So what do you do when a friend has finished her exams for a 3 year course? You treat her to a celebratory cocktail of course! Plus (and let's face it the more important reason) you get an excuse to go out on a weekday! Do I need an excuse? No. But it's nice to not have to justify it to your bank balance the next day.
I decided to try a recommended Yelp spot, diving back in time to this late Victorian/ early 20th Century speakeasy. We were early (previous plans fell through) but the bar was really accommodating and let us have the table earlier than I'd booked. We were shown to a 'table' - I use the word loosely because it was an old fashioned tea tray balanced expertly on an old Victorian bath tub, high sides and everything! We sat on benches (the ladies complained but a scatter cushion made it comfortable enough for me) and marvelled at the surroundings. This was an incredibly authentic bar, down to the small details - something I hadn't seen too much in other speakeasies. Nice to know that someone had great attention to detail. The menu had great names for the cocktails and were priced between £9-11, more than a good enough price. The ingredients sounded a tad pretentious, things you wouldn't often had heard of at all before. But we jumped in with 3 choices that the waitress then described to us. Drinks were served (eventually, friendly but slow service) to us - sweet and yet bitter in a large wine glass tasting of raspberries, a short drink with desiccated pear and pungent alcoholic flavours and a green concoction called Witches Finger (apple based alcohols with a rice pudding foam). All drank very easily but didn't quite have that extra something I look for in a 5* cocktail.
Another downside, we couldn't get hold of the waitress in a fairly empty bar to get our bill so we had to go to the front desk. Disappointing. Overall, top marks for originality, decor and friendly service. 4* because it was slow, the lighting was too dark and it didn't have the 'Je ne sais quoi' element
Bad day? May I suggest having a Mother's Ruin and some amazing fat based popcorn?
Gin. popcorn. More gin. That's my story at Whistling Shop. A bit hard to find but I do love a good cellar bar and the service was pretty darn spot on as well.
Just to preface: My actual rating is 3.5, but I decided to go closer to 4 than 3.
When you walk into the Worship Street Whistling Shop, you'll need a minute to let your eyes adjust.
I personally love the intimacy the low level lighting provides. I can't help but imagine all the private tête-à-têtes and clandestine affairs that occurred in this very place.
The fact that it's located down stairs and in a basement gives a nod towards a speakeasy style, but the sign outside the door means it is just that: a nod.
Although it was relatively early in the evening, we managed to snag three stools surrounding an old fashioned barrel serving as a table. Just around the corner though, I could see comfy settees and low tables and stools perfect for first dates.
The decor consisted of wall paper or a mural (too busy conversing to look closely) that resembled bookshelves covered with books. I'm guessing this was someone's idea of creating a personal library-like setting.
I wish I had taken more time to examine the bar area, but from the pictures on Yelp it looks amazing and with all the accoutrements to make you feel like you stepped back in time.
Because we sat in the bar area, Greg ordered our drinks directly from the bartender - a Manhattan, Tom Collins and something with rye. All were delicious! Lots of flavor, good quality ingredients, and (at least for me) easy to sip and savor.
Truly, my only complaint for the evening is the music was a tad too loud for my taste.
The Whistling Shop is a gorgeous bar which seriously impresses when you walk in (would be great for a date). The menu is kind of a challenge to read, partly because it is so dark and partly because it is full of stuff I'd never heard of - there is a even a glossary although we were all still a bit bewildered! Staff were very sweet, although our poor server was new and was struggling to answer our questions.
Drinks are very expensive, cocktails listed on the menu start at about £9.50. The vodka martini was kind of awesome - sort of like drinking delicious petrol. I tried a gun barrel gin with lemon seltzer - the gin came in a separate glass so you could try it - mine had a smoked almonds and cherry flavour which gave it a nice hint of sweetness. I dumped my gin in the seltzer after a few sips which I then regretted because I couldn't taste it any more. The seltzer itself was absolutely delicious - one of the most delightful refreshing soft drinks I've had in a long time. So I would suggest you enjoy them separately! There didn't seem to be much in the way of food - a colleague ordered a cheeseboard which didn't look particularly impressive for £12 although I liked the cute old plates that came with it. Anyway, I would definitely recommend this place: fun, fancy and worth checking out.
Whistling Shop is a prohibition bar that's not so much hidden as it is subtle. It's not a place you're going to notice but it's a place of note. See the sign hanging above the door as you walk down Worship Street? Stop in.
The first thing you notice is it's a classic space. Literally. Antiques on old shelves, bartenders in vests, a cocktail menu that's full of drinks from a bygone era. It does feel like stepping out on London and stepping into... Well, I guess old London. A different London.
The cocktails are fantastic. They had a whole selection of gin drinks, which I love due to being a classic gin drinker. It came in a long slender glass with more drink it in than I thought (I was worried I would sip through the thing quickly but it was actually perfect for a long conversation.) The ingredients were made in-house, they told me, which was a nice touch.
And the service, superb. Great bartenders who will help you figure out exactly the kind of drink you would like.
They take both walk-ins and reservations, although if you'd like a spot, you should call ahead. It's not always busy, but when it's busy, it's busy busy.
Overall, a spot I was happy to walk into and would be happy to walk into again.
Lovely place with really friendly bartenders. I've been there both for a private event and just on a regular evening. Both times were great experiences. For the private event we undertook a cocktail mixing course. What fun! On our evening out, we ordered off menu and were delighted with the bartender's choice drinks. You absolutely must taste the cream gin. Very indulgent, but totally delicious.
Hand-crafted cocktails and attentive bartenders are key to a good social drinking experience. The setting is a hipster like environment with some interesting cocktails. We celebrated a friend's birthday there and it was our first time. Good cocktails are hard to find in London however that seems to be changing with places like the Whistling Shop opening up. It's a great place to meet friends and hang out. If you stick around long enough you might get some good old fashion prank entertainment by asking a drunk person for one of the books off the wallpapered shelf. Just go and you'll understand.
Whistling Shop is a fun and interesting little place to wet your whistle y'all. Cheers!
Now this... is a pub. You heard me. You can glam up a cellar, make it smell of lavender and get a swanky looking menu, but still, it's a pub, not a speakeasy and not a cocktail bar.
The staff were friendly enough and when I came in there was an air of confidence from the man behind the bar. I ordered my Aviation and he popped off to make it. He came back 5 minutes later to announce he had no maraschino. So, that'll be a "No" to the Aviation then. Browsing the menu I select one of their hot seasonal drinks. Oh wait, they haven't turned the hob on yet so even though they are on the menu you can't actually have them.
Okay, maybe I was just unlucky, but with all the excitement and hype over this place I left thinking I just didn't want to go back again. It's certainly not as classy as the Night Jar and not quite as cosy as Happiness Forgets. Saying that, I wouldn't not show up to a friends party here, I might just not suggest bringing a friend here to impress them.
It's also a bit of a shame that this place is already filling up with Liverpool Street suits, giving it a "douchie" vibe (sorry to use such an American term here) too. OKay rant over, I'm heading to another bar for a drink.
Now *this* is a cocktail bar. A small menu of sample concoctions that merely crack open the floodgate of options with a huge selection of sprits, homemade bitters, sodas, and a variety of other ingredients eagerly awaiting you behind the bar. (Not to mention skilled bartenders, because, you know, they're involved as well.)
Not for those who tend to favour umbrellas or pineapples in their drinks, but if you're up for a liquid nitrogen chocolate cake or dragon popcorn, this might just be your new spot. It's dark. It's sultry. It's fantastically low-key. The devil is in the deep inhales...
'What are you doing this weekend?' Drinking x 3.
In order to get reacquainted with my fair London town, I must pay a visit to my favourite drinking dens and discover some new sources of boozy downfall. Upon hearing of The Whistling Shop on Worship Street, I knew it was a must. Words like libation and emporium are tossed about freely on their website, jostling up against the promises of laboratory and rotary evaporated drinks. You don't have to ask me twice, guvnor.
All kitted up in Victorian butcher garb, the barmen are a bit rough around the edges but politely offer cocktail menus and passed my first test, the cocktail recommendation. At a cocktail bar, NEVER choose your first drink yourself, get them to recommend you something based off your likes and dislikes, you'll get the real measure of how good they are. Bartenders who say 'oh everything is good' are shit.
I drank a totally clear Tin and Jonic with Grand Marnier and lemon that didn't blow me away but was a good starter for 4 in the afternoon. My friend had the Panacea, whiskey, honey and lavender with a frothy sage dust sprinkle. Very good. Their gin fizz slid down easy and left me a little tipsy as I left. After two drinks, we were both tipsy, a rarity for me. Shows they don't skimp on the liquor.
The Whistling Shop is huge, loads of space for you and your gin swizzing friends.
The vibe was cool. And the service was welcoming. My cocktail was good. But I can't help but feel this is a bog-standard prohibition theme bar.
I never imagined I would ever utter the words 'bog-standard prohibition theme bar', though. Points for that, Whistling Shop. Points for that.
It's supposedly not prohibition themed at all, given its Victorian schtick.
/COULD HAVE FOOLED ME/
I literally gasped with excitement when I got an email from Purl, The Whistling Shop's sister cocktail bar, announcing the opening of this location on Worship Street.
While Purl's cocktails appear to have more visual bells and whistles (fog, fire, and the like), the cocktails at The Whistling Shop are still artfully complicated and absolutely delicious. You know you're at a place where the barmen really know their stuff when the menu comes with its own glossary of house-created ingredients. Some sound a bit dubious (walnut ketchup, which blended deliciously into the Punch and Judy that I ordered and isn't actually walnut or ketchup) and others just plain cool (WS2 High Pressure Hydrosol).
The bar also has a few interesting features like an Honesty Bar, which won't be opened for another month or so but is slated to run an interesting pay-what-you-wish concept. The ambiance of the Whistling Shop is dark, classy, and very Victorian -- save for the music, which was a bit confusing at times. And, for the cherry on top (or, perhaps, lavender powder, which is what they garnish their "Panacea" cocktail with) ... the people who work there are extremely knowledgeable and friendly.
I love London's pub scene. LOVE IT! But, sometimes I get a little homesick. I didn't know it until I walked into this place. (Although, to my knowledge, Seattle never had anything as cool as this place.)
WSWS reminds me of so many things but, oddly, nothing I've ever actually experienced before. Probably because it looks like a movie set, or something out of a movie. It's super cool. I'm probably not cool enough to have been. But, that's what makes it awesome because when you walk down the stairs you're greeted kindly and treated nicely. There are no airs, no attitude. The staff is friendly and helpful. Plus, they make really amazing cocktails with home-made ingredients. And, they put egg whites in some of them. My gin cocktail was like a meringue dessert.
I'm definitely not cool enough to go back but go back I will.
In the land of a speakeasy / prohibition / old style cocktail bars, this one fits the bill. The only thing is that there is nothing all that great, exciting, or unique about it. Except that it has lots of space.
Nice vibe, good cocktails, but nothing too unique. I'd rather be at nightjar or happiness forgets or colebrooke row for those prices.
Open until 2am, can't get in at 1.15am as "too close to closing time"; ridiculous, shortsighted, inscrutable and arrogant door policy. Short review but enough said.
Lovely staff, great cocktails and atmosphere, it was very, very dark. Not really sure what I expected an old gin palace to look like, but apparantly its bare bricks and wooden barrel tables.
Delicious and lots of fun, not too pricey for the high standard of drinks.
I was really excited to come here. I've been to Purl Bar before and apparently they are owned by the same people. Booked a table,off I went.
Looks good, smelt a bit funny though! Had a wee look at the menu and looked exciting. Tried our first cocktails. They were.....alright. Tried our second ones...better but still nowhere near as exciting as Purl Bar. I think some of the reviews here have hit the nail on the hear when they say Pub, not a speak easy, not a cocktail bar. Honestly, I think there's nothing wrong with that. I'm a big fan of pubs. But when you are expecting something else, it can be a bit of a let down.
Other then that it is quite a nice place to sit and the crowd seemed to be having a good time so the atmosphere was good.
Might return, but not for a special occasion.
Whistling Shop was my second London cocktail bar experience. The first two things I noticed looking through the menu were: 1. Short list, which is augmented by some barrel aged drinks on a later page and 2. There are a lot of words I don't understand in relationship to my cocktails.
Immediately, I headed to the bars for answers about irradiation, photo-synthesis, barrel aging, bacteriums, their Kaboom still, etc. There are mad scientists lurking behind this bar and they have an off-site laboratory. They do some unusual treatments to their drinks. Browse through their online menu to understand this. The great thing is that Ben is perfectly willing to answer your questions and he does this quite thoroughly.
I only had one cocktail, The Irradiation Cocktail, shared the meat and cheese boards with friends, and sampled drinks from the aforementioned friends. The Irradiation Cocktail was very drinkable. I swore I was merely sipping this herbaceous drink, but it disappeared too rapidly. I also got to sample their chocolate wine (way too sweet for me) and a special French Whisky which sits behind the bar.
The cocktails aren't dressed fancy, but they use expensive "threads" through their laboratory experiments. I was assured there is a difference between a treated and non-treated cocktail, but the treated cocktails didn't amaze me. Their customer service did, though. Other drinks do feature unusual flavor profiles. They also have a Monkey to Man cocktail that isn't finished yet, though its on the menu.
If you're in the mood for some unusual flavors, want to spend a little more, and enjoy being treated well, come to the Whistling Shop.
Likely Looking Londoners: Worship Street Whistling Shop
As soon as I knew I was heading to London I started to compile a list of places that no matter what - I MUST VIST. This wasn't even on my radar but as soon as I landed almost every London foodie worth their salt Twittered me - 'get your arse down to the Whistling Shop'.
I had no idea what they were talking about - but a short search later showed that this great new bar has just opened its doors to massive acclaim for their cocktails, all dreamed up in their onsite laboratory. And no - not like the god-awful laboratory bar tourist trap housed in one of Melbourne's laneways.
In true London fashion, had you not known what you were looking for you would have passed straight by, let alone realised there is one of the worlds best bars hidden in the basement. Not to mention the fact that it sits in an area that really has nothing else going on in it during the weekend (situated as it is in the Moorgate-Liverpool Street banker Monday to Friday enclave). You need to make a special decision to travel here knowing you probably will have to travel elsewhere to get any other food or drink
And look at the prices of the cocktails - the equivalent of no more than $12. We decided upon the Black Cat's Martini - Beefeater gin, martini extra dry, vermouth, removed cream. Fantastic drinking and perfectly executed flavours with an alcohol content to blow your socks off.
The Civility Cocktail - Lillet Blanc, martini extra dry, WS^2 exhaustion tonic, WS^2 rasberry syrup. This cocktail was a very easy drinker and had a nice rounded sweet edge that worked well.
My brother decided upon the Broiler-Maker - Hennessy Fine de Cognac, super heat treated beer 'vermouth', WS^2 roasted yeast bitters. This was one of my favourites and any beer lover who doesn't mind a flirtini or two may be lead down a very dark path with this concoction.
I just had to choose the most outrageously sounding cocktail: Radiation Aged Cocktail - Diplomatico rum, WS^2 chip pan bitters, Campari, Dubonnet, Absinthe, WS^2 Grenadine, Irradiated. Straight off the bat you know that mix is going to be lethal with a Whistling twist. The first mouthful was a right-hook to the jaw but as the flavours mixed together it became one of the most elegantly balanced cocktails I have ever had.
When I once again live in London this is going to be the bar where I will drag friends along and watch their faces as they too stumble upon one of London's true secret basement bars.
Worship Street Whistling Shop
63 Worship Street
London EC2A 2DU
I wanted to love this place but quite frankly as Lizzie G said, this is a Victorian chic pub with a cocktail menu.
It was also bad to get a seat even though on a Thursday night I would considering this bar quite empty. Even 69 Colebrooke Row could squeeze more people in and its half its size.
My drink was okay but my friend had the 'cappuccino baby' with tasted like gone off milk with coke and vodka. I gagged upon trying a sip.
Will I be coming back? Definitely not.
Way less impressed with itself than other local speakeasies...I'm looking at you, Nightjar. It's like your local acquired speakeasy decor and switched from beer to tasty cocktails. Bartenders are down to earth, knowledgeable and aim to please. I'd definitely recommend this place if you're worried about getting in at the others or have a slightly larger party.
I wasn't particularly blown away. I found choosing a cocktail difficult, because I didn't know most ingredients or modernist techniques described on the menu (despite the fact that they have a glossary at the end of the menu. That's just too much work to order a drink)
It also didn't look that they have an awful lot of choices (I believe they're in the process of changing their menu though)
Resulting cocktails were a bit hit and miss. Exploded vodka martini was amazing ( not sure why it's 'exploded' though), but we weren't all that lucky. I don't like beetroot in my cocktail, but that's just me.
The place looks nice, if not a bit dark. Probably a great atmosphere when it's busy. It wasn't on a Tuesday, so a bit depressing. I would try it on a Thursday or Friday...
Traditional bar, suitable for meetings regardless if they're business or friend gathering. The drinks are great and they have pretty much everything wine, beer, cocktails, hard liquor, whatever you need for stress release.
Interesting drinks, but service is usually slow and inattentive, based on four times there. Music can be too loud most nights as well. Expect to shout to be heard by your tablemates.
Had heard good things about this place, so decided to amble up to Whistling Shop on a post-Tayyabs jaunt. The overall feel of the place is nice - similar to the bar area in Callooh Callay, and I was somewhat amused by the bookshelf wallpaper.
As for the drinks, I plumped for a Mandrake's Fizz (white wine cocktail with peach, elderflower jelly), and the Bacca thing (can't remember the exact name) - Chase Rhubarb, English sparkling wine and cardamom. I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed - both had decent flavour, but the Mandrake was too dominated by the white wine and needed to be a little bit sweeter to bring out the other flavours. The second was interesting, I liked the cardamom flavour, although the rhubarb was a bit anonymous. They also do a selection of Camden Brewery beers which are relatively reasonable at £4/pint (hey, that's what the Camden Brewery bar charges...). However, I thought that the additional service charge was a bit cheeky when we weren't getting table service and I really didn't feel I got much value for money considering the comparable pricing to places such as Nightjar, yet with the lower quality of the drinks.
On the plus side, it wasn't hugely full on Saturday night, so it may be a place to go if you find that others are booked up.
This place is a little underground bar. It's dark, woody, and is lit by dim candelight. There are bar stools, cushy leather seats, whatever you might like. Their menu looks really interesting, with ingredients like live bacteria and soil distillate. I settled on the Deadly Nightshade, which has cognac, super heat treated chocolate wine, apricot and aubergine crisp. The drink was interesting conceptually but the cocktail itself didn't blow me away with its taste.
Love this bar! Staff is beyond nice. Ample room but still feels cozy. Good bar food (charcuterie, cheese, olives, yummmm!). And obviously tasty cocktails. i highly recommend the homemade liquors they have. I had a very lovely gin one on the rocks!
What we'd heard: Time Out award-winning bar with insano mad-scientist cocktails in a Steampunk Victorian-age bar on the fashionable edge of Shoreditch/Hoxton/central East London.
What we got: Excellent insano mad-scientist cocktails (irradiated ingredients, herbal infusions etc. etc.) that actually were excellently presented, superbly flavourful and expertly mixed, by attentive, friendly staff. BUT the interior was nowhere near as cool, hip or well done as had been made out most likely these guys found a space (under a pub) and just painted it up a bit. It was also too dark in there and a bit unloved feeling menus were frayed and tatty for instance. We went Thursday night, about 1030pm and it was fairly empty not very buzzy, and with a crowd of middle-aged people in suits who'd strayed from the City perhaps, rather than young Hoxton things.
With a bit of love, some subtle promotion and a bit of a smarten up, this bar could be spectacular. As it is, it's great for interesting cocktails but not a lot else.
We didn't try food.
We went on a rainy Friday night so the bar should have been packed but it was pretty quiet. The back part of the bar where people were eating was quite full, but we were told quite sternly that it was for people who'd booked only, even though there were some tables free.
The decor was pretty cool, in a basement lit up with candles and gas lamps with lots of exposed brickwork, so it felt very atmospheric. I imagine in the winter with the fire going it will look beautiful, but I wouldn't choose to come here on a sunny evening.
As for the cocktails, the barman was very knowledgeable telling us all about the science and history behind them, which was really interesting, but to be honest I think the last 100 years have done big favours to cocktail menus. They were really alcoholic and quite salty and grainy in texture with strange garnishes like radishes. Perhaps my palate is too modern but I prefer strongly flavoured cocktails with fruit or coffee or mint. Also they were all pretty expensive.
Worth a trip but I am not sure I'd hurry back.
Voted the TimeOut best bar of 2011, you'd expect the quality to be super-high at this next-generation gin palace (an oxymoron perhaps, but you'll see what I mean). It certainly hits a good few high notes, with only a smattering of minor disappointments.
The drinks themselves are well-presented, flavourful, and often uniquehow many cocktails that you've tried in the last decade can you claim to be made using walnut ketchup, 'removed cream", or a hydrosol base? Nope, didn't think so :) the brief but well-considered cocktail list manages to walk the line between classically-inspired, old-school supping and molecular mixology. Their house Gin Fizz (which differentiates itself from the norm by way of olive oil and vanilla sugar) was one of the best interpretations I've had, and a similar offering that has been aged methode traditionelle (i.e. undergoing fermentation with yeast in the bottle, like a champagne) was a bizarre twist on a very standard drink. In fact, you'll see a lot similar experimentation here, whether it's barrel-ageing spirits blended with various botanicals and oddments, or irradiating a cocktail to see how its chemical structure alters over time (don't worry, it's safe to drink).
Food was also a high point, coming out in small platters for two, consisting of 3-5 courses, as part of a special tasting menu. Much trickery and wizardry was involved, as if Heston Blumenthal had decided to move into making canapes rather than a seven course dinner. There's also an abundance of special oyster dishes we didn't get to try, as well as other traditional British fayre.
So, all good? Well, somewhat. The food itself, while lovely, was subject to a bit of a kerfuffle; we only received half of what we'd ordered, due to a breakdown in communication. Luckily, the charming waitress was on hand with a complimentary sweet platter of goodies that we hadn't asked for, as well as comping the missing/delayed dishes. So, as with all places that abide by the rules of enlightened hospitality, a potential failure was reclaimed by terrific staff.
I'll be going back a few times hence, just to keep you all informed of how it measures up from the aspects I didn't get to cover this time around.
Nice victorian ambience with knowledgeable and helpful bartenders. I had the gin fizz - which was too sweet for me but then followed it up with a tequila based negrino that was really good (based on the suggestion of the bartender). Will most definitely head back that way.
Amazing mixologists here. Went on a quiet night and he took the time to ask each of us exactly what kind of palates we have and what we were looking for in a drink. He made each of us custom drinks based on this and did NOT disappoint. Most delicious drink EVER!
Our initial impression was, wow, what a find this bar, with its small simple street-level sign and dingy stairs to a low-lit underground hubub, is a faithful follower of the latest fashion for secret everything. It carries off well a paradoxical warm old-fashioned yet cool and informal ambience. Although when looking at some of the different characters drinking, and half listening to the small live jazz band, I couldn't help thinking that many were really City business people in disguise! This place is right on the Shoreditch boundary but not quite right on the Shoreditch vibe. The service was slow and the waiter didn't know much about their interesting cocktails and excellent whishy range (from around £9-£10) or their very limited range of British food, made even more limited by non-availability of scotch eggs and pork pies; chips at £3 were good quality if not best value. The cheeseboard was the only other veggie food on the sepia menu - this is really a place to drink and snack if you have the time and money, so we decided to go for a local Vietnamese later for some sustenance, after soaking up all the secrecy.
Highly recommended. The Million Dollar #2 cocktail was fantastic.
Loverly place in some ways. However the girl who was running the back bar on 22nd of december was one of the nastiest I've ever experienced. So rude to us! Don't know how she still has a job!!
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