Friday was the best afternoon to be at the third installment from the B&H Group, who’ve brought us classics like the Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar (Click HERE for Review!), and the Reverend JW Simpson (Review HERE!), but thankfully, this one isn’t in a basement.
Sun danced off the greenery outside and shone through the vast windows of the venue, illuminating the climbing wall-gardens and glorious mosaic bar that snakes along the beautifully bright venue. The summer heat wafted away by canopy fans, dear Powder Keg Diplomacy, this is how you do colonial-Victoriana right (and not be a douche about it).
The Hoodooist is in love with the venue, and whiled away a good few hours propped up on that gorgeous bar with his books, as a smattering of others laid back on couches and banquettes in conversation over prosecco. The bar isn’t the easiest to get to, which might be a good thing – the late evenings can bring crowds, so it being a bit hidden away keeps the afternoons wonderfully quiet to lounge.
Cocktails have a signature B&H feel to them, fruits, berries, and distinct sweetness are a running theme.
Beginning with the New Willy Bourne – Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt stirred with Laphroaig, Campari and Cinzano Rosso sweet vermouth, finished with house bitters and lemon oils. Confident, the cocktail strides in with the initial Monkey Shoulder notes of creamy butterscotch, sweet and buttery, followed by the powerful oak and smoke of the Laphroaig, hints of iodine tracing behind alongside the Campari. A finish of the sweeter fruit notes of the Cinzano and lemon oils.
Easily the best of the night, and a must order on the menu.
The Baci is a surprisingly strong and punchy drink – Grappa shaken with strawberry vermouth, homemade Seville orange liqueur and a hint of citrus, finished with aromatic maraschino liqueur and a twist of grapefruit. The first millisecond of the sip seems blank, but then all of a sudden the orange and maraschino assault the drinker as the grappa develops – finishing on the strawberry vermouth. A fun cocktail, playful and summery. One will have to be prepared for the powerful citrus and sweet fruit flavours of this drink.
The Fig and Thyme Scofflaw is a powerfully flavoured cocktail – fig and thyme-infused cognac, lemon, vermouth and grenadine. The vanilla is strong on the nose, and the sweeter notes in the cognac come forward first, with the apple from the vermouth and grenadine, before giving way to the figs.
The West Indies Gimlet is exactly what it sounds like – Navy Strength Gin, Steve’s Falernum #7, fresh lime juice and house bitters. The lime is a tad overwhelming here, and distracts from the complexity of the Falernum, it’s the one thing I’d change about this otherwise bright, citrusy drink.
The Cydonian Smash brings quince and thyme jam smashed together with fresh ginger, lemon wedges and mead, rolled with rye whisky and frozen with crushed ice. Other than the quince and bits of ginger and thyme, little can be tasted in this cocktail, maybe because of the quickly melting crushed ice. There is a bit of rye that comes through, but struggling.
Finally, the Rum & Plum stands out with the biggest price tag at 12 pounds (versus the others at around 8.50), Santa Teresa 1796 rum stirred with prune vermouth and bitters. Unfortunately, the raised priced tag does little for the actual drink, which is overpowering and rather sickly sweet.
At the bar, service is excellent. Even when crowds roll in (around 7PM), drinks come in swift, with close attention paid to customers. Bartenders are keen to discuss drinks and provide recommendations, always a plus.
The Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings are a beautiful and atmospheric addition to the B&H collection, and can teach many a thing or two about running a summer bar. Spotless surrounds and impeccable service make it a must-see. The cocktails suit the venues style, and still have a certain B&H tendency to sweetness. It might be a bit out of the way, but still garners quite a bit of attention, and recommend it for an early escape to finish that book you’ve had lying on the coffee table for the past month. It’s a walk, but worth the trek.
Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings
42 Northampton Road,
London EC1R 0HU