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Wednesday 20 November 2013

Steam & Rye

Monday 18th November - Monday nights are normally kept free for some much needed 5-a-side based exercise, but when Kelly Brook (indirectly) comes calling, you just can't say no.

I was lucky enough to be "cordially and vigr'ously invited" along to the private launch party of Steam & Rye in the old Bank of New York in Leadenhall Street, ahead of their public opening tonight (Wednesday 20th November). Steam & Rye is a new prohibition inspired bar from Nick House (Mahiki, Whisky Mist, Bodo's Schloss) and Kelly Brook (national treasure / the reason I watched Big Breakfast). Here's what they have to say:

'It was love at first sight when I set eyes upon the Bank of New York, and immediately the concept sprung to life in my head. In a few seconds, an amalgamation of movies ranging from ‘Hugo’ to ‘Gangs of New York’ started to take form and I knew then that I had to make Steam & Rye a reality.' - Nick House

'I have always been inspired by the glamour and opulence of 1940s Americana, and am thrilled to be collaborating on this project with Nick House. This is my first venture into nightlife hospitality!' - Kelly Brook

After dropping off our coats in the attractive reception area, we moved straight into the Main Hall and Station Gardens which is modelled on New York's Grand Central Station.  One side of the room is taken up by the impressive bar and a stage which will offer live music every night. The other side is taken up by the Eastern Pacific Steam Train with its cosy dining booths.

On to the drinks - we got ourselves in line at the bar, and had a look over the menu whilst trying to work out whether it was a totally open bar, or just selected free drinks.  This problem was quickly solved when one of the barmen held up a couple of cocktails and shouted "Who wants two of these?". We took him up on his offer and found ourselves drinking two Kansas City Shuffle - 5 rums, lime, port & grenadine, topped with peanuts!  After that dangerously drinkable number, we moved on to the Dead Man's Boot (served in a smoking pair of shoes) and a Mile High (garnished with a page of 50 Shades of Grey in paper aeroplane form).

Kansas City Shuffle, Dead Man's Boot, and a page of 50 Shades of Grey
The menus were a big hit with their clever pull & reveal system for each cocktail or meal.  If you can't be bothered with that, everything is listed on the back, but I'm sure you won't be able to resist a quick go.

We were spoiled by their incredible food platters all evening. Steaks, lobster rolls, calamari, shrimp, BBQ wings, pulled pork sliders - classic Americana fare executed superbly. The menu has been overseen by Andrew McLeish from the Michelin starred Chapter One restaurant in Kent. Every Monday and Tuesday will be all you can eat Shrimp or Smoked BBQ Ribs for £14.95.  Ice creams were also excellent - go for the £18.50 Mega Sundae if you have any space left after all the shrimp.  

Back to the drinks - we moved on to a Mississippi Lullaby (served in a flaming fire bucket) and a Yippee Ki Yay (a sparkling stick of dynamite - these can be ordered in a bunch of 6).  Considering the theatrics involved with many of the drinks, the prices are very reasonable.  Mary's delicious lychee & passionfruit concoction is only £8.50, and is bathed in blue flames before your very eyes by the bartenders.  If that doesn't take your fancy, why not order the whole of Mount Rushmore?

The Great Gatsby meets Wild West escapism has been brilliantly realised, both in the decor and the drinks.  They brought in Jonathan Lee, an experienced production designer, to get the look they wanted, and left the bar in the capable hands of Andy Mil (of London Cocktail Club fame). After grabbing another quirky cocktail, we decided to move upstairs to Jonathan Lee's most impressive room, the Cargo Hold.

The Cargo Hold feels like a film set, crammed with all sorts of luggage belonging to the fictional American Railroad Titan, Beamish Bettenbaum, and his wife Dolores.  This will be the VIP room, but try and have look around even if you can't get a drink here.  It is a wonderful, calmer alternative to the Main Hall, which you have a great aerial view of.  

View of Main Hall from Cargo Hold
Finally, we made our way down to the basement to reach the First Class Carriage bar.  Every room had its own personality, and this is where I will probably spend the most time when I return.  The First Class Carriage has a long, luxurious bar opposite intimate leather-lined booths, all beautifully lit.

We set ourselves up at the bar (always the best place to sit) and watched a mixology maestro whip up all sorts of ridiculous cocktails.  If you are a sharing cocktail fan, Steam & Rye have you got you covered.  It's not currently on the menu but there was a ludicrously big shark's head drinking vessel lying around.

Maize Balls - best name on the menu
Something creamy and a Five Dollar Shake with a Fab lolly sticking out
As it was a Monday night, we dragged ourselves outside before we got too carried away.  Steam & Rye is going to be open Monday to Saturday from 4pm-3am at the moment, though it is going to be open more regularly for lunch in early 2014.  It will be also open earlier from 9th-13th and 16th-20th December.

I can't recommend it highly enough - the drinks were fun, the food was delicious, live music is always a bonus, and they have nailed the 1940s American vibe.  The range of rooms takes it to another level, and there is more to come in the form of Beamish's Study, which isn't yet finished.  Get down there tonight for the public launch which should be a crazy party.

Square Meal

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