Head here if… You want to see a cocktail whizz kid and a Michelin-starred chef rework the gastropub formula
If you’re smart, you’ll always have a hook when launching a business and J.J. Goodman’s was, if a pub was a cocktail bar what would it be like? He answers his own question by setting up the London Cocktail Club Mark II in a dark and moody basement on busy Goodge Street and turning up the wattage just the right level to appeal to trendies and regular Joes alike…
First Things First
There are definite traces of a boozer about this new addition to the London Cocktail Club stable, thanks in part to the long narrow room, dark wood coving and cosy nooks and crannies. That said, the music at LCC is a little bit funkier than your average pub, a few decibels louder and the lighting is deliberately dark and sexy. It’s a busy spot so expect a bit of jostling as you try to find somewhere to park yourself for the duration of your visit. Call ahead and book one of the tables on the platform overlooking the action, or if you can, get there early and perch at the bar. Worth noting: cocktails account for 90% of the action at LCC, so don’t rock up expecting a drink as soon as you place your order – all good things deserve a wait.
The Bacon & Egg Coupet (bourbon fat washed with smoked bacon, shaken with lemon, sugar and egg white) might not be the Signature drink at LCC but it is one of the most popular. Well, it would be wouldn’t it, only the very cautious could really resist trying how the great British breakfast could work in a glass. There’s no mistaking the fact that there’s bacon present and if you miss the flavour and smell, there’s a crisp rasher of pancetta balancing delicately across the glass. Initially the taste, inspire by Heston Blumenthal’s bacon and egg ice cream, is rather weird, very intense and for want of a better word, unusual. But once she becomes accustomed to the bacon flavour Ms S starts to get the bourbon coming through. It’s very clever, there’s no doubting that but there’s a residue of bacon fat on Ms S’s lips that is really hard to ignore.
It only takes J.J. a moment or two to make a recommendation on the gin martini front. Williams Chase Gin, because he’s liking the calvados-like quality coming from the distilled apples, along with a dash of Lillet Blanc. It arrives in a smart 30’s style glass with a largish rough piece of lemon peel. Surprisingly, there’s very little aroma, something that didn’t prepare Mr G for the experience that was to follow – full in the mouth, a hint of sweetness, followed by a very pleasing sensation of dryness that really lingers in the big finish. A really original martini. A nice touch too is that having mixed rather a large measure the overflow is served on the side in a decanter nestling in a glass of ice doubling as an ice bucket for a later top-up.
After the rich, full and unexpected tang of the bacon and egg combo, Ms S tempers her palate with something slightly more ordinary. But just a smidge. The Tea Total (Breakfast Tea syrup, Cynar, gin and apricot with a splash of pineapple and torn mint) from the London Contemporaries section of the menu is the sweet treat to her brunch in a glass. It’s served in a glass cup and saucer with a crescent of shortbread hugging the side of the cup. The Breakfast Tea syrup gives a nice sweet taste, probably a little more so than her usual drinks but it’s deliciously balanced and very agreeable, slipping down a little too easily.
Mr G is looking for something to effortlessly follow that martini. They have their own take on the Martinez (gin, Antica Formula vermouth, maraschino, Peychauds Bitters, orange bitters) and that sounds like a very good idea. Served in a coupe glass, with a big curl of orange peel, it looks good. There’s a whole lot of taste action going on here with different flavours jostling for attention, from some sweetness to complex bitters, but all balancing out nicely in a very satisfying fashion. These could become a habit.
And To Eat?
With Raymond Blanc having an interest in the operation, food was always going to feature highly on the list. You’ve got a couple of choices here, either choosing from the cocktail drinking small plates divided up into sections including Pick & Mix, giving you options like parmesan and rosemary popcorn (£1.50), pickled quails eggs (£2), roll mops (£2), pork crackling (£2) and the perfect martini pickle mix (£2). You can also go for the Hampers – your choice of meat, fish or veggie boards (£10.50); meat lollipops (£2.50); Tea Cups – tankards of chips with cocktail sauce (£3) and mini cocktail sausages in barbeque glaze (£2.50). The Ice Cream Man embraces a taste for nostalgic desserts, such as Mrs Whippy, Willy Wonka and Screwball (£3.50 each).
Look Out For
The eight-course tasting menu with matching cocktails coming to the back section of the bar very soon.
What’s The Damage?
All under a tenner, with most coming in at £7.50 and the odd few reaching £9.
Ms S says
The pub as cocktail bar concept is a real winner; really cosy and inviting. Good drinks are a prerequisite here but the all-inclusive atmosphere is equally important. It’s good to see J.J working the room like a pro then moving behind the bar and getting his hands dirty; it’s also great to see Andy (from London Cocktail Club in Covent Garden) keeping the young girlies entertained with his bar wizardry while greeting customers like they’re long lost friends. The buzz of the place is infectious.
Mr G says
There are a whole of things to like about the London Cocktail Club, not least the staff. Every single one of them is knowledgeable, passionate and possesses a likeable generosity in bigging up their colleagues’ talents. They also know that being a good bartender means building a rapport with their guests. They can all mix damn well too.
The London Cocktail Club, 61 Goodge Street, W1T 1TL. Tel: 020 7836 9533. londoncocktailclub.co.uk