Bird of Smithfield, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Also optional Basement
Damage££ 
Ideal for: FoodDate, Small Groups, Large GroupsAfter Work

 

Here on Highball Hoodoo we had already reviewed this summer’s Aperol Spritz Terrazza open on the roof terrace of Bird of Smithfield – but it hides so much more.

A comfy restaurant and bar on the ground floor, with the private-bookings Birdcage in the basement serve up some cocktails that rival the best of Clerkenwell.

The ground floor bar is perfect for the day time – bright eggshells and greys with scattered kitsch and 70s throwbacks make a great space for an afternoon hang out or meeting. The Birdcage downstairs, though, takes the lighting down a notch for a sexy charcoal and cerulean, lit by mirrors and illuminated trees and birdcages.

Bartenders are wonderful, service is swift, and servers are more than happy to discuss the cocktail with you.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The new cocktail menu launched earlier this year appeals to a variety of palates and flavours, and does not shy from a little bit of experimentation.

Beginning with the Cointreauversial: Cointreau, Remy Martin VSOP cognac, apricot brandy, lime, Angostura bitters. The first wash is the rich and floral cognac, with strong notes of apricot and nectarine, violet and vanilla, giving way to the Cointreau’s orange and a stronger citrus, finally becoming quite tart.

A great option for those enjoying citrus and floral flavours, but want something a bit rich and not served long or with ice.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Mr. Pacifico – I do love this cocktail: Mezcal, Pisco, blackberry and blueberry shrub, cardamom bitters, chilli vermouth, and Fernet Branca. Pisco ain’t easy to use in a cocktail – but this smoky/spicy tipple is just what you need when you want a bit of bite with your fruity sour/sweet.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Lucky One is another that defies convention. Tincup Whiskey, Flaming Pig liqueur, Negra Modelo ale syrup, ginger bitters, lemon, Angostura bitters, egg white. The ale syrup really mellows out the other powerful flavours we see here: the cinnamon sweetness of the Flaming Pig, the butterscotch and high rye spice of the Tincup and ginger bitters. So what we get is an easy to down, grain-strong spicy tankard. Love it.

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The Lucky One

The LDN: BOLD London Cherry Spirit, Aperol, Cynar, orange & mandarin bitters, rhubarb bitters. BOLD does it again! Aperol dominates, but enjoys complexity added by the bittersweet Cynar and the sweetness of BOLD cherry. The citrus bitters are more noted here, adding an almost sparkling flicker in the cocktail.

Aperol Spritzes are well and good, but the LDN does not compromise on ABV and celebrates Aperol in way only London could.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The LDN

The Lord of Isles is another favourite here: Botanist gin, rhubarb and thyme syrup, Cynar, Kummel, and lime. Served for two, smoking inside a treasure chest, the box is opened to unveil two small cocktails in tiki glasses.

Not a sweet cocktail, but bright and herbal, with added depth from the Cynar. You’d almost forget it was gin. Warm and citrus with spice from the Botanist leads to the Kummel’s light aniseed flavour, but not compromising on it’s coating mouthfeel – finally enjoying a bit of sweetness from the rhubarb and thyme and then settling on the depth of Cynar, with a Kummel finish.

An enigmatic and adventurous cocktail. Loved around the table.

 

Not Just a Dram: Bruichladdich whisky, Lapsang souchong tea, lime juice, yellow chartreuse, sage leaves, plum and cardamom bitters.

I was hoping this would be a short, smoky cocktail – however the Not Just a Dram is served similar to a Julep, tall and filled with crushed ice.

I’d really like to return to try this straight up in a coupe, to really enjoy the whisky and tea. The brightness of the Bruichladdich is meant to be contrasted against the smoky lapsang, but I couldn’t get much with the ice here. Tasted a wee bit watered down, I’m afraid. Considering I absolutely *love* the sound of these ingredients together!

Definitely returning for this.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

The Not Just A Dram

The Kenko Cha goes East by adding pineapple-infused Tanqueray gin to Canton ginger liqueur, Matcha, grapefruit, lime, sugar and egg white.

This was one cocktail I didn’t quite take to, but to be fair, I do have a slight aversion to strong pineapple flavours. And man was it strong here. I couldn’t help but feel it drowned out the others, and so missed the potential.

Bird of Smithfield London Cocktail bar

All in all: I love this bar. Wonderful service coupled with a large variety of cocktail flavours and various levels from the basement to terrace for different events make this bar a winner. Bird of Smithfield is a must when in Clerkenwell.

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


Bird of Smithfield

26 Smithfield St, Clerkenwell
London EC1A 9LB

http://birdofsmithfield.com/

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MASH Steak 2016, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Basement
Damage££ – £££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Steak, Originality

 

Ah, MASH. The Danish-American steak venture is bound to have a surge in bar visitors with the introduction of their new menu, taking on more international influences.

MASH’s enormous Lynchian red and black pseudo-Deco décor retains that element of American-but-not-quite, and I must still recommend seating right up at the bar for the best lighting and experience with the wonderful bartenders and service offered (the service, as always, was impeccable. It’s one of MASH’s greatest strengths – shout out to bartender Steve!). This is, of course, if you are coming for the bar and not for the meal, in which case there is the gargantuan restaurant and red booths that are open to you. However, one must recommend the bar snacks, especially the MASH tartare and chilli fries; as well as the jalapeno cheese balls.

 

So the cocktails! We provided a review of their glorious 2015 cocktail list, and look forward to covering this year’s!

Though the new menu is meant to evoke a USA Frontier to Prohibition era apothecary, one will see inspirations from Scandinavia, Central Europe and Italy. And though it has kept a small handful of drinks from the old menu, MASH has developed a large and innovative new selection. Often working with spirit companies to help create bespoke glassware for their drinks; personally, the glassware can be a highlight of the drinking experience here.

Though we went through the entire new menu, let us cover the ones that stand out here today.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

Because why not.

If you wanna start with a winner – remember the name: Sunshine State Fix. A desserty digestivo, the cocktail mixes Bacardi 8 Rum, pistachio liqueur, lemon juice, orgeat, egg white and chocolate bitters.

A cocktail take on gelato, if anything, the sweetness of Sicilian pistachios (and we all know how the Hoodooist loves Sicilian pistachios) blends wonderfully with the rum, and the finish wafts in with hints of almond and citrus.

Rarely does the Hoodooist enjoy a dessert, particularly one with chocolate bitters, but my word. The Sunshine State Fix is exquisite.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The Binchotan

The Binchotan uses a stick of white Japanese charcoal to filter and mellow the normally sharp flavours of Bulleit Rye, with Slovakian Tatra Tea Coconut, cardamom bitters and sugar.

An improvement on the ingredients of the Binchotan of 2015’s menu – the Hoodooist might love Cynar from the old recipe, but the new concoction is a major improvement.

The technique used to mellow the rye though, also mellows out the rest of the flavours, but not to the extent as last year’s Binchotan, where the flavours muddled together. The Tatra tea is much stronger, turning what used to be a Bourbon Old Fashioned to a spiced, silky (though slightly syrupy) sweetened Rye cocktail for adults.

I like the slow melting ice, but not when the ice is taller than the glass, making it an interference to drink. Your index finger is necessary here.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The Mexican Smuggler

Now here is a star. A hit with the Hoodooist and friends, the Mexican Smuggler mixes Casco Viejo Blanco tequila, Del Maguey Vida mezcal, basil and Szechuan pepper sugar, lime, MASH Pilsner, garnished with Serrano ham crisp.

Okay. Hear me out. I actually enjoyed a beer cocktail.

I know I told off House of Peroni for making me lose faith in beer cocktails, but MASH has helped me reconsider. The light and slightly tart drink almost plays the part of citrus to pair with the peppery and herbal tequila, and the wonderfully smoky mezcal.

A long finish allows you to enjoy the spices of the mezcal, ginger and cinnamon, which burst to life with a bite of the Serrano ham. Drink this.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

Steve and the One of This!

You might have questions for the One of This. This is one hell of a complex cocktail which even left the Hoodooist quizzical.

Powerfully herbal and minty Fernet Branca meets Disaronna amaretto, lemon, sugar, peach bitters and maraschino with egg white – served with wonderfully nostalgic fizzy sweets.

My recommendation with this cocktail is for it to be shaken longer with smaller ice cubes, because over time, the flavours blended and harmonised wonderfully. Maraschino cherried, the initial fruity sweetness is followed by a tart and herbal hit to sides of the tongue, and gentian root quinine depth that fizzes to the surface with the lighter fruit flavours once again.

Bit of a rollercoaster, in the best of ways. Certainly an acquired taste, for the adventurous palate.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The BLT

Okay so, I love Becherovka. I don’t understand why more bartenders don’t use it, because this Czech spirit deserves a more notable place in the back bar.

The BLT is one odd but beautiful drink. Heir to last year’s fabulous Yosemite cocktail, this simpler drink mixes the bitter spirit with tonic reduction and sparkling wine for a true Prohibition era revivifier.

The spices don’t play as strong a part as they did in last year’s Yosemite, instead what we get is the crisp bitter Becherovka dancing and swirling with the herbal quinine of the tonic reduction and the sweetness of the sparkling wine and sugar rim for a bright, sparkling, daytime aperitif. Absolutely adore the simplicity of the BLT because have not had enough of the gin and tonic?!

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The Konik’s Whisperer

Brought in by the absolutely wonderful ambassador of Konik’s Tail Vodka, the Konik’s Whisperer is popularised by ambassador Swanand Korgaonkar.

The cocktail is named after the Berkeley and American Bar alum, nicknamed the Konik’s Whisperer because goddamn can this man sell a drink. Konik’s Tail Vodka meets Vya Dry Vermouth, cardamom bitters and a twist of lemon. Powerfully dry, this cocktail explores the various complex flavours of this award-winning vodka.

Though I find that this cocktail focuses far more on the vermouth’s flavours, with cardamom ruling the roost. If you like your Vodka Martinis smooth and sleek, this is not your drink. The Konik’s Whisperer is a violent plunge into a swirl of flavours.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

L – R: The Danish Crown, and Persephone’s Seed.

The above drinks are stars, this one is a bit confusing: we have the  the Danish Crown.

 

The Danish Crown is impressive and unique, but slinks to the side of bizarre: Fat washed Geneivre, Lillet Rouge vermouth, chocolate bitters, creme de cassis, and lemon.

Fried chicken. I love fried chicken. I’m not sure about drinking a sweetened liquid friend chicken though.

I mean I still drank it, but its that feeling you get after watching an episode of Geordie Shore. Like, do I need a shower? Or 50 Hail Marys? I’d probably still drink it is someone bought it for me, though. Because fried chicken. I’m so confused.

MASH Soho London Cocktail Bar

The fabulous Swanand shaking those Daiquiris

The NYC Calling is not a bad drink, but has so many ingredients it misses the point. Hudson Four Grain bourbon, Bacardi 8 rum, Martini Gran Lusso vermouth, creme de cafe, maple, sea salt solution, and Angostura bitters.

I do enjoy the hit of sea salt in the cocktail, but this sweet drink on the rocks can be easily replicated with an Anejo Rum Old Fashioned and a sprinkle of sea salt with far fewer ingredients.

 

Finally, the For Him is the one drink we didn’t actually like at all.

I’d avoid it altogether. First of all, it is part of a pair – the For Her/For Him. My peated whisky swigging female pal and I glanced at each other with the ‘sweeter For Her’ and the ‘bitter For Him’. Who doesn’t love casual and unnecessary gendering of alcohol.

The cocktail itself is Zacapa rum, pear liqueur, pear eau d’vie, chocolate bitters, Mozart chocolate liqueur, with sea salt solution.

I hate to say it, but this doesn’t work.

But I’d like to remind the reader that this is in comparison to the wonderful, fabulous winners that are the Sunshine State Fix, the Binchotan, Mexican Smuggler, BLT, One of This, and the rest of those incredible drinks on the MASH 2016 menu!

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All in all? What an exciting menu! Though less experimental and sensual than 2015’s menu, it is still full of originality. Coupled with their incredible service, MASH is still up the list for innovative cocktails in London, and easily one of my most favoured places in Soho.

 

Drinks: **** 
Atmosphere: *** on seats, ***** at bar
Service: *****

 

MASH Steak

77 Brewer Street,
London,W1F 9ZN.

http://www.mashsteak.co.uk/

Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club, Bermondsey

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

 

Walking down Ropewalk off Maltby Street in the evening is a quiet walk, indeed. But, a little way down large colourful lights spelling out ‘Aloha’ beckon you into the strange and wonderful world that is the Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club.

Their second permanent venue in London, Disappearing Dining Club has opened a Victorian styled cocktail bar inside the LASSCO reclaimed furniture warehouse. The architectural salvage warehouse now houses not only a bar but a private dining room ready for booking from Thursday to Sunday. Dim lighting and candle flames illuminate little spaces in the darkness in the Barge Bar, with the barback from a reclaimed Victorian pub.

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The Barge Bar

The salvaged decor makes the venue a veritable treasure trove, and a wonderland for antique geeks. And the romantic bar space is accompanied by a similarly seductive cocktail menu.

A short menu of seven drinks, with well chosen, specialised spirits, does tip slightly to the sweet side on all the tasted cocktails, but manage to stay well-balanced.

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The Serpentine

Beginning with the Serpentine: Cognac, Szechuan pepper, sugar, bitters, Prosecco with a grapefruit twist. Expect an initial flourish of the cognac dry fruit, followed by a drier bite of the Prosecco fresh fruit – followed by a slight numbing from the Szechuan pepper, a strange sensation indeed. Overall, the drink is quite balanced, and makes for a good aperitif – however, the Hoodooist believes there are better options on the menu.

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The Coromandel

Ah, now this one stands out. The Coromandel brings us Suze, Soju, Chrysanthemum flower, lemon, and Prosecco. A much lighter drink, for sure, this cocktail is also more complex, and has much more going on. A light floral nose from the chrysanthemum garnish, and a palate that begins with a short punch from the Prosecco but quickly replaced by the spicy quinine kick from the Suze. The Suze mingles well with the distant stone fruit of the Soju, and of course – the bright flavours of the chrysanthemum, which dominates the finish.

I do encourage readers to try this cocktail, simply to enjoy the parade of flavours it provides the drinker.

The next two cocktails are certainly more suitable as digestifs – and both are a nod to Eastern flavours.

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The Ottoman

The Ottoman mixes Rum, pomegranate shrub, yoghurt, egg white with a dusting of sumac and garnish of pomegranate seeds. A mix of sweet and tart, the yoghurt is much more similar to labneh, with its distinctive saltiness; and the sumac adds a beautiful pop of colour and tartness to the drink. The rum plays a much smaller part than the pomegranate shrub which enjoys contributing its red sweetness to the cocktail. Definitely recommended as a sweet option for drinkers without a sweet tooth, or for fans of Lassi.

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The Chandan Box

Now, the Chandan Box (from the Hindi word for sandalwood), brings us Rye whiskey, Oloroso sherry, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, and a rim of sugared pure sandalwood. What a beautiful nose on this cocktail, the woody spice is absolutely gorgeous. The sharp rye bite is toned down by the complex mixture of dry fruit and orange from the vermouth, which immediately moves in to the powerful sherry flavours. It soon returns to a finish of sweet sandalwood and the Antica Formula vermouth.

Unfortunately, the Carpenter’s Cup is not as promising as the previous cocktails: Jensen’s Old Tom Gin, Punt e Mes, birch extract, tonic, cucumber, and mint provides a long, fairly tasteless, sour drink that one would avoid, particularly when the other options are so much more rewarding.

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The Eisenhower Room

Now, when it comes to dining, the Eisenhower Room, built using wooden panels from old US Naval HQ in Grovesnor Square, from which President Eisenhower Private dining is available throughout the week, as are DDC-made snacks from the bar. Dining menus change with the season and are exactly what you’d expect from DDC; simple, elegant and full of flavour. On Saturday and Sunday daytimes you can bring food in from Maltby Street market. A meal will need booking in advance as the venue does not have a kitchen.

Bar snacks of curried crab on Guinness bread, or beef carpaccio wrapped around green bean and truffle salad were beautifully done, as was the first course smorgasbord of Brick Lane smoked salmon with dill pickle cucumber, simple but flavourful. Also on the smorgasbord was the powerfully flavoured beetroot cured salmon, served with lemon crème fraiche and dill. The potted duck with orange and black pepper, though gamey and rich, could not compete with its neighbours on the board.

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One then wishes the main course kept the standard of the canapés and smorgasbord. Slow roasted pork belly, though cooked wonderfully, lacked a bit in flavour, but was accompanied by much more demanding pickled kale (the only way you can get the Hoodooist to enjoy kale) and salsa verde. The potato accompaniment, though, was rather watery. Nonetheless, the wine pairings were appropriate, a Sicilian Cataratto and a French Grenache/Carignan, both quite acidic, but the Hoodooist does enjoy his Sicilian.

Dessert, like the rest of the meal, was simple with fun twists: ‘eggy bread’, thick and rich, topped with spiced raspberry compote. Gorgeous. Went in for a second after!

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Conclusion? Come here for the cocktails, definitely. Complex with innovative flavours, balanced with a bit of sweetness, Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club is a great new cocktail destination to add to Bermondsey’s growing bar scene.

 

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

 

Ropewalk by Disappearing Dining Club

41 Maltby Street, Bermondsey,
London SE1 3PA

http://disappearingdiningclub.co.uk/

46 & Mercy, Shoreditch

Type of BarBasement, Quirky
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Food

 

Food spot HotBox hides a beautiful secret in its basement: 46 & Mercy is a quirky, eclectic venue with a very distinct vibe and *incredible* Asian-style chicken wings. Reclining on beds with a cocktail in a strangly 80s Scandinavia space while surrounded by quality art, 46 & Mercy was way ahead of the 2016 curve with the big, but well controlled, presence of sherry in their drinks.

Photo courtesy of: http://drinkup.london.com

 

A favourite of the evening was being served: the Blessed Thistle brought together Ketel One vodka, Cocchi Americano vermouth washed with smoked pork fat & thyme, sherry vinegar.

Spectacular, everything is taken into consideration here (well, the nose can be a bit strong, if you want to nitpick). A fascinating twist on a vodka Martini, the washing lends to the cocktail a velvety smoothness and ease of drinking, as well as depth and herbaceous quality that goes to well with the floral Ketel One vodka. The sherry vinegar is a little bit of cheeky kick. An ambitious, and very successful, drink.

 

London Cocktail Week 46 and Mercy

The Blessed Thistle

Next, the Rye Me to the Moon mixes Bulleit rye whiskey, Amontillado sherry, bay leaf syrup, Abbott’s Bitters – The sweet spicy nose of the cocktail opens to the flavours of powerful cherry from the whiskey, immediately after the spice of the bay leaf towers over the simmering softness of the sherry sweetness. In the distance a spicy quinine bitterness sizzles. Certainly more sweet than spicy, this smooth cocktail is a fantastic choice for lovers of an Old Fashioned.

 

Finally, the Stirred Mercy Brown goes for scotch: Glenmorangie whisky, black tea infused Amatro, Oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth. Now this is fun, with barely a hint of the whisky citrus, the black tea immediately muscles in. Once that dominating tea backs down, the whisky’s orange and citrus is allowed to play along with the dry sherry and the winter spices of the sweet vermouth. Long, balanced, silky. Gorgeous.

 

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Rye Me to the Moon

The cocktails here at 46 & Mercy definitely shine, but so does the service. Bartenders are swift, conversational, humorous and so much fun – and are very happy to walk you through the menu and chat about the drinks. The Hoodooist chides himself for not hanging out here more often, you definitely want to come by here.

Although, be careful about leaning forward from the reclining chairs!

 

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

 

46 & Mercy

46 Commercial St, Shoreditch,
London E1 6LT

http://www.46andmercy.com/

Winter Cocktail Menu @ Blue Boar Bar, St. James

Type of Bar: Hotel
Damage: £ – ££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Large Groups, Food

 

Winter is upon us! And the Blue Boar Bar at the Conrad St. James has released a menu of 4 winter cocktails to enjoy along with their Christmas Bites food menu.

The sprawling Blue Boar rings with Xmas music across a gorgeous wooden bar, deep blue surrounds and quirky musical-instruments-turned-lamps decor. It might seem crowded on a weekend, but there is more space and privacy than there is at first glance.

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The limited edition Winter Cocktails take a turn for the sweet, but the Jingle Bell Rock is great for something just a bit sweet without needing a dentist.

A combo of Havana 7 Rum, apple liqueur, cinnamon syrup, splash of blackberry puree create a cold cocktail where the vanilla and honey of the rum and blackberries dominate the palate, with the cinnamon dancing gleefully in the background without taking over the drink. A spicy-sweet apple finish to a well-balanced drink where the flavours marry rather well. Probably the best on the Winter cocktail menu!

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The Jingle Bell Rock

The Santa Baby brings together vodka, strawberry liqueur and a dash of cream to create what is essentially a spiked strawberry milkshake! Chilly, with a fun glitter rim, the sweet creamy cocktail is fairly sneaky in terms of alcohol, but is rather thick. Though a friend was downing these pretty quickly, I myself ran only about halfway through before realising it was dessert – this will determine who on the table has a sweet tooth!

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The Santa Baby

A batch of truffle chips for something savoury and salty before moving on to the third cocktail: the Hard Candy Christmas – vodka, chocolate liqueur, Disaronno amaretto, double cream. Personally, this one doesn’t quite work. The first sip is a punch in the face with chocolate liqueur, thick, before ending with slightly overpowering amaretto. The brand of liqueurs has that faux-chocolate flavouring to it which I myself found to be bit a of a turn-off – but hey, there must be someone we all know who’d enjoy it! I feel when put up against the rest of the menu, it is lacking.

Finally, ending with a simple Warm Winter Cider (at a fab 4 pounds!), a hot, slightly spiced and citrus cider to warm the bones before braving the cold outside again.

Winter Cocktails Blue Boar Bar Conrad

The Hard Candy Christmas

Service at the Blue Boar is fantastic, always swift, polite, and you don’t really have to worry about being checked up on – making it a discreet getaway during the winter season for an xmassy cocktail – and plus points if you hide yourself away in the private room to cosy up these winter months.

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

 

Blue Boar Bar @ The Conrad St. James

22-28 Broadway, St. James
London SW1H 0BH

http://conradhotels3.hilton.com/

 

 

Our Black Heart, Camden Town

Type of Bar: Live Music, Alternative
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Party, Live Music, Small Groups, Large Groups, Food

 

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.

Our Black Heart Camden Town The Dykeness Cocktails

Because they’re awesome.

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.

Our Black Heart Camden Town Cocktails

Nikka From The Barrel Old Fashioned

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.

Our Black Heart Camden Town Cocktails

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.

Our Black Heart Camden Town Cocktails

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)
Service: ****

 

Our Black Heart

2-3 Greenland Pl, Camden Town
London NW1 0AP

http://www.ourblackheart.com/

Barrio Central, Soho

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Mexican
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Food, Small Groups, Large Groups, Party

Soho classic Barrio Central is back! After being shut for renovation, the Poland Street hangout has reopened its door with a few new menu surprises!

Redecorated, the blue-green venue speckled with bright contrasting tiles is still serving Mexican Gulf inspired cocktails and bites, with a few twists here and there. Of course, downstairs is still a drinks-focused late night party hang out versus the dinner tables upstairs.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

Let’s get right to it! Over the Al Pastor tacos: Achiote marinated pork, cooked on the spit with slow roasted pineapple, white onions & coriander, with a spicy drizzling El Yucateco habanero sauce – a succulent, deeply flavourful bite with the sweet citrus of pineapple cutting right through – the Hoodooist and co. order a Wonky Donkey and Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

L-R: Wonky Donkey, Ol’ Dirty Bastard

The Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a firm favourite here: Santa Teresa rum, Four Roses bourbon and orange – a host of fruit from the rum quickly gives way to the orange and honeyed notes of the bourbon, ending with a zesty length of orange peel. A fun, lively twist on an Old Fashioned.

The Wonky Donkey leaves quite a bit to be desired, though. Casco Viejo tequila, elderflower, ginger and lime lengthened with soda leaves a rather flat drink at the end. The tequila goes missing (I even forgot what spirit was in the drink), and all you have left is something vaguely sweet and citrusy.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

Soon after, the Ceviche Mixto provides a fresh mix of seafood in tiger’s milk, with avocado, crispy sweet potato & serrano chili – a fantastic, lighter seafood dish after the heavier Al Pastor and smoky Lamb Chilli tacos.

Alongside, the new cocktails, (COMING SOON!) arrive – new designs by bartender Sophie Mackay, her newly designed cocktails have a more modern swing to them.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

The Bossa Beleza brings in the fizz! Abelha Cachaca, jasmine, ginger, mint, topped up with prosecco – the sweet cachaca and the prosecco dominate this drink, with the jasmine trailing as a faint, lingering finish. Better than that though, while on the South American track, is the Cuba Lima: Pisco ABA, peach, lemon, egg white. A classic tart Pisco Sour with a peachy twist. A fun, reliable drink, with fresh egg white. Always a reliable classic.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London
The Cactus and Three Cheese Melt Quesadilla come in, cool and fabulously textured. With it, a classic from the Barrio Central menu, the Rumshackle: Santa Teresa rum, orange curacao, pineapple is an incredibly sweet and fruity cocktail, bright with the tropical rum and the powerful pineapple. A beautiful presentation, however.

Barrio Central Soho Cocktail Bar London

The Rumshackle

Service is absolutely on point, swift and polite. What I am looking forward to is more from Sophie Mackay‘s coming menu which frankly outshines the older Barrio cocktail collection. True, the Ol’ Dirty Bastard is a good classic, but Bossa Beleza and Cuba Lima knock the Wonky Donky, Rumshackle and Hand Grenade HiBall out of the water. The drinks coming up seem to be more balanced, with more focus on the spirits’ innate flavour profile to shine through without being overwhelmed with juices.

Barrio Central knows what it does and does it well: providing a chilled out spot to relax with a group of friends, no fuss or stuffiness. A party spot in Soho we’re glad to have back.

 

Drinks: ** (Classic menu) – *** (menu Coming Soon)
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

 

Barrio Central

6 Poland Street, Soho,
London W1F 8PS

http://www.barriocentral.com/