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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Kansas Smitty's Bar

Whilst I've loved powering through my enormous London food, drink and fun to-do list since early 2013, my favourite posts are usually related to three ongoing stories:

- Paul & Jack (Anspach & Hobday) graduating from homebrewers to Bermondsey pros
- Joel Braham (The Good Egg) getting closer to his dream of opening a bricks and mortar restaurant
- The continued rise of the incredibly talented Kansas Smitty's on the London scene

Coincidentally, the first two also have musical backgrounds which ties this all together nicely. I first met Blues Brothers Banned trumpeter turned chef Joel on a jazz band tour to Rotterdam; and Paul & Jack may not have become Anspach & Hobday had they found success with Great Dover Street Productions - bit of a reach that one. Anyway, today I'm here to talk about Kansas Smitty's. 

"Putting the danger back in jazz"

I first become aware of them early last year after meeting band leader Giacomo Smith (sax / clarinet) at a gig at Battersea's hidden gem Le Quecumbar. Since then, I've seen them countless times, both as Smitty's Big Four and the full House Band, all over London, from The Dolls House to Ronnie Scott's.

"While the House Band draws its main inspiration from Count Basie’s hard swinging late night jam sessions in 1930s Kansas City, the Big Four is interested in the music of Sidney Bechet and the upbeat swing of New Orleans."



No two shows are ever the same, though the music making is always exceptional.  If there's a tighter swing band currently playing on the London circuit, I'd like to hear them.  Mad Mardi Gras gigs at The Vaults have been known to end with an impromptu victory lap around Waterloo Station, and alongside all of the live shows, an LP has been recorded and is awaiting release later this year.  But the Smitty's have always had their eyes on a bigger prize - their own bar.  

A magical, immersive Backyard BBQ event in Dalston last April proved that they were all over it on the Southern States food & drink front too, and a year later they finally unveiled the Kansas Smitty's Bar underneath Off Broadway on Broadway Market.


Their stripped back basement bar is now open for live jazz and juleps from Tuesday-Sunday, 6pm-midnight, with special "Basement Tapes" ticketed gigs every Wednesday featuring a different Smitty. You can't go wrong, from trumpeter & vocalist "Sweet" Pete Horsfall ("a cross between Billie Holiday and Tony Bennet") to multi-talented, dynamic percussionist Pedro Segundo.

Giacomo & Jack - Gentlemen of Jazz

Joe Webb's Piano

Dave Archer's Gibson

Dave Archer's Gibson

Now these juleps. In quite a coup, Milk & Honey bartender Sean Fennelly was brought in to set things in motion, and he's organised an 8-strong £8 julep jamboree ranging from the Smitty's Julep (Bourbon, Amaro Bitters, Raisin, Peach, Cassia Bark & Mint) to the Jesuit's Bark Julep (Rum, Clove, Pimento, Lime and Grapefruit Peel, Quinine Cordial & Mint).

The booze & botanicals are pre-mixed and left to blend in traditional julep fashion, before being poured over fresh mint and ice.  Bartenders just need to "clap that mint" first and your drink is good to go.

There's something for everyone on the list, but I'd recommend the Morning Joe-lep (Bourbon, Coffee Bean, Stem Ginger, Cardamom, Cocoa Nibs & Bitter Orange Marmalade) or the Sleepytime Julep (Scotch Whisky, Chamomile, Pink Peppercorn, Raspberry, Lemon Peel & Mint).  

If you want to save a few coins, you can stick to house wine and beers (currently New Orleans Dixie Beer with more local brews on the way).  Food is restricted to Giacomo's nuts at the moment, and that's all I'm going to say about that.


Most importantly though, it's a great venue for live music, with excellent acoustics and no need for amplification; and crucially, it means I always know where to go if I need a Kansas Smitty's fix, and so do you.  Get down there and support some of London's finest musicians, and don't forget your dancing shoes!

Tuba-man Theon Cross

Giacomo & "Sweet" Pete on the front line

Kansas Smitty's Bar is open 6pm-midnight, Tues - Sun, 63-65 Broadway Market, E8 4PH

Click here to book tickets for Wednesday night "Basement Tapes" gigs

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