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Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Experimental Cocktail Club, Chinatown





The bright lights, the aroma of sizzling duck, the rowdy hordes of hungry tourists - most people visiting Chinatown wouldn't even notice the scruffy black door located inconspicuously at number 13A Gerrard Street. But those "in the know", the elite few, will know that behind that door there is a whole lot of fun to be had, behind the door of 13A is the Experimental Cocktail Club.

The whole experience is just like a scene from Harry Potter and I got a real thrill experiencing this special venue. The speakeasy is the trendiest variety of bar at the moment, they are plentiful in New York, but I have never seen prohibition style done so well in London, until now… the Experimental Cocktail Club is surely the most exhilarating hidden drinking club in London.

After climbing to the top of the stairs we were greeted by a hosting girl, who surreptitiously appeared from a little den, where I’m sure I spied a surveillance screen, perhaps there is a camera in the front door, vetting visitors before they even enter. Inside, the bar is opulent and lavish, dimmed lighting adds to the sense of mystery.

A menu was slipped into my hands and suddenly I was faced with the task of choosing a cocktail from the list of exotic recipes. Behind the bar a small crew of experienced and stylish barmen work their magic, making up unique concoctions, it is a chemistry lab of activity. Luxurious vintage cocktails use top-end spirits resulting in extreme prices of £150-250, for one drink! We opted for the more purse friendly £11 cocktails, using an equally unusual blend of ingredients, and yet managing to not get in the way of drinkability.

Here are the cocktails we tried and our thoughts:

SAINT GERMAIN DES PRES – Plymouth Gin, St Germain liqueur, Lime juice, Belvoir elderflower cordial, egg white, spiced Tincture & Cucumber juice £11.50

A spicy but refreshing drink. The taste begins with a sweet fruity cucumber flavour, then burns with a warm fiery pepperiness. The egg white makes this cocktail frothy and light.

NO NAME DROPPING – Reservas Amontillado Sherry, Kammerlings Ginseng Liqueur, cane syrup, Velvet Falernum & lemon juice £11

A very drinkable cocktail: a delicious hint of sherry mixes with the sweet and tangy lemon juice. The Ginseng hue is a soothing and unfamiliar flavour, but blends perfectly with the dry sherry taste.

OLD CUBAN – Havana 3 year old Rum, lime juice, ginger syrup, simple syrup, mint, Angostura bitters & top up with Billecart – Salmon Champagne £11.50

This was my favourite, not dissimilar to the mojito classic, this minty fresh drink is very yummy and more subtle in flavour than some of the other cocktails. The taste is predominantly sweet thanks to the fizzy champagne and syrup but the Angostura bitters gives the palate a tiny final kick.

The only way to ensure entry is to e-mail in advance, Tues-Sat before 5pm (reservation@chinatownecc.com); phone bookings are no longer taken.

Captivatingly unconventional, I was wowed by the Experimental Cocktail Club - £11 a drink plus service charge seems pricey, but for the experience and excitement I promise you it is so worth it.

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