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Sunday 7 July 2013

La Bodega Negra - London Gin Club at The Star at Night

Wednesday 19th June - Way back in February when the List started, my Foreign Office friend Max grabbed a couple of Team List points whilst he was still in the country.  Four months later, he returned from Mexico for a week before being shipped off to Vilnius in Lithuania.  What did we book to celebrate his return from Mexico?  A meal at a Mexican restaurant of course.  Being The List though, there was obviously more to it than that.  How often do you start off your dinner experience by walking through a sex shop?

Why not?
Ignore the obvious La Bodega Negra entrance on Moor Street and go round the corner on to Old Compton Street and look for the neon signs.  Once you get through the bizarre entrance, you are escorted downstairs into the underground restaurant.  It's a beautiful low-lit space with quirky art, cosy corners, and even a piano on its side.  Both hard to describe and photograph, you need to go and see for yourself.  It's also incredibly cool down there so it's perfect for escaping the summer heat.

The drinks are mostly of the Mezcal / Tequila variety - my pineapple, chilli and mezcal Pepino was excellent, and the Margaritas seemed to go down well too.  We were encouraged to order food to share - tacos, salads, ribs, chicken, guacamole etc.  The food was excellent and arrived very quickly, but be warned it is on the expensive side.  Add to that a ludicrous 15% tip and you are probably better off eating somewhere that is better value for money.  If it was all a bit cheaper, I would have ordered more food and probably a couple more drinks.  The waitress didn't cover herself in glory when she came to tell us that we were one pence short of her 15% tip but that she would let us off - so kind!  It's a shame because it is one of the best looking places I have been to, with a wonderful atmosphere.  They have just opened a new place in Shoreditch called Casa Negra, with the Casa Playground bar/club underneath, that has a more relaxed beach vibe going on, and looks more affordable. 

We made our way back out into daylight and walked a short distance to our final destination - London Gin Club at The Star at Night.  By day, The Star is a café run by Mario that is open til 4pm, but at night it becomes a cocktail bar.  The London Gin Club got involved early last year and have proved to be very popular.  It is slightly hard to find The Star at Night because Crossrail has set up shop for the foreseeable future and has made a total mess of the area.

Foreign office Max had bought Natalie a London Gin Club voucher for her birthday last year, and she waited for him to be around to redeem it.  When she presented it to the nice lady in charge, she was informed that it had expired many months ago.  In fact, the offer was for something that they didn't even sell anymore!  Luckily, there was no expiry date visible, and she was happy to give Natalie a different taster menu instead.  Maggie and I went for a blind tasting set of 4 gins with tonic, whilst most others went for one of the many G&Ts on offer and the two gin-haters went for wine.  There are also Gin cocktails, and even a Ginventor option where you can create your own gin at your table.

Seven of us were packed on to a teeny table (probably for 2) which wasn't ideal in the heat, and became a bit ridiculous when 8 glasses arrived just between Natalie, Maggie and I.  The gins are served in my new favourite Coppa glasses - an enormous balloon glass that makes you feel like you are holding the world's biggest G&T.  The selection of gins on offer is very impressive, and definitely requires multiple visits to truly appreciate.  I highly recommend going for a tasting menu, especially blind tasting which was a lot of fun.  We were given four numbered bottles of gin to mix with Fevertree tonic, plus various garnishes to match with the gins, which would in turn help us to identify the gin make from the menu.  We were also given a Gin notebook to keep track of our tasting notes throughout the evening.

My main obstacle was preventing Maggie and Ali from eating all of the garnishes.  We made some informed guesses using the remaining garnishes and sent in our answers.  I was confident after a fairly successful blind gin tasting with T.Rex a couple of months before at 214 Bermondsey. Sadly, this time we got every single one completely wrong -  olives instead of strawberries, cherries instead of cardamom etc.  Natalie had 4 G&Ts in the time that most others had one or two, so was understandably cheerful at the end of the evening.  This was most evident as she engaged the owner in an incredibly long, enthusiastic conversation about gin as we were trying to pay up and leave.  The service is excellent though, and we will definitely be back again for more gin.  There is also tapas style food available, but we were already full up on expensive Mexican food.  Make sure you book ahead as it was very busy when we went.  It is worth becoming a member for discounts and loyalty rewards - sign up on their website.

Max doubles his Team List points total to 6, flatmate Maggie stays one ahead of flatmate Ali and Luke, Lauren is closing in on second placed Tim and Natalie continues to maintain her big lead at the top.  Blogging has been slow recently with a busy end of term at work, and illness and exhaustion.  Never fear - six more trips have been carried out and are ready to be written.  I might just go and watch the tennis first though, if you don't mind.

Square Meal Square Meal

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