When I read the words, ‘new cocktail bar in a Soho basement’, the first image that jumped to my mind was a steel-barred, white-chaired, purple-lit, faux futuristic showroom, with the lights just low enough to hide the desperation on the faces of anyone caught down there on a spontaneous, ‘let’s just set out and see what happens’, kind of night.
In reality Basement Sate is a rustic, intimately classy setting with exposed brickwork, beams and barmen in braces. While this sounds like any one of a huge proliferation of speakeasies that have swept through London in the last few years, growing beards and ridiculous codewords in equal measure, Basement Sate has one significant – and delicious – difference.
It is London’s very first late night dessert bar. Each dessert (concocted by ex-Maze pastry chef Dorian Picard) has been carefully coupled with one of the 12 cocktails that will make up Basement Sate’s mouthwatering and potentially mind-altering menu.
My companion and I sprinted head down, mouth open, like inebriated toddlers through the small but delicious dessert menu Basement Sate offered for its opening night. The three desserts available, smaller incarnations of inevitably heftier cousins which will be served on a regular night, were some of the best desserts I’ve eaten in London.
The Mini Vacherin (lime meringue, basil cream and raspberry cream), was a sharp, creamy hit, with a meringue that managed that elusive trick of being crisp and chewy at once. The Mini London – Brest (black sesame choux, praline cream and hazelnut) was unexpected, but unfortunately the overcooked triangle of choux detracted from the intensely nutty and enjoyable praline cream. However, the Mini Mille-Feulle Chocolat was so perfect that it deserves its own paragraph. It won’t get it, but it should. The melt-in-the-mouth moist chocolate with salted caramel mousse and topped with crunchy chocolate triangle was phenomenal. So much so that I instantly went to the bar to find as many of them as I could fit in my mouth. This was where I met Pierre.
Pierre, the bar man (or bar sage as he has now become in my mind) took me on a journey through the cocktails that made me appreciate just how much thought has gone into each beautiful glass. Pierre created the Eagle in the Tub, my favourite of the three cocktails available on the night. A mix of gin, white port, Fernet Branca and ginger ale, this cocktail was a showcase of what attention to detail can really achieve. The Fernet Branca added a hint of spice, not unlike Earl Grey tea, that perfectly complimented the vibrant white port and the unmistakable taste of gin. The Arboroculturist came with shaved cinnamon lying on top of a mountain of ice that looked like the last remaining evidence of a ship-wrecked spice vessel. With a well-balanced mix of Calvados, cinnamon and pear syrup and sherry, it somehow managed to hit the back of my throat and cleanse my pallet simultaneously. The Beet Me Up was a suspiciously red concoction with the overwhelmingly earthy aroma of beetroot and a zest lent by a liberal dose of ginger.
Overall, Basement Sate manages to retain the better aspects of a speakeasy without the pretence. Its candlelit corners are the perfect place for a moonlight, gin-soaked rendezvous. While good cocktail bars are not a rarity in London, Basement Sate, with it’s astoundingly delicious desserts represents a new formula. And let’s be honest – who hasn’t stood outside a bar at midnight and thought, ‘I could really do with a chocolate mille-feuille right now’?
8 Broadwick St
Tel: 020 7287 3412