On our last trip to London I was excited to visit The Bar With No Name, which is located at 69 Colbrooke Row.
As one of the longer standing cocktail bars in London and one with so much history and recognition, I was excited to experience it for myself.
It would be just the 2nd bar we hit, after the wonderful Coupette, on our 4 day London trip, and from the moment we arrived – everything just felt…off.
We showed up around 6 and there was only one other couple inside.
When we asked if we could sit at the bar, the bartender gave us that half second “Really? You want to sit here? Where I have to talk to you?” look before faking a smiling and allowing us to sit.
On top of not seeming that interested, the bartender also wreaked of cigarette smoke.
Go smoke, you do you, but at least make an attempt to mask the smell when you’re done.
The music was good, but everything about the place felt oddly pretentious – which you’d think I’d like given the name of this site.
But it was in stark contrast to say, the Connaught across town, which might be the fanciest bar I’ve ever been to, but even showing up in jeans, rainboots, and a hoodie, we’ve always been treated as though we were wearing furs and carrying a Birkin bag.
How are the Drinks at 69 Colbrooke Row?
We took a look on the menu and I decided to try the very interesting sounding Manhattan Steel Corp, which is a distilled Manhattan using Maraschino and “dry essence” whatever that is.
At the moment it was served, it felt so cool and novel! It was essentially a clear manhattan – which I’d never seen before. It’s only the crystal daiquiri at Deadshot in Portland, where I’d experienced a clear cocktail that wasn’t supposed to be clear.
However, by the end of this trip I’d learn that this was more of a trend than I’d expected. If using pandan was the trendy thing to do in the Spring of 2019 in Paris, then clear cocktails was the thing in London, experiencing similar styles of drinks at both Untitled and the Artesian.
But the important question is, how was it?
I don’t know if in the distilling process they distilled away all the flavor, or what, but it tasted borderline watery and without any complexity or interest.
I mean sure, it was a cool bout of chemistry – but if it doesn’t taste good, then what’s the point? Amirite?
Tate had an Orris Army + Navy, which was a citrusy combination gin, lemon juice, orrisroot, and orgeat.
It was a nice blend of sweet, tart, and fresh – it tasted pretty much like any one of another hundred citrus gin cocktails I’ve had in the past.
Final Thoughts on 69 Colbrooke Row
I rarely have such a negative experience that I write a negative review. I can always find positive things about the experience to share.
And I could do the same here. The space was kind of cool, the music was good, and while the cocktails weren’t exactly memorable, they very well priced by London standards at just £11 each.
I think what gets me about 69 Colbrooke Row is the fact that it was a place so revered in the cocktail world, that I truly expected something ground breaking, or at the very least delicious.
But what we got was mediocre service, disappointing cocktails, and no reason to order more than one drink.
Should things change dramatically with ownership or management, I suppose there’s a chance I’ll be back at some point. And maybe I should give it another shot, after only sampling two of the drinks.
But there is so much more that goes into making a bar great beyond just the drinks, and well? I didn’t experience any of that here.
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