Loungelover, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Lounge, Bar/Restaurant
Damage££
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: ***

Loungelover

1 Whitby Street
London E1 6JU

http://www.loungelover.uk.com

 

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Floripa, Old Street/Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Bar/RestaurantEasy-goingBrazilian
Damage: £-££
Ideal for: FoodPartyShamelessly Drunk

 

Floripa has gone through many changes over the years, from seedy house of debauchery, to carnivalesque party venue, to what it is today.

Floripa still has a good vibe and a party atmosphere, but a half a year after the last time I was here, things have changed a bit. On the cocktail side. It’s still a large open plan space with an outdoor area and a stage for both bands and DJs, with large groups of people coming in for dinner and drinks.

 

Beginning with the Fogo de Floripa: Cachaca, pomegranate syrup and far, far, far too much Temepero Baiano (a spice combo much like the Indian garam masala, where every family has their own combination of various spices. This was pretty much plain cinnamon, maybe nutmeg as well;). The result was, in a word, obscene. Chokingly sweet, no one at the table could ingest this. So sweet that it didn’t taste of anything. Regrettable in every way.

6 months ago, Caipirinhas over here were actually pretty good. Recently things have taken a turn for the worse.

We thought, hey, the last time we got decent ones, and how can one mess up a Caipirinha? It’s a Brazilian venue after all. The Velho Barreiro Cachaca muddled with lime and sugar just came tasting of artificial flavouring and refined sugar. Just. No.

Whereas this venue is great for parties, I wish I’d be able to drink something.

The food was mediocre.

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I was also more annoyed by the general attitude of the venue, making it a headache to book spaces using bank detail etc., it ain’t Claridges. It just ended up feeling like such a waste.

Service was alright, nothing special, but not bad, either.
Next time I have a cachaca craving, I will remember to go back to Made in Brazil, Camden Town (Review HERE).

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

Floripa

91-93 Great Eastern Street,
London EC2A 3HZ

http://www.floripalondon.com

Casita Bar’s 8th Birthday, feat. Ocho Tequila

Yes, that wonderful cocktail shed in Shoreditch has celebrated its 8th birthday this week, partnered with Ocho tequila (Ocho, geddit); if you haven’t been acquainted with Casita yet, check out its review, HERE.

And unlike most birthday parties, Casita had the idea of inviting spectacular bartenders from around the city to showcase their skills over the course of 8 hours – and what a brilliant idea that was. As if the wonderful Sophie Mackay and Oskar Klimaszewski weren’t enough, owner Will Foster shared the stage with the likes of Chris Dennis of Trailer Happiness, and Jesse Estes of El Nivel (Find review of El Nivel HERE). Only rules for the cocktails: All drinks had to be made with Ocho (not that anyone was complaining!).

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Will El Generalisimo Foster’s ‘El Fenix’ encapsulated Casita’s spirit perfectly: a long spicy-sweet tequila drink of jalapeno, basil, and raspberries topped up with pink Ting – it’s by Casita, you know it’s going to be good, just go with it.

Jesse Estes, working with his own tequila brand, Ocho – knocked it out of the park as expected. The ‘Mexican 55’ – Ocho blanco, lemon juice, agave syrup and sparkling wine – was exactly what I was waiting for all night. A clear, refreshing drink that was a perfect pick-up after the dark and heavy ‘N’Ocho Average Negroni’ (Ocho blanco, spiced Guinness, Campari), by Penkul & Banks’ Simon Toohey.

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Trailer Happiness
’ Chris Dennis presented another winning drink: the ‘Bipolar Daiquiri’. Ocho blanco, green chartreuse, lime juice and Falernum made an excellent tangy drink that wasn’t as herbal as one would suspect at first glance. Finally, Ian Macintyre of the wonderful NOLA (Find the review of NOLA HERE) presented the ‘Baloma’: Ocho blanco, grapefruit shrub, Campari and Sagres – a drink with a distinctly NOLA flair. One of us ordered the Baloma with Ting instead of Sagres and both had to admit that the Ting worked better with the drink than the Sagres, which drowned out the flavours of the other ingredients.

To end, Casita’s Sophie Mackay presented a deep Mexico-meets-Italy drink in the form of the ‘Dirty Mexican’: Ocho blanco, Martini Rosso and Fernet Branca (In a party bag!) and the 86 co.’s Dan Warner came with an Ocho Paloma.

 

For 8 nights Casita presents these discounted cocktails, and what a winning combo they are! Props to Casita for a fantastic mid-week night out! Even after, as long as they have the ingredients, the Casita bartenders will be happy to knock one of these out for you (as long as you remember the ingredients!).

Casita,
5A Ravey St,
London EC2A 4QW

The JubJub @ Callooh Callay, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Tiny, QuirkyMembers?
Damage££
Ideal for: Date, Small Groups
Callooh Callay has become a Shoreditch institution over the past few years, but recently there has been discussion on what to do with the Upstairs Bar, aka the JubJub. Do we make it members only again? Do we give make it members only after 10 PM? (Free) membership will kick in in the summer, at which point it will become members only after 10PM, whilst open to the public before then.

So we’re gonna tell you what you need to know before any of that comes in the way of your evening’s plan.

The JJ @ CC gets a separate article because of its separate cocktail list by manager Matt Fairhurst; yes, its list is different from the first two rooms on the ground floor. The menu is shorter, but typically Callooh Callay.

The bar-in-a-bar-in-a-bar  itself is tiny, though not necessarily intimate; it fits a lot of people in. It has CC’s traditional sense of décor, large teal and hardwood sofas alongside wooden stools against purple walls decorated with massive pieces of art from the Pure Evil gallery: like pin up girls on a beach against a nuclear explosion (?). It’s actually a very relaxed little space.

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Drinks wise, there is no trend per se, but we see a degree of experimentation with flavour with CC’s signature quirkiness. For example, the Rum and Coke (aka. Smokey Cokey), is El Dorado 12yr rum with coke reduction and Fernet Branca.

We began with the Fernet Me Not is described as ‘floral’ for some reason. Cucumber, Tanqueray gin, lemon, topped with fizz. We don’t get much of the Fernet Branca, but the cucumber and the notes of cucumber in the gin stand out the strongest, almost ultimately. With the fizz we get a wonderfully refreshing drink that is simple, traditional, but effective.

Holy Guacamole, has mezcal, lime juice with blended avocado, coriander and chilli to make a spring-green cocktail very reminiscent of Casita’s Tequila con Verdita shot. The avocado brings a velvety texture to the drink, the coriander and chilli being rather subtle and just adding a little spring in its step. The mezcal is the star of the show ultimately, with its smokiness. Bright, spry, this cocktail is perfect to perk you up in the evenings.

The Fig Shrubble in Little Cynar which brought Agricole rhum with fig shrub, sweet vermouth and Cynar artichoke liqueur bitter – of whose flavours the most prominent was the Cynar and sweet vermouth, surprisingly! It certainly wasn’t unpleasant, but not what one expected, either.

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Service is swift and attentive, in such a tiny space, it really has to be. Sitting at the bar feels a bit uncomfortable and cramped though, so I’d definitely request being at the tables. The low, backless chairs may provide a bit of difficulty if you’re spending a long time there.

The Jub Jub provides a very similar look to the rest of Callooh Callay in terms of décor and cocktails. As for experience, it is, thankfully, less crowded than the first two rooms – which are the two things that often makes me cross the street to NOLA when on Rivington Street. In many ways, this contributes to the argument to bring the JubJub back to members only status. The only way to avoid making it members only, I think, is to make sure that only the smallest groups of people can make bookings. Whatever the decision CC makes, the JubJub is still worth trying out when possible!

Drinks: ***, Arguably ****
Atmosphere: ***
Service: ****

The Jub Jub,
Upstairs @ Callooh Callay

65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch
London EC2A 3AY

http://www.calloohcallaybar.com/

Casita, Shoreditch

Type of Bar: Easy-going, Tiny, Latin?
Damage£
Ideal for: Small groups, PartyShamelessly Drunk

I kinda don’t want to tell you about Casita.

Just round the corner from The Book Club with its queue of people who just don’t know any better, Casita is a tiny cocktail space with a whole lot of character.

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It’s worth playing Sardines in here

The Latin vibe of the place which is stressed in many reviews is barely noticeable in the crowded room, especially if you need to make your way to the bar. Luckily, the density of the crowd ebbs and flows, so as soon as you get some breathing space, you get a chance to get to know the wonderful bartenders. Always cheeky, up for conversation and a casual flirt, they know what they’re doing and will do whatever it takes to make sure you’re stumbling by last call at 11PM. Don’t be surprised by on-the-house shots of the bar signature Tequila con Verdita, which you’ll find yourself doing more of than expected (between-drinks palette cleansers I claim they are).

The shot of El Jimenez tequila with a chaser of coriander, mint, pineapple juice and fresh jalepenos will keep you coming back for more as you go through their list of expertly made classics like a Tommy’s Margarita (Tequila, agave nectar and lime, as usual), or a good old King of Roses: a sweet gingerbread syrup and Four Roses bourbon. If they have their hands on honey syrup, I highly recommend the Gold Rush, honey syrup, whiskey and lemon juice; or its gin cousin, the Bee’s Knees. They exemplify Casita’s nature: Simplicity, yet well done and supremely satisfying.

You could go off menu as well; a Sazerac I ordered came out fabulously – except it may have been served with ice (faux pas), but I can’t quite remember by the time I got to that drink. I believe I did experiment by ordering a rum daiquiri with Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur and loved it – not on their menu, but they will be happy to make this cocktail with a savoury roundedness for you.

And that’s the charm of the place; it’s a place to get disgracefully drunk without the risk of drinking something horrible.

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As for food, the bar offers a selection of take away menus to bring food to the bar for you: which reflects Casita’s incredibly laid back nature. Or you could steal their blackberries to eat. As long as you’re not causing drama, they’re happy as long as you are.

The monetary damage is minimal – four drinks and four shots got a tab for 40 pounds, pretty fantastic for the quality.

For the high rating, you must understand that we can’t limit high ratings to cushy table service bars with drinks at 16 pounds a pop as some reviewers think we must. If you want a shameless night out pressed up against strangers with a bad drink, go to a London Cocktail Club branch. If you want a shameless night out pressed up against strangers with a spectacular Nuclear Daiquiri in one hand and blinding Tequila con Verdita in the other, Casita is your destination.

Update: The glorious Casita bartender, Oskar, is retiring end of May 2014! We love him dearly and will miss him terribly, and wish him best of luck in his next, mysterious cocktail venture! Watch this space!

Update: Click HERE to for article on Casita Bar’s 8th Birthday feat. Ocho Tequila! A spectacle to multiple invited startenders and their cocktails!

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

Casita,
5A Ravey St,
London EC2A 4QW

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