If Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Cross Mulwray in ‘Chinatown’ opened a bar, this is what it would look and feel like – sexy, feline and with just a hint of mischief in the air. A bar within a bar (look for the little gold plaque announcing Opium at number 15 Gerrard Street), Peony is located in an old house that may well have served as a brothel in years gone by and there is a real sense of ‘if these walls could talk’. As you enter, you ascend the wooden staircase lit by candles and scented with incense. As you’re brought through to Peony, you are met by low hanging oriental light shades, an old oak cabinet and then you meet Rasa, the alchemist who has designed the drinks menu and who keeps bar. There is space for 25 at a push here. The beauty is in the detail as well as in Rasa’s beautiful potions; look for the curios of old china, admire the heavy crystal glassware, the elegant orchid and the tea pot collection on individual shelves on the wall.
You come to Peony to indulge or to spoil. Order a teapot for two of The Peony Punch (Absolute Blue Vodka, Dragon Fruit & Coconut puree, Cranberry juice, Lemon, Angostura bitters and Nutmeg); Rasa will ask you to choose which teapot you would like your drink served from. Gents, let your lady make the selection from the exquisite choice of china. To line the stomach, you can enjoy the Dim Sum platter, which consists of a good selection of fish, meat and vegetable favourites. Chopstick banter guaranteed. The benefit of dim sum is you can have as little or as much as you like. Fans of spicy, perhaps try the Mexican in China (Herradura Tequila, Xilli Liqueur, Grapefruit juice, Lime, Maraschino Liqueur) which is not for the faint of heart – or perhaps ask for a sake Bloody Mary to be whipped up off menu. The Li He Weishiji Sour (Chivas 12, Lime and Lemon Juice, Spice Shrub, Egg white, Antica bitters) is sweet and savoury in equal measure and the perfect accompaniment to a Siu mai parcel.
Peony is the perfect bar to bring out when the date stakes are rising. Email ahead to reserve a table and then start with a Saturday or Sunday matinee film at the Curzon Soho where you can sit back, relax with a glass of wine and enjoy some intelligent cinema together. As you re-enter the world and weary eyes are adjusting to the light, go for an enlivening wander hand in hand around Soho. Stop off at some of the independent shops to browse coffee, liquor or Italian deli food before settling down to watch the world go by as you huddle closely together over another glass of wine at one of the many cafes, such as Café Boheme on Old Compton Street. As the sun is thinking of setting, suggest getting up and going for a walk around Chinatown to admire the lights, sights and sounds. Enter Peony. By now, appetites will be ready for some tasty dim sum and stimulating cocktails. You could maybe move through to Opium to round off the night with some more electrifying libations. TAXI!
The coat cupboard door has a mind of its own so don’t sit next to it.
4. Intimate, dim lighting, boozy beverages and oriental exoticism. Yes, basically.