The Light Lounge, Chinatown

Type of Bar: Lounge, LGBTQ
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups

After writing about the closure of many LGBTQ venues in London, the Hoodooist was rather pleased to hear that the recently opened Light Lounge by award-winning Ku Bar was going strong and released a new line of cocktails for SS16 down in Chinatown!

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

Design-wise, the bar is going *very* lounge with dark walls, mirrors, dim lighting. Certainly comfortable, though a small space. Ambience is chilled out and relaxed as lounge music is played even on DJ nights.
However, I can’t help but feel that it feels ever so slightly dated, though not offensively so yet. Especially with the retro noughties chic (is it time we can call it retro yet?) blue lights/low couch combo making it a bit samey with many gay bars in Soho.

Marie provided swift, courteous service with Nikita and Peter behind the ba; watched over by portraits of Marlene and Bowie.

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The menu focuses less on classics, and on sweeter cocktails – the Hoodooist went for something more his style.

A classic Boulevardier can’t stir you wrong. Bulleit bourbon, Campari, Martini Rosso sweet vermouth provide a Boulevardier that’s slightly on the sweeter side.

Still, a fairly decent classic – however, £10.50 is pretty darn steep for a Boulevardier. Especially with Bulleit and Martini Rosso.

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The Boulevardier

Next on the list is the house original, the Catrina’s Kiss. Don Julio Blanco tequila, agave, lime juice, grapefruit juice, and a dash of Tabasco. A short twist on the Paloma, the Catrina’s Kiss is a balance of sweet from the agave and grapefruit, and sharp citrus from the tequila and lime.

Starting sharp and peppery, a silkiness and sweet sets in, ending with a kick of spice. Ordered on separate occasions, the amount of spice varied drastically, so probably best you specify how much Tabasco you’d like!

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The spicy Catrina’s Kiss

Finally, the truly bizarre Death Flip. Don Julio Blanco tequila, yellow Chartreuse, Jagermeister, one whole egg and a splash of salt water, garnished with a chocolate finger.

Reminding us that often, 5 powerfully flavoured ingredients is too many. Sure, it’s got the overall flavour of salted caramel (kinda), but make sense out of it, I couldn’t. Was it sweet? Or herbaceous? Or medicinal? Or citrus? The chocolate finger didn’t really add to the drink, either, and seemed completely unrelated.

Light Lounge Chinatown gay bar Ku London cocktails

The Death Flip

One can’t simply help but feel that the bar would receive higher drinks ratings if the range and quality of the cocktails matched the prices on a say, 8.50 to the occasional 10 pound. But I imagine spaces like this in Chinatown don’t come cheap (just ask Leicester House).

The Light Lounge by Ku is heartening to see when much of queer and alternative culture is struggling in London, and I’m sure we are looking at a successful hang out spot right here. Hope to see more from Ku in more than just the West End where their four venues are concentrated.

All in all, the Light Lounge is a handy place to meet for an afternoon drink in the quieter hours, or even for a casual meeting with it’s relaxed ambience.


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

The Light Lounge

1 Newport Place, Chinatown
London, WC2H 7JR


Seymour’s Parlour @ The Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

Type of Bar: Hotel, Lounge, Victorian
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups

After 69 Colebrook Row, Bar Termini, and the Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell – Tony Conigliaro is back! Working with the newly opened Zetter Townhouse Marylebone, Seymour’s Parlour is instantly recognisable as its Clerkenwell relative with a more late Georgian twist.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

Swathed in reds and greens, it’s a smaller space, but a comfortable one, overlooked by a portrait of the hotel’s fictional host, the Wicked Uncle Seymour.  Inspired by the tales of the travelling louche, the cocktails are indulgent, and tend to a few more fizzy drinks than the Clerkenwell cousin, also perhaps knowing its market in Marylebone.

Drinking in this beautiful space is almost like spending an evening at the John Soane’s Museum, and is a room that would not look amiss at the eccentric collector’s home. So reclining on a couch beside the fireplace, we have a quick look at the menu, and a few do stand out.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

The Turf Club

The Hoodooist begins with the Turf Club – Old Tom Gin, Dubonnet, Grape Reduction, Peruvian Bitters, and grass. The grass is not in the cocktail itself: inspired by the racetracks, the stem of the glass is entwined with grass and a reduced grass oil coats it – leaving the fragrance on the fingertips of the drinker. It’s not in the drink itself.

The cocktail is incredible. A modern take on the popular vintage tipple adds a sweet grape reduction, and Peruvian bitters that enhance the quinine flavours of the Dubonnet while also adding a bit of spice and kick. The short drink is deep, strong, and enveloping – there’s something almost soporific about it.

The Old Tom’s initial hit is quickly followed but the grape reduction, finally settling on the quinine and sweeter layers of the Dubonnet, and ending on a dry note, though well-rounded. Addictive, a favourite.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

The Madeira Sour, & a shot of Flashed Madeira

The Madeira Sour is one for the citrus fans: Cognac, Flashed Madeira, Lemon and Walnut. An easy drink, this one. The flashed Rainwater Madeira – or the sweet Madeira that is concentrated with heat – retains its dryness, and balances the drink wonderfully. A woody cognac base goes fantastically with the citrus flavours, and long length of walnut finish is an elegant conclusion to a very confident drink.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktails

The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh anticipates the Autumn coming soon: Cognac, Cider Apple Brandy, Apple Caramel and Apple Wood Bitters. This was wave after wave of varying takes on apple flavours. Appearing in quick succession, the bright brandy is quickly followed by the caramels, finally ending with the young citrus cognac notes with undercurrents of warm woodiness. Sounds like easy drinking, but takes deceptively longer with its intense flavour.

Finally, there’s the Two-Pennie Trash – Rye Whiskey, Powdered Malts, Treacle. This was an odd one – couldn’t quite place exactly what it was that I was tasting. On first sip it’s almost effervescent – it does, however, taste primarily of malt and yeast. One for the marmite crowd, I’d imagine – an acquired taste.

Seymour's Parlour Zetter Townhouse Marylebone London Cocktail

The Two-Pennie Trash

A good 4 hours whiled away in the comforting candlelit space, with the blues in the background, and marvellous drinks in hand – manager Claudio and Steve are delightful hosts, and in its first weekend service is speedy and attentive. The Hoodooist is already plotting to return to taste the Rake and Le Sphinx.

Another fantastic venue from the Zetter Group and Tony Conigliaro – should come as no surprise from these legends.

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

The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone

30 Seymour Street
London W1H 7JB

The Tea Den @ Opium, Chinatown

Type of Bar: Pop UpBar/Restaurant, Chinese, Speakeasy, Lounge
Ideal for: TeaFood, DateSmall Groups

Okay. Seriously. Forget what else is happening on Afternoon Tea Week 2015 (10th-16th August) – your butts should be at Opium Chinatown.


We’ve reviewed Opium Chinatown before (Click HERE for Review!), but this week they will be working alongside The London Tea Club, and lifestyle brand, Oblique.

The London Tea Club, spread across Europe and North America, supply members with teas every month matching their flavour profile – perfect for the tea buff – have supplied Opium with a share of some of their most popular teas to construct a spectacular tea-infused cocktail list for Afternoon Tea Week (though the Hoodooist says that they should be permanent cocktails on the Opium menu).


Tucked away in the deep red corridors of Opium, beyond the Jade Door on Gerrard Street, find yourself present with 5 magical cocktails, named after the tea used in the concoction:


Opium Chinatown Afternoon Tea Week Den Dim Sum Cocktail

The Antique Rose

A major hit of the night (with one friend drinking three of them exclusively), the Antique Rose: Absolut Elyx vodka infused with Antique Rose tea, with Cocchi Americano Rosa and orange oil.

A beautiful, beautiful twist on the vodka Martini, the nose is alluring and primarily the Rosa’s berries and florals (lavender?), with hints of bitter chinchona. By palate, the sweeter tea with powerful rose notes adds life to the Elyx, the strong tea and rose eruption is followed by enveloping raspberry, strawberry and vanilla – ending on a castanet kick of quinine, cloves, a hint of ginger and orange zest.

Sophisticated, aromatic, seductive. A winner.


Opium Chinatown Afternoon Tea Week Den Dim Sum Cocktail

The Lapsang Souchong

If you want to go for something a little less Carmen, and a bit more Cosette, then the Lapsang Souchong might be for you: Buffalo Trace bourbon, apricot liqueur, tea-smoked cherries.

The normally deep, smokey tea is mellowed here, in a cocktail that appears to be more similar to a whiskey sour than you’d imagine. A very good one, nonetheless. Shy, fruit laden, the cocktail begins with the apricot, followed by the Buffalo Trace’s oaky, toffee, brown sugar flavours, leading toward the slightly more tart cherry and ending on a soft bed of lapsang souchong smoke.

A bit sweet, bit fruity, longer and easy to relish for the whiskey sour fan.


Opium Chinatown Afternoon Tea Week Den Dim Sum Cocktail

The White Peony

Now the White Peony, this one is always just out of reach, so well-composed, so independent, with footfalls of tiny bells: Double strength White Peony tea, Herradura Plata tequila, Belsazar White vermouth, house falernum.

The nose is strongly of the white peony, but underneath there is a lingering layer of agave. The first flavour belongs to the Herradura, soft, oaky, bright agave notes – but give away almost immediately to the tea, and below flowers the very restrained Belsazar and falernum with spicier, fruitier flavours. This cocktail, though loaded with various flavours, always feels so restrained and in control – it is delicate and patience is needed to fully appreciate it.

In short: It’s a bloody success.


Opium Chinatown Afternoon Tea Week Den Dim Sum Cocktail

The Goji Berry & Chrysanthemum

In contrast, the Goji Berry & Chrysanthemum is far louder: The teas infused in Absolut vodka and a splash of pink grapefruit juice makes a strongly juicy and brightly fruity cocktail. It might lack the White Peony’s complexity, but is a great middle-drink when wandering through the menu to lighten the spirits between the hardhitters. It might not be the Hoodooist’s style, but is an admirable cocktail, nonetheless, well crafted.

The pink grapefruit juice and vodka are the first to hit you, followed by the flowering flavours of Goji berry, and finishing on the floral chrysanthemum.


Opium Chinatown Afternoon Tea Week Den Dim Sum Cocktail

The Iron Goddess of Mercy

Finally, the Iron Goddess of Mercy. More commonly known as Tie Guan Yin (or even TGY), the dramatic name comes from various legends that have the same result: the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, has provided a patient listener with a treasure in the form of an Oolong tea whose popularity spread across the country. Rich, and sweet, using it in a nectar-like syrup for a classic Rum Daiquiri was a fantastic choice.

Refreshing, bright, but not lacking in depth, this cocktail (in all its simplicity) is a breath of fresh air, and a fantastic finisher to the menu. Sweet, uplifting, with hints of herb and spice in the distance (as should be customary of a well-made Daiquiri). Wonderful.

Opium Cocktail Dimsum Parlour Chinatown


Honestly, recently the Hoodooist has been looking for cocktails that would ‘wow’ him again, and the Tea Den did just that. Having a sip of the teas before their respective cocktails is a great idea to appreciate the brews themselves, as well as identify their place in the cocktails. I also love that the menu is set out in an excellent order, I’d recommend working your way in the same order, as the cocktails flow and contrast wonderfully that way. Manager Bruce Govia has done a remarkable job with working with the London Tea Club here, and service is light, conversational, speedy and approachable.


I guess what I’m saying is: You cannot miss this.


Drinks: *****


The Tea Den @ Opium, Chinatown

15-16 Gerrard St,
London W1D 6JA

The Sun Tavern, Bethnal Green

Type of Bar: Pub (?), Whisky, Poitin
Damage: £
Ideal for: Sundays, Lounge, Small Groups, Date


Reopening last year, regulars were glad to see that the Sun Tavern retained its pub atmosphere, blurring the line between pub and cocktail bar. The biggest perk of the venue is its morning opening, serving pastries and coffee, and pub grub throughout the day (alongside its Neal’s Yard sourced charcuterie).

And this is all alongside its selection of craft beers and Irish Poitin (a pretty large collection considering it only being legalised about 3 years ago).
Small, with bare brick, a sizable bar, and a fantastic playlist from Zeppelin, to Ram Jam, to the Talking Heads – the Sun Tavern is your local boozer with quiet confidence in its skill and product. And confident they should be – the cocktails are incredible.

Sun Tavern Bar Bethnal Green London Cocktail

The One For The Road, sausage roll not included ;P

Beginning with a sausage and stilton roll, the Hoodooist orders a One For the Road: Irish Whiskey, Peated Irish Whiskey, English Spiced Vermouth, Amaro Montenegro. Such a beautiful cocktail – the initial hit is of the Amaro’s rosewater, quickly retreating into the whiskey, with a quick buildup of peat, smoking its way in. Once that smoky wave subsides, spices come forth from the Amaro and vermouth (which I’m going to guess is by Sacred Distilleries, with its hints of liquorice and cinnamon). The cocktail, though peaty, is very light, and works well in the daytime.

Sun Tavern Bar Bethnal Green London Cocktail

The Red Lombriz

The Red Lombriz wanders into sweeter territory: Mezcal, Raspberries, Agave Syrup, Lemon, Chocolate Bitters. Pink and dusted with chocolate shavings, it’s certainly a looker – citrus and sweet dominate the drink, with agave syrup’s unique flavour working surprisingly well with raspberries. The chocolate bitters do a great job at rounding out the drink.

Sun Tavern Bar Bethnal Green London Cocktail

The Fleur de Lis

Back to whiskey, the Fleur de Lis brings Irish Double Whiskey, Cognac, Cynar, Lime, and Pecan Syrup together to make a slightly thick, and laid back kicker of drink. I find this one difficult to describe. It somehow manages a distinct citrus to it even while bringing the whiskey’s butterscotch sweetness – suspect the whiskey might be a Glendalough? The cognac grants a depth and warmth to it, probably enhanced by the pecan. The Cynar being a Hoodooist favourite helps provide balance to the sweetness.

Sun Tavern Bar Bethnal Green London Cocktail

The Wake

Finally, The Wake: 3yr Guyanese rum, Suze, Overproof Poitin, Lemon – Of course, the overproof Poitin bit is fascinating, as it can run well into the 90% ABV. The nose is loud, sour, and almost like sand after rain – not soil, not earth, sand. The 3 yr rum, which I’m gonna hazard a guess at El Dorado 3yr, provides a coconut and hay flavour, and dry – harmonises well with the Suze’s bitter gentian. That drop of Poitin is what, I suspect, adds to the dry, grassy, white rum flavours. Long, dry, citrus, bitter – the cherry at the end is a major contrast, and seems to soak up the Poitin like a shot because wow it’s a kick in the teeth.


It was difficult to keep up with the One for the Road (or even the Fleur de Lis), but the short cocktail list manages to be incredibly original, hard-hitting, exquisitely prepared and a bargain. Service is exceptionally swift, whether at bar or table.

The Sun Tavern’s easily the Hoodooist’s favourite new spot in Bethnal Green.


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


The Sun Tavern

441 Bethnal Green Road
London E2 0AN

Conrad Algarve, Portugal @ Conrad St. James

Type of Bar: Hotel
Damage: ££-£££
Ideal for: Lounge, Date, Small Groups


Wilson Pires, award-winning head-bartender of restaurant Gusto at the Conrad Algarve, Portugal, popped by the London St. James Conrad for a masterclass to show what the Algarve has to offer in it’s 18th century palace seaside surrounds.

Inspired by Faro, a pocket of tropic green overlooking the Gulf of Cadiz, Pires insists that all his cocktails come with a story, or make it as much of a multisensory experience as possible – including ostentatious garnishes, presentation, or incenses.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail

The Senhorita

The first drink from the Conrad Algarve menu, the Senhorita – driven by Pires’ perception of the feminine: lemongrass and grapefruit are mixed in small amounts into the lime juice, then the primary ingredient, the sweet raspberry puree is contrasted against the spicy/sour ginger juice, ending with the Portuguese Medronho fire-water brandy (Aguardente de Medronho) Castelo Silves.

Primarily a sweet drink, the raspberry dominated the palate, followed by the kick of ginger, the sourness of the lime mix lingers in the sidelines. The medrenho, powerful and ruthless when drunk neat, is tempered well into this cocktail, though the Hoodooist wishes it had a bit more of a presence, so as to not soften the cocktail *too* much.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail

Europe’s Best Kept Secret

Inspired by the Algarve itself, the Europe’s Best Kept Secret mixes Beefeater 24 gin, honey, bee pollen, eucalyptus tisane and grapefruit, accompanied by pine incense. The incense and the eucalyptus tisane provide a cooling balance to the other warm flavours. The warm bitterness of the bee pollen and the herbaceous eucalyptus are pronounced, resting on the most prominent grapefruit flavour. Initially an odd concoction, but a summer beach would bring this cocktail to life.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail


Finally, the Saudade attempts to condense the emotion into a cocktail by mixing Ginjinha (or simply Ginja) sour Morello cherry liqueur, Madeira wine, honey, salt water, and Port bitters. Continuing on Pires’ favoured theme of contrasts and opposites working together, Saudade attempts to bring the deep, bitter-sweet flavours linked to distant memories to life in the sweet-sour Ginja and Madeira, contrasted by the salt water and the similarly ambiguous Port bitters.

The result is the closest to what the Hoodooist might order of the three: a dark, intense, short cocktail that one really must take their time with, as it can be bit of a handful. The cherry hits first, but then seems almost softer in comparison to the stone-fruit and raisin heat of the Madeira. The salt water and Port bitters are not immediately perceptible, but notably affect the overall drink, adding width to the flavour profile.

Portugal Conrad Algarve Cocktail

The cocktails are notably different from what London normally has to offer, and certainly deserve a dry Mediterranean heat and sea salt spray to bring them to life – and very well will, in Wilson Pires’ inspired hands.


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



Gusto @ Conrad Algarve

Estrada da Quinta do Lago
8135-106 Almancil

Algarve, Portugal

Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Victorian, Vintage
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups, Large Groups, Lounging

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.

 bourne and hollingsworth buildings cocktails

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.

bourne and hollingsworth buildings cocktails

The New Willy Bourne

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.

bourne and hollingsworth buildings cocktails

L-R: The Rum & Plum, the West Indies Gimlet

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.

bourne and hollingsworth buildings cocktails

L-R: The Cydonian Smash, the Fig & Thyme Scofflaw

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.

bourne and hollingsworth buildings cocktails

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.

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


Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings

42 Northampton Road,
London EC1R 0HU

The Whisky Lounge @ Hilton London Metropole, Edgware Road

Type of Bar: Hotel, Whisky, Lounge
Damage££ – ££££ (per dram)
Ideal for: Education, Date, Small Groups, After Work

Who can turn down a good ol’ whisky tasting?

The Hilton London Metropole’s Whisky Lounge hosts a stunning 80 whiskies visitors can order by the dram, or can come as a group to try out their whisky tasting sessions (hosting 3 to 5 whiskies at a time).

A calm blue-grey colour scheme with the most gorgeous lighting constructed out of laser-cut whisky decanters make the Hilton’s Whisky Lounge the perfect venue for the event, and though opens directly to the hotel main EDG Lounge and Bar, is not as loud as one might expect. Surrounded with an excellent selection of malts watching over the guests, many an hour can be whittled away here.

Seated at a table (brought in for the tasting events) the group is presented with four of the day’s choice whiskies: A Singleton of Dufftown 12yr, a Lagavulin 16yr, Suntory Yamazaki 12 yr, and finally a Kavalan (one the Hoodooist was keen to become acquainted with).

Whisky Tasting London

Guided by our whisky sommelier, the gang is first introduced to a healthy dram of the 12yr Singleton of Dufftown. A classic Speyside, the nose is nutty, with sweet fruits (dates?), wintery; with large tears.

Flavour is malty, intensely hazelnut, a rich Arabica coffee – with the Arabica’s hints of currant and toffee. Followed by a dry medium length of oak and the trademark Singleton fruit.

Milk chocolate was selected to pair with the whisky, intensifying the hazelnut even further, adding a liqueur quality to the whisky and greatly shortening the finish – a fantastic way to end a meal.

Whisky Tasting London

The Tasting Selection

The second whisky brought to the table, the Lagavulin 16yr – an Islay classic. The small, slow moving tears indicate a thick, rich whisky, and is renowned for having the smokiest nose of the Islay whiskies – reminiscent of smoky teas and sherries.

And there is that loud sherry flavour on the palate, dry and spicy, and unashamedly peaty. A large mouth on this one, confident, with its own sweetness, too. A long peppery finish with hints of vanilla.

Going fantastically well with smoky and spiced nuts, the Lagavulin 16yr is recommended for salty dinners or as a digestif for red meats.

Whisky Tasting London

Dram and pairings

We venture away from the isles to Japan, and the ludicrously popular Suntory Yamazaki 12yr. Utterly miniscule and slow tears hint at a thick and intricate experience ahead, and on the nose an almost candied orange scent, tropical fruit, but also cloves. An incredible nose on this one.

The entry is slow, but the flavours develop and become increasingly complex, first a winter spice and floral sweetness, followed by more of the tropical fruit and almost buttery. A long woody and spicy finish. A favourite across the table for its complexity.

Whisky Tasting London

Finally, the most eagerly awaited whisky of the evening, the Taiwanese Kavalan, is young, but said to mature quickly with the sub-tropical climes of the island – focusing on tropical fruit flavours.

Small but quick tears, the nose is woody, and very fragrant and floral. The opening is harsh, coarse. Once that trial is over, though, a wonderful mango and spicy oak develops, with a long refreshing finish.

Nonetheless, the table didn’t think that the delightful finish was worth the harsh opening. The Kavalan quickly fell to the bottom of most’s lists, leaving the Suntory Yamazaki 12yr, the most popular – and with all the awards it has collected over the years, it’s hardly a surprise!

Whisky Tasting London

The Kavalan

Service was excellent and our wonderful sommelier did a fantastic job leading the group through the whiskies, providing wonderful conversation along with an educational 2 hours. A highly recommended evening out for whisky novices looking to learn! Especially with this great collection.
This was a custom tasting and would have been priced at £42.00. The Hilton London Metropole have two types of tastings: Scottish and International. Guests can choose to have a tasting of 3-5 whiskies. An outline of prices are outlined below:

Scottish 3 : £26.00
Scottish 4 : £34.50
Scottish 5 : £42.00

International 3 : £38.00
International 4 : £50.00
International 5 : £61.00

All Inc VAT, but Excl Service Charge 10% (optional).

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

The Whisky Lounge @ Hilton London Metropole

225 Edgware Road,
London W2 1JU

Loungelover, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Lounge, Bar/Restaurant
Ideal for: Small groups, Food, Sushi

Lounge Lover has certainly been through the motions for the past couple of years. 2012 it was the Shoreditch centre for sushi and the fashionable, 2014 brings with it tolling church bells of Buddha Bar-esque anonymity.

I’m not entirely sure what the look was they were going for, but in the line of similarly styled bars as 98, and the Looking Glass, ‘oppressive’ may have been it. The chaotic, smattering of various paraphernalia with no central theme running through it except ‘quirky’, was a bizarre trend of the late noughties that favoured no one except the most precise. Because ‘cute’ it most certainly ain’t.

After being shoved in a scorching hot (and loud) corner of the bar (‘I’m sorry, it’s just hot here, there’s nothing we can do’), and a server repeatedly forgot our orders before dropping our drinks smashing onto the floor, we finally got our hands on something to sip on.

Let’s start with the fairly decent one and make our way downhill from there. The Jubilation is Beefeater gin, muddled green and red grapes, elderflower cordial & lemon topped with Rose champagne. This is fairly successful as far as champagne cocktails go, which get lost in the bubbles – hence the necessity of the champagne being balanced with another spirit, the gin here. But, like most drinks with elderflower cordial, it begins to drown out the flavour. Eventually, you get a muddle of flavours you can’t quite dissect – which seems to be a theme at Loungelover (as most amateur cocktail bars – where, in lieu of a short, but carefully considered menu, you have a long long long list of less well-considered drinks. Apparently size matters; the length of the menu to bars, at least). 

The Unfaithful : Cachaca, rhubarb, plums and pear was similarly muddled, with the fruits not quite syncing well with the cachaca.  And the Angel’s Share, of Havana 7yr old Rum, apricot liqueur, homemade lemongrass and ginger syrup with muddled kumquats and kaffir lime leaves tasted entirely of apricot with a bit of ginger at the end.

Service was slow, due to how crowded the place was. Many groups of people were standing at the bar, while several tables suited to fit a dozen people would only have about 5 persons drinking there.

Loungelover feels like a haunting memory of when cocktails came back in a big way to London in the noughties, and feels confused in the modern state of the cocktail world. In the future when cocktails warp again, many of the currently excellent bars will get lost in the past as well – immortality in the bar scene is rare. Especially with bars like Loungelover that bet all their money on being fashionable instead of innovative.

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


1 Whitby Street
London E1 6JU


The Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Hotel, Lounge, Victorian
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups

If you’re looking for the Zetter Townhouse Marylebone & Seymour’s Parlour (opened 2015), Click HERE!

A long-time favourite, The Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge is where the Hoodooist fell in love with Tony Conigliaro’s work. The townhouse itself is hidden away and fairly discreet behind the more demanding Zetter Hotel and surrounding restaurants, but the design inside is unlike anything else in the area.

Deep reds lend to the Victorian-boyishness of the venue – between fireplaces crowned with stuffed parasol-wielding cats, and boxing kangaroos. Don’t let the ping-pong table in the Games Room (which can be hired for events) fool you; every inch of the luscious plushness of the venue is decorated with eccentricity. I could claim that this up there with the Artesian and Bar Americain (Click HERE for Review!) as one of the best looking bars in London.


The cocktail list is equally impressive. Altering every few months, some classics stay ever present. The general theme (at least amongst the most fascinating drinks) is short, but strong and intense in flavour, as well as being a bit experimental without trying far too hard – just the Hoodooist’s style, and reminiscent of the Megaro Bar.

Every single drink on the house cocktail list is one the Hoodooist would enjoy. Each is 9.5 (as well as house cocktails from the past no longer on the menu), but other drinks and classics will be 10.5 pounds.


Drie Van Drie (L), The Flintlock (R)

Let’s look at one of the shining glories of the list: The Flintlock. Beefeater 24 gin, gunpowder tea tincture, sugar, dandelion & burdock bitters, and Fernet Branca. It opens up with the Fernet Branca and gunpowder tea, leading to the strongest flavour of the drink: the dandelion sweetness. Sweet though it is, it never wanders far from the simmering deep fieriness of the more complex flavours.

The Drie Van Drie is present for whisky fans – infused with seaweed, with salted-liquorice bitters and sherry. Besides being a fantastic tipple, you may have to ask for another drop of the bitters to add a bit of complexity to it, or the whisky can overpower the rest of the cocktail. A very short drink, it still takes a while to enjoy with its strength and intensity. The seaweed is less of a punch-you-in-the-face flavour, but adds instead, an ambience to the experience. The sherry is unmistakable and warms the drinker nicely.


Foreground: Constantinople (L), Les Fleurs du Mal (R); Background: Milk Collins (L), The Ivy (R)

For long drinks, the Milk Collins is an excellent choice – don’t fear the milk syrup, it is spectacularly welcoming to what would otherwise be a classic gin/lemon/sugar/soda combo. Normally fearing the long drink, even the Hoodooist took to the Milk Collins pretty quickly. Otherwise, there is the mysterious Ivy, Perrier Jouet Champagne with sugar that has been doused in ivy aromatics is a drink (though long), but be drunk quickly after a couple of minutes of breathing. The first half of the drink is fairly uninteresting, but the last half suddenly explodes with an enchanting greenness from the ivy. Apologies, but ‘enchanting greenness’ is the only way I could describe the ivy – you’ll know it when you taste it.

Let’s end with the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ of the ZTH bar: Les Fleurs du Mal. It was removed from the menu quite a while ago, but the bartenders still get orders for it from old fans. Ordering it might be met with a sigh. Absinthe, rose vodka, lemon and egg white – the drink certainly has the strong absinthe flavour, the rose is faded behind the citrus. It’s worth trying if you’ve gone through the rest of the menu.  It could do with a bit more rose, and less citrus.

Oh, and do not miss the anchovy-stuffed deep-fried olives, or the chocolate fudge. You will thank me later.

2012-09-22 21.50.07

Service is excellent, informative, and engaging. Bartenders are happy to elaborate on drinks, make suggestions and knock something up if necessary. The ZTH is crowded most of the time, but service is much better when crowded. Exhaustion tends to set in when the bar finally empties out, so make the most of the crowded hours.

At the end of it all, it is difficult for me to find fault with the Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge. Tony C. really put himself into this bar, and the décor is exquisite. With impeccable service and drinks, it is a wonderful place to get away from the City and seclude yourself amongst the couches, pillars and curtains of the ZTH. Still ranking as one of my favourite venues in London.

Update Late 2014: Since some staff changes, there has been a slight decline in service, a shame considering how the bar excels in other ways.

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

The Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge,

49-50 St John’s Square,
London, EC1V 4JJ

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour, Chinatown

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Chinese, Speakeasy, Lounge
Ideal for: Food, Small Groups


I do like Opium. But you have to be there at exactly the right time.

There are two floors, both are not always open at the same time, but each feels totally different from the other.


In the evenings, the bar can be absolutely empty, and though I do love a good empty bar – Opium’s upper floor is one of those that really needs every seat filled to make it a great experience. Those bizarre 70s grandma’s living room seats need to be hidden from view. Especially when randomly placed beside black leather alcoves. It’s why I prefer to snatch the bar seats, which are in a kitchen setting with wonderfully engaging bartenders.


I think my issue with the chairs is just personal

The upper floor bar is unnaturally dark, making it reminiscent of the Shochu Lounge at Roka. The best way to enjoy it is to get a reservation for a late Saturday evening, crowded and pigeonholed with a few good friends, with each drink accompanied with the bar’s dim sum menu.

The lower floor, though, has an excellent atmosphere, better lighting. But the bartenders are just as engaging and thoughtful. They’re half the experience here.



The beautiful lower floor bar

Said bartenders are excellent for crafting personal cocktails with good reason. The menu comes with a custom cocktail section, where filling out a little questionnaire on your tastes in flavours and drinks will have them craft a little masterpiece for you. The cocktail list in itself is a treasure for making itself accessible to the less libationary-aware. Other than an ingredient description, each drink is given a three word summary. For example, the Long March (Bombay Sapphire gin, Plymouth Sloe, pomegranate juice, cinnamon and sweet red bean puree) is ‘Long – Complex – Fruity’.

On my first visit, I went straight for the Blind Date: Heaven Hill bourbon, Pedro Ximenez sherry, date puree and szechuan pepper. Definitely an after dinner drink (necessary, following my lunch at the Holborn Dining Room), the intense date flavour might have needed more pepper to balance it, but for the sweet tooth, works perfectly. Perhaps too many ingredients in each cocktail, but I’m willing to let it slide, since they end up working.  The Feather of the Phoenix is an excellently contradictory cocktail: Olmeca Altos Blanco meets blood orange puree and ginger beer in a long drink, topped off with smoked chilli infusion. I needed a bit more bite in mine so asked for more chilli, which makes the drink what it is. It’s up to you to judge whether or not a good drink hinges on one ingredient, but I certainly won’t turn it down.
Maybe I’d be a bit more forgiving if each drink came at 10 pounds instead of 11.50 to 13. Please do not ignore the tea, a great break from a long night out – and hey, no one said you couldn’t add some G to your Tea. A dim sum box comes at about 6.50 to 8 pounds, or grab a platter at 16.


All in all, besides the peculiar environment, the Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour does a good job as a hidden away den, and certainly makes a much less pretentious alternative to the Experimental Cocktail Club next door that I abandoned because of terrible service. Opium has gone for the speakeasy-but-not-speakeasy feel by simply avoiding the conspicuous bouncer or massive signs – just come in through the Jade Door.


Also, for those in the know, query about a certain New Orleans tune, or perhaps an old Soho brothel of the same name that dear Nina Simone crooned about. The waiters will first insist they have no idea what you’re talking about. But at your own risk, Nina did tell us that it brought down the reputation of many of the curious over the years.

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere:  Upper floor: ***, Lower floor: ****
Service: ****


Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour
15-16 Gerrard St,
London W1D 6JA