5cc, Exmouth Market
Here are the vital statistics on 5CC. The name stands for ‘5 Cocktail Club’ (well I’m 90% sure this is the case, I can’t find anything online that confirms it). It’s hidden away on the top floor of an English pub called the Exmouth Arms, and would be hard to stumble across if you weren’t ‘in the know’. It’s also the sister venue to a bar of the same name, which dwells beneath the Well & Bucket in Bethnal Green.
Despite this, it could well be related to the sexy Scotch club in St James. Both share an affinity for leather armchairs, taxidermy and Paul Raymond-esque neon lights. The key differential is that 5CC is more likely to be playing Dizzy Gillespie over 90s dance remixes, which means it’s perfect for a night of civilised conversation.
I was told that this bar ‘wasn’t really about food’, but then I looked at the menu and saw Oysters wrapped in smoked bacon, creamed leeks and crushed hazelnuts (£14 for 6). To be fair to my source though, all other food plates were just upgraded pub snacks like smoked almonds (£4) and olives (£4). Don’t bother with wine or beer here, you can do all that downstairs. This bar places a focus on cocktails and ‘vintage’ creations, as many of the liquors are sourced from specialist suppliers.
The Lavender Fizz cocktail (£9) had more of a kick to it than its unthreatening name would suggest, the Rhubarb and Ginger Cooler was refreshing and the Mary Pickford (rum, pineapple and grenadine) tasted like a Caribbean holiday. The Kiwi Margarita was described as ‘a harmonious blend of tequila, mint and kiwi’ which intrigued me since I would have never pinned the word ‘harmonious’ next to Mexico’s deathliest distilled export. It was tangy and delicious though. For those after something harder, the vintage liquors will do the trick. Try The Boulevardier, a concoction of bourbon, sweet vermouth and Campari.
Your date will not expect to see a cocktail bar on walking into a pub, so why not play that to your advantage? Agree to meet her at the Exmouth Arms for a glass of wine, lead her straight past the bar, up the stairs and surprise her with a considerably more sophisticated night than she would have prepared for. If you’re feeling confident, you can delay the surprise by getting a few beers in first. If you get hungry, stroll across the road to Morito, one of London’s best (and potentially only) Moorish tapas bars.
There’s not much to fault here, though it can be little quiet towards the beginning of the week. Opt for a Thursday or Friday.