MARC BURROWS, DECEMBER 2017
Nothing says swish city-living like sitting at a bar with a cocktail and watching the world go by. Sophistication arguably peaked when someone invented the Old Fashioned. London’s cocktail scene is one of the best in the entire world and from gorgeous, multi-layered explosions of juice and colour to the elegance of a classic martini there’s something for everyone. Forget your fishbowls full of Sex On The Beach, because in London there’s always something special in the next glass.
Hidden in a basement just off the lively Kingly Court, Disrepute have gone to some lengths to put an air of mystery and romance into the bar experience. The bar itself had its heyday in the 60s, where as the Pinstripe Bar and later the Kingly Club it was a regular haunt for the Carnaby crowd. This latest incarnation attempts to invoke that time, when the bar was apparently frequented by politicians, popstars and (so they say) spies. The deco is all classy Art Nouveau, and you really do expect Audrey Hepburn to come sauntering in on the arm of a mystery man. The nicest touch is the menu, which is written as a collection of short stories; guests are expected to choose their drink based on the atmosphere invoked in the tale, although there is a list of the actual ingredients at the back of the menu should you get a bit bored of the game. Try the smokey Welder’s Apprentice.
With a river view pointing straight across to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, this mix of classic cocktails, relaxed setting and live music gives you a taste of sophistication. It feels intimate and indulgent, but at the same time decent offers mean it’s an affordable way to sample the city’s sipping culture. Definitely check out the spectacular “smoking cocktails” range, and for those looking for something a little different, the Hot Baby Martini is a smasher.
Behind This Wall
An audiophile’s paradise, the star of the show is the vinyl-only, single-deck hi-fi, assembled from extremely high-end vintage parts. It means your drinks are accompanied by the warmest sounds you will find anywhere. There’s also a nice “hidden” feel to the bar, which is situated behind a heavy curtain, down a hard-to-spot staircase, thankfully without that try-hard “speakeasy” feel which is already pretty old-hat on the cocktail scene. Points should also be awarded to a menu which steers well-clear of the classics and strikes out for something genuinely unique – the Radio Norwich combines apple and mustard sour, weissbrand, pisco, cinnamon bitters, and apple cedar smoke, while the Chubby Broccoli is a veg-themed but surprisingly refreshing dream. Try the pickle juice chasers. No, really.
The Experimental Cocktail Club
Though the idea has kind-of been done to death now, there really is something wonderful about a properly-hidden cocktail bar. The ECC in the heart of Chinatown is about as well-hidden as you’ll (struggle to) find, seeing as it’s behind a battered and unmarked door amid the restaurants of Gerrard Street. If you don’t know it’s there, you’ll never find it. Up a narrow staircase you’ll find a buzzing three-story bar with a genuinely outstanding, if not especially cheap, cocktail menu. As the name suggests, you don’t go to the ECC for a Pina-Colada, but nor is the selection as self-consciously wacky as you might fear – instead there’s a mixologists dream of inventive ideas and classic flavours. Gin lovers should try the St Germain De Pres.
Excellent fusion cuisine sits alongside a detailed and indulgent cocktail menu, overlooking the Thames. Though there’s plenty of classics on offer, it’s the Latin influence that makes the menu really sing. As you’d expect there is PLENTY of rum involved here, the Rum Re-Fashioned gives a sweet twist to the classic Old Fashioned, and the Latino Mule, well, let’s just say it kicks. Naturally there’s a range of fresh-fruit Mojitos as well. If you’re looking for something unique try the Cigar Lover, which mixes Mezcal tequila with orange and vanilla notes.