The restaurant side of OT&E, which serves a broad selection of British small plates, is — unusually for Soho — reservations only, but you can chance your luck and try for a seat at the very chic bar. First, though, you have to ring the large brass doorbell on the door marked 187b. Early on a Thursday evening, the bar area was relatively quiet, so I was handed a shiny coat-check card — a gold playing card — and ushered downstairs.
The next challenge was the cocktail menu. As you might guess from the name, OT&E has a fair few gin-based cocktails. For my opening gambit, I ordered the Wardour (when in Wardour Street...), which involved Brockmans gin with lime, sugar syrup, basil and black pepper. Essentially, a very tasty gin variation on the mojito theme. Strong, fruity and bursting with flavour, I was very impressed. It even came with a purple flower garnish nestling in the basil.
Although I was tempted by the Elderflower Collins and by the Barrel-Aged Gin Old Fashioned, my cheeky second cocktail ended up being the OT&E 75, a twist on the classic French 75, which included lavender-infused gin, as well as lemon, sugar and Champagne. I'm a sucker for lavender and this drink was tart, fruity and expertly mixed, I was very happy.
While we enjoyed our cocktails, we nibbled on the bar snacks: moreish almonds, and mini sausages, which were rather spicier than I was expecting. Perusing the menu, I almost wished we were staying for dinner, although Mele e Pere never disappoints. Instead, we admired the gorgeous rose gold barware and the bar's effortlessly chic mid-century design, and then headed reluctantly back up to ground level. Old Tom & English feels almost like a time warp and it's certainly a world away from the mêlée above, even if the bartenders do employ some thoroughly modern mixology skills.
Old Tom & English. 187b Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZB (Tube: Oxford Circus or Tottenham Court Road). Website. Twitter.