We were sitting snugly on the ECC sofas and it was impossible not to hear the nextdoor banker’s conversation. Trying their first cocktails, of perhaps their entire lifetimes, they smirked at the waitress, but remarked excitedly to each other that this was ‘definitely the coolest place I have ever been too’. I gave Mr Banker my card in the hope that it would educate him and encourage him to try out some of London’s other hip cocktail haunts.
But back to Experimental Cocktail Club where, let’s be honest, you will find some of the best cocktails in London. I have mentioned this secret prohibition-style bar before on TMM but with a regularly changing drinks menu, it seemed about time that I check out the latest talent. Recently too I tried the Paris branch of ECC and was interested to find the cocktails less daring, but equally delicious; it seems the French are lagging a little when it comes to the cocktail trend.
The current ECC menu features a plethora of oriental flavours, spices and herbs: I spotted unlikely ingredients like coriander, cumin and pressed beetroot juice… though tempted, I didn’t actually try these concoctions. Reminding myself of the popular classic, we ordered a Saint Germain Des Pres, a carefully balanced mix of Hendrick’s gin, St Germain liqueur, lime juice, Belvoir elderflower cordial, egg white, spiced Tincture & cucumber juice. It was spicier than I remembered, but just as striking, a lone slice of cucumber floating casually on the surface. Havana is the opposite – simply put, it is a straight smoked whisky flavoured subtly with Marsala and Angostura bitters. Created by Shaun Layton, a barman from L’Abattoir in Vancouver. Havana is hardcore and not for the faint-hearted, I could only manage a few sips but was able to appreciate the artistry of the product nonetheless.
We had two favourites: Stockholm Syndrome is a sweet vodka based drink with citrus tastes. Ketel 1 vodka is infused with cumin and dill and added to Linie aquavit, lemon juice, simple syrup & Peychauds bitters. It is served beautifully in a vintage glass with a chunk of lemon and sprig of dill. It is a light and refreshing choice and very easy to drink. The Kota Ternate is rather more exotic: the ingredients reminded me instantly of the Caribbean: Plantation Trinidad rum, Niko’s spiced tea: a mix of spices, coconut and Ceylon tea, Batavia arrack, fresh pineapple and lime juice and milk. Arriving in a medicine bottle for us to pour ourselves, I was instantly captivated. The cocktail itself tastes like a wacky fruit juice, with a kick from the warming spices. If, like me you need something to nibble on whilst sipping your cocktail, I can recommend the Cheese and Charcuterie Plate (£12) – salami, cheese, crackers and cornichons come neatly packed onto a plate.
ECC are selective and particular because they can afford to be. The staff are very friendly but it is hard to get past the doorman, tricky to get a seat and totally unacceptable to take away a menu for a souvenir. The popularity of the place does put me off rather, but if you’ve got the money to spend, ECC’s cocktails are worth every penny.
Visit the website here: www.chinatownecc.com