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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Cartizze Bar - The Whip - Underground Drinking Club

Friday 4th April - A rambling List outing normally involves a sensible mix of cafés, pubs, breweries, restaurants and bars.  This time it went - cocktail bar, cocktail bar, cocktail bar.  Let's see how well that panned out...

The evening started in style in the heart of Mayfair with List Leader Natalie.  We made our way to Lancashire Court, the Diagon Alley of Mayfair, for the launch of Cartizze, a classy cocktail bar with a penchant for prosecco.  It is tucked underneath Mayfair Pizza Co., with Mews of Mayfair and Hush also nearby in the fairytale hidden courtyard.

Lancashire Court by day

Cartizze is named after the revered 1000 foot high Prosecco vineyards in Veneto, and some Italian class has been brought to the bar with a Nero Marquina marble fireplace, just one detail amongst many in a stunning bar.  Vintage cocktail shakers are dotted around, and the backbar is a treasure trove of glassware rather than the usual overwhelming rows of bottles one can't afford.

Cartizze Bar

We were shown to our seats (table service only so worth booking ahead) and greeted with some delightful bar snacks.  Master mixologist Rich Woods (UK winner of the Bombay Sapphire ‘World’s Most Imaginative Bartender’ 2014) was on hand to talk through some of his cocktail creations.  

We started off with the silky smooth Olive Oil Gin Fizz (Gin, lemon, lemon sugar, olive oil, egg white prosecco) and the quirky Truffled Liquorice Sour (Chivas Whisky, lemon, egg white, liquorice, sugar, truffle).  The strong truffle flavour was particularly present in the foamy head of the sour, and will definitely divide opinions.  We were both very taken with it, though agreed that one might be enough.  The Olive Oil Gin Fizz was sublime and Natalie was tempted to stick to it all night.

Olive Oil Gin Fizz

Truffled Liquorice Sour
Bar snacks at Cartizze
We worked our way through several more impressive cocktails, including the delicious Amor y Amargo (amaretto, cynar, apricot liqueur, lemon, egg white, vanilla sugar, prosecco), a seasonal Rhubarb (rhubarb liqueur, fresh rhubarb, prosecco), a boozy Mayfair Elegante (light rum, gin, blood orange liqueur, clarified citrus, bitters), and a seasonal Sicilian Gimlet (blood orange gin, blood orange and lemon cordial)

I took an enjoyably bitter path with a Barrel Aged Negroni, a Sbagliato (Campari, Sweet Vermouth, Prosecco) and a Mayfair Aperitivo (Punt e Mes, fresh grapefruit, orange, tonic).  The barrel aged cocktails will change every now and then - ask on the night for more details.

The palate cleansing Sgroppino (limoncello sorbet, lemon verbena liqueur, prosecco) was attractively presented as three scoops of sorbet bathing in a pool of lemon liqueur & prosecco.

Mayfair Elegante

Five more fantastic cocktails from Cartizze Bar
A lot of effort has also been put into the concise food menu, with the likes of Truffled Salted Peanuts, Tuna Tartare with Candied Chilli and Cucumber and San Daniele Ham wrapped figs with Truffle Honey & Roquette making it on to the list.  

The two most theatrical dishes were the 36 month old parmesan with 12 year old balsamic vinegar and the Hand Dived Orkney Isles Scallops & Smoked Pancetta in Brioche Buns.  There was enough parmesan for most of the room, and it turned up with its own smoking chamber.  Meanwhile, the scallop & pancetta sliders arrived on a Himalayan salt board.  Only a few months ago I had been mocking Natalie for buying one as a gift, having never heard of it before, and here one was in all its glory!

Be prepared for Mayfair prices and you will have a fantastic time at Cartizze.  The location is date heaven, the cocktails & food are top notch, and the service is charming.  One waitress was particularly attentive, or so we thought until we realised there were twins working the floor!  The jazz soundtrack was the icing on the cake.  Highly recommended!

Rich Woods - The Cocktail Guy at Cartizze
Lancashire Court by night
I had somewhere to be at 11pm, so we had time for one more drink in the neighbourhood.  We decided to call in at The Whip, a Kentucky Derby inspired julep bar tucked away above The Running Horse pub.  The classic Mayfair boozer (dating back to 1738) was reopened at the end of 2013 by James Chase (Chase Distillery) and Dominic Jacobs (former bar director at Sketch), and the 1st floor cocktail bar followed in early 2014.

The pub itself has an exciting cocktail list including Beetroot Lemon Balm Sours (Williams Chase GB Gin, Beetroot Juice, Pressed Lemon, Lemon Balm, Egg White, Honey) and Blackberry & IPA Tankard (Fresh Blackberries, Stem Ginger, Chase Rhubarb Vodka, Pressed Lemon, IPA) amongst other Chase-based concoctions.  Masterchef (The Professionals) quarter-finalist Andrew Justice's food menu is also very appealing with the likes of Hand Chopped Rump Skirt Of Beef with Triple Cooked Chips & Onion Marmalade and Steamed Toffee Banana Pudding with Salted Toffee Sauce, Banana Crisp & Clotted Iced Cream making me want to come back for a second visit.  Downstairs was rather busy though, so we plodded up to The Whip which was an oasis of calm in comparison.

Juleps are the order of the day and we struggled to choose from a very strong list.  In the end, I put a tenner on a No.1 Whip Julep (Chase Rhubarb Vodka, Williams Chase GB Extra Dry Gin, Lemon, Sugar Syrup, Mint Leaves, Basil Leaves, Cracked Black Pepper, Soda Water) which performed admirably.  I consulted the 3 step Julep drinking guide in the menu before holding down the strainer and sipping from the pewter cup.

No.5 (with Compass Box Aslya & Compass Box Spice Tree) and No.6 (with Plantation Gran Anejo, Tawny Port and Nutmeg) will have to wait for another time, as will the enticing bar menu that features Scallop Ceviche, Lamb Cutlets and Duck Ham & Rhubarb.  The perfect time to return is the weekend of the Kentucky Derby, coming soon on 2nd-3rd May.  See you then.

Bar food at The Whip

I had to rush off early as I had secured a booking for an 11pm-1am slot at the mysterious Underground Drinking Club (UDC) that was popping up for one night only somewhere in Old Street Station.  I parted company with Natalie and headed East to meet up with Tim, Andy and Roban, not knowing quite what to expect.  All we knew was that we had 2 hours of cocktail-based entertainment for £20/head.  I had faith in Offbeat Network responsible for UDC having previously been to their highly enjoyable Drink Feast event in late 2013.  

It was easy enough to find within the station as a queue was forming outside a normally empty shop space, making passers by feel out of the loop. 

Underground Drinking Club in Old Street Station

Once the 9-11pm punters had cleared the room, we made our way in and settled down on communal tables, with cross party socialising highly encouraged by Grouper Social Club, the other company behind UDC which is soon to launch in London after success in New York.  We befriended Charles and Estelle, making use of some entertaining flash cards with facts & questions on that were left on the table.  I had a hunch that the final 11-1 slot would be the most entertaining as the bartenders started to let their hair down at the end of an intense session that started at 5pm, and I wasn't wrong as you might deduce from some of the photos.  

Tim arrived late and had a disturbing flirtatious interaction with a bartender across the room in an attempt to catch up with one of the opening cocktails - a "welcome dance" sealed the deal.  The bartender eventually came over and introduced himself as William Pineapple, before encouraging us to choose some cocktail ingredients from the herbs & fruit left on the table.  The base spirits sponsoring the event were Langley's, Johnnie Walker and Russian Standard - we stuck to gin and whisky (as far as we know).

It all got a bit weird after the first round, and I won't go into too much detail as the photos say more than I ever could.  Drinks were spilled, plants were abused, lemons were eaten, shirts were swapped, bartenders were topless (Mr.Pineapple), fire was created, and shots were consumed.  The drinks were different (and very drinkable) every time, and by the end we had definitely made some new friends, which I imagine was half the point.  Two hours flew by but we absolutely got our £20 worth, both in terms of entertainment and booze.  Keep your ears to the ground for news on the next pop-up (or sign up to the mailing list). 

Wide range of drinks from the Underground Drinking Club

Lemons and tomatoes are tasty. No idea who bottom left is.

Tim & Charles bottom right ; Tomato based cocktail top right

Charles, our new best friend

William Pineapple dishing out the shots

William, Roban and some Langley's

The topless guy was our bartender.
Square Meal


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