“Great cocktails, no wallies.”
A dreamy basement cocktail bar in central London with attentive, knowledgeable staff.
The low level lighting is sublime but it means that my photos are a bit rubbish. Just trust me and pay them a visit if you’re anywhere near Hoxton square in London.
A classic martini wasn’t even on the menu – they have a wide range of other good quality cocktails that my friends sampled extensively and reviewed most positively.
However, when I asked if I could have a standard martini (I felt guilty and irritating whilst doing so) not only was my request graciously fulfilled, I was asked which gin I would prefer, whether I wanted it sweet or dry (I asked for medium) and whether or not I would like it with an olive or a twist of lemon.
I instantly knew I was in safe hands.
I asked for a Tanqueray martini to start. It came in a coupe glass with a twist of lemon and that much-welcome citrus aroma indicating that the barman had attentively squeezed the peel into the glass before pouring. The gin and the glass hadn’t been kept in the freezer but the barman had clearly shaken the drink with ice to cool it down. It was pleasant and clearly made with care, respect and attention.
For my next drink I asked for another of the same but made with a gin of the waitress’s choosing. She regularly checked our table to see if we needed anything. One of my friends, a former resident of Finland, remarked that her style was very Scandinavian. She was straight forward, knowledgable but not fawning, fake or overly smiley: a professional.
She recommended that I try a martini made with Ford’s gin for its clean, crisp taste. It came very cold. I think they used a glass kept in the freezer this time – you can tell because you will leave your finger prints on a frozen glass.
Instead of lemon, it came with a twist of grapefruit to compliment the botanicals of the gin (it’s strong on juniper – as I like it). What an unusual treat.
So, allow me to summarise my review in bullet points:
- Very attentive and knowledgeable staff.
- A classic martini wasn’t even on the menu but two were happily prepared for me.
- I was asked if I wanted them sweet or dry.
- I was offered a choice between a twist of lemon or an olive (so simple, so crucial).
- The waitress took time to talk to us about different kinds of gin and introduced us to some new brands, of which she knew a lot.
- We were checked upon to see if we needed anything in a way that was straight forward and professional, not fawning or intrusive.
- The setting is lovely.
- The music was good and conducive towards conversation.
- The lighting. I’ve already mentioned it.
- The toilets were very clean and smelt divine.
- There was a wide range of gins.
- The martini glasses are kept in the freezer.
- The crowd was nice – mostly couples of dates, rather than grating hipsters or stray city-types.
There’s not a lot for me to say here and my points are purely related to my martini preferences. Bear in mind that martinis weren’t even on the menu so the fact that the staff went to the lengths that they did is hugely commendable.
- I don’t like martinis being served in a coupe glass but it seems to be very common in London.
- I like some nibble options to go with a martini, even if it was just a small dish of olives at extra cost. Probably not within the style or business model of this bar but there you go, those are my preferences.
- I prefer the gin to be stored in the freezer. This might be difficult in the bar as they have such a wide range available but perhaps I would pick a favourite and keep that one in the freezer for martini requests (I would suggest Tanqueray or Beefeater for commercial purposes). Otherwise they chilled it with ice in a shaker and the glasses were clearly frozen so I cannot fault the staff in any way.
- I found the seating slightly uncomfortable. But hey ho, if you have a few of their cocktails your nerve endings won’t be that receptive anyway…
And that’s it. Minor points of fault. Otherwise it far exceeds most bars in London for its drinks. I’ll be back.