Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The London Cocktail Club, Fitzrovia

The London Cocktail Club
61 Goodge Street
London W1T 1TL

Olive R. Twist

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was dark and chill despite being a mid-May evening when Tiny Tim descended into the basement of 61 Goodge Street, away from the onerous claptrap of busy Fitzrovian Streets, into the dark, friendly warmth of wee Jamie Wopsickle's Dickensian parlour and cocktail club for the quaffing of distinguished beverages.

Tiny Tim was relieved to be free from the noise of the city and sighed contentedly as he and Pip sank into the crescent-shaped booths and took a good look at their surrounds. There were hundreds of dusty bottles filled to the top with pastel-coloured liquid, of all shapes and sizes, lining the wall behind the bar, glittering like the pocket watch hanging from Pip's waistcoat. Tiny Tim thought how warm and comfortable it felt inside, despite the dimmed lights and close quarters of the club's other occupants.

A young man with a friendly smile went over and introduced himself as Shrimpton Merryweather. He said he was at their disposal. Pip was feeling rather brave that evening and ordered a Bacon and Egg Coupet which Shrimpton said was the height of adventurous sophistication. Tiny Tim was weary still and found he could not settle his restless mind. Shrimpton Merryweather said that if Tiny Tim told him what sort of thing most often slaked his thirst, then he would concoct a treat of most wonderful composition.

After much conversation Shrimpton Merryweather felt confident he understood what it was Tiny Tim desired and returned, after a period of time had passed, with Pip's Bacon and Egg Coupet and Tiny Tim's libation, somewhat like an Aperol Spritz, but with the additional Generosity of a drop of Absinthe and a swish of Martini Rosso.

Tiny Tim and Pip sighed contentedly as they supped their drinks and reminisced together about their idyllic childhood days, wrestling baby lambs in verdant fields and making elderflower cordial from June blossoms for Mother. Though they were happy in spirit, they were weary in body and much in need of rejuvenation, and so Tiny Tim and Pip drank the rest greedily and exclaimed often in praise of the creative Genius of Shrimpton Merryweather and of wee Jamie Wopsickle, who though absent in that moment, was not forgotten.

Indeed, just at that very instant, an older Dickensian-looking gentleman - sitting in the corner with a woman of extraordinary beauty and shining eyes - stood up and exclaimed, "a toast to wee Jamie Wopsickle!", where thereupon he purchased everyone in the Establishment a drink. Tiny Tim and Pip were most pleased; they could not believe their luck. What a charming place this was.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell

The Zetter Townhouse
49-50 St John's Square
London EC1V 4JJ

Kina Lillet & Jerry Boam

Scene: A country townhouse, in the city.

Fade in: The townhouse is full of thirty-something off-duty bankers and large groups of perfectly turned out women on hen parties. A woman sits alone at a small table in the corner. It is clear she's waiting for someone. A little while later a young man enters, wearing a navy blue double breasted blazer with gold buttons. It is clear that he's looking for someone. He spots the woman, smiles, and walks over to her table. He sits down. They don't speak. A menu is already on the table. He looks at the menu, takes his time and then signals to the waitress, who hurries over to take their order.

Jerry: "A Flintlock please, and a..."

Kina: "A Master at Arms."

Jerry: "and a Master at Arms for the lady."

The waitress notes their drinks down on a faded shorthand pad and winds her way between the tables back to the bar.

Jerry: "Quite something this place, don't you think? Rather reminds me of the Boam's Wessex pile."

Kina: "What, full of men in cheap suits and women who seem to be preparing for their impending nuptials by having botox and drinking themselves into oblivion with their 'girlfriends'?"

Jerry: "Kina, darling, why must you always find the objectionable in everything?"

Kina: "Why must you insist on bringing the objectionable to me? I want to like it. I really do. I'm trying to give the place a chance."

Jerry: "Ah, now then. Here, it seems, are our drinks. Splendid."

Kina: "Why are they in such small glasses? How peculiar."

J: "Oh gosh, well this is a charming little nip. It's like neat gin, but with a delicate floral sort of note or two. And she lit the side on fire – did you see that? How delightful. Rather reminds me of the Boam's ancient duelling pistols. Did I ever tell you that story of Old Deadeye Boam and those fig-leaved natives...?”

<<The gaggle of women at the next table chatter away, "Have you seen Almedia's bridesmaids dresses? They're absolutely atrocious. I mean sea green. Really. What was she thinking.">>

K: "I'm sure that someone might like this sort of drink, but it certainly isn't me. What have they put it in, anyway? I can't even remember. Evaporated port and rum. Why didn't I just order a Bloody Mary? I like Bloody Marys. I don't like this."

Kina attracts the attention of the waitress, who comes to their table. Jerry winces.

K: "I'm so sorry, but I really am not enjoying this drink. It's made beautifully, but it just isn't to my taste. Could you take it back and bring me a Bloody Mary?"

<<"Letitia, they did such a magnificent job on your forehead. Did you go to John on Harley Street? Didn't I tell you he was the best.">>

K: "So Jerry, what's the news? How was Mogadishu? Did you manage to track down your mother in the end."

J: "You know mother. One can only find her when she wants to be found, but Mogadishu was lovely as ever. The whole place is up in arms over elections or something. I forget exactly what. But never mind that all that. I drank all the Château Lafite in sight and did what I had to do.

K: "Here's my Bloody Mary, thank the lord. Yes, that's much better. Yes. Parsley vodka and beef consommé. Peculiar. It tastes rather like a Bloody Mary but with an Oxo cube chucked in. Much better than that other ghastly thing I was drinking before, but it's no classic. Dearest Jerry, let's never come here again."

<<"Of course I'm marrying Benedict. Just because he dallied that one time with the nanny, I'd be mad to abandon the flat in Chelsea, the Range Rover, and the little place in Dorset....">>

J: "I'll admit that I'm not overly fond of the dreadful company in which we find ourselves, Kina, but I am rather fond of nearly neat gin. Have I ever mentioned my Oxford days? I have? Right you are. Shall we depart? And yes, let's never come here again."

Fade out.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Holiday posting: Raoul's, Oxford

32 Walton Street
Oxford OX2 6AA

Jerry Boam

Naturally, or otherwise, Merton College, Oxford is the Boam alma mater. For more generations than the archives recall, sundry Boams have been drawn here; here, to Merton’s singular cobbled charms, its delightfully tended gardens, and its strange, shrugging air of having just missed out on something rather important.

It’s been a mixed history. Viscount Balthazar Boam was here of course, until he was sent down for something to do with the Dean, the Warden’s sixteen year-old daughter and a half-crate of vintage port. The exact tale has never fully emerged. Great Uncle Boozy Boam was here, submerged in claret and the classics. And, more recently, half-Uncle Hogg-Boam scraped in somehow and terrorised the young servant girls long into Oxford’s winter nights.

It is with such thoughts of lineage and destiny and the aged musk of Gevrey-Chambertin that I return now to Oxford’s ponderous streets. We stroll along the Broad, past Ducker’s on Turl, down the cobbles of Magpie Lane, and oh, to Merton’s pale and happy stones. Three years of memories rush back: Sundays, lazy smoking upon my first-year window seat; hazy summer lawns, tasseled loafers, lightly crumpled linen; my first pair of co-respondent brogues; my half-blue for Rugby Fives; my thirst for the coruscating scrape of neat gin upon a half-starved stomach. And Raoul’s.

Raoul’s. Here we supped on cocktails – rich and fruity – deep into summer nights, to totter home full of sugary verve and love. Thick mango purees, spiced pears redolent of some mystical Orient, dribbles of sticky caramel, fresh limes, apricots, the buttery whiff of vanilla. And the booze! Rums and brandies, whiskies, vodkas, liqueurs in every flavour, tequila from old Mexico, bourbon from New York…

Unsurprisingly, the aura of such dreams has faded. The clientèle wear jeans now. The décor – always bad – seems to have taken rather a tumble. And of course these days I must brave the pavement to partake of a Sobranie. But the drinks! Oh the drinks! One diving slurp into a tumbler of peachy Calvados-laced wonder, and it all comes flooding back – the excitement, the joy, the adventure. The booze! For as long as there are Boams at Merton, there shall be Boams at Raoul's.