A couple of Saturdays ago, Ben and I spent the afternoon wandering around the sales on Oxford Street and looking for bargains and returning unwanted Christmas presents. Pretty stressful, not particularly successful and to be honest, by about 4.30pm we were ready for something stronger than a coffee to warm us up.
We made our may over to Hix in Soho, which has a lovely cosy cocktail bar downstairs called Mark’s Bar. We’ve been there before but never when we’ve been in such need of some warmth and a little pick me up. I basically was too tired and cold to look beyond the first thing on the menu: Guy's Punch (served hot or cold), well that was me sold, I went for hot, obviously.
Much as I love Mark’s Bar, the prices prevent it from being somewhere I can stay for too many drinks (unless someone else is paying!), but I wasn’t quite ready to step out of my fuzzy haze. Luckily, just around the corner from Hix is another lovely restaurant, Polpo. Ben and I had eaten at Polpo at the end of November last year and I had noticed then, a sign pointing to a Campari bar. The Campari bar is tucked downstairs just by the loos. We hadn’t had time to go that night but I had poked my head around the door to see a tiny room packed to the rafters with people who looked like they were having a whale of a time. Just my kind of thing. Polpo is the kind of restaurant that serves lots of delicious food for pretty reasonable prices, and I was banking on the Campari bar following the same formula, which I was delighted to find that it does.
The Campari bar opens at 5.30pm, Ben and I got there at about 5.45pm and if you like sitting down then I suggest you get there early as well because there were no tables left by 6pm. Bear in mind there are only about five tables to start off with! We got chatting to the bar man, Kevin, a friendly South African who seemed able to cope quite well with being the only guy serving there, even when Campari heavy. If you like that bitter Campari taste then you will love them; if not then there are a few other choices available too. Ben and I tried as many of the cocktails that we could and Kevin told us a bit about them; my Cynar Gin Fizz was great. I’d never tried Cynar before, but I’d like to again; Kevin tells me it’s an Italian aperitif made from various herbs and plants, predominantly artichoke. We ate a few of the snacky bites that they do as well and it was all pretty delicious and certainly gave us the courage we needed to face the cold again.
Mark’s Bar: £20.18
1 Guy’s Punch
1 Parsnip crisps
Polpo Campari Bar: £29.50
Ne goni Sbagliato
Chopped Liver Toasts
Cynar Gin Fizz
I am a massive cocktail fan but pretty rubbish at making them for myself so I’m not going to insult people who have actually mastered the art by trying to recreate a cocktail recipe. There was one thing that really caught my imagination though; all those flavour infused spirits at Mark’s Bar. This appears to me to be something I can really experiment with and I’m going to start by copying them with the tried and tested brandy and pineapple infused El Dorado rum. The only thing is, as this is an experiment, I’m definitely not going to ruin a good bottle of El Dorado rum. Sainsbury’s will just have to do...
70cl bottle of dark rum
2x Large Pineapples
Brandy to taste
1. Peel the pineapples and slice. Lay the slices into an airtight glass container. I used a jar with a capacity of about 1.5 litres.
2. One the jar is filled nearly to the top with pineapple, pour the entire bottle of rum in.
3. Add about two tablespoons of brandy. This can be altered to your tastes.
4. Seal the air tight jar or container and refrigerate for 10 days to two weeks.
5. Open and enjoy! You can try different spirits and lots of flavour combinations, so get experimenting.
Total Cost of Ingredients: £13.49
Almost the same price as my Guy’s Punch..,.bargain!