Above: Bar view at Oriole
Dry January? Phish! Make it your resolution to support our favourite recent openings instead…
Where: East Poultry Avenue, Smithfield Market, EC1A 9LH. oriolebar.com
When: Opened November 2015
Why: Ever heard of Nightjar? You should have, it’s been in the top three of the World’s 50 Best Bars list for the past four years. If you’re a fan, rest assured, this new outpost has many similarities, including a doorman at the top of the stairs and a sexy subterranean vibe with live music of the jazz, swing or blues variety once you make your way down.
That said, it’s bigger and dare we say it, more polished than its older sibling. Everything from the lush tropical wallpaper and delicious food menu to the illuminated cabinets housing exotic treasures from around the globe has been carefully considered and beautifully designed. So too has the drinks menu – all 14 pages of it, created to look like a explorer’s sticker album and divided into drinks from the Old World, New World and The Orient.
We won’t lie, it’s not the easiest to get to grips with but well worth poring over. Don’t be shy, ask any of the floor or bar staff to talk you through the offerings and you’ll get all the details you need. We recommend making a beeline for one of the stools at the bar (something you couldn’t do at Nightjar). From here, you’ll be able to check out the ‘tenders at work while getting a good vantage point of the band.
Ask for: Cortez The Killer (Don Julio Reposado, balsamic vermouth, agave tonka syrup).
What: The Gibson
Where: 44 Old Street, EC1V 9AQ. thegibsonbar.london
When: Opened December 2015
Why: It’s the highly anticipated lovechild of two highly respected London-based bartenders, Marian Beke (ex-Nightjar) and Rusty Cerven (ex-Connaught). In this, their first independent venture they pay homage to one of the lesser celebrated classics, the Gibson. And the way they do it makes you realise you’ve been depriving your tastebuds of a real treat.
Before we get to the cocktails, there are so many things to love about this bar. The room is a gem – small but absolutely perfectly formed with a delightful copper bar, etched glass windows and carefully chosen lighting to cast dramatic shadows about the place – it’s like a cocktail loving beatnik’s dream… It’s yet to be finished – a banquette will take the place of the chairs lining the back wall and as well as the beautiful antique pickle jars and tongs and saucer of finely shaved Parmesan cheese that accompany your drinks, there will be a choice of cold cuts and tartares with meat from nearby Smithfield market available.
On to the drinks… Move over Martinis, here its pickle flavoured cousin is allowed to shine. And rightly so. You can enjoy the gin, vermouth and onion based drink which dates back to the 1900s from an ice cold stainless steel Martini glass, with either an olive, hazelnut or the requisite onion adding complexity and a little extra to munch on – all pickled on the premises and balanced just-so.
While the Gibson is undoubtedly the star, there are original drinks on the ever-evolving menu too. We liked the Pickled Banana Daiquiri (azuki bean liqueur, Bacardi 8 year old rum, banana chutney, milk oolong, palm sugar, young coconut water, curry leaf, lime, gold coconut ice). Expect equally delightful surprises every week but one thing they will all have in common is the addition of chutneys or pickles. Wonderful stuff.
Ask for: Dry Gibson Cocktail (Tanqueray gin, Martini Riserva, Ambrato, hazlenut).
What: The Bennett
Where: 134 W. Broadway, NY 10013. thebennettbar.com
When: Opened November 2015
Why: Meaghan Dorman, Yves Jadot and Alberto Benenati do good bars. Fact. Both Dear Irving and The Raines Law Room, the two other bars in their stable are winners on the decor and drinks front and this one is no exception.
With its stylish, streamlined design and slinky gold fittings it oozes just the right amount of glamour to make you feel cool and sexy whilst still remaining welcoming. That said, it’s probably not one for youngish hipsters – this has more of a grown-up feel about it.
It’s the perfect setting to impress a date – particularly with the come hither buzzers at the table to summon your waiter without tearing yourself away from your partner. Single? No worries, it works just as well for groups and business meetings.
The cocktails are divided into Original House Creations including Autumn Affinity (apple brandy, local apple cider, Amontillado sherry, spiced pear), and Reverse Monarch (gin, blanc vermouth, cucumber shrub); and Audience Awards, comprising hits from the previous menus, such as Wildest Redhead (blended Scotch, lemon, honey, all-spice, Cherry Heering) and Hero of Little Venice (aged rum, sweet vermouth, egg, root beer) – all winners in our books. The bar food is pretty good too. Don’t go in ripped jeans and tatty T-shirts. Although it’s not stipulated, it’s definitely worth dressing up for.
Ask for: Frank of America (rye, myrrh, Amaro abano, spiced maple, Angostura bitters).