Down a flight of stairs into what first seemed like complete darkness, as my eyes adjusted to the light I was able to discern an inviting space with dark wood paneling and deep leather banquettes.
About a year ago, after a long flight from San Diego to London, I dropped off my things at the Zetter Hotel and had just enough time to enjoy a restorative meal at neighboring restaurant St. John before meeting a couple of cocktailians friends. I suggested starting our cocktail adventures at the American Bar at the Savoy Hotel. Going to the Savoy felt surreal in many ways. I had read so much about it, and of course when you are there you cannot help but think about all of the history. I had followed with great interest the events around the 50th anniversary of Harry Craddock‘s death that had been chronicled by Erik Ellestad on his blog. Being able to finally go there was a little overwhelming.
White Lyan is a bar that Ryan Chetiyawardana (formerly of Worship Street Whistling Shop, Purl, 69 Colebrook Row, Bramble) and Iain Griffiths (Bramble, Eau de Vie) opened in September 2013 in Hoxton (East London), in a space that used to house the White Horse pub. It received a lot of buzz because of its general concept, which is always described by what it does not have – ice, perishables, shakers, brands, off-menu cocktails, etc.
That sounded forced and a bit gimmicky, pretentious even; a bar that was essentially putting into question the principles that we have seen used successfully time after time: ice programs, fresh citrus, shaking techniques, impressive back bars, bartender’s choice, etc. But after seeing the bar pick up the top award for Best New International Bar at Tales of the Cocktail this year, I knew I wanted to check it out.
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? Continue reading
Cocktails with orange juice are evil, I’ve always been convinced. No matter how hard I try, I cannot find too many good things to say about The Bronx or the Blood and Sand. Even PDT could not get the Monkey Gland right. All these cocktails seem to compensate for their inadequacy with catchy names. Continue reading
After a great dinner at the Corner Room in Bethnal Green, I decided to check out nearby bar Satan’s Whiskers which had just opened a few months back. The bar, indicated by a red neon sign, had the expected decor of hipster cocktail lounges with a tasteful mix of brick, reclaimed items, light bulbs with visible filaments, a selection of taxidermied and accessorized animals, a unicorn skeleton, and an ironic old school hip hop soundtrack.
Polite Provisions won the Spirited Award for Best American High Volume Cocktail Bar last week at Tales of the Cocktail, the New Orleans cocktail festival. It’s great to see San Diego recognized, although there are other establishments of similar caliber that certainly merit a nod (maybe next year?). Craft & Commerce had been nominated in the same category in 2012. The full list of TOTC winners available on Difford’s also prominently includes London’s Artesian, which was crowned the World’s Best Bar (see here for my impressions).
The other exciting news from this weekend is that Stone has announced that they will be opening their first European brewery in Berlin in 2015-2016. This has been years in the works. Similar to the San Diego set-up, the facility will include a production brewery, a restaurant, and gardens. See here for the official press release.
The evening started with an early dinner at J. Sheekey Oyster Bar. Located steps away from the Leicester Square station on St. Martin’s court, the oyster bar is near its big brother J. Sheekey, a seafood institution which has been in business for more than 100 years. The oyster bar itself is a fairly small art deco room with an imposing marble horseshoe-shaped counter, and a décor of black and white photographs on wood paneled walls. Even though it opened just a few years ago, the restaurant as a certain timeless charm and a calm atmosphere.
The selection is extensive, from small plates of seafood to shellfish platters. I started with Gillardeau Speciales from France which were some of the best oysters I’ve ever had. They were crisp and full of delicious broth, similar to Fines de Claires but perhaps slightly more on the rich and savory side. Then came a bass ceviche with avocado and a plantain crisp, and razor clams with chorizo and hedgerow garlic, a type of wild garlic. Finally, the piece de resistance was a Devon Cock Crab. It takes a little bit of work to release all the sweet and succulent meat, but this gave me a chance to slow down and enjoy a glass of Sauvignon blanc from Touraine. As for dessert, the brown meat from the shell that I spread on a slice of baguette was rich like a delicious little seafood foie gras treat.Continue reading
Last Saturday I finally got a chance to try Polite Provisions. This relatively new bar that opened in North Park in February is the latest child of Consortium Holdings, the same team that brought us El Dorado, Neighborhood, Noble Experiment, Craft and Commerce, and Underbelly. It comes with a little adjacent eatery, Soda and Swine, which specializes in meatballs.
The space looks like an old drugstore with a smooth patinaed white marble bar, lots of brass, and a beautiful mosaic floor with metal inlays. It has a very casual and comfortable feel to it; it’s a place where you feel immediately at ease.