Kansas Smitty’s, Haggerston
Kansas Smitty’s has brought the underground jazz bar into the 21st century. With a dark basement bar, some moody lighting, cocktails that kick and music that gave us the vinegar strokes (that uncontrollable, nasty face you pulls when listening to music that grabs the soul), a little of the Deep South came to London for a night – and I for one was a fan.
Launching their new menu of Juleps and promising a night of fun and forward thinking music in weekly night ‘The Shed’, I arrived with a thirst to quench and some shoes to shuffle. I dived down the back stairs of this East London establishment, entered the intimate basement bar and the world of Kansas Smitty’s.
Cocktails are delicious I tried all but one (don’t judge me, I blame it on the job) and I can honestly say there wasn’t a bad one among them. Staff hero the Juleps but in all honesty my special mentions go to the house cocktails – First Dance and Hard Times. One sweet with cognac, prosecco and raspberries with sweet almond crusted on the glass and the other hard with bourbon and walnut liqueur: opposite ends of a delightful spectrum.
The music made the night outstanding. With a different headliner each week the genre is ever-changing, but headlining during our visit was Marcus Bonfanti. Billed as performing blues and torch songs, as promised he gave us flavourings of the deep south and was joined by Kansas Smitty’s House Band with pepperings of blues and jazz. They were all hand-clappingly, foot-stompingly brilliant. No electronic tricks just acoustic music that rallied the crowd and we were all begging for an encore at the end of the night. I would recommend both Marcus Bonfanti and the House Band to anyone I come across.
There were a few little niggles however – the bar is small and there is no cloakroom. Therefore much of the seating space was taken up by coats and bags which meant more people were having to stand than was actually necessary. Also due to it’s inmate size, there are just two bartenders serving the entire downstairs. They do a great job but waiting at the bar can take a while especially when rammed to the rafters as it was. I’m not sure if there is a maximum capacity but at times I felt like there was a squeeze of bums and elbows in my face as I sat at my swiftly nabbed table. Lastly one of the staff was a little over enthusiastic shall we say towards the end of the night, dancing in front of my seat and knocking the chairs. But the music really was that good and staff all welcomed us as part of their little tribe for chats afterwards so I can’t really complain and in no way did any of that ruin my night.
Kansas Smitty’s is welcoming, informal and fun. We left our moody London baggage at the door and tried on some southern hospitality. By the end of the night all were friends!…Or maybe I had one too many Juleps and just thought I was everyone’s friend. Either way, I left the place swinging, literally dancing down the street on my way home and not just because of the many cocktails. Sure people avoided me but my head was still in another place: a place where jazz and blues reign supreme, a place where people are hospitable, dance with joy not style and had no cares in the world.
The Shed at Kansas Smitty‘s (Thursday’s, 7pm–12am)
63-65 Broadway Market
Tel: 07731 016 744