As themed establishments go, this one is new on us – a subterranean space that holds the title of being the only stained-glass window bar in London. Enjoy thoroughly unique and artisan libations while admiring the hand-crafted tiles, church candles and complimentary wine and wafers that give Communion its name.
So they’re ecclesiasti-cocktails? Kind of – but the focus of the menu is less religious, more locally-sourced. The majority of ingredients are gathered from the neighbouring markets around South London – expect to find the likes of galangal ginger, Jamaican Sorrel and Nigerian Guinness Foam on the list.
Best for when you’re feeling: Like you want a themed bar that isn’t filled with the taxidermy-kitsch synonymous with Prohibition bars. Also for those with a penchant for exotic ingredients and exciting Asian/African/Caribbean-influenced concoctions.
Where is it? In Camberwell, on Church Street (naturally). Descend the stairs below famous Angels and Gypsies tapas restaurant into what looks like a dim cavern and be wowed by the spectacle of bespoke stained glass windows brightening up the room.
Who to go with: People who like attention to detail. From the teeny glasses of Communion wine and the handful of Communion wafers offered on the tables, to the colonial tiling and carefully sourced church furniture, everything about the bar has been selected with utmost precision.
What makes it unique: It’s not often you find yourself sipping cocktails whilst gazing at a brilliantly-hued, hand-crafted window depicting the biblical scene of Moses parting the sea. Plus, it’s rare to enjoy a drink that includes the likes of Mauby Bark Syrup or Chestnut honey from Catabria.
So what’s the deal? To complete the ‘Holy-Trinity’ of their restaurant and hotel, the creators of Communion have decided to pull out all the stops in divine decoration and consecrated cocktails. While the theme is certainly religious, it’s all done with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek, and this is most definitely a place to bring friends, enjoy your surroundings, and share in the fun.
Drinks are a revelation – scanning the cocktail menu is like reading a shopping list from an exotic country. From the Uncle Mauby, that uses fresh Granadilla (a Columbian passion fruit) and lots of rum, to the molasses used in the Pretty Little Shanty Town.
Other notable drinks include the Nurse Pinoy – dedicated to the Filipino nurses at King’s College Hospital – and the utterly barmy Grass Arena. This mixes Carlsberg Special Brew and Buckfast tonic wine, and is inspired by a tale of homeless alcoholism. Naturally…
Atmosphere: There’s an air of elegant refinement to the whole place – we’re not saying exactly hallowed, but the windows and the beautiful fittings do create a certain kind of theatrical magic.
So what should I order? It’s going to be a tough choice, because you won’t have experienced many of the exotic ingredients Communion is offering. If we had to pick two, we’d go for the Black Rice Old Fashioned, which was a sensational twist on a classic, and the Cracked Sky. It was served with enough fiery root ginger shavings to blow your sense.
Other menu items? Handily, the bar is directly below the famous Angels and Gypsies restaurant, meaning there’s always tapas available to accompany the booze. We couldn’t get enough of the Iberico Chorizo and guacamole tortillas.
Who’s behind it? Brothers Mel and Jose Raido, who are also responsible for Angels and Gypsies and the Church Street Hotel. The chief bartender spinning his magic is Rob Krajewski.
Is it going to break the bank? Concoctions average between £8 and £9, and there’s a ‘Blessed Happy Hour’ daily from 6-8pm, where all cocktails are £5, leaving you plenty of spare change for the collection plate.
Final Words: Anywhere that raises the cocktail to religious reverence gets the thumbs up in our book, and the attention to detail, in both ingredients and decor, should be applauded. It’s refreshing to find a themed bar that is presenting something different, and Communion have come up with an exciting cocktail list that will create some true converts.
Open Tues-Thurs & Sun 6pm-1am; Fri & Sat 6pm-3am.
Basement, 29-33 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR.
T: 020 7703 5984. communion bar.com
Rebecca Anne Milford, Twitter @rebecca_anne_m