Seymour’s Parlour @ The Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

Type of Bar: Hotel, Lounge, Victorian
Damage££
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

http://www.thezettertownhouse.com/marylebone

Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Victorian, Vintage
Damage££
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

http://bandhbuildings.com/

Powder Keg Diplomacy, Wandsworth

Type of Bar: Bar/Restaurant, Victorian
Damage££
Ideal for: Small Groups, Food, Date

Powder Keg Diplomacy – cousin to the Lost Society & Lost Angel (Review HERE) offering drinks of the same nature, trend and quality as its brethren, but in a much calmer restaurant setting.

Disclaimer / Trigger Warning:

Honouring tradition while subverting convention”, the PKD motto announces; but this bar nostalgic to times very few living people can remember, has distinct similarities and differences to its relatives – in a concerning way. The pseudo-Victorian nature of the décor in the LS & LA is taken to the extreme at the PKD – but in the worrying theme of colonialism and empire – proudly described as “an urban colonial environment”. Derridans, do with that as you will. The designer seems to forget there is a difference between patriotism, and pride in colonialism. As a descendant of British emigrants and soldiers of the empire to foreign conquered lands who themselves chided colonialism upon witnessing the result of colonialism in these countries, I couldn’t help but be a bit uncomfortable with the giant mural in front of my table painting the establishment of empire in countries I share homes and relatives with. Should’ve guessed considering the word ‘Diplomacy’ here is defined by a keg of gunpowder. Maybe I just don’t get the irony?

Here, and Here are handy lists about atrocities committed by the British Empire.

This bizarre misplaced nostalgia of empire is served up alongside “approachable seasonal British fare”, “sourced solely from the land and sea of the United Kingdom”, which is at best, irony or mistake in philosophy; or at worst, the normalisation of colonial politic. Rendered almost funny by a friend’s comment about how the Victorian Empire was just a search for decent food, which is why it ended when it found curry.

Before anyone launches at me for being uncomfortable with the décor, I’d like to say that there is a way to have a Victorian theme to a venue without going down this route (See: The Lost Angel, Zetter Townhouse). But really it’s up to you, this is just a disclaimer.

Henry Martini Rifle

Henry Martini Rifle

 

Cocktails: On the ball. Excellent value for excellent drinks (Don’t you love Zone 2?)

Whitley Neill Gin, ‘gunpowder’ green tea vermouth, maple syrup, dandelion & burdock bitters came together for the Henry Martini Rifle, is apparently ‘inspired’ by the rifle used “to overpower and subdue colonies”. Right.
The drink was a decent wet Martini, the primary flavour being the initial hit of the gunpowder smokiness after the gin bite (the green tea infused vermouth itself being distantly reminiscent of jasmine), followed by the dandelion & burdock bitters being surprisingly strong; served in a tiny coupe while the rest is chilling in an ice filled tumbler. Well rounded, and an excellent aperitif.

The Ben and Jerries makes an excellent drink for the sweet tooth, Appleton VX & Santa Teresa rums, strawberry shrub, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and a natural yoghurt powder rim. I love that the (though intense) flavour of the strawberry shrub does not overpower the drinker, so well balanced with the spicy oak of Appleton VX – and the very different kind of subtle brown sugar sweetness of the Santa Teresa. You don’t have much time to worry about the drink before you lick the powder from your lips and the sudden clashing appearance of the powder hits you, the sweet-sour yoghurt powder finishing the drink off wonderfully.

The Bourbinheim seemed to be the hit of the night – hibiscus & sour cherry smoke, Woodford Reserve, Maraschino liqueur, Punt e Mes. Punt e Mes & Maraschino are always a winning combination to add to dark spirits; and the whisky is smoked excellently but the sour sweetness of the smoke. For a deep, enveloping, sweet-but-not, cocktail, the Bourbinheim is fantastic.

 

Bourbinheim

Bourbinheim

BUT, there were problems: A (unfortunately) particularly disappointing drink was the Hanakatoba Sour was meant to combine “the honey and citrus in the ginseng to really stimulate the senses”: Umeshu, ginseng liqueur, King’s Ginger liqueur, fresh lemon juice and egg white. At the end of it, it was straight citrus through and through. There was a hint of umeshu deep in the distance, but that was about all. Would love to try the drink without the last two ingredients, just as a wine-based umeshu drink. The Gincess Gimlet was another little hiccup, but not as much of a problem as the Hanakatoba; Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, rhubarb and rosehip syrup and lemon juice felt confused and reminded me instantly of the PortSide Parlour’s (Click HERE for review)Grace Jones’ (which we eventually described as ‘soup’).

A drink we didn’t try, but referenced the misplaced notion of positive-colonialism would be the ‘Silk Road’ – apparently a “respectable nod towards the trade route that was central to cultural interaction of Asia and the Mediterranean… Flavours from far and wide brought together”. And yet, 3 of the 4 ingredients come from Central America and the Caribbean an ocean away – Mezcal, tequila, curacao, pomegranate molasses. Were the words ‘respectable nod’ sarcastic? You decide. Baijiu, arak, arrack, raki, Huangjiu and various Mediterranean alcohols & flavours still exist that could have been used.
The Lost Angel does a drink called the Silk Route Martini, which is at least inspired by the idea, with Opihr gin and its various spice-botanicals that were traded on said route.

IMAG0690

 

Service was spectacular for a venue with loudish music. Swift, attentive, always up for a little chat; Maskell and his team are once again at the top of their game when it comes to hosting. Excellent points for hospitality!

 

In short, well, I don’t know if there is an in short for this venue. Drinks are not really hit and miss, since the drinks that didn’t work out seemed suspicious just from their list of ingredients, so didn’t surprise me. But the drinks that worked well, were absolutely wonderful. The excellent service was one of the best parts of our evening. It just kept getting tainted by the theme, the names of some of the drinks and their descriptions. For some of you, this might not be a problem, but I feel it is something that should be highlighted and acknowledged by a visitor before going there, in order to not be…. Surprised.

Drinks: ****
Atmosphere: “I dub this country BongoBongoLand”
Service: ****

 

Powder Keg Diplomacy

147 St. Johns Hill,
London SW11 1TQ

http://www.powderkegdiplomacy.co.uk/

The Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge, Clerkenwell

Type of Bar: Hotel, Lounge, Victorian
Damage££
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.

ZTHlobby

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.

IMAG0542

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.

IMAG0544

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

http://www.thezettertownhouse.com/clerkenwell/bar