Monday, 21 April 2008

A maxi-adventure: Part III: The East Room and The Hawksmoor.

As usual HI insisted on being difficult and insisted that the only thing he wanted to do that day, was go to the Hawksmoor for drinks. Unfortunately it doesn't open till 6.30pm, so using my initiative I figured out the best way to wile away our time would be at the East Room.

Fortunately they are still letting the proles, sorry, the public (i.e us) in before 5pm so, armed with address and A-Z we set off. Lucky HI has eagle eyes where a martini is concerned otherwise we would have walked straight past it.

Up the stairs you go into a New York style loft that looks like they raided one of those retro furniture shops in Islington. It's pretty cool, quiet and with lots of comfy chairs to sit on. Other than some drunk City blokes in the corner, and two guys on their laptops, we were the only other folk there. So, we hunkered down and tried out the cocktail menu. Emma and I ended up having two French 75's each, as they were very pleasant.I think we liked the fact that it tasted like it had booze in it, as opposed to some fizzy lady drink. HI has his favourite The Martini. This is his test of how good, or bad a place is. There are many hurdles to fall at.

The Martini challenge.

1. What Gins do you have? This is a seemingly innocent question for which the correct answer would be of course: Blackwood’s, Hendricks, Tanquery Ten, Martin Miller, Plymouth, then Bombay Sapphire and Gordons. All of which should be stored in the freezer.
2. How would you like it? This seems an easy question, but it's not. We have had many disasters in places that call themselves cocktail bars, where the poor bartenders on hearing that a dry martini is what is required, read what’s on the vermouth bottle and instead of merely passing the bottle over the glass they proceed to pour in a unit of Vermouth, making what is in fact a very wet Martini. Ideally the vermouth should be in an atomiser and one puff applied at a distance to an already frozen glass.
3. The size of the ice cubes is apparently also important. There are a few bars in New York such as the Pegu club and Employees Only that insist on using large chunks of ice, the theory being that this minimises the amount of water that dilutes the precious Gin.
4. Shaken or stirred. Now HI preference is to have it stirred, 15 times. Not shaken. Apparently, shaking it bruises the Gin and also encourages the dilution of said Gin with water from the ice. Who would have known? Oh yes, one more thing, to quote HI "if you shake it. it's not a Martini, it's an aberration in the eyes of God." Er, Ok.
5. Twist or dirty. This of course depends on the gin. If its Hendricks then it should be cucumber, if not then a small curl of zest with the oil spritzed over the top will suffice. Sometimes its nice to have it dirty.
6. It should be served in martini glass or one of those small curved old-fashioned glasses. HI almost died and went to heaven, when, at the Pegu club they gave him a small beaker with the overfill.

The Martini at the East Room was passable but a bit wet and they put a twist of lemon in with the Hendricks. Regardless, we spent a pleasant couple of hours till five at which point due to the fear of being unceremoniously chucked out we left. We headed off to Rough Trade and discovered a small street that had quite a few cool second hand clothes shops and cafes, round the corner was brick lane. We made a metal-note to explore this area on the next maxi-adventure.

Emma at this point said her goodbyes, and HI thought we would chance our arm by heading to the Hawksmoor to see if they would be open.

They were not meant to open till 6.30pm but the fates, and the bar staff smiled on us and we were sat at the bar by ten past. I had been there a couple of months previously and had a mighty fine steak, for HI it was the first time. He was slightly perturbed by the place thinking that it seemed an odd place to have such an interesting cocktail list. However, his fears were soon allayed as the place filled up and there was a bit of a buzz.

He started off with a Scofflaw

The Scoff Law Cocktail @ £7.00
This was invented in 1924 at Harry?s American Bar in Paris. It name pokes fun at Prohibition ? the term Scoff Law referred to a frequenter of speakeasies. Rye shaken with Noilly Prat, Lemon juice and Pomegranate syrup.
Gin, lemon juice, sugar, Champagne. both £7.5

and I a Hawksmoor Fizz.

Hawksmoor Fizz
This is our interpretation of this classic drinks style and has most in common with the Ramos Gin Fizz but uses some truely English ingredients to evoke the flavour of the UK. Gin shaken with lemon juice, sugar, cream, egg white, orange flower water and homemade rhubarb syru

This was lovely but too easy to drink and a bit like a pina colada. I went for a Scofflaw next time round and HI a Puritan.

The Puritan
This drink first appears in bar guides at the end of the nineteenth century and could be an ancestor of the Martini, even if it isn?t it should be revived. Gin shaken with Noilly Prat, orange bitters and a dash of Yellow Chatreuse.

We were soon joined by my sister and her partner who found us friscalating by the bar. Our handsome bartender has taken a shine to us and made us a couple of cocktails off menu, which set us up nicely for the journey to St John.

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