Tag Archives: out and about

London Cocktail Club – The Best Basement Bar around…

My first bar of the week was part of the London cocktail Club’s repertoire. This particular establishment was located on Goodge Street, not very far from the Goodge Street underground station.

After a short walk down the road, and a little double-back, I came across a secretive staircase leading down into the dark. Above the staircase was the sign ‘London Cocktail Club’.

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As I walked down, the wall to my left turned to glass and I could see into a dimly-lit homely looking bar. As I opened the door I was cheerfully met by one of the staff and after explaining who I was they set me up with a table by the bar, where I was met by ‘Balash’. One of the friendliest and welcoming bartenders I’ve ever met!

Between him and the other 3 staff (including the extremely humble bar manager), I was hosted with the most personal service I’ve ever received.

Now I know what you’re thinking… I told them I was a cocktail blogger so they were probably being overly nice? Well I thought that too at first, but then other people started arriving and it swiftly became obvious that the service I received was not isolated, but typical of this bar.

The Venue…

The bar itself was not full of over gratuitous luxury, nor was it what you would call a dive bar. This particular bar was extremely welcoming, the playful nature and mannerisms of the staff were almost mirrored by the building itself. This was a remarkably fresh feeling and for my first bar experience in the English capital, I was pleasantly surprised at how welcomed I felt.

It’s a testament to both the bar, and the individual members of that bar when someone new to the city is made to feel as welcome as I was that night. If I had not been so welcomed, I fear my entire trip to London trip would have felt completely different.

The playful nature of the staff really made you feel at ease and their constant calling of ‘200’ and them playing with their swinging lights really lent to the experience of a unique and refreshing cocktail bar.

The cocktails…

I had the chance to try three different cocktails, all of which prepared by the same bartender: ‘Balash’. He was an exceptionally knowledgeable bartender who not only knew what he was talking about, but understood my tastes and offered great advice on the cocktails to choose – a rare talent on its own, but an essential gift among bartenders indeed.

His friendly, professional, and attentive service was well received by me and everyone else he served that night. This service was not dropped when serving several cocktails at once, and whilst his workload was increased, his drink quality and mixing ability did not decrease (the opposite being a bad habit I’ve noticed before at other bars). So with his ability not questionable I was confident in his advice and suggestions and let him guide me through the menu. Below are the drinks I imbibed and their menu-recipes. For obvious reasons, the measurements are not included. If you wish to try any of these as I did, head on down to Goodge street and enjoy a great night…

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Cocktail #1: Boogie Nights

Grey Goose Citron (Lemon), crème de Peche, Disaronno, and pineapple Juice.

Shaken and served long in an ice-filled sling glass.

This cocktail was chosen to help ease me into the night and was light, fruity, and easy going. Perfect for a beginning of the night cocktail. This cocktail was unique and I’ve never had it before (it was great) but it is a type of cocktail every bar should have on their menu, one or two in fact.

Cocktail #2: Bramley Apple Smash 20160330_201440

 

Bombay Sapphire Gin, lemon juice, elderflower cordial, fresh mint, and Bramley apple sauce.

Built, shaken and served in the same mason glass. Served with a garnish of 1 custard crème biscuit. The latter a nice touch.

This cocktail was my favourite of the three and was fragrant, fruity, and tangy. The mint and apple paired up nicely and the, whilst the Gin’s burn was disguised well buy the sugary mixture, its dry fragrance and flavours really shone through – no mean feat with all of those flavours knocking about.

Cocktail #3: In-House Bramble

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Their take on the classic Bramble cocktail.

Bombay Sapphire Gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, Chambord black raspberry liqueur.

Built, muddled, and served in a nice bowl-like rocks glass.

This cocktail was unsurprisingly the strongest tasting, and their twist of shaking in the Chambord compared with the classic recipe’s float really worked. You got much more of a raspberry hit with this twisted classic and I, for one, prefer it that way! Die-hard cocktail fans might disagree, but then again this isn’t their blog is it?

Overall:

The London Cocktail Club at Goodge street was not one of their newer branches, and that’s exactly why I chose it. I chose a secluded little bar like this, one hidden away from the main street via a shady staircase, to see how their atmosphere measured up to that of the cocktail bars I’m used too.

Needless to say, this LCC venue blew my expectations apart. It made every bar I’ve been to before that night look like dive bars in every sense of the word. I absolutely loved the bars ambience, as well as the staff that were integral to that. As I stated above, my entire week in London would have felt substantially different had I not been to this bar and felt so welcomed. Something I will always owe to this outstanding bar.

With great cocktails, expertly made, and wonderful bartenders, who know exactly how to treat all their customers, the LCC @ Goodge street is a fantastic venue that anyone in London should give a go.

I’d like to end this post with a big thank you to the LCC and also to Balash who, unfortunately, was not available at the time I took the following picture. You were integral to my great week in London. So thank you.

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The Rickus Cocktail Bar/Restaurant – The new Cocktail Bar in town…

Pre-amble

So last time I wrote about a cocktail bar, it was a top notch bar up on the London Bridge promenade. This time it’s a newly opened bar down on the south east Kent coast; Rickus (near the old town in Margate)…

Now I don’t like to show bias, but in all honesty I’m fully behind this venture, owned, run & staffed by Lituanians (or so my sources tell me) this bar/restaurant, along with the new hotel right next door, has become the most recent addition to the Thanet coast rejuvenation project (albeit unofficially).

But onto the whole point of this post: THE COCKTAILS!

Now by the time I had the funds for a decent outing (you cannot just have one cocktail afterall!) the bar had been open for a few weeks and I’d had plenty of ‘word of mouth’ reviews:

“great cocktails, the ones with baileys in are amazing!” – My friend & co-worker Steph.

“we went last week and the cocktails are amazing value for money – the food was good too!” – My friend and co-worker Josh

So those were just a couple of the times they bragged on about this bar, and boy did they brag. So in typical Cocktail snobbery I set off for a taste test of my very own. Armed with the two above people (and Steph’s Daughter) I was determined to try a varied selection. I was looking for their methods, the choice of spirits, the spirits they used in the cocktails and of course the cocktails themselves. Shortly you’ll see I’ve given them a rating for both the cocktails and the service. The cocktails I tried were;

–          The Sea Devil,

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A great combination of cranberry, tequila and lime this cocktail was by far a nice surprise…

A fruity, but crisp, tequila based concoction which also used cranberry juice. The first cocktail of the evening; my thought process was to try something a little different and a little out of my comfort zone (I rarely drink tequila after all). This drink was made quickly, but properly and tasted great. There was just enough juice to cover the tequila’s unpleasant flavours (it was Sierra’s Blanco Tequila and we all know the kick I’m on about) but not so much that it was too watered down.

–          Peach Bellini (x2)

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Whilst your’s might not look like this, it will taste as good as it looks!

As the name suggests, this was a cocktail modelled on the classic bellini recipe, using peach liqueur as well as peach puree, giving the drink a little extra intensity. By far the most impressive on the menu, this cocktail cost £6 and boy do you get a lot for your money. Most places will offer you a champagne flute with peach puree and topped up to, about, the ¾ mark (if you’re lucky) with champagne. Rickus, however, supply a large (it was massive) wine shaped goblet and sure it’s not champagne they use, but the sparkling wine used was fantastic with the sweet peachy taste of both the liqueur and puree. Garnished with a physalis berry (which was slightly over-ripe and sour – they should be a little less sour and sweeter to taste – but that’s the snob in me coming out) and in the girls’ case a handful of strawberries this drink was by far their best offering.

–          Pina Colada

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Pina Colada, with a great view of the beach… Sure why not!

The last cocktail of the night was a classic, sure, but one many places can ruin very easily (which is ridiculous as it is an easy cocktail to make). I’m afraid to say that the use of a blender was lacking (which is a big shame as that’s half the point of making a pina colada) but that aside the drink was shaken enough to mix in the ingredients (well enough to be drinkable anyway!).

As for the reviews, I will now say a little about the service, followed by the cocktails and overall impressions…

The Service:

Waiting time: Overall the waiting time for our cocktails was more than sufficient, they were not too quick as to rush the preparation; equally they did not take too long (and ruin the dilution of the drink). They served the cocktails well and always the drinks were of a good quality. 10/10

Attention to detail: all the recipes they had to make were done from memory and were constantly cleaning and talking to each other. I got the impression it was an organised environment and they were wuick to help each other out (passing ingredients etc…). 9/10

Customer relations: Listened and understood our orders well, and were always happy to help. They were very fair and served us all in order (they kept track of their next customer well and I do not remember them making a mistake). At one point they did run out of limes, but were extremely pleasant and told customers this, stating a short wait was necessary. 10/10

Cocktail knowledge: They created all the cocktails we ordered from memory (if they were reading a menu the other side of the bar they hid it well) and supplied fast relatively efficient drinks (although some recipes could be improved). 8/10

The Cocktails:

Ingredients used:

The ingredients used where, for the most part, correct to the classic recipes. However in some cases they have changed them and tweaked certain other recipes (like using peach liqueur as well as peach juice in their Bellini or coconut syrup instead of milk in their Pina colada). Whilst some of their cocktails do suffer (see the Pina Colada review below) others prosper extensively (see the Bellini review below).

Quality of drinks:

Overall the cocktails at Rickus were surprising. Not being disrespectful but from a glance at the menu you just wouldn’t expect the quality to be as high as they were. Using syrups galore and tweaking recipes where required some of the cocktails do suffer (as said above) but the interesting point to make is that their bellini is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. The best thing I can suggest is for you to go there and try the cocktails for yourself…

Individual:

This section is all about the cocktails, and what I thought of them. An overall score will include these and where possible will look at the ingredients in the drink, the visual end product, the techniques used in the production and of course the taste…

Sea Devil: 8/10

Bellini: 8/10

Pina colada: 6/10

Overall impressions:

Menu: 3/10

The menu is a bunch of well printed (but unprotected) paper held together by the clamp on the clipboard they sit on. It’s a shame as they have not created a nice little unique menu. The menu is the first thing customers will really look at in a bar

Décor: 10/10

The Décor is something special: The medieval looking maps on the wall of both eastern Europe and the UK/Thanet are unique to say the least. The Décor is warm and welcoming, but if you fancy a cocktail outside their perfectly positioned balcony can offer stunning views of the sunset over the sandy Margate beach.

Cocktails: 7.3/10

Overall the cocktails are good, although some suffer from the lack of the proper techniques. However they do serve one of the best Bellini’s I’ve ever had and their choice of alcohol behind the bar is quite good considering its dainty size.

Service: 9.25/10

The service was fantastic; the bartenders are friendly, helpful and more than happy when you order off the menu. Their knowledge was good, making the cocktails ordered without the need for prompts and to top it off, they improvised well when some of the garnishes ran out, keeping up the professional look of the cocktails being served. Very impressed with the overall service and would definitely go back on this point alone.

Overall: 7.4/10

Rickus Cocktail Bar & Restaurant is a very welcome change of scenery to the excess of pubs and ‘gastro-pubs’ that keep popping up. The cocktails are extremely good value for money as well as a great atmosphere. Go with some good friends and it will be one of the better nights you could have. Friendly staff, great atmosphere, great value for money and when you leave the first thing you want to do is plan your next return-visit. A great addition to an otherwise bland seafront, Margate (as well as the Thanet area in general) could benefit from more ventures like this.

Verdict: Must see, try the Bellini’s, they’re something a bit special!