22 October 2011

Cocktails and Cappuccinos

Emerald Street, daily emails from the makers of freebie chick mag Stylistaimed at London ladies, have a regular feature called Cocktails & Cappuccinos, where they highlight a cool espresso bar, cocktail bar or restaurant--usually places that have been featured in Time Out, the Londonist, Daily Candy or Le Cool several weeks or months earlier. As I rarely drink cappuccinos these days, Macchiatos and Mojitos might have been a more appropriate title for this post but the cocktails in question are from the kind of bar where ordering a mojito would be perceived as unimaginative.

I went to the original Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris with Monsieur Exquisite in 2009 and loved the cocktails and the whole secret speakeasy experience. A few months ago, they opened a branch in London--in Gerrard Street in Chinatown, of all places--but I hadn't had the chance to check it out until last night. Although the website mentions that they keep 50% of their covers for walk-ins, I thought it would be busy and emailed over a week in advance to book. By Thursday, I had received no response; I emailed again (they have no phone number), this didn't elicit a reply either. Comments on Time Out suggested great cocktails made up for rude staff so Balham Babe, Marylebone Mate and I decided to try anyway. As is the norm with these speakeasies, there is no sign for the ECC--just a battered-looking door with a grumpy-looking bouncer. BB got there early and talked her way in but the bouncer was pretty arsey about letting me in to join her (he must not like pink heels). He eventually caved, although couldn't promise MM would be admitted.

For the next 90 minutes or so, BB and I were shunted around the seating areas to make room for people with bookings. I told the waitress I had tried to book, emailing over a week ago, but she claimed they got so many emails that they couldn't process them all in time. Fair enough, I thought. The place was, in any case, very cool: a townhouse decorated in an understated style and with a great bar. The cocktails were also excellent. My favourite was the Saint Germain des Prés, which involved, among other things, gin, St Germain liqueur, lime juice, egg white, cucumber. The Get Buck in Here, my first order, with gin, lemon juice, absinthe, ginger ale and grapefruit zest, was also very tasty. We warmed to the place, despite our inferior status as "walk-ins," and eventually, we were able to sit in a corner area, where we could relax a little more. Annoyingly, the people who vacated the area told us we'd been bullshitted about the email bookings, though; they had emailed at 3 pm that day and got a response right away. Apparently having "director" in your signature block helps, so maybe I'll email from my work address and give myself an Adam Werritty-style promotion. The waitress was subsequently apologetic about the lack of emails and about the fact we kept getting moved but perhaps she wanted an even bigger tip than the the discretionary 12.5%. Not cool, ECC.

As for the caffeine part of this post, I visited another place that's been on my to-do list for a while: The Sensory Lab, a quality espresso bar on Wigmore Street, perfectly placed between my flat and Selfridges. They serve coffee roasted by St Ali (which is part of the same group) as well as a variety of specialist brews of the week. My macchiato was suitably rich and chocolatey and I'm looking forward to trying some St Ali coffee in my French press next week. 

The Sensory Lab itself is very small, with only a few seats, but it's a great place for some quality, post-shopping caffeine--it's just far away enough from Oxford Street to mean it isn't usually overly packed. Plus, unlike certain other places mentioned in this post, the staff were really friendly and helpful. Oh, and another plus: like Yo! Sushi, they have still and sparkling water on tap; unlike Yo! Sushi, it's free!

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