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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Dragon Bar: Callooh Callay, Shoreditch

Two hot Shoreditch openings make up for the imminent loss of The T Bar. Having also faced extinction - its Leonard Street premises bulldozed by developers - the Dragon Bar legend lives on. Relocated to Rivington Street, the new den’s bare brick, vintage oak back bar and slouchy 1960s style basement reference the old place, but textural slates and woods make this dragon a more sophisticated beast - witness Chablis at a pocket-friendly £23, Perrier-JouĂ«t (£35) and snappy gastro grub for grown-ups. Although lacking the original’s scruffy insouciance - give it time! - it screams ‘instant Shoreditch classic.’ Better still is near neighbour Callooh Callay (pictured) -my Bar of the Year 2009 . Co-owned by Richard Wynne, ex-manager of Loungelover, it aims to match that East End icon in terms of design and standards. Cocktails rightly take centre stage: Lazy Mexican Margarita (Ocho Reposado tequila, red pepper, oregano, lemon J and chilli) at £8 is a typically edgy call, although Ale Of Two Cities is strictly for loons. So lethal, customers are limited to two per session, its base - 42 Below Feijoa vodka - is an acquired taste: sucking Deep Heat muscle rub through Wayne Rooney’s footie socks? Bleurgh! Wynne’s decor choices inspire; a cleverly edited mish-mash of 20th century tat and a van load of Victoriana from Bermondsey Market that includes a mirrored armoire doubling as a Narnia-like portal to an enchanting kingdom beyond, a hyper-cool DJ lounge. Yet it is Lewis Carroll, not C.S.Lewis, that inspires Callooh Callay - the triumphant exclamation is a reaction to news of the monstrous Jaberwock’s slaying in Carroll’s famous nonsense verse. Linking the bar to someone long suspected of being the area’s bloodiest nighthawk, Jack The Ripper, only ups the louche appeal of one of London’s best new launches.

Dragon Bar 138/ 139 Shoreditch High Street E1 7739 7520.

Callooh Callay , 65 Rivington St. EC2 7739 4791