Monday, September 26, 2011

Cocktail crawl, Saturday 24th September

I met my friend Alison at her hotel room where we commenced the beginning of a two week period of festivities, celebrating that we will get copious amounts of talking done face to face (a rarity for us as she lives in the States). To get us in the mood I brought with me a bag of goodies: cheese straws, two toffee apple cupcakes from Hummingbird (the best place for cupcakes), a bottle of Prosecco and some peach puree for making bellinis. It lent the afternoon quite a decadent feel. We prettied ourselves up and finished off the last of the peach puree with some Patron tequila Alison happened to stuff her boots with. Not the best ‘cocktail’ in the world, but we’re nothing if not stoic when it comes to imbibing alcohol.

We were ready to embark on our cocktail crawl and headed across town to the first destination.

The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town

This way to the Thrills
I’m now somewhat torn here because part of the appeal about going to this place is it has this one gimmick, which makes it feel like a properly hidden away illicit drinking den. I already knew what this gimmick was, and my friend didn’t. I did appreciate it, but I could see the sheer delight on her face when the trick up their sleeve was revealed and I wouldn’t want to rob anyone of that experience. So, let’s just say, the entrance isn’t what you think. Once you have been granted access, a neon sign kindly points you in the right direction for the ‘Thrills’. We got there at about 7:30, an hour later than planned and we had a choice of two seating areas – by the bar or at a little table. We took the bar option. Experience has taught us to be as close to the people serving you alcohol as possible, and also that bartenders are often hot, so why not sit where you can look at them more easily. We ordered the chilli and lemongrass margarita. It was elegantly served in the correct glasses, with a thin strip of lemongrass threaded through a slice of chilli as garnish. It was pleasantly warm and a perfectly drinkable drink. Time ticked away quickly and we realised we had to hot foot it to the next place if we wanted to keep to schedule. Just as we were finishing up, the barkeep was putting together another cocktail, when all of a sudden, the raspberry concoction was all over the bar, not in its glass where it should be. I managed to move my bag out the way and partially my body but the drink still managed to get my leg and part of my skirt. I went to the bathroom to clean it up while Alison settled the bill. I came back and asked if we’d been given any compensation but apart from a genuine apology, we didn’t manage to get any freebies out of it. That’s a black mark in my opinion.

Square Meal

The Whistling Shop

So, it was now 8:30. We had 9:00 reservations at Callooh Callay, but the original plan was to go to the Whistling Shop before that. We debated about whether we could really squeeze it in, and rather rashly, decided we could and we would. In all honesty, we couldn’t, but we did it anyway. We walked up to Worship Street, walking much further up and farther away from the populated area than I was expecting. We walked in and I instantly regretted having spent so long in Scaredy Cat Town and missing out on being able to make the most of this place. It was all dark wood and tea lights, and even though it didn’t have a hidden entrance, walking inside made you feel like you were entering some tucked away, little known place. We told the guy who greeted us that we were on a tight schedule and needed to get a drink as quickly as possible. They asked us why the rush and when we told them, agreed that we really shouldn’t miss out on those reservations and were fully behind getting us served and out again as quickly as possible. The cocktail list sounded amazing. They take a ‘scientific’ approach to cocktailing making, apparently experimenting with different flavour combinations in their laboratory. Many of the cocktails include ingredients like “WS2 exhaustion tonic”, which are mixtures of their own invention and require a glossary at the back of the menu to figure out what they are. We wanted to make as much of the choices available as we could, so we ordered different drinks to each other - House Gin Fizz and the Panacea.

House Gin Fizz: Tanqueray gin, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, vanilla salt, orange bitters, soda
Panacea: Compass Box whisky, honey and lavender shrub, lemon juice, sage dust.

Yes, sage dust.

Both were enjoyable to drink and had an interesting taste, with a creamy topping, but I think Alison and I preferred the Panacea, probably because it was so unlike any other drink we’d had before. The gin fizz was nice (and very quaffable once we realised we’d gone past our imposed 10 minute time limit) but it was just a gin fizz. Nothing as cool as sage dust in it. The cocktails backed up my instinctive reaction that we should have spent more time here. The downside is that the drinks are quite pricey, and the place was eerily empty. There was one other group in there, but otherwise the place was dead. I assume this is because it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, even though Shoreditch is only a few streets away.

Square Meal

Callooh Callay

We raced out of there and into the night again. In totally the wrong direction. We came out onto a street I had hoped was going to be either Bishopsgate or Great Eastern and was in fact Moorgate. My sense of direction is obliterated once I drink and Alison doesn’t know the area. A taxi came by and we made the executive decision to get in it. We told him the street name and the venue. It was 9:05. He hadn’t heard of Callooh Callay but he did know the street. Two minutes later, he pulled over, stopped the clock and confessed he couldn’t remember how to get there. 30 seconds later and he’d dredged his memory and we were on our way again.

Cassette tapes are used as wallpaper
We made it at about 9:15. We weren’t too drunk by this point and had been sensible enough to call when we knew we were going to be late and tell them we were lost but on our way. Got to the door and presented ourselves to the doorman. Our names weren’t on the list. I think you’ll agree that it was all going really well by this point. However, I wasn’t too worried. I had email confirmation of our reservations and they had called me the day before to confirm (always a nice touch and something that should happen more often in this country) and I’d spoken to someone who seemed to be expecting us just 10 minutes earlier on the phone. Soon enough, the manager came out and let us in. He also complimented me on my outfit, so it more than made up for the few minutes’ wait at the door. We were then led through the throng and indeed through the looking glass (or rather, fake wardrobe) to the Jub Jub bar at the back, only available for those with reservations.  We had many, many cocktails, and I really can’t remember what on earth they were. The menu also changes regularly so I can’t even look it up to remind myself. It had lots of nice, quirky touches, like the cocktail list being on a comic strip, and having reservations meant we were waited on at the table instead of going to the bar, which makes such a nice change when you’re out drinking. We had pre-ordered food, which arrived about 15 minutes after we did. We ate mini brie quiches, goat’s cheese bruschetta, lime, chilli and ginger crab spoons and some tarragon salted, buttery popcorn. All absolutely delicious, if a little underfilling. We thought about ordering some more food but in the end ordered more cocktails to fill us up instead. As we were sitting there, a waiter went by with a massive bowl flanked by what looked like four little gnomes. This, I think was the £55 cocktail you could order to share between 6 of you, which I think we also did see a group of maybe 5 boys finishing off when we arrived.

The original plan was to move on to yet another cocktail bar (Ninety Eight bar and lounge), but we were so comfortable there, the drinks were coming at a pleasing rate and were doing their job on our sobriety so we just stayed there instead until about 12:00.

But we couldn’t stay there all night – we had dancing on the agenda. So we walked round to The Book Club. I’ve already been here a couple of times, they have quite a varied programme of nights on. I’d been there for a hip hop mashup night hosted by Scroobius Pip and I went to Bookstock, the street party they hosted. So I thought their Rock n roll Saturday night would be worthwhile. Unfortunately, so did a lot of other people and when we got there, there was a not insubstantial queue. We considered our other options, especially as time was ticking on, it was £5 entrance fee and it only stayed open until 2. But that was the case with most of the other places I could think of so we waited it out, got in and made the most of the hour and a half we had in there. We befriended these three guys who were in the queue in front of us, and then turned up at the bar when we were, and we bebopped about a bit with them. All too quickly the lights were being turned up and we had to leave. I never had the slightest intention of going home so early and had scoured the internet to find somewhere to finish our night. I came across somewhere I’d never heard of but fit exactly the bill. Originally I had planned that we would go to The Bathhouse in Liverpool Street, only to find that they were closing two weeks before I planned to go. They play rock and roll/retro music and now I was in the mood for that kind of thing. The Book Club happened to do it, but as we’ve just covered, only stayed open until 2. I needed more. And I needed it to be within easy reach of Shoreditch so that we didn’t waste time and money getting there. It took me a while, but I finally unearthed Ye Olde Axe.

Square Meal

Ye Olde Axe

Apparently this place is a strip club. It’s just up the road from Brown’s so I can believe that. It also has a phenomenally large bouncer, which I consider evidence of stripping taking place. But when the clock strikes midnight, that element of it shuts down and it turns into a rockabilly venue. And it stays open until 6 am(ish). We headed up there, with a new addition to the party (one of the guys we’d met at The Book Club. I’d heard that this is where everyone heads when all the other venues have shut so I was a little worried we wouldn’t get in, or it would be too crowded to be enjoyable, but my fears were unwarranted. It’s an odd venue. A bit like the Horse & Groom, it’s clearly just a pub (I think I remember beams and banquettes), that happens to stay open late, plays great music and people dance. At least, I think they do. I would ask the honourable reader to remember that my companion and I had started drinking at about half four in the afternoon, and so by the time we reached Ye Olde Axe, my memory faculties weren’t firing on all cylinders. I know they were playing music I liked, from the 50s and 60s era, but the only song I can actually remember is ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’, chiefly because Alison and I engaged in a bit of playful lesbian writhing. It’s understandable – that song is pure sex. My abiding memory is of thinking this place was great and knowing it was now going to become my official ‘go to’ place for the after hours in Shoreditch.

Once again we stayed until basically, we were made to go, and then we went our separate ways. The night had finished, over 12 hours after it had begun.

Sunday 25th September

As a footnote, I want to add that we spent the afternoon and evening of Sunday at The Book Club again. It doesn’t get its own entry because ‘if it’s not on the list, it’s not going in’ but it’s worth a mention. We discovered they do bloody lovely Sunday Roasts. And they’re bloody huge as well. My friend and I shared one and didn’t even finish it between us. They also do ‘DIY’ bloody marys so you can make them as spicy as you like. Apparently they play blues in the downstairs bit starting from about 7 but it was 9 pm before I remembered we had wanted to see what that was like, and we were pretty comfortable where we were. I’d highly recommend it.

1 comment:

  1. '...bartenders are often hot, so why not sit where you can look at them more easily?' Er...because you have hottest boyfriend in the world! x


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