Opium, Chinatown

The less obvious a place, the better. Such is the mantra of Opium, a new cocktail den and dim sum parlour hidden away on Chinatown’s main stomping ground, Gerrard Street.

Co-founder Eric Yu – a Hong Kong born restaurant and bar entrepreneur – has teamed up with cocktail mastermind Dre Masso to create an eclectic and intriguing cocktail menu that can be paired with food at your leisure.

And the cocktails are in good hands, what with Dre’s 20-year experience in the field, spanning everything from London (Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, Lab Bar, Worldwide Cocktail Club etc.) to venues across the globe, training over 1,000 bartenders in more than 30 countries in the process. Personally, I’ve tried Dre’s work before at the rather smashing cocktail popup LTD@TheSocial, but his CV speaks volumes to those who haven’t.

Approaching a jade door, my fellow drinker and I were welcomed into Opium’s old converted town house, more spooky mansion than bar at first and instructed to head ‘all the way up’ by the door staff. Spanning three floors, it’s easy to ignore this request immediately and take a nosy inside the varied opium-den glitz of each tier. They were correct though, the third floor really is the biz, with what appears to be an apothecary’s kitchen/workshop complete with large central table and stools.

A quick greeting from Dre himself, and we began our journey through the many cocktails on offer. First was the aptly-named Opium Cocktail No. 1 (£14.50) – a heady mix of rums, absinthe, mandarin and lime flavours and ginseng, all served bubbling in your own mini-cauldron. It certainly looks beautiful on the eyes, with cascades of dry ice and liquorice wafting towards you, making this bitter-sweet beauty a Heston-esque treat. Expensive, though, which is a theme that continues unfortunately.

Much delight can also be found in the passion fruit  and wild tea vodka stylings of the Yam Sing shots, served in a potion bottle and ranging between £5.50 and £7 depending on the number you buy. Furthermore, the Royal Plums (tequila, plum wine, rosemary; £12.50) made a great impression with its rosemary scent, and the Laughing Buddha (£13) also hit home, complete with gin, triple sec, kumquat, blood orange and spices which had an aromatic and fruity punch well worth the careful mixology.

Not so good was the Hong Kong Island Iced Teapot (£25) an extremely over-priced take on the Long Island Iced Tea which, although meant for two people, was not sufficient in volume or taste, being more like alcohol mixed with fruit squash in my opinion.

A much better tea was be found in the Double Bubble version (£13), packed with scotch, herb liquor, condensed milk, tea and tapioca balls that added some interesting and welcome texture.

I unfortunately did not try the food, but the drinks alone were well worth a visit. The third floor definitely is an atmosphere to revel in, as are nearly all of the cocktails, but impressing people here does all come at a price. Make sure he or she is worth it.

15-16 Gerrard Street

Tel: 020 7734 7276

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