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Friday, 26 September 2014

Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

Two Fitzrovia bars to the good, the owners of Bourne & Hollingsworth and Reverend J.Simpson have added a bigger, more ambitious, third off Exmouth Market. Like Derry and Toms, and Swan and Edgar, Bourne and Hollingsworth was originally the name of one of London's many double-barrelled department stores that in the latter's case, was on its last legs around the same period as this bar's mismatched skip-refugee furniture was fashionable: the mid-1970s. BHB is done out like the sort of Surrey wine bar one of that decade's great TV fixtures might have hung out in with her Rotary Club cronies, sipping Cherry Heering and sneering about a neighbour's ghastly common baby blue Ford Capri. That's no bad thing: The Good Life's Margo Leadbetter's style is bang on the current fashion zeitgeist. There's much else to like here; not least a handsome sit-up, cocktail bar, a chintzy Homebase pot plant-heavy conservatory/ dining area and floorboards painted light-bouncing white, always flattering to the sort of London bar flies whose complexions are a touch Gak Wan. The opening party cocktails we are served are fair-to-girly: port flower stinger; cider rose (apple and blackberry shrub stirred with cider brandy, charged with prosecco). Blokier stuff to try next time - for, unlike some recent lame launches I've attended, there will be a next time -  includes rum and plum (Santa Theresa 1796, prune vermouth and bitters). A posh pubby menu that has mint crusted cannon of lamb with ratatouille (not exactly 1970s pricing at £20), and Caribbean pork belly, sweet potato puree and plantain beignets bears investigation. The bar snacks we try are hit and miss: crispy bacon and potato maki rolls with horseradish cream strange, but strangely addictive; red bell pepper and thyme cake, whatever!; coronation chicken wrap with avocado relish the sort of outré buffet one-upmanship your aunt in Esher might have once served to a soundtrack of Demis Roussos.  
42 Northampton Road EC1R 0HU 3174 1156

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Alchemist, The City

Terry Christian-esque robotic drone aside, I like Mancunians. They're earthy, warm, funny and generous. However, if the London launch party for The Alchemist - a hit Manchester bar - is "owt to go by, cocker," as Bet Lynch would say, the last of those qualities is up for discussion. If you were introducing a new space specialising in (groan) 'molecular madness,' inviting London's most high-profile blasé bloggers, website editors and hard-to-impress hacks (count me in!), what would you serve? Let's see? Cocktails? So what Cheshire cheapskate imagined laying on free wine and lager, while expecting guests to pay for white martinez, chilli and mint daiquiri et al at the bar, was a smart move? I'm alright Jack. I identify an in-house marketing maven and tap her for a gin, rose and violette flower sour. Clocking this, some of London's less assertive pro barflies chew my ear: "Gonna sort out these tight Northern gits?" they plead. "Er...I'm not the PR!"...but I know a woman who is; and fortunately, the poor love cools my coterie's ire by the power of the bar tab... and the tongue-lashing she gave her recalcitrant client, I like to think. Alchemists turned base metal into gold, did they not? Tonight's faux pas is more a case of King Midas in reverse. TBH, I'm not fussed. I'd only dropped in en route to try Richard Woods' (more sophisticated) mixes at Duck & Waffle. From the Alkie's 50-strong (way too long) list, both smokey old fashioned  and smokey paloma are fair at £7.50 although I could live without the glass flask they come in - Croydon clap clinic connotations. Having visited The Alchemist a second time, I'll point you in the direction of chocolate orange sazerac and, if you are keen on cocktails as chemistry class, the Reyka vodka-based colour changing one (does as it says). Design-wise, a gargantuan eau de nil rococo cabinet as back bar is fun: the rest - high ceilings, neon, Chesterfields - is bog standard warehouse-cum-bar issue. The faffy approach to drinks might impress Manchester A-listers such as The Rooneys but the launch night bar food? Let's just say what did get reach us ( chicken nuggety things, mostly) would have made the Rovers' Liz McDonald blush. Where's Betty's hotpot when you most need it?
6 Bevis Marks EC3A 7BA 7283 8800