It’s cold, it’s November and it’s a Tuesday evening. Normally, such conditions consign me hibernating in front of the television. However, on the Tuesday in question I am experiencing a lovely rush of warmth from a chilli-infused cocktail and contemplating some huge portions of food. Such delights are to be found at a vibrant new bar, close to Smithfield’s, specialising in the ‘infused cocktail experience’.
The duo behind Barsmith, Ben Avigdori and Lawrence Santi, has come up with a creative selection of cocktails. Each contains one or more of their house-infused spirits or liqueurs, created at a London kitchen laboratory using freshly sourced products from New Covent Garden market.
Perched on high stools, my companion and I surveyed the stylish décor which included original brick walls and open piping. The multitude of punters made us awkwardly raise our sober voices to pub level but that issue was resolved by a couple of cocktails. Irrespective, by 9pm the after work crowd had thinned leaving a more pleasant hum of surrounding conversation.
A warming ‘Heretic’ cocktail combined its chilli kick with lychee liqueur, cranberry juice and lychee. Certainly unusual and a hit with my companion who thought it was ‘a more attractive way to eat chillies than in a curry’.
We also sampled the ‘Breakfast Margarita’, a good choice for those not wanting a sweet cocktail. This tequila-based drink combines triple sec, marmalade, freshly squeezed lime and pink grapefruit juice, presented in a marmalade jar complete with the muslin cover adding to the sensory experience.‘Basil Fawlty’ was a fruity gin cocktail with basil syrup. Although a little sweet for my palette, I did enjoy the basil aftertaste. Last up was ‘Wild One’, a refreshing gin-based drink with lime and mint. We avoided the mini chilli adorning the Heretic but the juicy supersize blackberries accompanying the other drinks were too good to leave on the glass.
Priced at £7.95 each, the cocktails are a real bargain for London and if you hit the happy hour (Monday to Friday 8-10pm, all day Saturday) they are two for one. A wide range of craft beer, ale and wine is also on the menu.
A decent selection of wafer-thin pizzas is available. I tried the Portobello, a tasty choice with mushrooms, dolce latte cheese, pine nuts and truffle oil. The super salad is worth ordering to witness the sheer size. A bowl large enough for a family of four appeared overflowing with leaves, avocado, peppers, mixed sprouts, pine nuts and croutons. There are also bar snacks and cheese and meat from the deli counter but if you have a sweet tooth, you’ll have to return to the cocktail menu.
The bar has live acoustic singers on Thursday evenings and a DJ every Friday from 7pm to 1am. Barsmith feels trendy but relaxed and it’s well worth a visit to warm up in, even if that doesn’t involve a chilli.
18-20 St John Street
Tel: 020 7336 6099