This is my favourite cocktail bar
in London ever. It’s ridiculously cool and the cocktails aren’t tired variations of classics (I’m looking at you mojito). Go check it out but there are two things you should know:
1. The dress code specifies no suits.
2. You’ll need a reservation, it’s quite busy usually.
When I say “hole in the wall” I’m not even remotely exaggerating. It is simply a doorway next to the kebab shop at 1 Great Eastern Street (you can go there afterwards. I did; it’s not very good). Stepping inside the hole you can’t help but feel a bit disoriented as only a few metres from that gritty street corner is well, this…
As you can see it’s pretty damn atmospheric but often atmosphere isn’t enough for a bar.
Therefore I proudly present my elementary theory to Cocktail Bar Selection (or CBS for short). I’d like to add that this is a preliminary draft so is likely to need alteration but it’ll suffice given no alternatives.
Given the choice between two or more cocktail bars choose according to the following set of criteria:
- Make sure it’s a cocktail bar and not a regular bar.
Usually this is pretty obvious as they’ll have a significantly larger portion of the menu devoted to cocktails than to beer or wine.
- Originality of Cocktails
The Cocktail menu should show some cocktails which are very uncommon to the extent that they’re unrecognisable. This shows that the bartender has some level of creativity and implies and understanding of cocktail mixing (or as they rather ridiculously call it – mixology).
- Noise Level
This really annoys me. If I’m in a bar with no dance area and everyone is seated why is dance music being played and why is it so loud that I can’t hear anyone speak? If I wanted to dance I would go to a club or a bar/club (but I have my own problem with those too). If I’m sitting down with a nice cocktail in a bar which really only has room for seats I kinda want to chat. If I can’t talk then I’m left sitting amongst a group of people utterly unable to join in any form of conversation and what the hell is the point of that? Would you go to a restaurant where the music was so loud you couldn’t hear anyone on your table speak? No, so why should you put up with it when you’re trying to have a drink?
- Number of Cocktails on the Menu
This is arguably the best distinction between actual cocktail bars. Try to avoid bars with over 40 drinks on the menu. Bars with too few cocktails are either extremely specialised at creating a handful of well known cocktails or they aren’t really cocktail bars at all. Bars with too many cocktails spread themselves too thin. Avoid, “With over 200 different choices on the menu” at all costs. In the case where the menu has over 100 cocktails that means that not enough time and effort has been taken to develop a really excellent cocktail. This also means that even if they have any masterpieces on the menu you are less likely to choose them.
- Types of Alcohol
Flavoured vodkas (such as pepper or lemon) and brand names such as Bombay Sapphire and Wyborowa or Grey Goose are a sign that you’re on the right track. Unusual alcohols such as umeshu and elderflower liqueur are generally hints too.
- Peer Reviews
These are pretty mixed and a positive review can be a reason not to go. For example: “Let’s go to Freud’s, you can really taste the alcohol in their drinks”. The assumption was that since you couldn’t taste the alcohol in the cocktails we were drinking at Detroit (exceptional quality cocktails, less good atmosphere) that there wasn’t any. For me this was a reason to discard any further reviews of food or drink from this individual.
Where 1>2>3>4. By the time you work your way through the other criteria and finally get to peer reviews you should probably be down to one or two bars to choose from anyway.
So with the theory out of the way let’s get back to the review. I can happily state that Lounge Bohemia satisfies all criteria and probably beats most other cocktail bars on almost all of them. I mean they have black forest ham bourbon so I doubt they can be topped on types of alcohol. The peer reviews are top notch, you can Google them if you want – I’ll wait – done? Happy? Good. You can’t help but feel just a little bit sad that these achievements aren’t noticed more often but you understand once you take note of their creativity and originality which are good enough to deserve a new paragraph.
Often when people use the term “paradigm shift” it’s misused (a slight understatement) for instance when someone buys a new frying pan or different fabric softener. Thomas Kuhn is likely spinning in his grave. All of these past injustices almost seem to be put right when you refer to the cocktails at Lounge Bohemia as “paradigm shifting”. Not only do the cocktails somehow manage to transcend the bounds of cocktails but those of drinks as well. This glowing praise can’t help but sound like hyperbole to anyone who hasn’t seen what I’ve seen. When I explain that the tasting menu contains toothpaste (well not toothpaste but… well … toothpaste) and cocktail noodles then you might start to understand. When they brought out a tree made of Campari I was pretty sure that Thomas Kuhn would have died happy had he seen it.
If I haven’t convinced you to go then show this review to someone else, hopefully they will. For those that wish to go then let me give you a few recommendations to get you started. The cocktails I would recommends are:
Sgt. Pepper – a lemony peppery martinii delight
Tea for Two – Vodka and lemon and Earl Gray in a teapot for two
Some sort of chocolate thing – don’t know what this was called but despite having no cream it was rich and indulgent.
So those are your (relatively) run of the mill drinks (at £6-7). If you want something a bit more Willy Wonka then you need to order off of the molecular mixology menu (at £10-11) or order one of the tasting menus. If you don’t mind the taste of alcohol then go for the 5 course tasting menu at £25 (the drinks are designed to show off alcohol at its apotheosis). If you want to get a tasting menu then you need to give them 24 hours notice as well. I don’t want to spoil the surprise (and it is definitely a surprise) but some of the drinks are unbelievable. The bohemian breakfast, a fat duck inspired ham and maple syrup cocktail cooked before your very eyes, is truly a marvel.
So yeah there you have it. This little gem on the edge of Shoreditch is miraculous to the extent that any future cocktail bars will just seem tragically ironic.
Find the limited website and phone number at:
07720 707 000