A Hidden Fitzrovia Bar For Those In The Know

Vijay's Lounge ★★★☆☆

A Hidden Fitzrovia Bar For Those In The Know Vijay's Lounge 3
Glass birds and wooden goblets: among the cocktail vessels at Vijay's Lounge.

This bar, tucked away above Lokhandwala on Charlotte Street, has enough backstory to outstrip even the restaurant downstairs. The restaurant is themed on ornate lines already: the illicit lovenest of a Victorian aristocrat, Lady Charlotte, and her Mumbai street boss lover, Vijay Kapur.

The new, hidden bar upstairs is Vijay's HQ, where Mumbai crime lords would gather, drink and exchange contraband. This is the place to come if you're a fan of the heavy theming of London's crop of speakeasies (you can read our round-up here) but are willing to sacrifice the secrecy in exchange for some sunshine; windows open onto the street, keeping it airy even on the heatwave evening we visit, and there's a small, secluded terrace at the back.

The cocktails are just as elaborate as the backstory, the tiny bar so crammed with vials and hand-labelled bottles of syrups it looks like an old apothecary shop. Every drink comes in a different vessel, every cocktail's a labour of elegant, painstaking love for the bar staff.

Sometimes that complexity pays off beautifully. The Shootout At Lokhandwala is a punchy balance of sweet and bitter (made with Suze, rye whiskey, Martini Rosso, cherry brandy and bitters). The Contraband's a complex beast (bourbon-sherry-amaro mix, splash of maraschino liqueur, double bitters) that sounds like something you'd end up with after an end-of-night minesweeping session at a Walkabout, but turns out to be a smooth harmony of different rich, bass notes. We order it out of curiosity, finish it with starry eyes.

Other times it works less well; the Like A Bird sounds solid on paper but comes in a blown-glass bird, the drink light-pink and blandly sweet — fiddly to drink, difficult to put down and feels more focused on instagrammability than enjoyment. And the overall effect of all that complexity is the small bar sometimes struggles to keep up with the steady flow of drinkers (likewise orders for the brilliant bar snacks, courtesy of the restaurant kitchen downstairs) on the weekday evening we drop in.

But it's early days for Vijay's, and we reckon the staff/demand ratio will be easily solved. Until then, we can think of far worse places to be waiting a while for a drink than this pretty spot.

Vijay's Lounge (by reservation only), above Lokhandwala, 93 Charlotte Street, W1T 4PY.

Last Updated 08 May 2018

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