Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar, Fitzrovia

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

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

Bourne Hollingsworth London Cocktails

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

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

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

Bourne Hollingsworth London Cocktails

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

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

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

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

Bourne Hollingsworth London Cocktails

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

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

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

 

Bourne & Hollingsworth

Rathbone Place,
London W1T 1JF

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

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/

Original Sin, Dalston

Type of Bar: Basement
Damage££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Pool, Nightcaps

Yes, Alastair Burgess and team of Happiness Forgets (Click HERE for review) are back with a vengeance with Original Sin in Dalston! The basement below the Stokey Bears burger venue above ground becomes the dark and seductive Original Sin.

Original Sin is both very similar to, and very different from Happiness Forgets, and those who’ve been to both will understand. Sin’s set up is similar to an expanded version of Happiness, decked out in hardwood and bronzed lighting. The menu is quintessentially Burgess as well, and the crowd typically Happiness. Though less claustrophobic than Happiness, Original Sin is still packed with punters.

addiechinn.comAC8_1882

The cocktail menu is short, and unpredictable. The unique combinations of ingredients make it difficult to anticipate the flavours of the drinks, so you just have to go for it – but what a fantastic menu it is.

The Perfect Storm comes right from the Happiness Forgets menu: Dark rum, plum brandy, lemon, honey and ginger. And a perfect storm it is, spicy, tangy and a whole lotta fun. Once you’ve been hit by the ginger full force, then the plum brandy, moving into the dark rum and finally settling again to the honey and intense ginger – highly recommended unless ginger isn’t your thing. You got to love it to enjoy this one.

Mr. Sandman is perfect for this time of year: Remy Martin, allspice, lemon, maple syrup, ginger and egg yolk. The first thing that struck me is how well the yolk has been handled here. Shaken just right to not curdle or become too thick. Lightly spiced, the allspice is more present than the ginger, but doesn’t overpower – it’s the maple syrup that stands out (not often that maple syrup is a powerful flavour in a drink, I find). Incredibly well balanced, and one of the few traditionally Xmas style drinks the Hoodooist has enjoyed. The only drawback being trying to stop singing Mr. Sandman after.

The Sea City

The Sea City

The winner of the night has to be the Sea City: Mezcal, Cachaca, lemon, Agave, salt, mint, egg white and soda. We had no idea what to expect when ordering this one, but it turns out the name is far more enlightening to the flavour than the drink – bright, lively, exciting. The background smokiness of the mezcal lingers throughout the drink, but begins with the intensity of agave and Cachaca, followed by the lemon and salt, with a hint of mint at the end, this entire drink is a roller coaster. Amazing.

Original Sin

AND POOL TABLE.

Service is excellent: quick, with a good number of staff, major plus.

The only drawback I experienced at Original Sin would have been the feeling that people were always crowded in on you even when you were seated (perhaps that was the result of the loud speakers?). I can see a stricter limit on entry (like the stricter limit enforced at Happiness Forgets) greatly benefiting Original Sin.

I love the idea of having this great bar as a nightcap spot, popping by at 1AM for a last drink and round of pool – so a firm favourite on Stoke Newington High Street to round a night out. A must visit!

Original Sin is currently open, but will only take reservations from January 2015 onward.

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

Original Sin

129 Stoke Newington High Street,
London N16 0PH.

http://www.originalsin.bar/

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