Fu Manchu, Clapham North

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

 

Seconds away from the tube, Arch 635 has been revamped to become a ‘restaurant/bar/nightclub’, with an Edwardian/Opium Den twist, named after the controversial character of Dr. Fu Manchu.

 

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

The Flowering Lily & Jasmine Cha

I have pointed out problematic themes in the past, such as the issues faced at the Powder Keg Diplomacy, Wandsworth (Click HERE for Review) – and will do so here as well.

Those who know the inspiration of author Sax Rohmer’s infamous villain know that the Doctor isn’t just an antagonist, but introduced in the book ‘The Mystery of Fu Manchu’ as the “Dr. Fu Manchu, the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man” – a character that did not help the widespread Sinophobia present in the UK in the early 1900s. The portraits of actors in yellow-face in the corridors might supposedly be ironic, I don’t quite see the point. If it is one designer’s glorification of a character they like, it’s pretty dated.

Outside the embarrassing yellowface, Fu Manchu also happily invited Dapper Laughs to perform at their venue. Make if it what you will.

Anyway, décor-wise, the arch is kept primarily empty to allow space for partying and socialising, while the banquettes circling the room provide raised seating for diners, guarded by decorative wooden Chinese panelling. Expect much calmer music in the afternoons, and in the late evenings, some soulful or deep house, and nu disco for your dim sum by candlelight in the purple-hued room.

 

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

The Mai Chai

Cocktail-wise, the drinks are a large variety, and themed as well – though not many on the short and neat side.

What you want to order is the Blood of Fu Manchu – at first glance it might *just* seem like a twist on the Bloody Mary, which it essentially is – but will surprise upon first sip.  Eristoff vodka, Chinese 5 Spice, 10 yr old Port, ginger puree, oyster sauce and chilli powder, topped up with tomato juice. Much like the Asian Bloody Mary by The Manhattans Project (Click HERE for Review!), it takes inspiration for East Asian ingredients to make an absolutely fantastic cocktail. The salt of the oyster sauce really does the trick to balance out the Port and ginger puree’s sweetness, and the result is a well-balanced, spicy funfest that the Hoodooist highly recommends out of the Fu Manchu menu.

 

Another high on the list would be the Mai Chai – Ron Zacapa 23 rum, with Kraken Black Spiced, Orange Curacao, lime and Chai Tea syrup – beginning with the smooth Ron Zacapa and hints of orange, building into the spicier flavours of Kraken, finally coming to rest on the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom of the chai syrup. Sweet/sour, smooth, a kind of simplicity some of the drinks on the menu could learn from.

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

The Dragon Fruit Paloma

The Dragon Fruit Paloma, an amped up take of the Mexican classic, Sauza Hacienda tequila, Cocchi Americano vermouth, lime juice are mixed in with muddled Dragon Fruit provide a laid back, bright and refreshing. Sauza is either a strange, or very intentional choice of tequila – a very mild, almost characterless tequila on its own (got a few fruit notes, with a white pepper finish), it vanishes in this cocktail. Perhaps making it sneakier?

The cocktail is primarily lime and Dragon Fruit, the vermouth makes and appearance with and orange undertone, and ending on a quinine bite.

 

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

L-R: Lady Jasmin, Blood of Fu Manchu, Chai Tea-Ni

The Lady Jasmin twists the classic White Lady by using Jasmine syrup with the Bombay Sapphire gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, eggwhite and Angostura bitters. Pale, frothy and textured, garnished with a purple orchid, the drink is similarly demure, and gentle. Sweet, but almost imperceptibly so with the laid-back nature of jasmine. If you’re cautious around powerful drinks, this would be right up your street, though it left the Hoodooist neither here nor there. The Lady Jasmin does what it sets out to do, and serves you exactly what it told you it would.

 

Slightly less reserved than the Lady Jasmin, her feistier sister, the Yuzu-Tsu, brings Japanese yuzu tea paste to Cariel Vanilla vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, egg white and Angostura bitters. Fragrant in two separate ways, the nose is powerfully vanilla, but the taste brings the yuzu’s fragrance out strongly. Tart, yet still somewhat in line with the Lady Jasmin’s gentleness. The same look and texture as the Lady, but garnished with a dried slice of citrus. One should probably use an aromatised yuzu spray to lessen the powerful vanilla nose a bit, but if one doesn’t mind it, it shouldn’t pose any issue.

 

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

The Kwang Su Boulevardier

The Kwang Su Boulevardier, now that sounds right up the Hoodooist’s street: Nikka From the Barrel Japanese whisky, with Antica Formula vermouth, Campari, and Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s Aphrodite Bitters. Loving the first three, the Hoodooist has somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the Aphrodite bitters, which bring powerful cocoa, Arabica coffee, ginseng, ginger and chilli to the fore. In this cocktail though, there are hints of cocoa and a very distant (if you’re looking for it) spice from the bitters.

Otherwise, it begins on a light note – from the Nikka – then moving onto the Campari taking centre stage, and then settling on the warm winter flavours of the Antica Formula’s spices and bitter orange.

Now, it depends on the bartender you have – a colleague received a bland, tasteless drink, whereas the Hoodooist’s turned out surprisingly layered – so I’d imagine you want bartender Wayne to make this for you! A decent aperitif.

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

The two, very different, Kwang Su Boulevardiers.

 

Finally, because there must be one, avoid the Green Tea-ni. Do not be enamoured by its promises of earthy Matcha. Because what you will get is painfully sour and confused appletini of sorts, with Bombay Sapphire gin, apple, an overwhelming amount of lime juice, and sugar syrup. One sip from the table was all that was stomached before being set aside.

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

The dim sum is slightly modernised and moves away from ‘traditional’ dim sum in some ways. Whether one reads this as a step forward or back is up to the reader.

One to recommend would be the Tai Chi Bo Coy Gow scallop and spinach green dumpling. Similarly, the otherwise simple Lor Pak Gou turnip cake is turned up to eleven with Chinese sausage and prawn.

One that you must absolutely order is the Monkfish and lime phoenix-eye dumpling, this Fung Yan Gow starts off with the powerful flavours of the monkfish, and slowly build up to a lime crescendo – loved this. One of the less traditional offerings would be the Chi Si Hoi Sin Kou cheese-stuffed cuttlefish and prawn balls – which, though a more Italian, works spectacularly.

 

The lobster, prawn and bamboo shoots Lung Har Gau, though, one shouldn’t spend their hard-earned £9.50 for.

Do not forget the great selection of teas! The flowering Lily and Jasmine work a treat.

 

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

Must haves: Monkfish Fung Yan Gow

The more quiet times of day, 5-8 PM means quick and attentive dinner service, however once the crowd pours in for the club nights, ordering a drink can be bit of a task – but servers do their best to help, but might need a slightly thicker skin to move through the crowd.

As one can expect from a club night, drinks are made quickly, and the wait can be long, so as seen with the Kwang Su Boulevardier above, unpredictability is a factor to be taken into account.

 

Fu Manchu cocktails dimsum

Custard dumplings!

London needs more venues that can provide a clubbing experience with cocktails – and a longer food menu certainly doesn’t hurt. One hopes Fu Manchu is a precedent to further venues of the sort to grow in the city, if only to satisfy each friend on a night out.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: Casual racism and misogyny, fun for the whole family!
Service: ****

 

Fu Manchu

15-16 Lendal Terrace,
London SW4 7UX.

http://fumanchu.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/

Sovereign Loss, Brixton

Type of Bar: Vintage, Tiny, Late Night, Speakeasy
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Nightcap

The launch of Sovereign Loss in Brixton this week marks Brixton Road/Coldharbour Lane as a major cocktail hub in the South now, joining stars like the Shrub and Shutter and Three Eight Four (Click HERE for review!). With the brand ambassadors of Aperol and Whitley Neill Gin running the show, Sovereign Loss is bound to be a South London star. As a major fan of Chris Dennis (of Trailer Happiness fame), having him behind the bar means this was a launch the Hoodooist would certainly not miss.

Pressing the buzzer at the Trade Entrance door just beside the Prince of Wales, one climbs up the stairs, past a smoking terrace, to a candlelit, intimate space that could be best described as Cuban Art Deco. Initially quite relaxed, the lights get darker and music louder as the night goes on – and on it goes – with the 24 hour license, the weekend sees the bar open till 5AM, on Sundays till last man standing! But not being a club, this exactly where the Hoodooist wants to find himself instead of some riotous oonce-oonce shindig at 3AM – just chilling with an El Presidente.

Sovereign Loss Negroni

The cocktail list is short, but impressive, and matching the Art Deco surrounds, with a good balance between short and long drinks (but rather heavy on the orange). Let’s begin with the most impressive.

The Canopy, now this was a surprise. The Hoodooist so rarely enjoys a long drink, but heavens, this is incredible. And so simple! Whitley Neill gin, orange sherbert, Curacao, lemon and soda. Being a smooth, subtle gin, Whitley Neill is excellent with its citrus for a cocktail like the Canopy. It beings with a burst of the orange sherbert, such an excellent flavour, moving to a short expression of the gin, and settling on the Curacao. A bit on the sweet side, but well balanced with tartness. A wonderful drink to begin with. But, enjoy it quickly, it dilutes easily.

The Presidente is a fairly classic El Presidente with Santa Teresa Reserva rum, Cinzano dry vermouth, Curacao and pomegranate. I adore this rum for the Presidente, fruits and caramel, followed by winter spices and oak. The Cinzano’s dryness does not overpower this wonderful rum and neither does the pomegranate. Easily one of the best short drinks on this menu.

The Metropole was a very surprising drink: Courvoisier Exclusif, sweet vermouth, Dubonnet, Peychaud’s and Orange bitters. The initial flavour is intensely chocolate, with strains of the CV Exclusif’s Borderies Cru fruit lines simmering in. Halfway through, the other ingredients begin to shine, the vermouths open up to the palate, followed by the orange bitters in the background. A very intriguing, but heavy drink.

The Metropole

The Metropole

The next two drinks have incredible potential, but are a bit imbalanced to intense sweetness.

The traditional, classic New Corpse Reviver: Louis Royer VS Pommeau (which I am deducing would be Louis Royer VS Cognac, apple must, with apple brandy) and sweet vermouth follows Craddock’s recipe in the 1930’s Savoy Handbook, going to show that not all classic recipes are intensely dry or bitter. This have a very heavy mouthfeel, and is intensely sweet. If you are looking for a dessert drink, this would be a good one.

As we said with the Pisco Embassy last week (Click HERE for review), Pisco once again proves to be a difficult ingredient to use in cocktails. The Apiscopalian brings Pisco Porton, Aperol and peach to the table. In order to balance the sweetness of the peach with the Aperol and strong Pisco, the drink swings to the opposite end of the spectrum with a thick, syrupy texture making it difficult to drink. The intense sweetness, if you aren’t a fan of it, can make it rather sickly. Not a fan of this drink, but at our table of four, one did enjoy it for the first half of the glass.

Finally, the unfortunate Journalist, taken out of the Savoy Handbook again, Beefeater gin, Curacao, sweet and dry vermouth, citrus, bitters, was not only too overbearing with the orange and citrus throughout, but when made, was overdone with the orange peel spray, resulting in being too oily.

The Apiscopalian

The Apiscopalian

Serivce-wise, with Joe and Chris, it is impossible to have anything negative with the service, whereas kinks regarding table-service are being ironed out once it gets crowded. Regarding cocktails, the Presidente, Canopy and Metropole stood out as winners, with the New Corpse Reviver running up. Though orange pervades the menu, it is not tiresome, thankfully. And though the Journalist and Apiscopalian do not quite work, you can tell by the recipe.

A fantastic bartender, a great design, and an incredible 24 hour license make Sovereign Loss a perfect late night spot when partying in the area. Hoodooist Recommended!

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

 

Sovereign Loss,

469 Brixton Road,
London SW9 8HH

http://www.sovereignloss.com

Pisco Embassy @ Comedor Grill & Bar, Islington

Type of Bar: Late Night, Peruvian, Pisco
Damage££  £££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Party, Pisco

Ah, Islington. Though it has stars like 69 Colebrooke Row (Click HERE for review!), it needed some new blood, or something that stood out from the myriad of mediocre French restaurants that litter the area.

And so head bartender Jose Francisco-Modonese turns the Comedor Grill and Bar into a Peruvian drinking den everything Friday and Saturday night. A late-late night ‘pop up’ of sorts, from midnight to 5AM on weekends, tables are shoved out of the way for a dance floor with DJ JJ Latino at the helm.

London has a complicated relationship with pisco. The unaged grape brandy (think of other unaged brandies like Grappa, Zivania, or Palinca) has tried to break out into the UK cocktail market repeatedly since 2011 and always fell short – maybe it is its inherent difficulty to be used in cocktails. As bartender Jose put it, “Everyone’s had the Pisco Sour,” – another notable twist on the Sour would be Gareth Evans’ Piscotheque. And the Hoodooist could see it being used well in a punch.

And yet, I was intrigued by some of the choices made in the cocktails here. Some were either twists on classics (like a Metropolitan, but with Pisco. Or a Mojito, but with Pisco), or recipes brought over from Peru, but so few really channelled *Peru*, if I’m making any sense. For example, drinks using bitters, went for Angostura instead of using flavours that would work with Peruvian Amargo Chuncho bitters.

Let’s start with a few drinks that worked well:

A traditional Pisco Sour; Pisco and sugar/lime/eggwhite/Angostura: providing a well-balanced Sour, dry, just right. A safe bet.

The Piscojito (Pisco Quebranta, sugar, lime and spearmint), obviously a twist on the Mojito, makes a surprisingly smooth drink that beats a traditional Mojito any day of the week. By going back to the original Cuban Mojito recipe using spearmint instead of the popular modern use of mint, we get a subtler, more fragrant and less assaulting cocktail that allows the drinker to enjoy the flavours of the pisco quebranta instead of just herbs.

The Pisco Embassy Punch… Whew. Okay, the Hoodooist loves raw pineapple, just the fresh fruit – but for some reason in juice or cocktail form, it just sends shivers down his spine. Yet, this drink, though not my style, I recognise as being well-made, well-balanced, though simple (as long as you like pineapple juice). Not strictly a ‘punch’ by definition, the 1850s Californian recipe: Pisco, pineapple juice, lime, cinnamon syrup brings up a different perception of the Californian gold rush, one with a strongly Caribbean sepia tone filter.

L-R: Chicha Sour as shot, Pisco Embassy Punch

L-R: Chicha Sour as shot, Pisco Embassy Punch

Now for the other drinks involved. Some were a bit more adventurous, but there was one flaw that seemed to pervade many of the drinks we had: imbalance. Instead of having one leading flavour, it would be overpowering.

The Chicha Sour brings Chicha Morada – a sweet non-alcoholic maize drink to the Pisco Sour. The purple maize adds a lovely colour to the drink, though I wish they removed the sugar syrup because god, help me, this is diabetes in a glass. Sickly sweet, and almost sticky, with a thick mouthfeel. I can see this, if served shorter as a dessert drink as possibly working.

The Paddington Bear – Pisco, cinnamon and clove syrup, lime and orange juice and bit of marmalade (obviously!) had overdone the spice syrup, though it is an excellent idea, this can be saved really easily if the syrup is toned down a bit. Similarly, the Capitan: Orange peel-infused Pisco, whisky barrel bitters and red vermouth infused with cinnamon, cloves, star anise and 2 smoked star anise was bit too heavy with the star anise. Less of that, and we are looking at a sharp, tart, winter drink for those with less of a taste for juicier drinks.

The Macchu Picchu Nights has far too much going on with shiso infused pisco, lemon, apple juice, red basil syrup and crème de cassis, but as far as sweet drinks go, works better than the Paddington Bear. But still excruciatingly sweet with bit too intense cassis.

Finally, as a fan of Chilcanos, I was a bit surprised at how over the top the ginger flavours were here. Pisco, ginger ale, fernet branca, lime, sugar and muddled ginger slices I can only imagine meant too much muddled ginger.

The Capitan

The Capitan

On the other hand, the choice of Piscos is excellent, and Jose’s knowledge of the spirit is extensive – what would make the Pisco Embassy a hit, other than the Midnight to Dawn license, would be the Pisco flights he can take you on – and this is the primary reason I would urge you to visit if you wish to develop your knowledge on Pisco.

Otherwise, I find that the cocktails do need to only slightly tone down some flavours in their drinks, especially with some drinks costing a whopping 12 pounds (this affects the scores) – since the drinks here do have incredible potential, and the passion of the staff is admirable. It’s a fun atmosphere, with a dancefloor and great music, with excellent service and bar snacks – so there is a lot to enjoy here, particularly at 3AM!

Drinks: Cocktails – ** , Pisco Flights – ****
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ***

Pisco Embassy @ Comedor Bar & Grill

176 Upper Street, Islington
London N1 1RG

http://www.piscoembassy.london