GNH Bar, King’s Cross St. Pancras

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

 

The Great Northern Hotel is home to three separate bars, two being intimate and snug, and then the more open, group oriented GNH Bar.

A few table oriented around the central bar under two enormous crystal chandeliers and a mirrored ceiling, the bar is certainly attractive, but also somehow repetitive in terms of style – a danger hotel bars across the city need to be careful of. We all know that ‘hotel bar’ look.

Service was generally attentive, but our first issue was asking about the ‘Afternoon Jaunt’ (a 2-for-1 cocktail deal for Saturdays 2PM-7PM), which they then told us was for a limited time only; until we pointed out it was still on their website. As of 14th Sept ‘14, their website still advertises their offer. But the good-natured staff decided to go ahead and offer the 2 for 1 anyway.

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The style of drinks is also distinctly ‘hotel’. We began with the Japanese Negroni, Nikka Japanese whisky with Aperol and Antica Formula is an interesting twist on the Negroni, but I must argue is more of an Italian twist on a Manhattan in terms of flavour. A relaxed drink that may not be a spectacle, but a decent drink nonetheless.

The following French Attitude was a bit stranger. Rhubarb infused cognac, lemon juice, gomme syrup, Crème de Cacao, Rhubarb bitters and topped with egg white ends up being a generally sweet, but otherwise flavourless muddle; probably by breaking my general 4-ingredient rule. This could probably make a better long drink.

Finally, the Old Chilli Monkey. I was really excited for this one. Oh my. Monkey Shoulder whiskey, home-made chilli and cinnamon syrup, Angostura and Rhubarb bitters. At first sip, two of us looked at each other thinking “Well, nice and spicy” until the burning started.
Mind you, we grew up on spice. But if after one sip your lips still feel that they’re hideously chapped with someone rubbing chilli powder into them for 10 minutes; YOU’VE GONE WRONG.
The drink could only be finished with a straw, even then, carefully.

 

Old Chilli Monkey (L); French Attitude (R)

Old Chilli Monkey (L); French Attitude (R)

The GNH Bar wants to appear experimental – except it is failing at it, I feel like classic cocktails it should stick to. The halfway decent Japanese Negroni is somewhat reliable with its almost classic quality; but the following drinks were a mess.  Imbalanced, and made with almost an amateurish excitement – paired with the initial advertising debacle, I can’t see myself returning to the GNH Bar soon, but look forward to the other bars and restaurants the hotel has to offer.

Drinks: ** (Ought to get * for value for money, but the Japanese Negroni favours)
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ***

 

GNH Bar

Great Northern Hotel,
Pancras Road,
London N1C 4TB

http://gnhbar.com/

Arabica Bar & Kitchen, London Bridge

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Levantine
Damage££
Ideal for: Food, Lazy Lunch, Sundays, MeetingsSmall Groups

Borough Market has welcomed yet another spectacular restaurant in the form of Arabica, once a Borough Market stall itself. Serving up food from the Levant with contemporary takes, Arabica brings a necessary cuisine to the area (done well, at least). An open plan space perfect for a lazy lunch.

Besides an excellent selection in food, Arabica offers a short cocktail list of classics with Near Eastern twists.

Let’s start off with a personal favourite: the Mujrim. A development on a Dry Manhattan, bourbon, dry vermouth and lemon meet pomegranate molasses. As you can imagine, the end product is much sweeter than a Dry Manhattan, but dry vermouth is necessary to not make the cocktail too sweet. The flavours are all distinct – with its spectacular simplicity, the Mujrim isn’t necessarily a dessert cocktail, but better to have without food so that it doesn’t drown out the pomegranate molasses.

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Rayyan Gin Fizz (L), Mujrim (R)

 

The Sassine Square is a much more subtle flavour outside the intense high-rye bourbon and bitters – the date syrup is almost too quiet. Perhaps a bit more and here we have an excellent dessert drink.

The Nana Ti (Cuban and Jamaican rums, lemon, cacao, wild mint) is a supremely clean flavour to be paired with food. I notice the recipe for the Rayyan Gin Fizz since the soft launch: removing the rose water – a very good move since the rose water was overpowering. Now, Arak Brun, orange blossom water, orange and cardamom marmalade, citrus, and cream. Yes, it sounds complex, but is far lighter in person.

Arabica is certainly a new destination in the area, and its cocktails do not fail to disappoint! I just wish I knew what they intend to do with the bottle of QuiQuiRiQui mezcal that’s on their shelf.

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

Arabica Bar & Kitchen

3 Rochester Walk,
Borough Market,
London SE1 9AF

http://www.arabicabarandkitchen.com/

Scarfes Bar, High Holborn

Type of Bar: Hotel, Lounge
Damage£££ – ££££
Ideal for: Date, Meetings

 

My friend put it best: The Scarfes Bar looks like the Zetter Townhouse‘s conservative older brother. The design is impeccable, the three major dominating aspects of the room: the enormous fireplace, the mirror above it, and the central chandelier work together instead of clashing in their shameless grandiosity. The dress code for the venue is ‘casual’, so expect to see business meetings or couples coming over from the Holborn Dining Room across the hall.

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Staff and young and snazzy, and take a while getting around the giant room. The cocktail list is short, but off-menu classics can be ordered. Rather unlike the Zetter Townhouse, though, drinks are long and refreshing.

These aren’t usually my style, so I had to keep an open mind when my Seine River Fizz (Grey Goose vodka, Domaine de Canton ginger, lime juice, basil leaves, Fentimans Victorian lemonade – topped with a cap of Elderflower foam) arrived. I was pleasantly surprised that I had actually enjoyed it, although I have to admit that without the elderflower foam, the drink would have lost any and all character. The initial punch of Elderflower really makes the drink what it is. In fact, it is the major hit on the nose, and the flavour for the first half of the drink. The last half certainly has a slight basil flavour, without becoming too green and intense, which might be a good thing. The ginger, though, is barely detectable.

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If there is any unfortunate aspect to anything, is that drinks range between 12.50 and 14.50 pounds. 11 or 12 I would have been happy to pay for my Seine River Fizz – 14.50, not as much. A mate echoed my sentiments on their drinks.

In any case, this beautiful bar’s long drinks and highballs are certainly worth a visit for if that is indeed your favour in drinks, otherwise, I’m afraid I can’t exactly recommend it, not for what they charge. Although I can see myself coming here for a coffee date and to study, with the incredible environment.

I have yet to try the Mirror Bar at the hotel, but have higher hopes for it.

Drinks:**? Perhaps ***?
Atmosphere: *****
Service: ***

 

Scarfes Bar
Rosewood Hotel,
252 High Holborn,
London WC1V 7EN

www.scarfesbar.com/‎