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Friday, 7 September 2012

And Co, Soho


A poster above the entrance to this new quasi-clandestine cellar says ‘I LIKE IT. WHAT IS IT?’ London’s newest 'drinking experience', ‘And Co’; that’s what. I’m seated at a granite-topped island counter. Behind its basin and taps, whatever spirits contained within known only to staff, myriad decanters and bottled potions are neatly stacked on shelves in wood and glass display cabinets. Mine host/ resident barman/ professor expounds ‘the concept.’ Suddenly, I’m 12 again, in chemistry class - only, this time, held in what feels like a display kitchen at  Magnet's Kensington High Street showroom. In this boffin's dark subterranean lab (the latest wheeze from the chaps who own Soho's Graphic bar) , brand identity is taboo. Strategic advertising and cunning marketing are the enemies of individual choice - or sum such cant, is the message being preached here, I think. In truth, I've zoned out, transfixed by my guru's strange Scouse/Indonesian accent and uncanny resemblance to a Thunderbirds puppet. Together, hand-in-hand, we're on a quest. Tonight, I am to be introduced to my own personal gin Jesus. But first there's a Ron L. Hubbard-esque multiple choice quiz to wade through. I’m left to ponder a lengthy list of tasting notes grouped by spirit, flavour and style: ‘complex and oaky; ‘fresh and zesty’; hmm, pretentious and poncey? Wearying of Prof’s protracted probing, I’m fast becoming one V restless paying guinea pig. ‘Tanqueray 10, Beefeater 24 and Berry Brothers No.3 all work for me,’ I say, growing desperate. I'm now so gagging for a drink, neat turps would do. Patience, child! Presently, an utterly exquisite dry martini, all ‘weighty viscous mouth feel, liquorice, slight stone fruit sweetness’ and yadda yadda yadda-ness is delivered in exchange for £13 (well, £6.50 actually; there's 50% during & Co's soft opening period). ‘I LIKE IT. WHAT IS IT?’ Prof’ won’t say; presumably, lest I cheat on him and order similar elsewhere. Thus, I am forever his. Cunning marketing, indeed.
22 Great Marlborough Street, W1F 7HU 7437 4106 http://centralandco.com