This week is London Cocktail Week – seven days of workshops, tastings, pop-ups, and drink offers. There’s far too much going on to be able to sample everything, so my friends and I have decided to stick to the cocktail tours on the website. This is how we got on.
1.) The Player
The Player, and in particular their sliders provided by Lucky Chip, have been hotly touted by review sites and magazines recently, so it was right at the top of our list of places to try. The reality of the venue was extremely underwhelming, however, with decor that was more of a throwback to the 70s than anything the name or reputation suggested. Our waitress told us that the LCW offer was a take on the daquiri with added gin and grapefruit. She then proceeded to bring us two margheritas. Oh well, at least the food looked good.
2). La Perla
The sister bar of Cafe Pacifico, our visit here was brief but successful. We ordered a trio of margheritas which were well balanced, hit the spot, and almost made us forget our previous stop. This bar is also close to Bam-bou and Bourne & Hollingsworth (also on the LCW list) which I had been to before and enjoyed, so it was also nice to know that there was another place to visit in the area.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of Dabbous. It’s a Michelen-starred restaurant with a bar that, from the website, looks like it would be at home in New York. On arrival, we were quickly taken to our reserved area in the downstairs bar, which luckily was a lot more low-key and low-lit than anticipated. Our service was speedy, our drink interesting if a little juicy (and again a good sign that this was something from their standard menu), and our experience fun. The bar snacks were slightly overpriced, however, at £8 for a boiled egg and £9 for four cubes of cheese, but if you save your appetite for the (surprisingly reasonably priced) menu above, the prospect of returning becomes very attractive indeed.
I had very high hopes for this one. Housed in the Mandeville hotel, which has a reputation for being “for men” and with an afternoon tea that is either “vintage” or “gentleman”, I thought it would be exactly what I was looking for. So much so, that I opted to bring high heels and fully fashioned stockings with me for the occasion.
The hotel is very boyish, with chesterfield sofas, car models, and a lot of dark wood. What let it down, however, was the clientele. They were nothing particularly rude or low-class, but of course this being a hotel just off Oxford Circus, it was populated with tourists in trainers and rainproof coats – not exactly the sartorial experience I was expecting. Still, I made myself comfortable, draping myself across a sofa with my bra exposed and sipping on the biggest gin sour I’ve ever seen in my life. I might come back here, position myself where there are a lack of humans, and daydream about the 50s.
Hugely popular, and by consequence hugely overcrowded, this LCW pop-up has a simple theme – rum in drinks and rum in ice cream. Their cocktails are largely based on classics, and their ice creams are largely based on their cocktails. By Sunday evening, they could be forgiven for having run out of several flavours, but with the experience being the reason for our visit, we tried a couple of pineapple-flavoured scoops. As an alcoholic thing it’s not very remarkable, but as an ice cream it is quite interesting. I probably wouldn’t order this in a restaurant but I would want a tub to take home for a dinner party.
There is little of interest in Bayswater, and to an extent Westbourne House echoes this. The decor might have more in common with Croydon or Chelmsford that Notting Hill, but the service takes strides to make up for this. Surprisingly, we were offered a choice of seven LCW cocktails to choose from, and went for a Bloody Mary and Raspberry fizz. Both were fairly weak and inoffensive, but we were partly glad to be visiting somewhere that didn’t overload the drinks with lemon juice. There was a nice roaring fire, reasonably priced tapas, but no real soul.
Despite the fact that BBB were hosting the LCW shuttle service, our waitress informed us on arrival that they “had stopped the offer…it was just a vodka bubblegum thing anyway”. Sat in opulent chairs by a roaring fire, we decided to stay on anyway, and ordered an a la carte cocktail and a pear cognac. The decor upstairs is confusing, but the restaurant below has echoes of the Catacombs in Paris, with booths set into stone walls and several alcoves and alleyways.