Thursday, 19 January 2012

True Speakeasy Style at The Blind Tiger

Having long been fascinated by the 1920s, I was only too glad to welcome the trend for speakeasy style cocktail bars that have been popping up all over town. Although a casual night down the local boozer certainly has its place, sometimes a return to old-world glamour, an emphasis on finely mixed cocktails, an elegant setting and a whiff of the illicit is more than welcome.

So, I was thrilled to hear about The Blind Tiger, a venue that promises ‘illicit dining and forbidden beverages’, and intrigued to see how they would present an intimate and old-world feel in a venue that transforms two nights a week into one of Clapham’s busiest and most raucous drinking holes – Lost Society.
The answer is this: that the devil is in the details. Your whole experience from start to finish is exquisitely crafted to recreate a quietly glamorous, and ever so slightly outside the law, 1920s evening out. On ringing the doorbell, your waiter will pull aside the viewing portal to ensure you come alone, before ushering you through a softly lit courtyard with an outdoor bar. Upon being seated in your candlelit booth, complete with beaded curtain for privacy, you are presented with your ‘prescription’ – prohibition era parlance for cocktail list – to select from some of the most inviting ‘medicinal liquor’ you’re likely to find. As jazz plays softly in the background, and the water tinkles from your glass-cut decanter, the candlelit ambience firmly evokes “the Golden Age of the Cocktail”, and so do the drinks.

We sampled the Jasmine and Elderflower Martini, Chili and Lemongrass Margarita, the Gentleman’s Mojito and the French 75. All were beautifully crafted and presented, using the glassware of the era ( I do love authentic champagne saucers) but special mentions go to the Chili and Lemongrass Margarita which trod the line beautifully between sweet and spicy, and the Gentleman’s Mojito which was wonderfully warming but with a crisp edge.

Having got well into the spirit, we were whisked upstairs to the restaurant area. Amazingly, this very mezzanine hosts the Lost Society dance floor on Friday and Saturday night and the place is absolutely transformed with deep brown leather sofas, crisp white tablecloths, elegant flower arrangements and a dimly lit chandelier. Just as the cocktails were elegantly presented, so our food came carefully arranged and with sophisticated touches. We started with a pigeon breast on potato rosti with quince puree, which was surprisingly delicate for what is in essence game and mash, and came beautifully presented with an edible flower. We also sampled the braised squid with mini-pan friend sea bass which was also very tasty but perhaps not quite as impressive as the pidgeon.

Moving on, we treated ourselves the Chateaubriand which arrived with wonderfully chunky potato wedges and both alioli and peppercorn sauces. The meat was tender, succulent and juicy, and we only wished we’d ordered double rations. Extra portions or not, we arrived at dessert totally stuffed, so elected to share the apple and hazelnut crumble, with cinnamon ice cream. This was rich and perfectly spiced, and managed to raise the game considerably for a dessert most people usually sample along with a Sunday roast.
Unfortunately my camera gave in before I could photograph the main and dessert courses, so you’ll have to imagine them for yourselves, but both looked as good as they tasted.

The Blind Tiger is not the cheapest place to eat and drink, but for the experience I’d say the money was worth it. It outperforms on the cocktails, as befits somewhere focussing on recreating the speakeasy vibe, yet also provides a menu that goes beyond being simply enjoyable and is fairly reasonably priced. I’d definitely recommend checking it out, and will be back with the girls for their delicious sounding Sunday Afternoon Tea too. 

The Blind Tiger
697 Wandsworth Road
Clapham, SW8 3JF

Open Sunday, Tuesday - Thursday evenings

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