A New Neighbourhood Bar Comes To Clapham South
The second bar from the people behind Tooting's Brick & Liquor, this Balham Hill offshoot has the same premise: offering an experience that's halfway between a local village pub and a Manhattan neighbourhood bar.
The aesthetics are firmly on the Manhattan side of things — raw brick, tattooed staff and a short, strong cocktail list of short, strong cocktails. But the atmosphere's village pub-esque, with enough punters already qualifying as regulars that we spot plenty being greeted by the bartenders by name, like old friends. We like the warmth — figurative and literal: on a windy October evening the bar's a mix of cosiness and crowd-heat that has us fanning ourselves with the cocktail menu like jurors in a Louisiana courtroom drama.
They take their drinks seriously: the menu opens with an infographic showing where all of their self-designed cocktails belong in quadrants of Comforting, Adventurous, Strong and Refreshing. Our Chilli, Lime and Thyme deserves its spot in the Adventurous-Refreshing crossover, a citrusy, savoury undertone rubbing up against the elderflower sweetness and the kick of tequila.
The rest of the cocktails on offer are twists on standards — the old fashioned-ish Amaro No. 2 with Disaronno, a whisky sour-ish Southside Flip with apricot brandy — with a common thread of being beautifully-presented and strong. Extremely strong. We're defeated halfway through by the Burnt Orange, which smells like thoroughly alcoholic Christmas pudding, served in a brandy glass, set alight and releasing waves of hot, boozy fumes every time we go in for a sip. Alluring but challenging. 'Like hotboxing your cocktail', our guest says, accurately. It gets swapped out immediately, no questions asked, when we let the bartender know we're struggling with it — straightforward niceness is just one perk of the bar's focus on building a herd of devoted regulars.
The Social Eats menu's a list of small plates at decent prices, filling enough to carry you through an evening of cocktails. The food isn't the star of the show here, but chorizo and mozzarella arancini stand out — greaseless, piping hot and a brilliant mix of crunch and stickiness.
Brick & Liquor's remit is making its locals happy, rather than drawing people in from across London. But with good cocktails, great service and those chorizo arancini, we wouldn't be surprised if they manage both.
Brick & Liquor Clapham, 47 Balham Hill, SW12 9DR.
Last Updated 24 October 2017