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/

The Cocktail Trading Company, Smithfield

Type of Bar: Tiny, Basement, Quirky
Damage: ££
Ideal for: Date, After Work

 

The boys from CTC, Soho have done it again!

The Cocktail Trading Company Development Bar & Table (can we just call it CTC? Cool, okay), now a bustling hotspot in the heart of Soho, has branched out into cocktail-starved Smithfield, under the popular Ask For Janice on Long Lane.

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The basement is tiny, if you’re lucky you might bag a couch (book in advance!) – and I recommend you find a good seat, because time can fly here! (Very) Dim-lit and cosy with a strongly Twin-Peaks-cabin-vibe, the playlist really makes the venue. Well, that and the incredible drinks and service provided by the Olly/Andy/Elliot trinity.

It’s probably worth mentioning that with 7 cocktail awards between them, it is difficult to go wrong with a good old classic here. About half the menu is classics, but the team will happily go off menu if you ask.

Cocktail Trading Company London Smithfield

The Brasso

The menu here will be the same as the CTC in Soho, so the Hoodooist decided to go for some uncharacteristically longer cocktails.

Beginning with the Brasso: Stoli Vodka, ginger and orange brew, lime juice and soda, is a light, bright, spicy long drink served with chocolate wafer and candied ginger. Perhaps spicy isn’t the right word, but spiced – the ginger doesn’t have a strong kick, but a fun pep in its step. Simplicity does well for this cocktail.

Cocktail Trading Company London Smithfield

The Daisy De Santiago

The Daisy De Santiago really exhibits the characteristics of Bacardi Heritage, with Lemon n Lime sherbet and Green Chartreuse. The tropical fruit and pepperiness cut through the cocktail quite easily, but immediately followed by a bombardment of citrus and the bitter herbal Green Chartreuse. It’s certainly a speciality cocktail with its intense sour and bitter flavours. Something very nostalgic here, something about 90s candy.

Cocktail Trading Company London Smithfield

The Sherry Cobbler

Twisting an old classic, the Sherry Cobbler adds spiced syrup to the mix of sherry/sugar/citrus, and garnishes with berries. The spiced syrup gives us warm winter spices, adding dimension to the otherwise primarily sweet and well-known classic. If you want to turn the sugariness up to 11, you can always go for the much more desserty Chocolate Flip #1, bringing together Bacardi 8 yr rum, cacao-infused Chartreuse, Tawny Port and pistachio ice cream. With a deeper, darker cacao flavour, this is an adult’s dessert cocktail, with the rum’s winter spice and lush mouthfeel, and the bitter hits of the Chartreuse over pistachio ice cream for that smoothness.

Cocktail Trading Company London Smithfield

The Chocolate Flip #1

With a very similar design, set up and cocktail list as it’s Soho sister, CTC Smithfield also keeps that distinctive attention to service that we loved about its predecessor. A welcome venue in the Smithfield area, and nice change from the after work boozers. I’d expect booking will be necessary.

 

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

 

The Cocktail Trading Company

Basement @ Ask for Janice, 50-52 Long Lane,
London, EC1A 9EJ.

http://www.thecocktailtradingco.co.uk/

 

 

Drink Shop & Do, King’s Cross St. Pancras

Type of Bar: Creative, Party, 90s, Quirky
Damage££
Ideal for: Afternoon Tea, Activities, Small Groups

 

Celebrating it’s 5th birthday, young entrepreneurs Kristie Bishop and Coralie Sleap have turned fun into a business venture – providing customers with everything from a quirky store to afternoon tea with cocktails and Lego and nipple-tassel craft classes, to a 90s themed basement club accompanied by classes to learn Beyonce dance moves (which let’s not pretend you haven’t practised at home already).

The site of the ex-Turkish-bathhouse, with its massive skylight and overhead discoball, houses two large bars (one above, one below) – serving up primarily spritzes and punches, has a primarily sweet menu. There is the occasional Negroni, though, so don’t panic yet!

Drink Shop Do Cocktails Tea London

The 5th Birthday party begins with a series of easy-serve drinks and bites – whilst building Lego robots, the Sun-blushed tomato, tapenade and sweet herb sandwich is competed with only by the Smoked salmon, cream cheese and chrain – and the dessert even better. Hazelnut chocolate brownie dense and flavourful.

Drink Shop Do Cocktails Tea London

The drinks were a hit or miss: the Duppy Rum Punch serves up Duppy Share Rum, fresh lime juice and gomme (which may have not been entirely necessary with the sweetness of the rum). It really relies on the inherent richness of the blended rum, and it’s powerful pineapple, mango and papaya flavours are tempered by the lemon.

The Happy was a bit of a stumble though, Evan Williams Bourbon meets elderflower and apple to make a confused intense hit of sour to the back of the jaw, followed by sticky, painful sweetness.

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The Birthday was a major improvement: Belvedere Vodka, lychee, lemongrass, ginger, chilli and soda. A mix of savoury chilli kick followed by a length of sweet lychee.

Downstairs, the Wild Spritz: Elderflower, Perry and gin was thick, and tasted more like a glassful of sugar syrup.

Drink Shop Do Cocktails Tea London

Though the myriad of events and the food do outweigh the skill regarding cocktails, I can see myself returning for an afternoon tea with a friend, but not quite for the drinks. The lengthy list of sweet drinks is almost patronising, and could do with either increased variety, or with catching up with 2015, the apple, elderflower and lychee combos are rather old hat and very SW postcode Chelsea (which, let’s face it, is the last to join the party at anything).

There are some fantastic spirits behind the bar I’d love to see used more often – like a great collection of mezcals that are not on the cocktail menu. Take the Birthday, for example: Replace the lychee with hibiscus, and the vodka with mezcal, for a more modern and mature cocktail.

Drink Shop Do Cocktails Tea London

The staff are wonderful – upbeat, polite and conversational, and most of all – fun. And the obvious passion they display for their work is palpable, and is contagious. From the events upstairs to the parties below, they keep the crowd alive and excited for their work. 

Drink Shop & Do is a beautiful space, run by brilliant creatives, and a wonderful place to learn new skills, or just let loose. To another 5 years of DSD!

 

Drinks: * (I recommend coming for the tea and food, though!)
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ****

 

Drink, Shop & Do

9 Caledonian Rd, King’s Cross,
London N1 9DX.

http://www.drinkshopdo.com/

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/

Reverend JW Simpson, Fitzrovia

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

A door is not a door, and a wall is not a wall at the Reverend JW SimpsonBourne and Hollingsworth’s sister bar (Click HERE for Review!) resides in a basement apartment just minutes away in Fitzrovia. The third of the B&H bars being the B&H Buldings, Clerkenwell (Review HERE!).

Named after an ex-resident of the space, the apartment now houses white banquettes set up against tattered wallpaper, overseen by a large and impressive bar, amusingly presented as ‘windows’ to the visitors, from where the drinks are served. There is a strange kind of shabby-Art-Deco-dissonance about the venue, especially with honkytonk, swamp rock, and everything from the Talking Heads to Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing in the background.

On a weekend night, the venue can get swamped with people, so reservations are highly recommended – but this doesn’t harm service too much. It’s swift and attentive even with the crowd.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

The two menus – one seasonal and one permanent (in the form of a paper fortune teller!) – have running themes: light, fruity, but there are the occasional heavyweights like the beautiful Larder Batch (The Hoodooist’s favourite at the Cocktails in the City 2014 event, Click HERE for Review).

So whether you pick out a seasonal drink, or play a schoolyard game to make your order, the Hoodooist tried a few from each for your consideration!

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

The Fir Douglas Rathbone, Esq.

The Fir Douglas Rathbone, Esq. immediately catches the eye: Rathbone New London Dry Gin, homemade Douglas Fir liqueur, lemon juice, and a touch of maple syrup – finished with a spray of bergamot oils. The Hoodooist could sit back and just sniff this one all day. The fir and bergamot is sharp and fragrant, incredible. However, considering the ingredients, there are two ways to approach this cocktail – the heavy maple syrup sinks to the bottom of the glass, so either you stir it to spread the sweetness throughout the drink, or just drink it straight.

Drinking it straight results in the bottom half becoming a sweeter version of the top half – which, though wonderfully piney, and strongly juniper, risks tasting like disinfectant (although I think that comes more from the scent than from the actual flavour!). Personally, I rather enjoyed the bright, vivid drink, but it is easy to see how it can be an acquired drink for some. Stirring it will result in a maple sugariness toning down the tartness, while keeping in like with the evergreen theme.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

L-R: The Blue Leaf Clover; and the Pomegranate Haze

The Blue Leaf Clover from the seasonal menu goes straight for the Bourne and Hollingsworth favourite flavours: berries. Rathbone New London Dry Gin, homemade blackberry and rosemary syrup, lemon juice and egg white result in a drink that is very easy sipping, smooth and delicate. It might not be complex, or a showstopper, but does its job as a refreshing semi-sweet cocktail you’d want at a picnic on the kind of sunny mornings we’ve had this Easter. And you can’t argue with the beautiful garnish that comes with it.

The Hoodooist’s love affair with Mastiha gum mastic liqueur is back with the Pomegranate Haze! Hendricks Distilled Gin, Mastiha liqueur, pomegranate tea syrup, lemon juice. This is not as sweet as you’d expect, and has a distinct earthiness a friend described as ‘like being in a forest’ – which I find is characteristic of Mastiha. There is an added bitter depth from the pomegranate tea syrup, slightly herbal, somewhat spicy, this drink in surprisingly adventurous.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

Foreground: The Gardenier; Background: The Rumplestiltskin

A young apple is used instead of an ice cube in the Gardenier: Aged Calvados, Suze Aperitif, honey and orange liqueurs, apple shrub. The first sip of this drink is overwhelmingly sweet, the Calvados, honey and shrub assault the palate – but after the first sip, it seems to mellow out a bit, with help from the bitter Suze, whose spice complements the apple nicely. Still, a bit too much on the sweet side for myself, but a useful dessert drink nonetheless. This is more suited to autumn in front of a fire.

The Rumplestiltskin, on the other hand, is sweet in less appealing ways: Rum, homemade apple and spiced Falernum syrups, lime juice and dry chocolate liqueur present an intensely sugary long cocktail with a bit of a chocolate kick. This cocktail seems a bit jumbled and confused. Not far off, the Serena, with Polish Vodka, carrot shrub, vanilla liqueur, lemon and honey; lacks character and seems to taste more berryish than carrot, though the vanilla makes an appearance.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

The Larder Batch

The Larder Batch really does need to be eaten with steak. An excellent short bourbon drink, Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, Pinot Noir reduction, seasoned with pink peppercorn, spiced cardamom and Angostura bitters. Here the Reverend presents us with a steak dinner in a cocktail format; the natural winter spiciness and vanilla/honey sweetness of the Four Roses Small Batch, and the bite of the peppercorn and cardamom suits the Pinot Noir (PIIINOOOOT NOIIR…sorry) reduction perfectly. The Reverend excels here, with a style that is daring and stands out from the rest of the menu. Would love to see more in the style of the Larder Batch next season.

Reverend JW Simpson Cocktails

More adventurous than its original cousin, the Rev still displays a certain amount of conservatism with the flavours explored on the menu. Nonetheless, there are a large number of drinks to choose from, each bringing something new to the table – they know vintage, and they do it right.

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

Reverend JW Simpson,

32 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia,
London, W1T 2QJ

http://www.revjwsimpson.com/

The Cocktail Trading Company, Soho

Type of Bar: Tiny, Basement, Quirky
Damage££
Ideal for: Date

 

The Cocktail Trading Company Development Bar & Table (can we just call it CTC? Cool, okay) has been one of the most long-awaited openings in the cocktail world of 2015 after generating buzz for months now. And probably what the brasserie upstairs, Central & Co, needed to up its cocktail game.

The basement is tiny, if you’re lucky you might bag a couch (book in advance!) – and I recommend you find a good seat, because time can fly here! Dim-lit and cosy, the 80s playlist really makes the venue. Well, that and the incredible drinks and service provided by the Olly/Andy/Elliot trinity.

CTC

It’s probably worth mentioning that with 7 cocktail awards between them, it is difficult to go wrong with a good old classic here. About half the menu is classics, but the team will happily go off menu if you ask, as they did for a spectacularly constructed Campari-heavy Negroni Sbagliato (Vermouth, Campari, Prosecco).

But let’s move on to the house cocktails!

 

For Whom The Bell Bols

For Whom The Bell Bols

Star of the night would easily be the For Whom the Bell Bols (oh yes, puns, go with it. And yes, it *is indeed* served in a bell): Lavender and Chamomile infused Bols Genever, Golden Syrup 1:1, lemon juice and egg white, topped with a shortbread. Firstly, shortbread with the egg white and Golden Syrup is amazing. Secondly, so wonderful to see more of Bols Genever, sadly not used in the London scene as much as it could be. The malty texture of the Bols suits the combo of flavours so wonderfully, with the lavender and chamomile sweeping up the drinker initially, followed by the brighter pine flavour of the Bols and hints of its signature smoky spiciness – though that spiciness is rendered more subtle with the addition of the Golden Syrup. An incredible drink, a sweeter flavour for those who don’t do sweet.

 

Urn-Aged Corpse Reviver No.2

Urn-Aged Corpse Reviver No.2

The Urn-Aged Corpse Reviver No.2, is an intriguing one. ‘Egyptian Embalming Gin’, fortified honey wine, mandarin liqueur, lemon juice and absinthe. The Egyptian Embalming gin was certainly intriguing, keeping with the ‘corpse’ theme, the team wanted to bring out the gin botanicals commonly found in Egyptian embalming fluid. And honey wine similarly in theme. The most powerful flavour yet is the mandarin, with the gins spicier and more herbal botanicals following, the sweetness of the honey wine throughout. Managing to remain citrusy without becoming too sweet, and avoiding the overdose of absinthe that many Corpse Reviver No.2s suffer, this is a wonderful take on a classic. Not to mention the wonderful presentation!

 

Welcome to Kentucky, Have a Nice Day!

Welcome to Kentucky, Have a Nice Day!

However, the Welcome to Kentucky, Have a Nice Day: Jim Beam, ginger and plum infusion, Yuzu juice, matcha tea, was a confusing one. Between us, it felt like a bit too much happening at the same time. The Jim Beam comes through quite clearly. After a couple of sips you begin to notice the underlying thick sweetness of the matcha, the ginger and a very light citrus of the yuzu, and maybe it is a matter of personal taste, but it felt like too much at once. (Although, do call the number on the menu under this drink.)

#FESTIVALCHIC

#FESTIVALCHIC

Finally, the #FESTIVALCHIC is presented the most strangely – in a welly. This is a great example of the wonderful service expected at CTC. The concoction: Wray & Nephew rum, Cinzano Bianco, lychee liqueur, cranberry, lemon juice, is certainly not the Hoodooist’s style, turning out to be far sweeter than he would normally drink. The lychee and cranberry stand out the most, the rum and vermouth downplayed slightly. But while chatting over it, the team offered to add in lemon juice, Campari and salt to actually make a fantastic, well balanced apertivo that I’d recommend.

So though the #FESTIVALCHIC is a naturally sugary drink for the sweet tooth, I highly appreciate the team for going out of their way to balance it further.

 

Really, aside from the wonderful music and quirky drinks, the service (as I’ve stressed before, being the most important aspect of a bar) is what makes the Cocktail Trading Co a definite visit when in the area. Highly recommended, a drink like For Whom the Bell Bols is not to be missed.

 

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

 

The Cocktail Trading Company

Basement @ Central and Co., 22 Great Marlborough St.,
London, W1F 7HU.

http://www.thecocktailtradingco.co.uk/

The Lost Angel & Gaslight Grill, Battersea

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Quirky
Damage£ – ££
Ideal for: Food, Sundays, Gin, Live Music

 

Now here is a long-time favourite.

A hungover Sunday’s solution is always in the Angel’s arms. Even if it means travelling an hour from Greenwich and cowering in the corner till that spectacular Sunday roast comes around.

Sorry, I think I drooled on the keyboard.

Image

Trying to pin the Lost Angel’s design is a bit difficult. Its jazzy, Victorian, 60’s randomness, upscale pub vibe somehow *works*. It lends to a really comfortable, relaxed atmosphere with live music in the day time; to a raucous party in the evenings – both indoors and in the large garden in the back. It’s that laid back attitude that makes it one of my favourite Sunday spots.

But it’s not just that, the LA hosts several events, from various DJ nights, extended happy hours throughout the week, and Gin Soaked Thursdays – where you can explore the LA’s reputation as a gin palace with a choice of its 30 different gins at 6 pounds each.

 

Drinks wise, the menu is varied, but tends towards the sweeter on many occasions – but there are still drier, intense cocktails to choose from. Classics can always be requested.

Without argument, their Bloody Mary game is on point. And they dish them out faster than you could believe. The Bottomless Bloody Mary Sundays get you as many as you like for only 15 pounds, and to that deal you can add a Sunday roast for 10. I normally go straight for the Spice Route Gimlet, Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin’s playfulness blends wonderfully with cardamom and lime cordial, and a star anise garnish. A strong gimlet with a spicy Eastern twist, don’t let the lime cordial-instead-of-juice fool you, this drink still packs a punch.

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Cucumber, Jalapeno & Coriander Margarita
…does exactly what it says on the tin. Lively, spry, spicy as all hell, this drink is perfect for the afternoon. Another bar could take a lesson here on how to salt a rim; you’re not supposed to make the drinker cringe. The Marrakesh Martini, saffron infused Beefeater gin, apricot liqueur, orange bitters, spiced sugar, ginger and lime juice has great potential, but often is drowned out by the apricot liqueur. A good idea is to let the bartender know to turn that down a bit.

The Strawberry Amaretto Sour makes an excellent dessert drink with fresh strawberries and egg white, as well as the Lost Skipper with dark rum, Chambord, blackberry jam and red wine.

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The admirable aspect to the LA’s cocktail list is how straightforward they are, often twists on the classics, they do exactly what they say will – which makes the Lost Angel a great introduction to cocktails.

This is where the Lost Angel’s charm lies: It’s laid-back, and out there to make a fun drink, without overcomplicating things, and without pretension. It is a reminder that complex reductions and vaporisers aren’t necessary to earn high points, neither is unwavering devotion to the classics – simplicity can be the key to a welcoming venue on a harsh Sunday morning.

Seriously though, that roast.

PS: Please update the website’s cocktail menu! People be missing the Jalapeno Margarita!

Drinks: **** (Especially deserving on discounted hours)
Atmosphere: ****
Service: ***

The Lost Angel & Gaslight Grill

339 Battersea Park Road,
London SW11 4LS

http://www.lostangel.co.uk

Communion Bar, Camberwell

Type of BarHotelBasementQuirkyTheme
Damage£ – ££
Ideal forDateSmall GroupsLarge Groups, Live Music

Who said church wasn’t fun.

This gem tucked away under Church St Hotel in Camberwell is a welcome addition to London’s bar retinue as of December. In fact, this is one of my longer reviews, going through so much of the menu – primarily because many of London’s cocktails bars seem to have forgotten that Happy Hour does not instantly make your bar a Yates. In fact, it is the perfect time for intimate drinks and snacks at Communion, with a wonderful cocktail list.

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For one, can we talk about this design for a second? Coming through the heavy wood and metal-hinged door into the depths of the hotel’s basement, stained glass windows adorn the hardwood panelling, depicting various scenes from the Bible, primarily Genesis and Revelations – among them the Hoodooist’s favourite Biblical scene: The Worship of the Golden Calf, sprawling on the wall across from the bar.

There is a slightly infernal and deliciously sacrilegious feel about Communion – peculiarly macabre stained glass scenes in a dark, basement venue are paired with upbeat Soul and Funk tunes, and on weekends, live bands of the same genres. You’ll notice no bar stools to make the most of the space to dance to the live bands.

Taking our seat, we notice that each table comes with communion wafers and a beautiful little shot of red wine, poured daily. I gave it a moment’s thought – what I love about the atmosphere here is that it has a strong theme, without it becoming gimmicky by overwhelming you with introductions, stories, character bartenders/servers – or having to come up with a film noir story to get in (*ahem*). The mini-Eucharist was all that was necessary, and the most it should do, to keep the theme without over-doing it. Just about right.

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Looking at the menu, it is longer than at first glance – and incredibly varied. The theme of the first page is that each drink is dedicated to the different cultures that define the bricolage of South London’s landscape.

Our first drink, the sweet Tannery (Vodka, Araku rum coffee liqueur, Nigerian Guiness foam and chilly chocolate) is an excellent espresso-less Espresso Martini. The coffee flavour of the Araku and the head of Nigerian Guiness dishes it out adequately, and the edible chocolate rim that you can nibble away at throughout the drink is a great perk – a perfect balance of coffee and chocolate. The Dry Cherry Ilegal (Ilegal Mezcal, juice of grilled Sicilian lemons, Cherry Marnier and bitters. Served straight up with Amarena Cherry sugar rim) comes with one of my favourite mezcals, whose light smokiness carries the initial citrus of the drink, which opens up on the cherry and the intense sweetness of the sugar rim. Don’t let that fool you into thinking the drink is overwhelmingly sweet, it certainly isn’t – the Sicilian lemon’s tartness mediates it well. Could use a teensy bit more mezcal.

 

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The Ortanique Grind & Bubble (L); and Dry Cherry Ilegal (R).

The Pretty Little Shanty Town (Dark rum, Velvet Falernum, lime, ginger, orange bitters & molasses) begins strongly with ginger and Falernum’s spiciness, ending on the sweetness of the rum and rounded off with the molasses. The garnish of this drink is more the star, with orange slices dried in situ, and irresistible Spanish honeycomb.  The Ortanique Grind & Bubble (dash of Punt E Mes, Vanilla & orange flower infused Stolichnaya, home-made limoncello, fresh Jamaican Ortanique & Prosecco) is a wonderfully fresh and lively drink. The prosecco is, like in all bubbly drinks, the most demanding flavour, but otherwise, the drink opens on the Ortanique and limoncello, leading into the strong Punt e Mes. The Orange flower is somewhat detectable, but I had trouble finding the vanilla.

Less balanced drinks: The Calvary’s (Dicatador Rum, morello cherry, lime, egg white, St John Commandaria wine) sweet wine unfortunately has a tendency to drown out the flavour of the rum, though the morello cherry does eventually take charge – a decent drink, but less so compared to the previous ones. Similarly, the Fresh & Loose’s Scandinavian twist (Beefeater 24 shaken with fresh cucumber, dill, fennel, citrus and egg white, with couple dashes of Peychaud’s bitters) was dominated by cucumber and citrus, with flashes of dill – but still a well crisp drink.

The one drink I was not impressed by was the Outlaw (Jim Beam, home-made cranberry syrup, mint, sugar & chocolate bitters), which was drowned out by the strength of the mint.

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The Pretty Little Shanty Town (L); and Fresh & Loose (R).

 

WHEW. This’ll take up a whole Sunday.

Service through all this was absolutely delightful, attentive, and conversational – we couldn’t have asked for a better hostess. Bartenders were quick and on the ball with their home-made ingredients – there is real talent here.

Really falling for Communion, I almost don’t want to tell you about it. A bit out of the way to get to, but worth the travel; Communion Bar is a rare cocktail bar in the area, and certainly sets the bar high. The Hoodooist looks forward to returning.

 

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

 

Communion Bar

Church ST Hotel,
29-33 Camberwell Church St,
Camberwell,
London SE5 8TR

http://www.communionbar.com

… Loves Company, Old Street

Type of Bar: Quirky, Multi-tasking
Damage££
Ideal for: Events, Industry, Small Groups

A self-identified ‘industry bar’, LoCo has rehashed its image and menu to be more approachable to the wider public, according to our wonderfully conversational bartender.

The renovation is…interesting. I recommend going to the much more comfortable and playful basement area. The upstairs area consists of dark, cramped entrance bar, and on the right a bright artspace that is repeatedly painted over for a new artist to come and provide some new artwork, creating a protean, ever changing space for patrons. This is working both ways – in its current first week, we are glad to see Ed Hicks’ great work up on the wall, but providing this involves incredibly bright lighting (beautiful though the copper-pipe light fixture is), resulting in what a friend described as “fast-food-chain lighting”, especially oppressive in the daytime.

The bar is rather ambitious with hosting multiple events, repeatedly changing the menu, via contests and guest chefs, and the art as well. Some of these events, like Rematch Beeyatch, in fact make this more of an ‘industry bar’ rather than less.

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Regarding the drinks, I have to admit, I missed their old menu. The new menu has a distinctly Loungelover feel in the choice of drinks. Our bartender explained they were trying to inject fun into the menu by adding ‘secret ingredients’ to each of the drinks, under code names like “Aphrodisia No.9”, a spiced aromatic concoction; or “Powdered Libido” which was cayenne and paprika.

I sort of get the idea? Personally, I found it to be bit of an annoyance. Thankfully it was quiet, so our bartender was free to usher us through the menu, but I wouldn’t want this hassle on a busy night. I adored our server, but I felt like I needed to take notes just to keep track.

In any case, our first and favourite drink, the Rocky Horror was a spicy wonder. Absolut Vodka, Grand Marnier Cherry, Lime sugar syrup and Powdered Libido, garnished with a red pepper; provided a pepper-spiked and tart drink for the summer sun. I rarely go for tall drinks, but when they come with an edge like the Rocky Horror does, I can’t help myself. A Floradora-meets-Bloody Mary.

Our second drink was a bit of a disappointment, primarily because of the ‘secret ingredient’, but since it is created in-store, can always go through future re-tweaking – it is only their first week. The DayJar Vu (raise an eyebrow if you got that): Four Roses bourbon, lemon juice, and Aphrodisia No.9. The Aphrodisia is a blend of spices, cinnamon, cloves, among others; the drink is accompanied by large garnishes of grapes and flowers (re: the punny name). The drink has immense potential with a bit of tweaking – the intended depth to be provided by the complex Aphrodisia ends up more confused, resulting in a primarily cinnamon flavour overriding almost everything except the lemon juice.

For the third drink, I asked Mr. Gerakis to recreate a drink from the old menu, the Mr. Martinez Heads East. The original was a Martinez with a spicy twist by using Opihr gin, but since they didn’t have Opihr in stock, the drink was recreated by muddling the drink with cardamom and a couple of spices. The cardamom was the most prominent flavour, but the drink was still very satisfying and I love our bartender for going out of his way and thinking on his feet with this one.

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When it comes down to it, Loves Company is primarily an industry bar, more so now than before (though apparently the rehash was meant to accomplish the opposite) – but it doesn’t take away from its ambitious charm, and is perhaps a great pitstop on the way to the industry if you are interested in joining in. With names like Harry Gerakis, Russell Burgess and Lee Baker involved, it has a strong heart; but should keep an eye on how much it’s trying to do too fast.

I’m left feeling ambivalent, I like the bar providing several services and events, but it is especially overwhelming that the moment you walk in, you are bombarded with info about the current artist, the next toast match, the new menu, the secret ingredients, the Rematch event that weekend, and the events and performers following for the following weeks.

Service-wise, it was wonderful, adored our bartender who went out of his way for our drinks and to chat – but I haven’t experienced it on a crowded night and how thin the servers might be stretched with questions regarding the secret ingredients – we were assured it isn’t a problem.

I wish Loves Company the best of luck, it has an amazing amount of potential for being a hub for meeting up and coming bartenders, but they seriously need to update their website (Sorry Lee, I know I’ve been bugging you about this) =P

Drinks: ***
Atmosphere: Upstairs: *, Downstairs: ***
Service: ****

… Loves Company

Unit 1, Imperial Hall,
104-122 City Road,
London EC1V 2NR

www.lovescompany.co.uk