Head here if… you hanker after the days of Speakeasy elegance and first-class cocktails
Dark, smouldering, intimate and romantic, Milk & Honey is like a sexy play pen where drink is the name of the game.
First Things First
Enter any of the three floors at Milk & Honey and the first thing you notice is how devoid of light it is. In fact, it takes a good few minutes for your eyes to adjust to the moodiness of the place. Once you do, it’s like you’ve stepped out of the harsh reality of everyday life and into the stylish living room of a very rich friend with a penchant for 1920s-1930s decor and a Speakeasy-style soundtrack.
While it’s tempting to strike a pose in one of the cosy booths, it would be a travesty not to spend even a little time at the bar. It’s from this vantage point where you’ll get to see the artistes at work, each creating something like 1,000 cocktails a week. Yup, that’s right, the appeal of M&H is such that on an average night, one barman alone will flex his muscles shaking, mixing and pouring around 200 drinks. No wonder they all look pretty fit…
Like it’s sister venue The East Room, service is paramount. Don’t know what to order? No problem. Just describe your preferences to your waiter (all trained barmen so they know their stuff) and together you’ll come up with a cracking choice. Then there are the cosmetic details. Everywhere you look there’s a fabulous design thing going on including collections of mismatched antique glasses, soda syphons and shakers, gorgeous cabinets and orginal Deco wall lights to die-for.
Before you get all excited, there’s good and bad news. Let’s get the downside out of the way first: Milk & Honey is a members club. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Non-members are allowed in before 11pm, just make sure you call up to book.
Whenever she’s asked what her favourite cocktails are, Ms S always bigs-up the White Lady. Coincidentally, she was first introduced to its crisp, light and refreshing tang at this very establishment. She told her barmen this and waited for his suggestion of a Milk & Honey signature in a similar vein. From the ‘Fresh & Up’ section of the menu, a Southside and The Business was proffered. Both had more than a bit of gin and lime action going on, so Ms S did what she normally does when she can’t make a decision and went for the best-sounding name, in this case The Business (gin, honey and lime). Just three ingredients, a series of carefully counted shakes (every shake and stir is counted here to ‘ensure the perfect mix without excessive dilution’) and a lovingly chilled glass produced a thing of beauty. True to the barman’s word, this tasted like a very close cousin to the White Lady. Actually, make that an unidentical twin. The discernible difference came from the honey which added a slight but very agreeable sweetness that made the drink go down like, well, the business. Plain, simple and delicious and not a trace of a honey tang.
With the whole Speakeasy thing going on it wasn’t surprising that there was something of the 1920’s about the Martini, too. It was served in a coupe glass – the style back then (and still looking fantastic). There was something of a back-to-basics, ‘so-we’re-making-a-martini-what’s-all-the-fuss-about?’ kind of air about the way it was made. That isn’t to say it wasn’t good, because it was. The barman asked about preferences for Martini dryness and explained that the house style was seven parts gin to one part vermouth. That sounded good so Mr G went along with the suggestion. The seven parts was Beefeater, the one part Noilly Prat which was stirred with plenty of ice in metal rather than glass to keep things pretty cold. It was finished with a perfect twist of lemon peel squeezed over the drink. Back in the day, when cocktails were mainly liquor, they were created to be finished off in about three sips. Cold enough, with the lovely Beefeater front and centre, this drink was over in five. Five fantastic sips.
Ms S decided to revisit the White Lady. Obviously, she knew her palate had evolved since she’d first tasted this supreme drink, that was back in the day, way before The Cocktail Lovers. Which was why she wanted to put it to the test to see how it would stand up to that delicious day of discovery. Honestly? Well, it tasted a little sweeter than she remembered (or maybe that’s because the ones mixed at Cocktail Towers veer towards the sharp, very alcoholic side?) No matter, this will still be one of the drinks she cites as her all time faves, particularly the way they mix it here with the addition of egg white to give extra body and a wonderfully silky and creamy head.
With a name like London Calling this drink was always going to jump right off the page, straight at Mr G. Inspired by The Clash, it was invented on the premises in 2005. And it was strange. London Calling (gin, sherry, lemon, sugar, bitters) was served straight up with a big chunk of orange peel dangling half in and half out of the drink, giving a big, big aroma. But it was the taste that was the thing. Difficult to detect any one flavour, it started out sweet, went suddenly sharp, then suddenly dry. Twisting and turning, like the tracks on its namesake album, London Calling was weird, very weird. But very, very good.
And To Eat?
Choose from Fancy Snacks inc: Wright Bros. Duchy of Cornwall native oysters with shallot vinegar (6 for £11, 12 for £22); tiger prawn tempura with Vietnamese lime, mint and coriander dip (£9); Salt Marsh lamb chops with harissa dressing (£12) and Saloon Food: Cumberland cocktail sausages with English mustard (£6); pork pie (£6) and shoestring fries (£4).
Look Out For
You don’t have to look too hard for the details that make this place stand head and shoulders above the rest. There are the wonderful collections of antique cocktail paraphernalia, including all manner of glasses, shakers and flasks, some arranged in backlit tableaux along the wall, others dotted around the room. Then there are the barmen, all of them super-dedicated to their craft and each could probably mix you the perfect drink with their eyes closed (while sleeping). Members get to take advantage of First Tuesdays, an informal lesson in the art of drinks.
What’s The Damage?
We’re glad you asked. How much would you expect to pay for what must be the best cocktails in town? £15? £12? £10? Try £8.50 for regular, £9.50 for champagne-based drinks and you’ll see why this place is so popular.
Ms S says:
Dark, cosy and romantic, Milk & Honey is the perfect place for a date, particularly as the lighting is so female-friendly. The drinks are served in feminine coupes, further accentuating the elegant air.
Mr G says:
This has been a particular favourite of mine since it flung open its very discreet door. Smart but never pretentious, easy vibe, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and very,very good cocktails.
61 Poland Street, W1F 7NU. T: 020-7734 0700. Find it here