Category Archives: London Cocktail Bars Reviews

The Cocktail Lovers’ Best Cocktail Bars in London

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Oriental cocktails and high tea (quite literally)

Since opening just over a years ago, the creative team at Hutong have proved they’re not just reliant on breathtaking scenery, consequently, they’ve established a firm following for their inventive cocktails based on elements of Chinese medicine.

But there’s no resting on laurels here – bars manager Myles Donneky and new Hutong bar manager Filippo Testa are determined to push boundaries in a quest for superior drinks. Hence the recent overhaul of the cocktail list – with some very unique additions.

‘Bing Cha’ means ‘iced tea’, and this is the theme of the first page of libations, since tea-houses are more popular in Chinese culture than trendy coffee places and handlebar moustaches are in East London. Each leaf has a specific character, and so plays differently on the palate – vital to consider and respect when mixing with alcohol.

Jade Emperor
Shanghai Vines

Working closely with the First Lady of Tea, Henrietta Lovell from The Rare Tea Company, Myles and Filipo have carefully considered which spirits would match the nuances of each individual leaf. The result? A list of four wonderfully enticing fusions combining the best of Chinese flavours.

And there’s an aesthetic treat to the proceedings, too. When the cocktails arrive they are presented in beautiful, heavy Chinese teapots, plump and round like a Buddha belly and emitting such glorious little jets of steam that you expect them to be whistling.

Wait, steam? Isn’t this iced tea?

Never fear, this is part of the presentation. Each concoction is served over dry ice which makes for a real spectacle when the drink is being poured into the little traditional Chinese cups.

So what innovative combinations are we presented with? Well, for starters there’s the Fujian Breeze, which includes white silver tip tea, Hendricks Gin, Fernet Branca and mint. This is one of the most delicate of teas, with a grassy freshness that is evident in the taste. There’s a gentle medicinal quality that finishes with a zing of mint on the tongue. It makes for a perfect palate cleanser (for more cocktails, naturally.)

The Moli Hua is a more perfumed offering, balancing the floral jasmine tea with vodka, egg white and peach bitters – it’s this last ingredient that makes for a real fragrant, fruity treat. The Keemun Guo meanwhile is a mix of lychee liqueur, Grand Marnier and oranges with Keemun tea. The smoky black leaf and zesty orange gives it a lovely rounded sensation and zingy freshness.

Hutong at The Shard

Finally, we tried the Shuanglong which, if we had to choose, was our favourite. The woody Oolong tea combined with three different whiskies, honey and Chinese chives make for a sweet and smokey, yet delicate cocktail.

These drinks are all beautifully considered, delicious, and so gosh darn fresh and tasty, if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to try a soothing cocktail then Bing Cha are the way to go.

And let’s not forget the remaining creations on the cocktail menu. For those wanting a twist on classics there’s the Red Snapper, and we can heartily recommend the Hutong Julep, bourbon, blood orange and goji berries for a balance of sweet earthiness. If a well made Cosmo tickles your fancy, there’s the Red Phoenix – cachaça infused with tamarind and mandarin juice for an extra kick.

Another favourite is the Jade Emperor, a knock-out cocktail that combines ginseng spirit, Midori and Chinese five spice for a satisfying, complex and delicious drink.

The new menu at Hutong manages to be creative and innovative without losing sight of what a good cocktail should be: a glorious combination of flavours that make your taste buds cheer.

Rebecca Milford

 

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Communion Bar, preaching the good word of the cocktail

As themed establishments go, this one is new on us – a subterranean space that holds the title of being the only stained-glass window bar in London. Enjoy thoroughly unique and artisan libations while admiring the hand-crafted tiles, church candles and complimentary wine and wafers that give Communion its name.

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Watch the latest in the Bacardí Untameable film series before its official launch at Tales

Didn’t make it it Tales of the Cocktail this year? Nope, neither did we.  Mind you, we’re seeking solace in the fact that we’ve had a preview of the fab new Bacardí Untameable film series ahead of our industry friends currently having fun, I mean, working in New Orleans.

They’ll have to wait until later this evening before the
unveiling of the powerful short featuring bartender
extraordinaire Steve Schneider. Probably one of the most
dedicated, passionate and hard-working bartenders we’ve come across, Schneider shares his inspiring story about how he came to bar tending following a near-death experience after graduating
top of his class in military school.

In keeping with the Bacardí Untameable theme, it’s a powerful tale, beautifully filmed, expressed from the heart and shows how triumph can come out of adversity. Watch it here before it’s unveiled to the people at Tales later today.

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Strictly dub-wise

Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, John Holt, Toots, U-Roy – we’ve been around long enough to remember spending most of our pocket money on records with a Trojan label. So the news that a new beach party style shack with a ‘strickly’ dub-wise Trojan soundtrack will be opening just around the corner from us has got us practising our skanking moves.

The soon-to-be opened Dub Jam is not all about the music though. The promise of barbecued jerked goodies like ‘skatalites’ (chicken), ‘peppa pig’ (pork) and ‘veggie bangarang’ (spiced halloumi) all served with sunny slaw and a mint, coconut and chilli dressing, or lime and tomato salsa is making us pretty excited too.

As for drinks, well they’re keeping it inna authentic Jamaican stylee with cans of Red Stripe, Carib beer, sasparilla and coconut water all served in hand-painted tin cans. Fancy something a little harder? Try the Wray & Nephew Reggae Infused Rum Punch made with overproof rum. Squint tightly and you could convince yourself you’re in Kingston…

Dub Jam opens 28th February.

20 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HP. dubjam.co.uk

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Bar review: Megaro Bar, NW1

In case you hadn’t heard: King’s Cross does good bars. Fact. There’s the Gilbert Scott and GNR if you want a bit of posh; VOC for old-fashioned punches with an upbeat, funky edge; Bar Pepito for sherry-heads; the Champagne Bar at St. Pancras for a nice selection of fizz; the Grain Store for Greco-Roman takes on drinks, plus Be at One, Simmons and Drink Shop Do if you just want good old-fashioned fun.

Recently opened Megaro Bar brings yet another element to the mix. Film Noir chic. There’s a touch of the frisky King’s Cross of old there too, nothing sleazy – it’s more of a cosy, sexy vibe that will come into its own even more now that autumn has fully kicked in.

The entrance to Megaro Bar

The ‘Dark Room In Use’ sign sets the movie moments mood from the minute you step down from the street. Pull back the red velvet curtains and the theme continues – you half expect an usherette to serve your cocktails from a tray attached to her neck. Instead the short menu of drinks come from a small bar serving the two distinct sections of the room: the aptly named Dark Room for cosying up with lovers and/or friends and the Picture Room for checking out the images – still and moving, including the Film Noir series starting 6th November.

Megaro Darkroom…
…and Picture Room, the place for still and moving images

Bar manager Ben Clark confides that once he and the team came up with the concept, the interior took a grand total of nine days to put into place. That explains the simplicity. And we don’t mean that in a patronising way. Like the ten garnish-free cocktails on the list, Megaro doesn’t mess around with unnecessary frippery, instead the focus is on swift service, well constructed drinks and an environment that works just as well for the after work crowd as it does for guests who have booked in to the swanky St. Pancras Renaissance London hotel over the road.

As for the drinks, like we said, they’re seemingly simple but trust us, it’s flavour a-go-go on the taste front. Clark pares things back to as few ingredients as possible, hence choices like the Dolma Sour (grapevine infused cachaca, lime, sugar, Pernod absinthe); Lavender Hill Mob Fizz (Beefeater gin, lemon, lavender gimme, Zedda Piras, soda); Prescribed By Whisky Row (Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon, Amaro Averna, chamomile syrup), and what looks like the overall crowd-pleaser, the Tansy 75 (Beefeater gin, lemon, tansy gomme, Perrier Jouet champagne).

Lavender Hill Mob

Food from the restaurant upstairs us is on offer and we suggest you partake in a dish or two. Like the cocktail list, the choices are limited, but rest assured, they’re just what your tastebuds are calling for. Try the ‘Off Cut’ (crispy veal cheek with tartare sauce); the zingingly fresh ‘Raw’ (salsify fritters and Cervelle de canut); ‘Charred’ (rump carpaccio, black sesame and soy), and ‘Sweet’, (dark chocolate cremes, sea salt and chocolate soil) – just the ticket to round off your evening.

Ms S says

This is the perfect halfway house between the über fancy and super trendy places emerging around these parts. And as it’s situated pretty much right on top of King’s Cross station, it’s also an ideal place to meet. Practicalities aside, with all that lush red and handsome brown leather  it’s quite the winter hotspot. I loved The Lost Steps (Ocho Blanco tequila, cardamom sweet tea and chartreuse liqueur), three ingredients, one helluva great taste.

Mr G says

There’s something very clever about the vibe here. It feels like you’re going on a date to the cinema; the signage, the lighting and seating (finding yourself on one of those old cinema seats it’s hard not slip your arm around your partner’s shoulders). But unlike your average cinema this also has blockbuster cocktails. My favourite was the deceptively simple Chinese Waiting Room (Beefeater and chrysanthemum  cordial), David Lynch in a glass.

What’s the damage?

Megaro Bar, 23-27 Euston Road, London NW1 2SD. T: 020 3432 5150.
megarobar.co.uk

Open Mon-Sat 5pm-12am.