From the breakfast margarita with infused orange tequila and the rum based Barsmith with ginger ...
As a young man about London I drank a lot of cocktails; most of which were very bad. They were either very sweet or very creamy; often both. They always had a terrible name which was usually a form of sexual innuendo. And the overall quality was as low as the quantity was pitcher-sized high. The only place to get a good cocktail was at a hotel bar, which were the preserve of the old or the wealthy.
That was then and this is now. London’s cocktail revolution is probably about 10 years old and top-quality drinks are available at a host of good and not so good places. So a new entrant in the perennially hip area that is Farringdon would have its work cut out.
Barsmith on John Street has taken over the locale of many a failed bar (I lose track of the last one) to try and tread a now familiar bar-path. From the team that launched The Marylebone, Ben Avigdori and Lawrence Santi, Barsmith specialises in house-infused spirits and cocktails, the latter with the quite remarkable price point of £7.95 - an absolute bargain in inner-City London.
The bar is long and relatively narrow as is befitting of a location that was once home to the Long Room bar. Barsmith follows the Shoreditch style-guide of reclaimed wooden furniture, exposed and contrasting brickwork, and a hip young DJ spinning 90’s RNB and hip hop from his macbook. As with Shoreditch nowadays the punters are anything but hip – instead being a mix of suited City after-work drinkers, and pretty young things out on the flirt. The music is very loud, and the overall ambiance is festive. Christmas season feels very close.
The drinks are infused, by which I mean that they are processed to allow them to mix with various botanicals, plants, fruits and spices. More than a little curious my friend and I tried no less than six cocktails! From the breakfast margarita with infused orange tequila and the rum based Barsmith with ginger, honey, lychee and lime juice; by the way of a gin based Basil Fawlty with nectarine elderflower, and a chilli infused Heretic with lychee liqueur; ending with a Bellini Flower and a Gin and berries based Wild One. The quality was very good, although with the exception of the Barsmith, lacking an alcohol kick. While this is a good thing for flavour, it’s not so good for keeping a handle on your sobriety! My favourite was probably the Heretic, but it could have been any of three or four. We ate a moreish Portobello mushroom pizza and a lovely but slightly messy Calzone with spicy sausage which was superb. We also tried a couple of doughnuts for dessert of which I’m not normally a fan but were delightfully delicious.
Barsmith is a nice bar that I suspect will do very well. The cocktails are decent, and the vibe is fun. If I was still a young man drinking a lot of cocktails, Barsmith would possibly have been just the place for me.
Dining and imbibing ** 1/2
Flirting and partying ****
Romantic canoodling **
18-20 St John Street
London EC1M 4AY