Monday, 28 June 2010

The Lonsdale (re)Launch Party

By Cat McGovern

When someone says to me: “Do you want to go to a place where they are showcasing their new cocktail menu?” my immediate response is: “Count me in!” I am a girl who goes around London, trying her best to find the best cocktails in town, so this assignment fits me down to a tee. The venue: The Lonsdale near Portobello Road, which is renowned for its large selection of carefully crafted cocktails, so I put on my glad rags and head on down.

As I enter I am immediately handed a tall, girly pink drink with an assortment of berries floating in it. I take a sip and think that it doesn’t taste that alcoholic and inquire to its name. The answer: a Russian Spring Punch for a hefty £10, but for superior quality, you have to pay the price tag. It is very light, summery and tastes bubbly and refreshing. With next drink in hand, which happens to be a Jamaican Mule, I take a look around the venue.

I’ve been to The Lonsdale before it was refurbished and it seems they have got rid of the futuristic look, and gone for relaxed chic. Along the bar hang a few twinkling diamante chandeliers, which look utterly divine, but, on the whole, the décor has been toned down a touch. The booths are decorated in plush red leather with a crocodile skin pattern and at the back is where you can sit and have dinner. It’s definitely more intimate here, but I am always a fan of the booth.

I find out that this new refurb has been done by Dtwo, who can put their names to Callooh Callay and The Legion, both near Old Street. Fortunately, their style is unique as these three venues do not look like each other. I nod my head in approval and slurp away at my drink.

The Jamaican Mule has a hit of ginger beer followed by the smoothness of the vanilla syrup. A great drink which is unfortunately for me, easily glug-gable. I take a look at the menu as I am handed a Elderflower Martini (an indulgent and elegant drink and extremely more-ish), for a more reasonable £8 a pop. The menu is black, sleek and continuing the crocodile theme. As I read the blurb inside, it informs me that the drinks contained within are a showcase of all the best cocktails throughout the eras, which have originated in London. Suddenly I feel fiercely jingoistic yet simultaneously excited and a Perfect Lady is waved in front of me. It has a strong aroma of peach but when taking a sip, the overwhelming taste is lemon; another sneaky cocktail fooling me into thinking that there isn’t a lot of alcohol contained therein whereas, in reality, it is heavily laden.

Champagne in hand, I am introduced to the owner, Tim Gardner, who has been associated with Cocoon and The Wellington Club, and he tells me how thrilled he is with the new venue. I tell him I am impressed with the amount of cocktails. He then tells me there are probably about 80 on the list and that he wanted the best of the bunch (he’s not wrong). Even for people who have problems deciding what they want, there’s a drink for everybody.

He comes back with canapés and my face lights up. The supplier is Allens of Mayfair, so I know they’re going to be good. Firstly, I sample a deconstructed beef wellington, which is a small puff pastry with mushrooms, rare beef and chicken livers. The tender beef with the flaky pastry and the combination of the liver and mushroom is wonderful. Next the beef béarnaise is again spectacular; the beef is unbelievably tasty and juicy and it makes me want to come back and try the full menu. However, as I am a few cocktails up, the presence of a mini cheeseburger is greatly received. Filled with softly melted cheese, tomatoes, gherkins and tomato relish, it comes at the right time as I am slightly tipsy.

Being a school night and having sampled a good range of drinks and bites, I feel it’s time to depart. My lasting thought is that The Lonsdale is a place where cocktails are made with a precise art and with love. You’re never short of options and the standard is exceptional. So, if you love your cocktails, head to The Lonsdale as you’ll be impressed with its quality. Hiccough.

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