Bar Reviews: Christina’s Shoreditch and Scarfes Bar, London

Bar Reviews: Christina’s Shoreditch and Scarfes Bar, London

A trip to London means plenty of time in pubs, but like any big city, London has a thriving cocktail culture, too. A recent visit here took me to two upscale cocktail bars to sample the city’s latest in drinkdom.

Read on for the boozy details on Christina’s Shoreditch and Scarfes Bar.

Christina’s Shoreditch

The Shoreditch neighborhood is one of those up-and-coming areas that even Americans might have heard about. Christina’s can be found here off of a small side street and stands as a quiet respite away from the louder and more boisterous bars that line the main thoroughfares, appealing to a younger crowd. (If you want to drink while immersing yourself in a ball pit, you’ve come to the right place.)

The focus here is on English products, including local producers of liqueurs, coffee, soda, and even sake made in the UK. Naturally, there are some exceptions (British tequila isn’t a thing), but it’s impressive to see how far Christina’s can get with English fare. Some of the drinks include ingredients so obscure I had to Google them to figure out what I was sipping.

The lounge-like environment feels like it has a foot stuck in the ’80s, but for old codgers like me, that’s not a bad thing.

The menu includes both perennial offerings and seasonal specials (all about £15), the latter of which I dipped into with the Pear & Gooseberry Highball, a mix of Nc’nean single malt, Christina’s own crab pear whiskey liqueur, honey fermented crab pear, and Idyll gooseberry soda. Slightly smoky from the malt, the pear notes prop it up and let that gooseberry-driven coconut note to shine. It’s especially good as the ice melts a bit. The Rum & Rhubarb seasonal (East London Rarer rum, apple mint cordial, Idyll rhubarb & meadowsweet soda) was another big hit, giving a mojito a fruity spin that evokes strawberry more than rhubarb. It was straightforward but really lovely and easy to drink.

I enjoyed the Orchard Sazerac, made with ELLC Mondrian rye, Burnt Faith British brandy, Kanpai plum, Capreolus 1000 Trees eau de vie, honey, and absinthe, but found it to be driven more by smoke than anise notes. A touch on the sour side, the plum ended up being a bit heavy-handed. The Fig Leaf Colada (Two Drifters pineapple overproof rum, ELLC rum, Kanpai Kumo, Parafente fig liqueur, verjus, chamomile, marshmallow root, and honey cordial — whew!) was the sweetest drink I sampled, with that honey cordial stinging and the figgy finish enduring. Probably the most crushable drink I tasted all night.

A word about Christina’s service: I don’t think I have ever encountered any service so attentive and thorough, with my water glass always full, questions quickly answered, and drinks delivered promptly. Plenty of folks popped in and out of the bar for a quick pre- or post-dinner tipple — and there’s no standing on ceremony here. Plenty of imbibers were happy to sip on wine or beer in lieu of the more adventuresome cocktails on tap.

45 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3PT
ennismore.com/restaurants/christinas/shoreditch

Scarfes Bar

“An homage to the classic gentleman’s clubs of yore,” Scarfes Bar is decorated with (and named after) the art of Gerald Scarfe, a longtime cartoonist who is most remembered by my generation for creating the graphics used in Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Situated in the Rosewood Hotel in the Covent Garden neighborhood, this is a dimly lit, sophisticated place with live music (think duos and trios) many nights of the week.

The current push here is the 10 “Greatest Hits” menu, drawn from the most popular cocktails ordered here over the last decade since its 2013 opening. Some are spins on classics, some are wholly original. Either way, they are all quite spendy: £20 and up per drink.

The watermelon fresca, mezcal, and Thai basil of the El Bandito made for a refreshing but surprising first course, while the Drawn Out cocktail — Scarfes’ own Maker’s Mark Private Select bottle, pandan aperitif, and maple verjus — was the elevated old fashioned-ish experience you’d expect.

Scarfes brings its A game to some of its garnish work, including the barley dust making a sandpaper-like ring around the Crescent City, made with Macallan 12 Years Old, discarded banana peel, and pandan. This twist on a whiskey sour allows the Macallan to shine brightly and cleanly.

My only spin through the “new releases” menu was to try the No. 6, a blend of Lakes No. 6 English whisky, evaporated chocolate, matcha, and Sauternes wine. It’s quite a combo, sweet, nutty, and very strong, all elevating the whisky nicely — and garnished with a surprising wedge of matcha white chocolate to munch on. Scarfes also has an extensive menu of delicious bar snacks, ranging from tuna tacos to toasted crumpets topped with crab and caviar.

Patrons are highly advised to book a table in advance before visiting either of these establishments… and to do so soon!

Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN
rosewoodhotels.com/en/london/dining/scarfes-bar

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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