Head here if… you fancy innovative cocktails in a funky loft setting in south London
Aimed at a younger, clubby crowd who love their cocktails as much as their music. Call in during the day if you want to bag yourself a seat but if you’re after full-on party action, you’ll be happy from early evening onwards.
First Things First
There are two types of people who visit The Loft: those who take the lift up the one flight and those who conquer the stairs. We took the lift. Call us lazy if you like but we were conserving our energy for the serious business in hand.
And The Loft is a very serious proposition. Despite its relaxed look (exposed brickwork, well-worn wooden floors, bashed up leather sofas and chairs all put together to echo the look and feel of, well, a New York loft), this place serves up drinks at the premium end of the spectrum. You get your first clue of the pleasures to come by checking out the bottles lining the back bar – we’re talking top-shelf products and plenty of ‘em. Look a little closer and you’ll spot the secret weapon that sets this local apart from the others on Clapham High Street: the myriad syrups and infusions lovingly created by owner Andy Campana.
He’s a bit of a drinks expert is our Andy. On our visit he was busily concocting an infusion with coconut. We don’t know what went in to it but judging by the others he allowed us to sample, it’ll be bloody good. This new baby would join the other 40-or-so bottles currently adding an extra-special oompf to the cocktails on the list. You’ll find a lot of them featured in the ‘Home Made – Drinks To Look Up To’ part of the menu, while others appear intermittently in ‘The Loft Top 10 – Crowd Pleasers’ and the ‘Befores And Afters’ sections.
As its name implies, the ‘Home Made – Drinks To Look Up To’ section of The Loft’s menu features drinks invented in its sarf London abode. Not only that, this is the section where Andy Campana’s passion for creating home-made syrups and infusions really get to shine through. Of the four Signatures mentioned (Passionfruit Cosmopolitan, Pina Campana, Superberry Sling and the Jasmine & Elderflower Collins), Ms S’s interest was piqued by the fragrant promise of the latter (42 Below Passionfruit vodka, shaken with elderflower and jasmine cordials, lemongrass and lemon juice, topped with soda.) It arrived together with Mr G’s Martini looking like a carefully contructed still-life study of light and shade, colour and form; the Collins all tall and slender, the Martini short and perfectly symmetrical. Both seducing the palate with their crisp lemon hue.
Obviously looks aren’t everything but admit it, they certainly help. Ms S was struck by the visual appeal of her drink’s inventive garnish of a slim blade of lemongrass cleverly concealing a straw. As for the taste? Let’s just say it didn’t let the side down – just the right side of sweet thanks to a fine balancing act of elderflower and jasmine tempered with a crisp bite of lemon. F.A.B.
When asking for a gin recommendation there was a bit of waxing lyrical from our barman about the Californian gin Vya, only for him to return bearing the bad news that they were clean out of this particular elixir. What a blow. How would things turn out with an alternative? Well, going for the good old Tanqueray No. Ten instead, along with the equally trustworthy Noilly Prat, Mr G would have to wait and see. What turned up a few minutes later looked good, real good. A tall, thin classic Martini glass, fantastically frosted from base to rim it screamed, “Ice Cold”. There was a very big rectangular twist of lemon, so big that it twisted up and out of the drink and the glass. Not only did this look kind of sexy, it also made for a mighty hefty lemon aroma – so much so that the refreshment seemed to kick in even before the first taste. And if the lemon was big, the taste was bigger still. Being so cold the drink warmed up when tasted allowing the full flavour to open out on the palate; rounded, plenty of depth and a long finish. Meanwhile that big old piece of lemon kept working away right on through. What was that about Californian gin? This was fantastically well prepared. A great Martini.
Post a nifty club sandwich lunch Mr G was looking for something to ease into the afternoon and the Ruby Ruby Stinger (ruby port, Chianti, mint, crème de cassis, framboise eau de vie) sounded like it might fit the bill. Served in a lovely frosted 1930’s style cocktail glass it looked very appealing – rich, lush and very dark red in colour, contrasting with a large mint leaf garnish. After the visual treat, the next feature was in the aroma department, thanks to the mint getting right in there. As for the taste, it was full, sweet, rounded and with bags of flavour. The perfect post-eats cocktail. Original and really amazing.
Ms S was fighting off the remains of a pesky summer cold so the warming ingredients in the Drink With No Name (Hine cognac, Belle de Brillet pear liqueur and orange juice shaken with lemon, honey and homemade cinnamon and cardomom syrup with own star-anise gomme and a hint of clove) sounded like Manna in a glass. If all medicines tasted like this Swine Flu wouldn’t stand a chance. Who needs Tamiflu when the wonders of spices and alcohol work such wonders? Seriously though, this drink perfectly demonstrates the inventiveness and creativity of Campana & Co; it shows off their intricate blend of homemade syrups and the skill it takes to use them to best effect. Admittedly, the Drink With No Name comes across like a wintery brew however, with its yolk-coloured body and lemony foam topping it goes down a treat in English summers, too.
And To Eat?
Although the drinks are definitely the main focus, you certainly wouldn’t complain about any of the food served here. There’s the restaurant if, like us you have the urge to tackle a full-on meal, otherwise the good choice of bar snacks include homemade burger with twice-cooked chips (£8.50); Brindisa chorizo on a three bean salad with garlic bread (£9.50) and sharing dips platter (£10.50).
Look Out For
Without doubt, the homespun look and feel of the specially created infusions, all made on the premises.
What’s The Damage?
Proof that you don’t have to spend over £10 to enjoy a great cocktail, the main bulk of the ones at The Loft come in at a very reasonable £6.80 or so. Great stuff.
Ms S says:
I don’t ‘do’ south London often but this gem of a bar is well worth the schlep for Andy Campana’s excellent cocktails. Good spot for pouting in between sips and trying out your pulling power.
Mr G says:
The drinks here would be very good anyway, but they are made all the more special by the wonderful home made infusions. Takes cocktails to another level altogether.
Upstairs, 67 Clapham High Street, SW4. T: 020-7627 0792.