Dive bars: I love a louche lair populated by weird, wired interestings whose only brush with daylight will come as they slope home, bleary-...
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
As a smoker, I vowed I'd give up when Marlboro Lites hit a fiver per pack. They soon did and I quit; although that was less down to price, all to Allen Carr...as in fag-aversion therapy clinic. Any aversion to the TV fag of that ilk is easily addressed: zap Chatty Man with your remote! I do. Similarly, I've vowed to give up cocktails when the benchmark for a boulevardier hits £20. Based on prices at Peony, a brand new space at dimly lit pseudo-1930s-Shanghai den of debauchery, Opium, my drinking days are nigh over. Optional 12.5% gratuity included, prices zap from £15+ to a ceiling-busting £20.25 for Dragon Bite (El Dorado 5 rum, Benedictine, Xilli liqueur, lime, papaya and coriander). Yes, I have been known to shell out as much at Artesian or other starry lounges now and then, but all cheap 'n' cheerful chinoiserie, Peony ain't exactly The Connaught. Furthermore, at haute hotels, exotic snackage is often included in the price and smiling doormen invariably greet you as a long-lost friend. Tonight, despite coming armed with a reservation, I'm left outside, shivering in a biting wet wind for a full ten minutes while an impassive, impassable greeter attempts, FBI security-stylee, to communicate my presence to a front-of-house that's presumably pre-occupied, tending to other guests (all two of them, it transpires, when I do make it upstairs). The new inscrutable sepia tone saloon (its view, the sort of alley behind whose rubbish bins a vengeful triad member would carve a Shanghai smile into your boat race) is the domain of Rasa Gaidelyte, an enthusiastic Lithuanian blonde whose concise East-meets-West list is a work in progress. Served in patterned teapots, punches include a Chivas 12 whisky and green tea hot toddy - good with dim sum, seafood or vegetable platters from £15. Rasa's signature rinses include Mexican in China (Herradura tequila, Xilli pepper and maraschino liqueurs, grapefruit juice and lime) and a lemongrass-smoked Sazerac presented with goji berries and, wrapped in an exotic leaf, a gold coin for good luck. At this rate, a great deal of good fortune - i.e six numbers on tomorrow's Lotto - is required if this cookie is continue to afford to drink at London's more expensive lounges.