Purl bar, London  » Entertainment  »
4.0
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50-54 Blandord Street, London
  • Of course, I was served a very strong ice cream which, though delicious, was more frozen than was comfortable
  • This was when what started out as a mediocre experience turned into a magical one
  • We named our favourite spirits (rum for me, gin for the fiance) and explained that we liked strong, rich drinks

    • by hotstuff
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      Cocktails have received enormous attention from bartenders in recent years. Delving into classic cocktail books from the 1930s and adapting the style and flair of Prohibition-era bars, it’s not uncommon to feel you’ve stepped into a time warp when you visit one of these new-wave speakeasies. Bartenders slick back their hair and wear suspenders and braces, handling spoons and shakers with the precision of a scientist. 75 years ago, policemen destroyed barrels of whiskey and beer in a move to make every American teetotal and repair the worn fabric of society, forcing bars to go underground, admitting only customers who knew the right people or a secret password. Classic drinks like the Old-Fashioned or the Manhattan bloomed in the fugitive atmosphere of the speakeasy.

      Amidst the massive flight and train delays last year, I went to London a day ahead of my flight to the States to visit my family for Christmas. So, on a bracingly cold winter’s night, my fiance and I trudged out of our hotel and into the snow in search of adventure: almost nothing goes with a cold, Yuletide night better than a warm drink. We headed over to Purl, where we had made reservations by email earlier in the


      day. Tucked around the corner from Marylebone High Street, near Baker Street station, Purl isn’t the easiest bar to find. Luckily, it bucks the fashion of its fellow London speakeasies and actually has a prominent sign.

      Upon arrival, we walked down a few stairs into a wonderland of period fusion. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceilings of smooth, cave-like grottos where nestled armless, tawny Chesterfield sofas. Old leather chairs surrounded a dark wood coffee table in front of a cozy, open fireplace like a cross between Sherlock Holmes’ study and an American speakeasy. Although every seat was taken by a group or couple, it didn’t seem crowded. Despite this illusion of open space, we were ushered into a corner hidden from the rest of the bar, where our only neighbour was a disgruntled young piano player. A Christmas speciality of eggnog was on the menu, with the option of being served as traditionally or as an ice-cream. When I ordered it, the barmaid didn’t ask which one I’d like, which I dumbly assumed meant I would be served the traditional eggnog. Of course, I was served a very strong ice cream which, though delicious, was more frozen than was comfortable: my tongue repeatedly got stuck ...


      • to it. Like many London bars, Purl’s cocktails are on average a price £10-£12, so this felt like a bit of a waste. We couldn’t help but think that we, like the piano player, were tucked away so that none of the more glamorous patrons could see us.

        Later, though, we decided to stand at the bar. This was when what started out as a mediocre experience turned into a magical one. We ordered some of their more popular drinks, such as the Mr Hyde’s Fixer Upper, a play on the demonic potion taken by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll. A complicated cocktail, the Mr Hyde is a mixture of 23-year-old Ron Zacapa, a cola reduction, and smoke-infused orange bitters, which is served in a dramatic cork-stopped beaker dropped into a metal container filled with solid carbon dioxide. The whole presentation is irresistibly theatrical, combining the literature with liquid that plays on the idea of liquor as a transformation philtre. Nevertheless, it was a little awkward on the narrow bar; clumsy elbows and dry ice are not a happy couple.

        After sampling a few of the house drinks, we decided to go off-menu. We named our favourite spirits (rum for me, gin for the fiance)

        and explained that we liked strong, rich drinks. The bartenders produced concoctions that blew away the drinks we had tried on the menu: a classic Vieux Carré, a heady mix of Benedictine, bitters, rye, cognac, and vermouth. As the night wore on and other less discerning customers left, the bartenders grew more fond of us, giving us samples of different spirits. We were served even a complimentary Purl, the bar’s namesake, a hot 17th century drink of mulled ale, gin, sugar and spices. While it was a rocky start, by the end of the night I felt myself hoping that my flight would be delayed so that I would have one more night to indulge at Purl.

        While the bar was highly stylised with vintage furniture and dim, moody lighting, it was not one of the detested ’style bars’ that litter the city. Although reservations are required, this is simply to ensure that everyone gets a chance to enjoy Purl’s offerings. There is no real dress code, but hoods and sportswear are not permitted. Purl’s drinks are as dear as one would expect in London (£10-£12 average), but are worth it for quality and atmosphere. Just don’t get the eggnog. And make sure to sit at the bar.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in November, 2011. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 5917111545600230/k2311a1117/11.17.11
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