Bermondsey Arts Club, Bermondsey
From the street, for all intents and purposes, this is a public toilet. The only thing to give the game away is a rather muscly bouncer standing at the entrance looking rather conspicuous and just a little bit intimidating. After one final check of Google Maps, approach and you’ll find a menu attached to the railings adorned with the insignia BAC – welcome to Bermondsey Arts Club.
This cool den of debauchery is one of many to take advantage of the attractive Victorian railings and fine marble clad cubicle separators from the lavs of yore (they don’t build ’em like they use to!). Descend the steps, pull back the curtained entrance and boy what a scene: a marble topped bar straight ahead, art-deco glass ceiling above and chequered black and white tiling below. It’s got The Great Gatsby written all over it. On Wednesdays, you’ll find an intimate jazz duo nestled in the corner of the room serenading smooth looking couples and a cluster of Americans looking to fulfil their speakeasy needs.
Olives are offered as a mere pleasantry, you’re here for the hooch – and quite right too. A cocktail joint at its purist, you’ll find one damn good ‘Old Negroni’ served in a small brown bottle after being barrel-aged in American oak. The ‘Bermondsey Gardens’ (St Germain, Beefeater, lime, apple, cucumber and mint) is served tall and decorated with sprigs of fresh mint and large slices of cucumber. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, definitely go for the ‘Fairglass’ (Makers Mark whiskey, guava molasses and vanilla marshmallow syrup) which comes garnished with two caramelised marshmallows – pure alcoholic joy!
Grab a drink around the corner in Bermondsey Square to ease yourself into the date before descending underground – once at Bermondsey the cocktails take a little bit of prep so it’s a good idea to turn up a little tipsy to keep the convo rolling. Reserve a corner table for 8:30 as this place fills fast after 8. Make it a mid-week treat so that you’re able to catch the jazz and appreciate the ambiance in full swing. This is a place to nestle down for the night and work your way through a magnificent cocktail list. Supplied with cool 1920s jazz and surroundings to match, you’ll be snogging in this luxury lav in no time.
It’s a classic and intimate space, so make sure you can pack the swagger to pull it off.
3. The gin is cold, the jazz is hot.