Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Confined to cocktails - Be At One, Spitalfields

Chain bars are a much maligned category on this blog, but I have to admit that there are some exceptions to that rule. One relative newcomer to the drinks scence and a recent 'discovery' of mine is Be at One - the nine strong cocktail bar chain that is dotted at the hip and not so hip locations of London town.
I checked out the Spitalfields version (hip location) on the Bishopsgate side of the square (not so hip location) for some after work drinks. The bar shares the same block as a Starbucks and Pizza Express. and is directly opposite an investment bank. It also occupies the site of what used to be an old City champagne bar. But honestly its not as bad as it sounds.
In fact the Be At One crew pack a lot of good things into what is a very small space - think a tradtional English fashioned butchers shop converted into a bar and that should give you an idea of the room. Not that this place is, I hasten to add, a meat market. In terms of drinks there is a good selection of beers and wines bu the reason for drinking here are the cocktails. Some 191 different types if you believe the press. These range from the conventional classics - mojito, caipirinhas, etc - to their own inventions such as Candy Pants (Absolut Kurant vodka, Chambord, strawberry puree, lemon juice and cranberry juice) and the like. And just to make sure that you are tempted they offer a 2-4-1 Happy Hour (yes, I thought they were illegal now) from 5 - 7pm every day. All set to a backdrop of pure 80's pop. Magic.
What Be At One isn't of course is cool - you won't find your Shoreditch / Hoxton artist crowd. Nor do you see much in the way of denim or trainers. But Be At One with its great service and laidback ambience gives it a certain sort of charm that means it never strays on to the wrong side of cheesy. However close it might come. So give it a try - it's the perfect starting place for a night ou and you even might want to end the night there too.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Pinot grigio inspired hedonism - Prohibition, Bishopsgate

Happy New Year readers, and I hope your first few days of 2010 have been kind to you. Which in the UK at the moment means being able to leave your house without snowshoes. And people talk about global warming. A socially active and highly alcoholic December 09 meant that I did not blog as much as I should have, and as a consequence have a backlog of blogs to publish.
So my first resolution of the year is to drink out more frequently and Blog about it. That's that sorted.
Looking back on my unfinished items I've decided to start with the much derided, but nevertheless enjoyable little venue that is Prohibition Bar on Bishopsgate in the City of London. Prohibition as a concept was designed to capture the spirit and style of the thirties style speakeasy - all dirty martinis and shysters and harlots out for a bit of illicit pleasure set against a backdrop of cool grooves and hedonistic behaviour. What you actually get is a converted office block positively dripping with an atmosphere of pinot grigio and lager, celebrity branded perfumes and aftershaves, and scantily dressed women eying up traders in their 'dress down Friday' bests, all throwing shapes and singing along to cheesy pop and 90's indie anthems. Al Capone era Chicago it most certainly is not.
But you can't fault the place for being fun and judging by the number of people throwing money across the bar, very successful. We were there to celebrate a new job for Young Elvis who was heading off to Hong Kong to live in a shoebox and avoid paying tax and what better way then to drink with abandon in a good old fashioned 'pick-up' bar. For Prohibition is one of those places that you find frequently in the large cities and towns around the UK and Ireland, but are remarkably rare in inner-city London .
Would I go again? Well I probably will as it seems to be becoming the bar of choice for my colleagues leaving and birthday bashes, but whether I'd recommend it is another thing. If you're young, single and fancy a big night on the lash then go for. It seemed to be to Young Elvis's taste. However if you're after some urban sophistication I'd try one of the scores of other establishments all within stumbling distance of dear Prohibition. Now to work on that blog backlog.