Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Vıajante, Bethnal Green

Patriot Square
Bethnal Green
London E2 9NF

Monty Pulciano

I once tried on an off the peg suit at Spencer Hart on Savile Row. The jacket had magical flattering properties. It grabbed me around the shoulders, made me stand up straight and gave me an unfounded sense of my own importance. This is what a properly made Negroni should do. The gin makes you sit up straight, the medicinal taste of the campari feels like it is doing you good whilst the sweet vermouth and orange flatter you. The Negroni at Viajante failed to do one of these things and therefore failed utterly. There was not enough gin you see; I got the medicine and sweetness without the discipline imparted by strong alcohol. The twisted orange peel wasn’t up to much either.

Kina Lillet had asked me to do a review for this blog. I’d been putting it off for months pretending that I was writing a book when truth be told, I just don’t like cocktails that much. There’s so much to go wrong and even when the drink is made correctly, you have about 4 minutes to drink it before the ice melts, dilutes the drink and it is ruined. Red wine or whisky get better the longer you leave them and I like to linger. Cocktails are all hurry. They are essentially drinks for children.

The cocktail bar in Viajante is, however, a lovely room, the almonds are excellent and the staff sweetly camp so it would have been silly not to have another drink.  I ordered a Bermuda Porter. This consists of rum mixed with lemon juice and sugar and then topped with the foam from a porter beer and grated nutmeg and served in a half-pint dimple glass. Now this is a clever drink. One drinks the tart but sweetened rum through the malty foam. The first sip is wonderful. Sadly the foam quickly collapses, the ice melts and you are left with an unsightly scum. Before long it looks like one of those drinks university rugby players down for a dare before being sick all over your shoes. 

My wife ordered better, a Buffalo Jam. This is bourbon, Borojoa jam, lemon and soda: delicious, and after five minutes still delicious. Dilution did not ruin the drink. Viajante claim that Borojoa jam has aphrodisiac properties. Perhaps it’s me, but the only things she felt like after we left were some lamb chops and a nice drop of claret.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Bar 92, Fitzrovia

Bar 92
92-94 Wigmore Street
W1U 3RD 

Kina Lillet

There’s something really quite offensive about the typical review of a cocktail bar. Nine times out of ten the ‘description’ is pilfered from a press statement, hence the similarities in so many reviews: ‘Oh my god. So there I was walking down [insert name of street one would be unlikely to ever randomly walk down] when all of a sudden what did I spy but a lil’ old cocktail bar, my oh my. I then went in to taste, in strict chronological order the two comp drinks I was allocated by the bar’s PR. Drink one was divine, drink two utterly delish. You must all go to [insert absurd bar name here] immediately.’



Anyway, I digress. I’m going straight. I’m the editor of this here review and I’m here to review. And not just any old bar either. This is Bar 92. Helpfully the bar’s address, capacity and name are all exactly the same. I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s clever or lazy.

To the task at hand!

  1. This bar is ugly. 
  2. This bar has ostrich-leather sofas. 
  3. 1 is not necessarily because of 2. 
  4. The food is rather nondescript.
I could go on about lack of atmosphere and zombie serving staff, but given that customer service in London is atrocious as a rule and most bar owners think atmosphere can be bought at John Lewis, this bar has one thing going for it that many others lack.

And that, dear readers, is a damn fine bartender (DFB).

I don’t wish to name names, but too many bars – including some I am unashamedly fond of frequenting – privilege theatrics over taste buds. Being a DFB, Omkar Kalaskar, the man behind Bar 92’s unusual menu, knows that the way to a lady editor’s heart is through her lips, not her eyes. Perhaps it’s because the bar is empty and Kalaskar has time to flick and swish each of our drinks into a composition so perfectly balanced it would have made Mozart green-eyed with envy, but Hallelujah, what perfection! what balance! what deliciousness is this!

We drink: 
  1. Ginger and Thyme Sour  (vodka, lime, and sugar, muddled with ginger, thyme, and egg white). 
  2. After Hours (mango juice, amaretto, dark rum, and coconut cream). 
  3. The 92 (tequila, galliano, passoa, passion fruit puree, lime juice, cranberry, champagne). 
  4. Yellow Magpie (more rum!, fresh ginger, lychee)
Every sip is so lip-smackingly classy, so perfectly poised, so refreshingly different that I never want to leave. I want to stay and imbibe one after another of the marvellous creations emerging from behind the bar of this man with a mind like Einstein and a palate like Marie Antoinette. But alas, Jerry and I have quaffed our drinks allocation and the PRs are pissed off I called their bar ugly. So we leave.

Let them try and keep me away.