This basement bar on Goodge Street is run by the 2009 and third series winners of BBC2′s ‘The Restaurant’ show. As such, it is partly owned by French chef and restaurateur Raymond Blanc. The other part of the equation are the winners, who are the the folks behind the Covent Garden branch of the already established London Cocktail Club, near Leicester Square tube.
Given its name and those above the door, you’d be forgiven for thinking it sounds a bit swanky, perhaps with a silent ‘s’, yet thankfully there’s not too much cocktail chin-stroking going down. With swallow-themed wallpaper, knobs on the gents’ door and knockers on the ladies’, it’s kind of kitsch and, accompanied by a soundtrack of guilty pleasures, kind of cheesy.
Small and a bit of a tight squeeze when busy with an up-for-it after-work crowd, the L-shaped bar area is overseen by a team of established and experienced bartenders whose drinks were made quickly and competently with no small amount of smiley showboating. The drinks list contains both contemporary and classic London cocktails alongside some gin drinks and a section dedicated to gastro-mixology – cocktails inspired by the kitchen.
We kept things classic with a decent martini and a so-so Tommy’s margarita. Compared to most party bars, the drinks are great, but it’s not The Savoy. The retro food menu is big on British and a touch tongue-in-cheek, with pick ‘n’ mix, penny chews and screwballs featuring beside sharing platters and pudding cocktails. A prairie oyster (raw egg, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce) hit the spot, and the pork scratchings were fresh, but the bread and oil was stingy and tasted stale. Clearly, Monsieur Blanc wasn’t in the kitchen the evening we visited.