Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Discovering The Meaning Of ‘Boutique’ In West London

By Nina Koo-Seen-Lin.

Nina went to cherryjam
And drank an Apple Crumble
She sipped an Amore Vietato
Then polished off a Bramble.

Apologies for my childishness; I simply had to get that little rhyme out of my head. Hey, at least it’s been useful as it’s allowed me to mention the three must-taste shaken, stirred and strained cocktails served at cherryjam in west London.

There seems to be an obsession going around at the mo in the entertainment and hospitality sectors to put the word ‘boutique’ in front of everything. Go in to central London and the word has been used to promote venues and events of designed exclusivity and character; something more highbrow. You’ve got your boutique hotels, boutique cottages, and boutique spas. I have a friend who recently announced with glee that she’s bought a ticket to attend a boutique festival next month. You can look at this in two ways: (1) either she’s going to have a wonderful time at a festival that’s smaller in size but higher in quality, or (2) she’s basically going ‘glamping’ in a Zandra Rhodes tent using loos that flush and dining on overpriced food cooked by Michelin star chefs and served by stewards wearing Jimmy Choo for Hunter wellies. No doubt about it, going boutique is expensive.

I live in a little suburban village on the edge of London - if there’s a tube station then it’s still London! - and around the area a boutique is a small shop that primarily sells specialised clothing, gifts or food. They’re primarily the haunting ground for the more mature madams who delight in tottering up the village high street to pop in to these shops which are always named after pretty girls names like ‘Jennifer’ or ‘Angelique’. Often, gin-soaked ladies or bubbly Pollyanna types run these establishments.

So I’m in two minds when it comes to going to cherryjam, especially as it boasts being the only boutique bar and club in west London. West London = expensive. Is this why it’s a boutique bar, I wonder?

The name is cool enough; put a ‘cherry’ in front of anything and you instantly improve it 100 times over: cherry lips; cherry brandy; Cherry Garcia (memo to Ben & Jerry: don’t you dare send that flavour to the graveyard, and I’ve still not forgiven you for getting rid of Dublin Mudslide!). Cherry can also be a girl’s name as you may well know if you watched ‘Cherry has a Baby’ on BBC3 where journalist Cherry Healy embarks on a mission to rid her phobia of giving birth as she’s only weeks away from her due date. She now has a daughter who she named Coco (in case you were wondering).

I detect a sense of exclusivity as I enter cherryjam. The door opens to a pitch-black foyer and I have to follow the sound of the host’s voice to eventually find the stairs leading down to what’s essentially the basement and heart of the venue. I feel like I’ve unearthed a small, hidden cave, super stylish with crimson walls and booths decorated in cow prints and velvet around the perimeters. There’s a psychedelic sexiness to the whole place which is a tad disturbing, but I like it. Sitting in the booths it’s like Santa’s grotto only far more glamorous (there’s no likelihood of sitting on a red suited fat man’s knee, but there is a man wearing Toms shoes and a waistcoat). Platters loaded with a variety of Spanish tapas (£30 per platter) and you’ve got your own little private party going on.

Heart FM’s Nick Snaith owns cherryjam. He drunkenly bought the place from Ben Watt (of Everything But The Girl fame). Spookily, as I’m being told this piece of information, a remix of ‘Missing’ starts blaring out of the speakers getting the Friday night revelers jamming on the dance floor (such an awesome tune). I’ve never been a dancer but after a flute of Cherry Royale and a tall glass of a Ginger Puss and I’m boogeying on down with my newfound booth buddies.

Cocktails range from the classic (Cosmopolitan) to the crazy (Chocolate Squirrel). Each cocktail is around £9, and with a Happy Hour – 2 for 1 on Friday nights - running on way past 10pm, the whole evening turns into a buzzing basement of bliss. My winner is the Apple Crumble. I swear, Andre, cherryjam’s Bar Manager, and his staff are the Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompas of the Cocktail industry, and I’m Charlie Bucket slurping up their delicious delights.

I find a cherry at the bottom of one cocktail, and I declare it the cherry on top of the whole evening. I know thousands of people have found a cherry like my one but I can’t help feeling I’ve discovered something special. The whole evening, in fact, has been special, and I come to the decision that yes, cherryjam is indeed a boutique bar and club. On my way home I step off the tube and walk down my suburban street and already I miss cherryjam ‘like the deserts miss the rain’. Such an awesome tune!

Cocktail images courtesy of Rich Hendry - www.richhendry.com.

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