The Charles - a brandy and sweet vermouth-based number I've enjoyed in numerous drinking dens - is a prince among cocktails. In honou...
Friday, 22 November 2013
Earlham Street Clubhouse, Covent Garden
(Yeh, I reckon!)
It's unfair to judge a bar by its Press launch. God knows I've organised enough live events in my time to know that last-minute hiccups beyond your control come with the gig. Take the nerve-jangling men's Autumn/Winter fashion show I produced for a big name British designer in Milan. While the notoriously bitchy style mag monsieurs queened and preened front row, 15 minutes and ticking 'til lights down, the designer's entire shoe collection languished, uncleared, in a customs warehouse at Linate airport. Would bare feet in winter be the season's instant hot trend? No! The show must go on, on-time (i.e no more than an hour late); so we improvised. I sent the stylist's 'Eureka!' plan B, a last-minute job lot of grubby Italian army boots bought from a shop around the corner, down the runway to rapturous applause from an audience of gullible himbos. To this day, I believe the collection is still referred to as The Emperor's New Shoes. Opening night nerves and glitches are evident at Earlham Street Clubhouse, new on the site of Detroit - a basement bar that, like its currently clapped-out Motor City namesake, the wheels finally came off. It seems the Seven Dials juice pit's new owners have looked east of Michigan, to the Jersey shores' boardwalk bars of the '50s, for inspiration. Vintage jukebox, old metal burger bar signs, table side telephones for booth-to- booth flirting (not yet installed, ergo glitch #1): I half expect to clock The Fonz on holz. Happy Daze? That'll be down to ESC's slugger cocktails. Listed on snap-sprung menus dangled from the ceiling, they include berry-sweet Ketel 1-laced Prom Queen, Beauty School Drop-out and Power Ranger (a Bulleit, red wine and apricot jam sour). I'm offered a rocks margarita: way too stringent, it drinks like lemon Cif. Its replacement, College Rules is a Pampero mule whose murderous chipotle element comes on like a kick to the windpipe - this to the clear chagrin of consultant mixologists Soul Shakers whose head honcho tastes it, blushes, and promises to finesse his babies at an ASAP staff snagging session. There are more opening night wobbles but by and large, the Press pack is upbeat, the launch deemed a success - not least due to great thin-crust, sourdough pizza by the slice that's as good as anything you'll find in Frank Sinatra's pizza-mad hometown, Hoboken NJ. Unlike fashion show producers, bar owners get a second chance to make a first impression. My impression is it'll all turn out alright tomorrow night at the cute Clubhouse.