Head here if… you’re in the City and want to avoid the standard City-type drinking den.
The Square Mile doesn’t have to be square; this is one of the few places discerning drinkers can kick back with a quality cocktail…
First Things First
While there’s no denying that the flash cats are still around, these days everyone, including City boys, is feeling the pinch. Champagne suddenly feels too celebratory and flash, wine a little too pedestrian. A cheeky cocktail or two bridges the gap perfectly. That oh-so vital difference in glass-shape signals glamour, modernity, a sense of individuality and is just different enough to show you’re in the know. Not that they’re cheap by any means but think about it: it takes fewer to close an alcohol-induced deal. Now that’s what we call good business sense.
You’d be hard pushed to find a better cocktail around these parts than those vying for attention at Bonds. Sure, you’ll find the customary Bellini and Mojito on its extensive list if you want to play it safe but if you’re up for an adventure, the dedicated team here are daring enough to push the cocktail love to the max. Head barman Martin So has put together a list of drinks that tease and delight, blending ingredients with the kind of precision and flair usually reserved for a Michelin-starred kitchen.
Here’s a man who loves a challenge. Not for him the ease of using the same ingredient in a variety of drinks, oh no, he likes to make things difficult for himself by using each brand of spirit only once on the menu. Ditto the choice of base fruit. So while he opts for Hendricks Gin in the Pimms & Lulo Bellini, Aviation Gin takes preference in the Moscato & Wild Rose White Lady (see TCL Choice). According to So, this isn’t a gimmick, the reason he chooses to go this Old School American route is to be truly sympathetic to his ingredients. That goes for his choice of premium spirits and the adjusters to balance the individual characteristics of each drink.
And this bar’s individuality doesn’t stop there. None of the staff arrive at Bonds as bartenders, they all start by working the tables. That way they get to know the importance of customer service, how to recommend drinks and assess the mood of the room. Each member of staff gets monthly training on various drinks and as soon as a bartender leaves, the most promising waiter/waitress gets promoted. No wonder the drinks are so good.
As for looks, this is undeniably a place where deals are made, however, the mood is warm and welcoming with good acoustics, lovely soft lighting and an overall mellow vibe.
Ms S’s head was all a-dither after carefully perusing the many and varied drinks on Martin So’s menu. She’d already drawn up a shortlist for her TCL Choice and was secretly hoping one of them might be cunningly disguised as a Signature. It turned out even better than that. Mr So doesn’t believe in the whole Signature thing, “Every one of our drinks is a Signature, what you end up with just depends on your mood.” Make what you will of the kind of mood Ms S was in as she went for the intriguing Beetroot & Gingerbread Margarita (Sotol Hacienda de Chihauahura Mezcal shaken with a touch of gingerbread, fresh beetroot puree and lime juice, served straight up). This really was the work of a genius. True, the ingredients might sound a tad too eclectic for the safety-conscious Cosmo drinker but forget trying to work out how the ingredients can possibly work together, they just do. Beautifully. Original, fresh, inspiring, confident and ever-so different the balance of flavours was one of the cleverest cocktail concoctions Ms S has had the pleasure of tasting. It’s very refreshing to find such creativity and daring behind any bar, let alone in the stuffy confines of the City.
Mr G’s Martini was mixed with Tanqueray No. Ten and Noilly Prat and came in an elegant, nicely frosted Martini glass. Classic, classic, classic. So what’s new? Does anything need to be new? Well, there’s the twist of grapefruit peel instead of lemon. Small change, big difference. A fantastic aroma from the grapefruit that felt refreshing, breakfast-like even. And that was before the first taste. As for that first taste, the grapefruit kept on working, effortlessly teasing out the grapefruit notes in the Tanqueray. Each subsequent taste just got better and better. Beautiful, delicate with a mild but pleasingly long finish. Excellent.
It had to be the Moscato & Wild Rose White Lady (Aviation gin shaken with Moscato di Pantelleria, Triple Sec, fresh lemon juice and a touch of sugar, served in a frozen glass with a coating of Eglantine Eau de Vie) given Ms S’s penchant for this drink in its unadulterated form. Maybe she’d raised the bar too high after the delightful Beetroot & Gingerbread creation as this one didn’t bring about that same ‘kapow’. It was good, there’s no doubting that there was a deftness of touch and superior knowledge of what makes a drink work. It just didn’t connect with Ms S’s palate in quite the way that she’d hoped. As soon as she sipped it, Ms S remembered she’s not a huge fan of rose in her drink. Dammit. Had she been a bit sharper, she would have gone for a Thai Green Chilli & Mango Sour or a Quince & Dragonfruit Batida. Never mind; next time…
As we were already easing nicely into a little seafood tapas Mr G needed a drink to compliment same. The Apple and Tarragon Champagne Collins (Gin, fresh apple juice, lemon juice, sugar, absinthe, champagne) looked like it would fit the bill. And it did. Another beautifully presented drink, especially the garnish. But as is the case throughout Bonds’ menu the garnish isn’t simply about appearance but is integral to the enjoyment of the drink. The sprig of tarragon and fan of apple keeping these two ingredients right up front throughout as the drink dilutes slightly from the ice. There was a nice texture too from the use of freshly pulped apple rather than juice. The absinthe was used just right – like a seasoning rather than a main ingredient. Lastly, this Collins featured champagne in a prominent role rather than the supporting one usually played by soda water. What’s not to like?
And To Eat?
It’s all about tapas here. Either mix and match from the menu or go for one of the three excellent sharing platters. We tried the Tasting Of The Sea (sardines, anchovies, smoked salmon, olives, caper berries, balsamic pickled onions, marinated baby artichokes, Manchego cheese with quince jelly, hummous and foccacia). Perfect for two greedy people, £22.
Look Out For
The Cocktail In The City menu. Enjoy the taste of summer in the imaginative 3-course menu with a ‘starter’ of Moscato & Wild Rose White Lady, Beetroot & Gingerbread Margarita main, followed by a Garlic & Blueberry Princeton for dessert. £20 for three drinks.
What’s The Damage
Classics range from £9.50-£12, Contemporary drinks from £10.50-£12.
Ms S says:
Hurrah for Bonds! Unlike most City bars this one isn’t all about quaffing champagne and maxing up the expense account on top dollar wines. The cocktails are seriously good, more than a match for the elegant looking bar.
Mr G says:
Not too quiet and not too noisy, it’s also a nice little oasis of mixing magic right in the heart of the City.
5 Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8AY. T: 020-7657 8096 Find it here