Cocktails in the capital

Martha Alexander attends the opening of Bourne & Hollingsworth’s newest offering. A uniquely designed and intimate basement bar, Rev JW Simpson focuses on high quality, classic cocktails and the best service in town

Get ready for a bold statement: I have sourced the best cocktails in the capital. Hands down. Or hands up in surrender – because what’s on offer at Reverend JW Simpson just cannot be argued with.

Brought to you by the people behind Bourne & Hollingsworth, this is a discreet basement cubbyhole under Goodge Street and if the drinks served last night are anything to go by is set to be just as popular.

Named after a previous occupant, the décor remains unchanged. And that feels a bit weird: peeling wallpaper with squares and rectangles of less faded colour where pictures once were, is perhaps a retro push too far. On smelling the just-dry paint in the loos, I did hear someone ask if refurbishments were still underway in the bar area itself. However, teamed with comfy banquets, tiny little tables and low lighting, after a while (and alcohol consumption) it just works.

I realised last night as I greedily drained the last dregs of my fifth and final concoction of the evening that I’ve not had a decent cocktail before now. There always seems to be something to complain about: too weak, too strong, too sickly, too rich, mean portions via ice cube trickery. In many so-called cocktails bars ingredients are combined with little regard for quantity or ratio.

At Reverend JW Simpson, an accurate alchemy of ingredients is as important as the ingredients themselves.

They have also put paid to the stereotype that cocktails are seen, in this day and age as a sort of hen party staple: sugary, girls-only treats by including things like whisky and port as the basis for some of the drinks.

Now, I don’t give thanks for port – it conjures up images of stilton and tweed or maybe a gentlemen’s drinking society – and certainly not a central London cocktail bar. However, I grudgingly tried the Port In A Storm because it would quite literally have been rude not to after it had been prepared so lovingly and beautifully. Who knew that when mixed with dark rum, bitters, fresh lime and ginger beer, the grandfather’s choice not only has an image overhaul but is also a key component of one of the most delicious beverages ever created?

Other favourites included the Mead Feast (mead!), which included basil, honey and quince liquor, lemon juice and bitters, added to the eponymous ingredient and a Prune Manhattan – which married liquorice, and orange zest with rye whisky. What I loved was the inventiveness of the menu – and the revelation it provided when you left your comfort zone.

Prices ranged from £8 – £9.50, which isn’t bad for perfection.