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Thursday, 5 December 2013

Kench and Bibesy, Smithfield

"'Kench' is a little-used term for a fish salting bin, as well as the olde English equivalent of that current online ├╝beracronym, LOL. 'Bibesy' is an archaic term for an excessive desire to drink." So says the owner of this new Smithfield gaff, a man whose Nottingham childhood must have been so uneventful, he can still recall every round of Call My Bluff. Mine host, the linguist Chris Peel, is keen to point out the thinking behind the name of his new dining room (Kench) and bar (Bibesy), lest I imagine it's in the same vein as his other premises. Chris, you see, is also the man behind cod-1920's Chicago Mobster's speakeasy Evans and Peel - a quirky hole-up that would doubtless be fun-lovin' Diana Spencer's local had she not kissed a Greco-German frog, become a princess, left her pad in Earl's Court for an even more louche Court, and died after the dream turned as sour as her sister-in-law Anne's equine fizog. Whether Diana, smudged panda eyed patron saint of TV confessionals, would have enjoyed Kench's modern Brit tapas, who can say? She was a finicky eater, one of her friends tells me. I enjoy K and B's..... in part. Pulled oxtail with red cabbage, and pork 'bellypops' are fair but chewy, flavourless, salt-cured flank steak tartare echoes Diana's demise: a car crash. Wotevah!  I'm feeling more bibsey boy than kenchy tonight, so it's the downstairs drinking den here that interests me more. As at Evans and Peel, part of the fun is divining its entrance. If you're not thick as a brick, you'll discover a rough-hewn pine-clad blue-collar cabin that has presumably been modelled on a shady Adirondacks shack circa Hank Williams - the sort of dive where rednecks drink doctored hooch and eye up their cousins' beavers after a day spent shootin' squirrels in the woods - Tufty taxidermy is a bit of a theme at Bibesy. From a back bar stacked high with premium spirits, Bibsey's cocktails are no hokey moonshine. Campari eggnog aside - an ill-advised experiment that tastes like the poo of a jaundiced alkie Milanese mama's breast-fed baby - the menu is packed with must-try stuff. Despite its crap name, Beyond Epale ('the bastard lovechild of a martinez and a presidente') is a winner. So too, Dedicated Follower of Fashion, Bibesy's Kinky Boulevardier built on Calvados. The drinks keep coming faster than a horny hillbilly in a $10 parking lot whore. By the time I get to Redemption rye and Arran and Islay whisky-based Salt and Malt Sazerac, Hank Williams'  'I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive' is playing in my head. At one point, I swear  there's a mean squirrel on my shoulder and it's after my nuts - always a bad sign that you're one more drink away from a paramedic's intervention. It's testament to this luxe liquor pit's pull that I'm still here, howling for more, at 3 a.m on a school night. OK, I'll level. It helps that Peel lures us into a lock-in, the tab on him. As I, too, am keen to revive obscure old English words, let me add that if you can corrade the cost of an Oenological Manhattan (11 gold bits), freck hither, twitter-light, and deliciate at a brannigan within.
50 - 52 Long Lane EC1A 9EJ 7796 3631