Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Experimental Cocktail Club, Soho

Experimental Cocktail Club
13A Gerrard Street

Lee Moncello

More Sherlock Holmes than Inspector Clouseau, we discover the Experimental Cocktail Club behind an unmarked door in Chinatown.

From the steamy windows of the street, the stairway to the bar could be a portal to Mayfair - only the silk wallpaper and glass-noodle lampshades nod to the world outside.

The waiter talks us through the menu; under his advice, I choose an Old Cuban - rum, champagne, ginger, lime and mint. My drinking companion, Keira Royale, orders an Experience No 2: gin, elderflower, lemon juice, basil and lemongrass.

When the drinks arrive, we're quietly awed by little herb gardens in our vintage coupe glasses. Ah, les Français! You've always been much better than us in the kitchen.

For the second round Keira opts for an Old Cuban while I order a Stone Raft and, sure, there are no complaints from my cocktail companion.

But my drink is pure dommage. The menu promised bird's eye chilli-infused tequila, sherry, mezcal, agave nectar & celery bitters. I feel not the slightest tingle from the chillies - let alone the gentle poke of a celery stick - and sip away with intense chagrin until my £10 tumbler of sherry is empty

Experimental perfection? It might as well have been a beef and onion trifle for all I enjoyed it.

The one sweet upshot of the night was the realisation that London might be the world capital for cocktails. Sure, us Brits can barely cook worth a damn, but with Milk and Honey and the American Bar just five minutes' walk away from this venue, I hope for the ECC's sake that no-one else has to drink through the Stone Raft I had.

But, given the reputation of their Parisian outpost, even in the worst case scenario I have no doubt that they'll earn back their train fares.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Nightjar, Shoreditch

The Nightjar
129 City Road

Opal Nera

I duck out of the rain and into an unmarked door on City Road. I’d received a phone call earlier that day requesting my services to help track down a wayward husband. Typically, I don’t get involved in such second rate shenanigans, but I need new business cards and times are tough.

Still a little sore from last night’s bust up with a rather eager Rottweiler, I gingerly make my way down dimly-lit stairs into a San Franciscan-styled speakeasy. It’s a classy joint. I’m not surprised. On the phone, she sounded classy too. I reckon I’m looking for a breathy blond with a face like a worried puppy. I start to wonder whether I oughtn’t to have worn a red carnation for identification when I realise that the place is empty, apart from a long-legged blonde sitting alone at a table in the corner, and a sultry redhead singing a melancholic tune on stage.

I walk over to the blonde. Her hair swished down a little like what Frank Lloyd Wright must have had in mind when he designed Fallingwater. She wore a red dress so tight it looked Weisswurst wrapped in bacon. Boy, did she take a man’s mind off the recession.

The blonde looked up at me. “Mr. Nera”, she drawled.

“Drinks first,” I replied by way of introduction, “formalities second. What can I get you?”

“I’ll have a Fog Cutter. Rum always makes me feel better.”

I return with the drinks and sit opposite the blonde. I set the tall glass down in front of her and take a sip of my Ladybird before asking after her drink.

“Do you always take so long to get to the point, Mr Nera? I asked you here for a reason.”

I cock my left eyebrow by way of response.

“If you must know,” she purred, “it’s absolutely delicious. Tastes like my last Californian holiday – all rum and almond. Do you mind very much, Mr. Nera,” she said reaching across to brush my hand, “if I have a taste of your…”

“Of course,” I finished, sliding my drink across the table.

“Delicious,” she said. A little smile flicked across her lips as she licked a swish of chocolate off the glass. “What is it? Spiced rum and perhaps a dash of plum liquor?”

“It’s a Ladybird. You’re right about the spiced rum, but it’s prune and truffle liqueur, not plum. An excellent palate,” I smiled at her. “Now, tell me, Miss…”

She studied me over her Fog Cutter and remained silent.

“Miss…,” I faltered, “how can I be of assistance?”

“Well, Mr. Nera, you see I haven’t actually got a husband. At least not yet. But I hope to have one soon. Perhaps after a few more of these Fog Cutters…”