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Thursday, 1 January 2015

Sovereign Loss - Birdcage - Wilton's Music Hall

Happy New Year! Matt The List soldiers on as usual.  Here are three recent highlights from last month:

Thursday 18th December - The food scene in Brixton Market has been turning heads for some time now, but 2014 saw the opening of some cracking new cocktail bars on Coldharbour Lane.  

The Shrub & Shutter and Seven sequel Three Eight Four both arrived around August and were well received.  

Sneaking in just at the end of the year though was Sovereign Loss, a much more understated classic cocktail bar hidden above the Prince of Wales near The Ritzy.  It's a cosy, candlelit den perfect for a late night drink, not least because they have a ridiculously late licence.  I'm talking a last man standing and the sun is shining type of licence.  Chris Dennis (Trailer Happiness) & Joe St Clair Ford (Wax Jambu, Campari & Aperol Ambassador) are the dream team behind the no frills bar.

Presidente (Santa Teresa Reserva, Cinzano Caracao, Pomegranate), New Corpse Reviver (Louis Royer V.S., Pommeau, Sweet Vermouth) and Metropole (Courvoisier Exclusif, Sweet Vermouth, Dubonnet, Peychaud's & Orange Bitters) were the most successful concoctions on an early visit. Don't expect any rotovap spirits or mysterious mixology here, the £8 cocktails don't mess around. 

It was only a flying visit, and they are still settling in, so I'll head back again soon, but I thought I'd put it on everyone's radar.  With that late licence, the bartending community is bound to flock to Sovereign Loss after dark once the word is out.

Bars in my sights: Vestal Vodka's Ladies & Gentlemen toilet boozer & Kilburn Ironworks from Jimi Pearce & co. (Wax Jambu), plus follow up visits to Original Sin and High Water.


Monday 29th December - Brewdog, Craft Beer Co. and The Draft House are responsible for 15 of the best places to drink beer in London, and all three "chains" deserve credit for making each site a unique watering hole.

The latest to join the team is The Draft House's refurbishment of Columbia Road classic, The Birdcage.  It was on the brink of bankruptcy after a long period of decline, but now it is back in business.

Whilst it's clearly part of The Draft House canon, The Birdcage has retained some of its East End charms, such as live music evenings and Square Pie Co pies with Mash & Liquor.  If you aren't familiar with liquor, it is a white sauce with chopped parsley and a dash of pale ale (rather than the traditional eel juice!). My chicken and bacon was a fine example of the genre.

As for the drinks, the draught & bottled beer list is predictably strong.  Lagunitas Maximus IPA, Redchurch Great Eastern IPA and Siren When The Light "Gose" Out were all on good form when we visited.

But the beers have got fierce competition from pre-bottled cocktails served from the optics for only £5 a go.  Max Chater from Bump Caves (the experimental bar beneath Draft House Tower Bridge) is the man responsible for ready-to-go Sazeracs, Negronis (with their own "Victory Gin") and Treacles (Raisin Infused Diplomatico Anejo, Bump Bitters, Apple) which the barstaff can dish out at high speed.  

And if you need something a bit punchier, try one of their special "Bumps", quirky spirits created on the Bump Caves rotovap to pair with particular beers.  We sampled a delicious ~40% distilled Christmas Pudding on our way out.

Pies, beers and booze - what more do you need?  The Birdcage is a wonderful local, but also worth going out of the way for.  Another winner for The Draft House & Bump Caves team.

Square Meal


For a final drink of the evening, Tim and I made our way over to Wilton's Music Hall, a stunning arts venue near Aldgate with charming bars which started life as an alehouse around 1743.  Have a full read of the fascinating history here.

The venue is actually undergoing a fair amount of work at the moment which puts the cocktail bar out of action until at least March, but the ground floor Mahogany Bar is still open.  A solid beer selection including Adnams Dry Hopped Lager and ELB Spiced Christmas Ale kept Tim happy, whilst I moved on to whisky with the likes of Jura, Lagavulin & Laphroaig to choose from.

Photo Credit : Simon Carr Photography

I'll report back in greater detail another time, but it's such a wonderful place that it deserves a quick shout out just in case anyone didn't know about it.  Keep an eye on their website for updates on refurbishments and to see what's on. 


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