BEACH BLANKET BABYLON
While this might not be the most obscure or the most quintessentially Shoreditch of places due to its anything-but-unobtrusive location smack bang in the middle of Bethnal Green Road, Beach Blanket Babylon is an absolute gem. Its lush, luxurious furnishings gel surprisingly well with a minimalist, desert island feel: rich red velvet drapes and leather banquette booths are offset by driftwood-panelled walls, on which hangs quirky artwork and unconventional lighting. Perhaps most notable was the music - with chilled, beachy vibes that later descended into more upbeat, but equally relaxed tunes, the soundtrack was perfectly matched to both the decor and the atmosphere.
The real star of the show was (as it should be) the drinks - these were incredible. We started off with a Bee Bee Bee (raspberry & honey) and A Walk in Shoreditch (tropical, yummy (and very rummy) flavours strongly infused with pineapple) - first 2 photos - which were possibly two of the best cocktails we've had. EVER. A clear claim to fame, but one which, we think, is justified. Their Hanging Gardens Of… (a twist on the gin garden) was also delicious - so much so that we came back hours later for one last taste! The best thing was that their happy hour deal (Sun-Weds, 5-7pm) offers any two of these beauties, or a multitude of others on the menu, plus a bar 'snack' for £15 - although the Beach Hot Jumbo Shrimp below deserves to be a meal in its own right, as they were insanely good. The staff are super friendly, and stylish without the standard Shoreditch slightly-homeless air of too-coolness. Start your night here - it's the BBBee's knees. Find out more on their website.
For a much-needed pick-me-up to arouse us from our warm, drowsy tipsiness, we stopped by Shoreditch Grind, right by Old Street Station (Exit 8). Again, being firmly entrenched in the area's image, hipsters may turn their noses up at its popularity (after all, it is more than a minute old which in this region equates to ancient) but they then miss out on a mean martini. Our fave by far was the Krack'n Rum, zesty counterpart of the classic Espresso Martini, made with Kraken rum, Kahlua, and orange bitters. With just enough kick, its a scrumptious way to recharge yourself in prep for a long night. Plus the interior is pretty cool, too, with neon signs, retro branding, exposed brick and spiral cast-iron staircase. Oh, and they serve their own brand of beans. What more could you want? Website here.
Having wanted to go to this uber-cool speakeasy (how many places can you flush yourself through a toilet door, Harry Potter-style, into a ship-themed basement bar?!) for months, we were heartbroken to find out we had missed the boat. Portside Parlour went from pop-up to stay-up whilst its hidden underground section vanished with their Broadway Market location that is sadly no more. However, its new home on Rivington Street is eccentric in its own right, a palace fit for a pirate 'decked' out (geddit) in helms, pendant lights and gilt galore. If you love rum (and what normal person doesn't) then this is the place for you. Ask the very amiable barman to make you a concoction according to your tastes - we will be going back for an Autopilot very soon. As it's under restaurant licensing the drinks have to come with tapas, but this is by no means a bad thing… the breaded eggplant fritters, stuffed with pinenuts and manchego were arrrr-mazing. All of this combines to make a truly unique drinking 'porthole' - parrot and peg leg optional. Explore the depths of the ocean (or just their website) here.
Drawn in by its gorgeous branding (see below), Nightjar was another that was top of the to-go list. However, we were evidently not the only ones that thought so - its capacity of 75 was fully booked when we arrived, but we squeezed in (quite literally) an hour down the line. Greeted with a bowl of freshly-popped corn, we flicked through a very extensive cocktail list, divided according to category of Pre-prohibition, Prohibition, Post-war or Signatures. Never ones to do things by half, we opted for a Hurricane Camille and a Secret - complete with mini eggs stuck on with chocolate, serious brownie points. The granadilla-peel cup was filled with an aniseedy spirit, set alight (naturally). As the waitress recommended, it was 'an experience' - a very good one at that. Although not as exclusive as we hoped, this prohibition-themed, very glamourous bar complete with silky smooth notes from the jazz pianist was a worthwhile stop. The secretive, almost clandestine feel is heightened by the bar staff who gestured that photos were frowned upon, playing out their 1920s roles to the tee. For more, go to their website.