It wasn't yet six, so the sun was still stubbornly high in the sky as I made my way down Upper Street for our rendezvous. Ah well, it's always cocktail hour somewhere. I spotted this foxy little knocker on my stroll...I do love a vulpine detail. (Apologies in advance that all my photos in this post are taken on my phone - gotta sacrifice clear Canon photos for spontaneity sometimes.)
The bar itself, also known as The Bar With No Name, has a wonderful speakeasy vibe about it. The ceiling is festooned with industrial looking lamps (swoon), there's shiny Prohibition-style red booths and tiles on the floor, and the place is staffed by charming men in crisp white jackets who look like they belong in the late '20s. There's also a great projection of a silhouetted couple on the wall that made me feel that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers might come tap-dancing down the stairs at any minute. A very classy way to announce the location of the loos to everyone. There's even a piano in the corner reserved for jazz performances, which Alex obviously clocked the minute he stepped in. It wasn't in use when we arrived - well, not in the traditional sense anyway. It was being used as a table for cocktails. Now that's a genius way to economise on space.
If you're planning to visit 69 with a group, make sure you reserve in advance. I didn't know about this and was assured that we could have a table anyway, but we still sidled up to the bar: my favourite place to sit so I can watch the bartenders work. I had a spell attending mixology classes while at university, but never made anything quite as complex as the drinks on this menu, all of which looked amazing. It's got me eyeing up the Colebrooke Row masterclasses, especially this Halloween-themed one...
As we dithered, the bartender kindly brought us two Prairie Oysters on the house - an incredible mix of horseradish vodka, oloroso sherry, shallots, pepper sauce, celery salt, a tomato yolk and 'micro herbs'. Whatever those might be. A truly original take on the Bloody Mary, and just the pick-up I needed. Served in a little oyster shell-shaped dish, we raised it to our lips and downed it in one, like eating a real oyster - and to my delight, the tomato yolk burst straight away. So much fun to drink!
I was a bit less adventurous and chose a crowd-pleaser: a Rhubarb Gimlet. Good old mother's ruin mixed with rhubarb cordial. Simple and delicious. Don't ever regret playing it safe.
I'm pretty lightweight where it comes to drinking, but I was in such a rotten mood (poor A, having to put up with me!) that I decided I needed just a little bit more in the way of Dutch courage. We ordered another cocktail to share.
The Spitfire. A devilish concoction of cognac, white wine and peach liqueur, made tangy with lemon juice and given a hint of sweetness with some sugar. This one slipped down a little too easily...
Another reason I loved the interior decoration at this place: the very wise advice on the walls.
The pain of the day dulled somewhat, replaced by the excitement of finding a new bar to frequent, we paid the bill and stepped out into the sunlight (so wrong). To new discoveries and adventures!
Disclaimer: I don't advocate cocktails as a panacea for every bad day. But when they taste as good as these ones...