02 July 2011

Hidden Purl

Marylebone is great for shops and cafes but the Lower East Side it ain't when it comes to secret speakeasies. It does, however, have Purl, tucked away in a Blandford Street basement, and hopefully, this will be a sign of things to come. I've been meaning to visit Purl since it opened (last year, I think) but on the couple of occasions I tried to go, I hadn't booked and so wasn't allowed past the bouncer. Last night, though, I took the opportunity of organising a girls' night out in my hood for once and booked a table.

Mr Hyde's No 2 (the potion bottle is inside the wine cooler, being infused with smoke)

It is very dark down in the basement, which is arranged into a series of nooks, crannies and private booths. I needed both of the tea lights to have any hope of reading the menu, which takes inspiration both from '30s New York and Victorian gin palaces. As I'd read that part of the fun is in the showmanship associated with certain drinks on the menu, I opted for Mr Hyde's No 2: rum, homemade cola and chocolate bitters, served in a "sealed potion bottle" and infused with smoke. You are encouraged to pour the mixture into your iced glass in two sections--before and after the smoke has had time to infuse--and I could taste the difference. It wasn't the type of cocktail I would normally go for but it was quite tasty and quite a fun experience. Next time, I might go for a non-molecular option--the White Lady one of my friends ordered was very nice.

We'd only planned to have the one cocktail before going somewhere else for dinner but a wandering cocktailista asked if we'd like to try one of his special cocktails, made at our table from his trolley. Keen to try a more standard drink, I went for the Corpse Reviver No 2, which contained Tanqueray, Curacao and lemon, among other things. Balham Babe's Hanky Panky, which involved Tanqueray and assorted citrusy ingredients, also tasted good.

Molecular mixology at our table

Overall, we were impressed. The drinks were good and creative, the ambiance was very intimate and it wasn't too loud down in the basement, which meant we could actually talk properly without having to shout. We were somewhat surprised to receive a bill for only £20 for five drinks but in the end, we decided to be honest and tell the waitress we'd had another round. I was hoping she might knock one drink off the bill but she just told us how nice we were instead. Ah well, at about £9 or £10 per cocktail, the prices are fairly standard for central London, but we knew that when we went...

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