Time for something a little different.
With The Queer Alternative LGBTQ charity organisation hosting a gig featuring ace cock-rock-parody cover band The Dykeness in the venue upstairs, The Hoodooist thought it was time to return to his alternative teen years in Camden Town after a long while.
Really – the issue is more he can’t find a place to listen to Judas Priest with a decent Old Fashioned but THINGS ARE DIFFERENT AT THE BLACK HEART.
For all intents and purposes, Our Black Heart is a classic metal bar: nestled in a back alley, black walls, grime, neon signs over a pool table – but some core differences do stand out: for one, a larger selection of spirits than at most alt bars you’d imagine (QuiQuiRiQui mezcal, Glenrothes to Auchentoshan, Opihr and the Botanist gins), second, a short menu of classic cocktails and a pretty decent kitchen in the back to keep the booths and tables fed and watered.
In other words: The grown-up metal bar.
I will have to inform you though, there is a cocktail menu, but if you want something off-menu, do specify the drink and base spirit. An Old Fashioned will get you and Old Fashioned with house whiskey, or you can be charged one more pound to use a whiskey you know you enjoy.
Similarly, if you’re gonna ask for a drink that includes support-spirits like Campari, Aperol or vermouths – you want to make sure they’re in stock. The Black Heart does not tout itself as a cocktail bar after all.
Most of the cocktails today are off-menu, I should mention – except for one the Hoodooist once ordered an age ago that now made it to the menu, which is highly recommended: the Aztec Old Fashioned. Traditional sugar and bitters mixed in with QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan mezcal. Made the good old fashioned way with crushing sugar that takes longer, but ultimately more rewarding than using sugar syrup – you want to find bartender Nancy who is a total wiz and making these spectacular cocktails. Smoky, peppery – initially earthy to sugary with a long smoked agave finish.
Similarly, the Nikka From the Barrel Old Fashioned uses the Nikka From the Barrel cask strength Japanese whisky. A spicy and fruity nose opens to a palate that is powerful, warm and full bodied – laden with spices, fruits and oaky or toffee in the finish. The Auchentoshan Old Fashioned finds a much sweeter drink, with the sweet barley and vanilla really powering the cocktail.
After a quick bite of vegan buffalo wings (yes) and a dance in the gig space upstairs, it’s back to the bar for a Tequila Sour. While sipping on a neat Tequila Chamucos Anejo – enjoying the smooth almond and cocoa flavours, the Chamucos Reposado Tequila Sour is served. One critique would be to tone down the citrus just a bit to let the chamomile and fruitier flavours of the tequila through. There was enough lemon to take away from the Chamucos’ more pungent flavours that would have beautifully balanced out the cocktail.
An Opihr Gimlet was an unwise choice on the Hoodooist’s part, it’s cardamom being overpowering. However the Auchentoshan Sour‘s vanilla was a sweet end to the evening before departing after the finale cover of ‘All I Want For Christmas‘ by The Dykeness and the Hoodooist made it back to the bar.
Service is swift and only at bar, and as I said, though there is a short cocktail menu, Our Black Heart does not tout itself as a ‘cocktail bar’, so you might have to explain the ingredients of a cocktail, though there is no shame in that. If, however, your goal is to drink an amazing Old Fashioned with Glenn Danzig in the background under the neon gaze of the Virgin Mary – you’ve found your spot in one of the last vestiges of Camden’s heyday.
Drinks: ** (For absence of support-spirits) – ***
Atmosphere: **** (if a metal bar is what you’re looking for)
Our Black Heart
2-3 Greenland Pl, Camden Town
London NW1 0AP