IT’S THE time of the year to retreat to a cosy, warm bolthole to stave off the cold. Good thing, then, that there are plenty of places that fit the bill, such as Drakes Tabanco, new to Fitzrovia. Get a taste of Iberian sunshine from the peasant-y design, nodding to the well-worn and wooden bodegas of Jerez, and a taste of sherry from the barrel. The Fino is particularly delicious, although if you’re in the mood for something a bit more seasonal, opt for the Pedro Ximenez.
Another sherry bar, Sign of the Don, opened last week in the City on the site that originally housed Sandeman Port and Sherry Cellars (a WWII bottle of sherry opened at the launch). The bar is crafted from a solid slab of cork, banquettes from casks of Sandeman Port. A Portuguese cork floor runs throughout.
Heading north, Shoreditch is its usual hive of activity. At White Lyan, Ryan Chetiyawaranda, twice UK Bartender of the Year, and bar manager Iain Griffiths, have been delving deep into esoteric mixology to create drinks that are sui generis and challenge the conventions of a cocktail bar. Alongside pre-batched, bottled cocktails and shooters, the duo have been sourcing outré ingredients to create libations like the Moby Dick Sazerac, crafted with ambergris, the dear Melville-era fixative harvested from sperm whales. Another, the Bone Dry Martini, employs a tincture made from roasted chicken bones dissolved in phosphoric acid and neutralised with calcium salts. Both taste surprisingly delicious. There’s also a sexy, sleazy downstairs area where they import hipster DJs on the weekend, it’s the perfect setting to slam sophisticated shots.
Just across the street, small plates joint 100 Hoxton recently launched. Its design scheme takes cues from Bauhaus, with a central floating steel bar, concrete pillars, austere retro furniture and gridded floor-to-ceiling windows letting in Hoxton Street’s urban climate.
Just south on Curtain Row, Far Rockaway is channelling NYC with some of the most full-throttle décor in the east. It includes a DJ booth fashioned out of myriad early 90s style boomboxes, a karaoke room, original works by neon artist Andy Doig and street artists Xenz, Above, Cranio, Cept and Guy Denning, and a comic book library with over 4000 issues – the perfect distraction from 16 hours of dark.