Tucked within the beautiful Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, Peg + Patriot is a cosy bar that was opened just a few months ago by Matt Whiley of the Talented Mr Fox and his team, Ally Martin and James Stevenson. It was pretty quiet on a Sunday night, with just a few barstools occupied. I took a spot at the bar and studied the clipboard-bound menu. Is it me, or are a lot of London bars hopelessly obsessed with clever puns?
Distracted by the names and unfamiliar ingredients, but mostly tired from a very long flight, I asked bartender Sam to guide me and recommend a stirred & direct cocktail. (Apparently the menu has been updated since my visit and is now conveniently organized by stirred or shaken drink categories.) After some discussion, I ordered D. Groner, which immediately caught my attention when described as a Sazerac twist.
The cocktail delivered in spades. Boozy like a Sazerac should be, with an unmistakable umami flavor. The drink is based on a distillate made at the bar from a rye bagel and beef essence, paired with cognac. What an incredible combination. To top things off, a tiny pipette delicately clipped to the glass allows the drinker to add a mustard leaf distillate in a dropwise fashion. So when you start getting tired of the drink, or just want to try something new to stimulate your taste buds, adding a few drops makes the flavors pop again.
It was good to have some food to nibble on, although the iberico & foie gras sliders were hardly worth the wait. A disappointment, especially knowing that the bar is located within the same hotel as excellent restaurants Corner Room and Typing Room.
For my second drink, I decided to stay in the umami category and could not resist the Pho Money Pho Problems, although I was struggling a bit with the concept of the traditional Vietnamese soup in a cocktail form. This cocktail uses another distillate made in house using the herbs and spices typical in the soup. But at the core, it’s really a sour with unusual flavors, and a touch of umami. The garnish is mostly decorative. While it’s quite photogenic, I did not feel that this cocktail was as successful as the D. Groner.
The bar makes a large number of ingredients on the premises using their two distillation units, including their own vermouths, spirits and liqueurs, and therefore can offer cocktails that would be impossible to replicate at home or in other bars. There were a lot of intriguing bottles on the shelf hanging above the bar that I am hoping to sample on future visits.
- Video of Matt Whiley making the Pho Money Pho Problems.
- The distillation equipment at Peg + Patriot.
- If you are in the area, make sure to check out nearby bar Satan’s Whiskers.