Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar, Fitzrovia

Type of Bar: Basement, Speakeasy, Quirky, Vintage, Tiny
Damage££
Ideal for: After Work, Nightcap, Small Groups, Date

When the B&H Bar opened a few years ago, a marked a then-change in cocktail culture and turned the tide toward a fascination with speakeasies, gin, and vintage-England. It was a tastemaker, and has developed into a brand name with its sister bars (Reverend JW Simpson: Click HERE for Review!, and the B&H Buildings, Review HERE!) and its vintage and chap themed events from the Blitz Party to Belle Epoque.

Bourne Hollingsworth London Cocktails

And for those years, this tiny, one-square-granny’s-living-room (complete with a distinct odour of damp) was a spot the Hoodooist would pop by for a last drink before heading home when in the area.

However, the new menu has taken a Spring turn in not *quite* the best direction. Said direction has been the elimination of many of the drinks that stood out, and resulting homogenisation of flavours and ingredients – the new menu now boasts a numerous (easily 25 or more) cocktails, that seem to blend into each other instead of standing with independent personalities, and taste too similar to each other (whereas Rev JW Simpson did the opposite and developed a greater variety of flavours than before, the B&H Buildings provide a greater variety as well).

The new menu has a tendency towards being incredibly sweet (so perfect if you enjoy sweet!), and an overbearing of berries and gin – so for the evening we tried our best to go for those that stood out.

Bourne Hollingsworth London Cocktails

L-R: The Madame Elisa’s Breakfast; The Honey Berry Bison

The then Cherry Sidecar has reverted to a slightly more classic Sidecar (Cognac, with marmalade instead of triple sec) in the Madame Elisa’s Breakfast – a drink that stood about a bit further from the others of the evening with the tartness of the marmalade – probably the most enjoyed of the evening in its simplicity.

The Honey Berry Bison goes for Zubrowka vodka and berries, shaken with lemon juice, acacia honey and egg white. Berries range from rasp- to black- and the cocktail itself has a distinctly cinnamon flavour after the first few sips – but it doesn’t take away from the intense sweet berries of the cocktail.

Tequila finally takes the stage in the Plum Plume: Reposado tequila shaken with lime juice, plum wine and bitters, topped with lemonade – but comes off without much flavour outside the plum wine and lemonade’s sweetness. But at least that went down better than the Black Jack – Bourbon with spiced honey whisky liqueur, seasonal fruits, mint infused sugar and lemon that was entirely too much to drink when it tastes like an iced glassful of watered down Jack Daniel’s Honey and berries.

Bourne Hollingsworth London Cocktails

Service is good, even on days when the room is crowded, you can trust that someone will be served. Often, there are free tables (especially weekdays) to walk-in, but for Saturday nights, a booking is recommended. Normally quite chilled out and relaxed, event nights can get very crowded – so do check in advance.

With other great bars like Rev JW and B&H Buildings in their roster, it won’t take long for a banging new menu to be on the cards, but for now, this spring/summer might have to wait.

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

 

Bourne & Hollingsworth

Rathbone Place,
London W1T 1JF

http://www.bourneandhollingsworth.com/bournes/

Reverend JW Simpson, Fitzrovia

Type of Bar: Basement, Speakeasy, Vintage, Quirky
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, After Work

A door is not a door, and a wall is not a wall at the Reverend JW SimpsonBourne and Hollingsworth’s sister bar (Click HERE for Review!) resides in a basement apartment just minutes away in Fitzrovia. The third of the B&H bars being the B&H Buldings, Clerkenwell (Review HERE!).

Named after an ex-resident of the space, the apartment now houses white banquettes set up against tattered wallpaper, overseen by a large and impressive bar, amusingly presented as ‘windows’ to the visitors, from where the drinks are served. There is a strange kind of shabby-Art-Deco-dissonance about the venue, especially with honkytonk, swamp rock, and everything from the Talking Heads to Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing in the background.

On a weekend night, the venue can get swamped with people, so reservations are highly recommended – but this doesn’t harm service too much. It’s swift and attentive even with the crowd.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

The two menus – one seasonal and one permanent (in the form of a paper fortune teller!) – have running themes: light, fruity, but there are the occasional heavyweights like the beautiful Larder Batch (The Hoodooist’s favourite at the Cocktails in the City 2014 event, Click HERE for Review).

So whether you pick out a seasonal drink, or play a schoolyard game to make your order, the Hoodooist tried a few from each for your consideration!

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

The Fir Douglas Rathbone, Esq.

The Fir Douglas Rathbone, Esq. immediately catches the eye: Rathbone New London Dry Gin, homemade Douglas Fir liqueur, lemon juice, and a touch of maple syrup – finished with a spray of bergamot oils. The Hoodooist could sit back and just sniff this one all day. The fir and bergamot is sharp and fragrant, incredible. However, considering the ingredients, there are two ways to approach this cocktail – the heavy maple syrup sinks to the bottom of the glass, so either you stir it to spread the sweetness throughout the drink, or just drink it straight.

Drinking it straight results in the bottom half becoming a sweeter version of the top half – which, though wonderfully piney, and strongly juniper, risks tasting like disinfectant (although I think that comes more from the scent than from the actual flavour!). Personally, I rather enjoyed the bright, vivid drink, but it is easy to see how it can be an acquired drink for some. Stirring it will result in a maple sugariness toning down the tartness, while keeping in like with the evergreen theme.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

L-R: The Blue Leaf Clover; and the Pomegranate Haze

The Blue Leaf Clover from the seasonal menu goes straight for the Bourne and Hollingsworth favourite flavours: berries. Rathbone New London Dry Gin, homemade blackberry and rosemary syrup, lemon juice and egg white result in a drink that is very easy sipping, smooth and delicate. It might not be complex, or a showstopper, but does its job as a refreshing semi-sweet cocktail you’d want at a picnic on the kind of sunny mornings we’ve had this Easter. And you can’t argue with the beautiful garnish that comes with it.

The Hoodooist’s love affair with Mastiha gum mastic liqueur is back with the Pomegranate Haze! Hendricks Distilled Gin, Mastiha liqueur, pomegranate tea syrup, lemon juice. This is not as sweet as you’d expect, and has a distinct earthiness a friend described as ‘like being in a forest’ – which I find is characteristic of Mastiha. There is an added bitter depth from the pomegranate tea syrup, slightly herbal, somewhat spicy, this drink in surprisingly adventurous.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

Foreground: The Gardenier; Background: The Rumplestiltskin

A young apple is used instead of an ice cube in the Gardenier: Aged Calvados, Suze Aperitif, honey and orange liqueurs, apple shrub. The first sip of this drink is overwhelmingly sweet, the Calvados, honey and shrub assault the palate – but after the first sip, it seems to mellow out a bit, with help from the bitter Suze, whose spice complements the apple nicely. Still, a bit too much on the sweet side for myself, but a useful dessert drink nonetheless. This is more suited to autumn in front of a fire.

The Rumplestiltskin, on the other hand, is sweet in less appealing ways: Rum, homemade apple and spiced Falernum syrups, lime juice and dry chocolate liqueur present an intensely sugary long cocktail with a bit of a chocolate kick. This cocktail seems a bit jumbled and confused. Not far off, the Serena, with Polish Vodka, carrot shrub, vanilla liqueur, lemon and honey; lacks character and seems to taste more berryish than carrot, though the vanilla makes an appearance.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

The Larder Batch

The Larder Batch really does need to be eaten with steak. An excellent short bourbon drink, Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Pinot Noir reduction, seasoned with pink peppercorn, spiced cardamom and Angostura bitters. Here the Reverend presents us with a steak dinner in a cocktail format; the natural winter spiciness and vanilla/honey sweetness of the Four Roses Small Batch, and the bite of the peppercorn and cardamom suits the Pinot Noir (PIIINOOOOT NOIIR…sorry) reduction perfectly. The Reverend excels here, with a style that is daring and stands out from the rest of the menu. Would love to see more in the style of the Larder Batch next season.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

More adventurous than its original cousin, the Rev still displays a certain amount of conservatism with the flavours explored on the menu. Nonetheless, there are a large number of drinks to choose from, each bringing something new to the table – they know vintage, and they do it right.

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

Reverend JW Simpson,

32 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia,
London, W1T 2QJ

http://www.revjwsimpson.com/

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/

Dishoom & Permit Room, King’s Cross St. Pancras

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Indian
Damage: £-££
Ideal for: Food, Small Groups, Large Groups, After Work, Spiced Cocktails

Boy, is this place massive. 9000 square feet makes this the largest Dishoom in town! But trust that it gets packed fast. Décor is incredibly detailed, and somehow intense, considering how it’s not jam packed with decoration. Bollywood tunes from the 80s and 90s make this a fun, upbeat venue.

Serving up Indian, and subcontinental twists on classic cocktails, the cocktail menu in the Dishoom restaurant above differs from the Permit Room bar below.  This review might be a bit longer than usual for the uniqueness of the cocktails on offer.

 

Above at Dishoom, the cocktail list is short, simple and not particularly eye-catching.

The Naughty Chocolate Chai is a fun little indulgence, dark chocolate, chai and a splash of bourbon – and with friends living round the corner, our new coffee date spot.

The Chaijito – a mojito with added coriander, ginger, and sweet-spice chai – essentially comes down to being a mellow mojito. Bit of a blank, this one. Not a fan.

Downstairs at the Permit Room, the whole list of cocktails is available, and it this time, it certainly stands out. 7 of the cocktails down here are served by the Indian measure of pegs – ‘chota’ (small) pegs for 8 pounds, and ‘burra’ (large) pegs for 15.

The IPA Paanch, hop-infused gin (inspired by the IPA), lime, jaggery unseparated cane or palm sugar, English Breakfast tea and assorted spices – now this packs a punch! Okay, that pun wasn’t intended. The name for the drink punch comes from the Hindi word ‘paanch’ for ‘five’, as in 5 ingredients: An alcohol, lime, sugar, water, tea or spices. In favour of keeping both tea and spices, water was tossed out for a short, intense drink.

It took the Hoodooist a while to separate the flavours when this drink hits you so hard – the orange-red colour probably comes straight from the tea and jaggery, and served with large, sharp shard of slow melting ice. Smoky, tobacco, peat come through on the tongue. The intense sweetness of the jaggery help balance it a bit, with a date-sugariness. The gin goes straight for the back of the jaw where hops make their presence known – loudly. We suspect the spices include cumin, probably smoked paprika? Loved this drink, complex, with a wonderful smoky-sweetness.

The Chai Paanch though, throws those rules out the window with 2 spirits, 2 liqueurs and house chai. With the spices of the chai mixing in with the Gosling’s dark rum, Johnnie Walker Black Label, ginger and 80% Cocoa liqueurs. The most prominent flavours are first the sweet rum, then the chai, a splash of ginger, followed by simmering of cocoa in the background and the dryness of the Black Label. Half a glass of this I can enjoy, but then it can become a bit tiresome. Not a bad drink though, it’s one of the few drier drinks here.

 

Background: 1948 Sour, Foreground: Sonia's Negroni

Background: 1948 Sour, Foreground: Sonia’s Negroni

The Tanchoi Fix is one of the few aged drinks here, in oak: mandarin shrub, ginger, Hayman’s 1850 Reserve gin, quinine, to end with Szechuan pepper. I like how the pepper works in this drink, it’s not the predictable throaty burn after the flavour – it hits you on the first sip. The mandarin shrub isn’t too sweet, and expectedly works incredibly well with the ginger, leaving a subtle quinine aftertaste. Not too sweet, not too citrusy, very well balanced. A great intro for anyone who wants to try stronger drinks that they aren’t used to. The 1948 Sour is another of the great introductory drinks here, on the sweeter side, dry Indian Amrut whisky, peach, hibiscus, honey and lemon, layer of egg white. The peach and the honey are potent with the hibiscus rather subtle. A sour that’s not too sour, ‘mellow’ or ‘pleasant’ would be the right word to describe this drink.

 

No worries, there are longer drinks here too on this varied menu: The Toddy Tapper, a copper cup drink in the Julep family, instead of bourbon uses Sri Lanka’s answer to rum: Arrack. The ingredients are blazed and mixed into the ice, first the explosion of chilli to warm you up, through the savoury fennel and finally the sweet berries. A rollercoaster, this drink. There is the Bollybellini, Prosecco, raspberries, lychees, rose and cardamom. Rose and lychee taking centre stage with raspberry on the side.

 

Foreground: Viceroy's Old Fashioned, Background L-R: Bollybellini, Toddy Tapper

Foreground: Viceroy’s Old Fashioned, Background L-R: Bollybellini, Toddy Tapper

Two aged Old Fashioneds are on the cards too: The Viceroy’s Old Fashioned, bottle aged, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, bayleaf reduction, green tea and orange bitters, needs to be served far shorter than it is. Not my favourite, the aging of a sugared drink really emphasises the almost cola sweetness of it all. Green tea eventually gets overpowered half way through the drink, and the bayleaf only comes in too late. The Horniman’s Old Fashioned is a good choice for a pineapple fan, a very well-constructed drink (unfortunately I’m not that pineapple fan, but I recognise a decently made drink when I taste one). Oak aged, rum, pineapple syrup and bitters yield a very intensely pineapple drink with loud rum sweetness.

 

But as you can imagine, there are also drinks that don’t work. The Sonia’s Negroni makes a great Negroni, but I don’t see the Sonia bit. Made with Dishoom vermouth and macerated vanilla, cinnamon and ginger, the Campari heavy Negroni yields none of the added flavour till the ginger in the last two sips. Finally, for us Martini fans, neither on the table took to the Bombay Martini which, predictably, had far too much going on (you can guess this was our last ‘hey, what the hell, let’s see what happens’ drink). Stirred Tanqueray Rangpour gin, Noilly Prat, Antica Formula sweet vermouth (unexpected), and bitters made with *deep breath* vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, sandalwood, cassia bark, and wormwood *exhale*. What you get goes way past fragrant into drinking-perfume territory. No.

 

The IPA Paanch

The IPA Paanch

Service has to account for incredible busy-ness. Was annoyed upstairs that there seemed to be no communication among the staff, no one had any idea if the queue was for the upstairs dining, or the bar downstairs, who was going where, your table is ready –but we didn’t ask for a table, yes you did, no we didn’t, where’s your pager, etc etc etc. The increasingly terribly presented (oh yes, arts university next door, let’s dress *interestingly*) waiting list fellows seemed to have no idea what they were actually doing. Those outfits are enough to second guess going in, you start wondering if it is a cocktail bar or a half-arsed uni drinking den with sake, red bull and sparkling wine as an ironic special. But once we settled at our table, things started running more smoothly. Downstairs, service was polite, attentive.

 

Dishoom upstairs may not provide a great list of drinks, but downstairs, the Permit Room opens up a huge pathway into bringing in subcontinental flavours to cocktails – not an easy task – many have tried and failed. And true, some cocktails here can be hit or miss, but the ones that hit, do it very well. Ambitious, well-constructed, well done!

 

Take advantage of the soft launch running till 19th Nov 2014, all the cocktails except large burra pegs are half price.

 

Drinks: Upstairs: **, Downstairs: ****
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ***

 

Dishoom King’s Cross

5 Stable Street, Granary Square,
London N1C 4AB

http://www.dishoom.com/2014/09/in-which-an-irani-cafe-finds-a-home-in-a-godown-behind-victoria-terminus-c-1928/

City of London Distillery, Blackfriars

Type of Bar: Basement, Ginstitute
Damage££
Ideal for: Gin, Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, After Work, Education

COLD is a rare gem in the City of London, opened in 2012, it finally brought back the distilling of gin to the City after 200 years – and boy do they take it seriously. Climbing down the stairs on unassuming Bride Lane, you’ll walk past their enormous copper stills, Clarissa and Jennifer, on display, which play part of the many Gin Experiences they provide: from tours, flights and tastings, to ginstitutes and making your own gin.

The atmosphere at COLD certainly is one of a late night bar. Dark green walls with an impressively stocked bar and vintage paraphernalia bask in the glow of the stills’ lighting. Further back the sense of being underground heightens, as the Hoodooist hunted down the winged leather Chesterfield armchair in the corner (as one does).

 

COLD's 'Distiller's Martini'

COLD’s ‘Distiller’s Martini’

They are known for their gins made in situ, including the award winning City of London Dry Gin that is also for sale – a well-balanced gin, with tendency to citrus, the distinct flavours of the liquorice, pink grapefruit and orange come through in this spirit, making it a very interesting choice for a:

COLD Distiller’s Martini: City of London Dry gin, Mancino Bianco with a pink grapefruit twist. As aforementioned, the gin is already fairly grapefruit-heavy, so pairing it with the garnish, and a more bitter vermouth that is distinctly flavoured with grapefruit and orange was a bold choice. The gin gives a slight pepperiness to the Martini, but one must acknowledge the overwhelming grapefruit of the drink – moreso than any of the other cocktails here serving up CoL Dry gin. It provides a decidedly smooth Martini that only isn’t to my taste because of the overdone grapefruit, although I did take to it more after getting the garnish out.

A winning drink coming up was a White Martinez, Cocchi Americano, City of London Dry Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, dash of Regans Orange Bitters, maraschino cherry garnish dropped in. This is excellent, but also very sweet, even in comparison to most Martinez’. The orange bitters really does come through with the grapefruit of the CoL gin; combatting with the thick sweetness of the Cocchi Americano and Luxardo Maraschino. Further down the drink, the cherry gets a chance to release its sugars into the drink for further sweetness. Somehow still a wonderful drink regardless of its intense sugariness – but one that takes time to drink.

COLD's 'Cristal Clear Martinez'

COLD’s ‘Cristal Clear Martinez’

Chatting with our absolutely wonderful server, a bespoke Gin Old Fashioned was concocted, and was exactly that – an Old Fashioned with Beefeater Borrough’s Reserve Oak Rested Gin – sugar, bitters, grapefruit rind. A sophisticated cocktail often avoided by most bars, using a gin avoided by many gin purists, handled well and confidently, here at COLD. Probably more suitable to a drink like this, Beefeater Borrough’s is rested in French Oak barrels that used to contain Lillet Vermouth, that adds to the gin’s juniper and citrus notes of oaky vanilla, and winter spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. This gin certainly isn’t a Martini gin, but a wonderful idea to use it as a Gin Old Fashioned. Inspired.

After those 3 successful drinks, though, there was one hiccup – the OMG & Tea was a warning with the name, really. CoL Old Tom Gin, Bitter Truth Golden Falernum, Merlet Crème de Peche, Breakfast tea, lemon juice, soda water, garnished with mint and lemon. It ended up being a confused muddle of citrus soda at the end of it.  Honestly though, this is a drink that is a warning from the outset, so it was silly to try it.

What COLD does best, is present sophisticated, alcohol heavy drinks – the menu’s occasional attempts into more ‘fun’ cocktail regions come with risk upon reading the ingredients.

The highlight of the night though, was the incredibly knowledgeable and convivial service. Conversing with our servers was a delight, and a highly educational experience. Polite, attentive, the staff are stars.

COLD

In summary, COLD is a unique gem in the heart of London’s business sector, and has won awards with good reason. Providing an incredible list of experiences and events, besides their unique gins, makes it a destination in itself. It’s strength lies in its simpler, more sophisticated drinks that demand skill and finesse to construct, and in its wonderful service. A hit in our books.

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

 

City of London Distillery

24 Bride Lane,
London, EC4Y 8DT

http://cityoflondondistillery.com/