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Thursday, 23 December 2010

London Cocktail Club, Fitzrovia

Remember cherubic blonde JJ and his sweaty-under-pressure co-competitor James, the unlikely winners of Raymond Blanc’s 2010 TV gameshow, The Restaurant? While there’s no sign of the much-trumpeted prize, a restaurant to call their own, what you do get at their latest gig, The London Cocktail Club, are tricksy bar snacks: popcorn chicken; stuff on slates; penny chews for a pound; that sort of thing. Given the way the boys winged it when it came to full-blown cheffin' throughout the TV show's run, I'm guessing this will be it in terms of  culinary highs. Fair enough: the lads never claimed to be Marco-Pierre Turban or Vanity Ramsay. This, their second string operation, has been launched in tandem with Blanc and his on-screen sidekick, David Moore, baldy besuited boss of Pied a Terre, while the original similarly styled dive bar in Great Newport Street  trades on under a new monicker, The Covent Garden Cocktail Club.  Punky low-lit’n’loud, this narrow Fitzrovia basement rocks to a mix of classic hip hop, The Doors,  Springsteen and similar blue collar rock, the bartender correctly assessing that boy band-diggin' JJ should not be let loose on the bar's iPod. As 'bacon and egg martini' or 'squid ink sour' (no, really!) aren't exactly my usual tickets, I wuss out and go off-menu. There’s no faulting the liquid in my glass - a sexy Sazerac - but classics deserve better than a tumbler that might be called Krjap, were a certain Swedish store to stock such a nasty, flimsy item. Nor, will I tolerate an evil cake-mix glacĂ© cherry masquerading as its maraschino bro’ in my Manhattan. I’m fond of the affable JJ - his commitment to cocktails is laudable and, largely, he gets it right - but as I've put it to him in the past, attention to small detail is what makes a good bar great. Tonight, JJ is neglecting his new baby for dinner with with some other baby, I'm told, but partner David Moore is in the house. Oozing professional bonhomie and inviting comment from this seemingly casual punter, he seems momentarily taken aback when the anticipated 'fabulous, darling!' fails to materialise. Recovering fast, he  breezily bats my quibbles into the long grass. To paraphrase: ‘What do you expect at £7.50? These drinks would set you back a bundle at the nearby Charlotte Street Hotel but, all the same, I’ll see what I can do, guv.’ Imagine Blanc’s face were one of his TV hopefuls as cavalier. Swing by JJ's joint by all means but, until further notice, BYO glass and cherries! 
61 Goodge St W1 7836 9553