17 May 2013

Behind closed doors

Thursday has been the new Friday for a long time. Sore heads and lighter wallets accompany feeling-sorry-for-yourself statuses and tweets, but the draw of a drink (or many) to welcome in the weekend is too hard to resist. Last night I went on a jaunt and discovered some brilliant places behind some impressively unassuming doors.

After a couple of post-work beers at local haunt The Yard, I headed to the Experimental Cocktail Club in Chinatown. Sandwiched between two restaurants and hidden behind a very nondescript blink-and-you'll-miss-it door, the ECC is a haven away from the busy streets of Soho. The immediate staircase takes you straight up to the first floor where exposed brickwork and deep red walls give the bar a prohibition-era vibe; mirrors on the ceiling and a great half-moon window keeps the place from feeling a little too dark. The inspired cocktails were a welcome change from the standard menu - I had an Old Cuban, rum-based with citrus and ginger, and a Sage Advice, a twist on a mojito, topped with fresh sage. Definitely a place to return to.

From there, we went to Blacks on Dean Street; a place I walk past every morning on the way to work, and a place that gives nothing away. Opposite The Groucho Club, 'Blacks looks nothing more from the outside than an unassuming Georgian townhouse, yet behind its unmarked black door a heritage-packed, eclectically-attired bolthole awaits those in the know. You enter at basement level by descending a rickety steel staircase from the street into somewhere resembling a Dickensian tavern, all long oak benches and exposed beams with a deep fireplace, Farrow & Ball tinted-walls and enigmatic oil paintings.' We ate in one of the laybrinthine dining rooms - a sharer board of breads and olives before a pollock fillet with Romanesco sauce, grilled spring onions and sauteed potatoes - before finishing our drinks upstairs, lounging on one of the charmingly mismatched sofas in front of a roaring open fire. It felt deliciously cosy, and with the brilliantly lovely staff, it was a real treat.

After that, we went to The Box. Only in its first year, it's infamous - many celebrities are pictured tumbling out of its massive oak doors, and the cabaret shows are legendary (so I hear). A friend of a friend was DJing so we skipped the queue and headed straight upstairs, momentarily stopping off in the old theatre before dancing the night away in the loft. Despite two attempts, we didn't manage to catch any of the downstairs entertainment but the music made up for it. Plush and dark, The Box oozes hedonism, so it's easy to see why it's fast becoming a firm favourite - a little bit naughty, a little bit nice and right in the heart of shabby, sexy Soho.
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