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Saturday, 27 February 2010

69 Colebrooke Row, Islington

Dapper cocktailisto Tony Conigliaro has left Shochu Lounge and set up on his own down an Islington alleyway. Well, not quite on his own; 69 Colebrooke Row, it transpires, is a joint venture with one Camille Hobby-Linton, licensee of the nearby Charles Lamb. Oblivious to any connection I harrumph,‘Nice pub; shame about the service,’ inadvertently dissing his partner’s baby. Tony winces but stops short of lacing my Wink with arsenic. Wink, you say? One of mine host’s many inspired creations, this ginny take on the Sazerac is Tony’s considered choice when, shunning the provided list, this gaffe-prone winker challenges him to ‘surprise me!’ Equally typical of Conigliaro’s recherché mixology is No.5 Champagne Cocktail, its intrinsic sugar cube subtly perfumed with the signature notes of Chanel’s iconic scent - jasmine, ylang ylang, neroli, rose, sandalwood, vanilla & vetiver. Great minds think alike, it seems; but my teenage experiment with a bottle of tonic water and Dad’s highly alcoholic Eau Sauvage aftershave had some disturbing side-effects, so please don’t attempt this at home! More successful is Tone’s Targa Florio; an homage to a Dolce Vita-era Sicilian road race, the blood oranges, lemons and mandarins that grew wild along the cars’ route are combined with Merlet triple sec and Vichy Catalan water to make a stylish tipple fit for any Marcello Mastrioanni manqué. At just 35 covers, Tony’s miniscule bar is apparently inspired by films noirs and Tokyo’s inscrutable, Bladerunner-esque drinking dens. I’m getting ‘Chinese takeaway’ but such prosaic surroundings shift the focus onto his exceptional drinks. A contemporary of Conigliaro, Nick (Hawksmoor) Strangeway has created a quintet of choccy cocktails for Artisan du Chocolat. Willie Wonka doesn’t normally do it for me but at the chain’s fab new op art Bayswater branch, a bitter Cacao Martini turns out to be my idea of a sweetie: see for yourself for a fiver.

69 Colebrooke Row, N1 0754 528 593