I’ve always viewed gin with suspicion – not surprising when you consider its history. The story goes that after William of Orange brought into the country from Holland in 1689, gin consumption left London’s poorest people paralytic and rolling around in the gutters! Clearly gin has earned the monika ‘mother’s ruin’ for good reason, so I maintained a safe distance until recently when I visited gin bar 214 Bermondsey.
214 Bermondsey is a gin and cocktail bar housed in the basement of popular Italian restaurant Antico. As the bar is pretty hidden away, with no obvious sign – this automatically gives it exclusivity points – a huge plus!
Once inside it doesn’t disappoint; the dimly lit, wood paneling interior gives this bar a speakeasy Mad Men-esque feel. I could imagine myself having an ‘Old Fashioned’ with Don Draper here. There is a dizzying array of non-gin based cocktails available but I decided this was the perfect time to put my gin prejudices to one side.
Our barmen Jack explained 214 has over an incredible 50 different gins to choose from but that the bar takes the quality of mixer just as seriously –which makes sense, after all it makes 75% of your drink! So they make their own homemade tonic water which is pale orange in colour and consists of sugar, water, citric acid and quinine bark. This recipe ensures both the gin and tonic together tastes excellent.
After this very pleasant tasting, it was time to hit the hard stuff in the form of delicious gin based cocktails including the
Ted Damson (Damson gin with orgeat topped with prosecco) and Bramble cocktail – (Double Bulldog gin, blackberries, sugar and lemon juice finished with a Crème de Mure float).
Both went down very nicely and I was ready to take the Gin Flight! This mystery game is recommended to serious gin connoisseurs. Three G&Ts are brought out, accompanied with a wax-sealed envelope, containing the names of the gins. Tasters are given a list of the gins and descriptions of their flavours and have to blind-taste and match the drink to the gin.
There are three Gin Flights to choose from: The International, The Renaissance and the London. We chose the London and had a lot of fun trying to correctly identify each gin. Playing Gin Flight would make a cool date game and 214 Bermondsey is a perfect second date place – if you want to get closer to someone the atmosphere here would do half the work for you!
I also have to give the bar a big fat tick for serving pasta! The food selection is a much more substantial (and delicious) than usual bar food fare. It certainly helped me approach the extensive gin drinking with the confidence that I wasn’t going to get so drunk I’d end up in the gutter myself.
I ordered the slow roasted pork shoulder tortellini in sage butter and it proved to be even more delicious than it sounded.
Initially it did feel strange to not be eating at a proper restaurant table but this informality adds to the ‘date place’ feel.
The knowledgeable staff, the selection of gin and non gin based cocktails, fabulous food and laid back, sexy atmosphere means I’ll definitely be returning to Bermondsey.
214 Bermondsey Street, SE1 3TQ, Tube | London Bridge, 214-bermondsey.co.uk.