2012 is undoutably the year to celebrate all things British and what better way to do it then with a bar and kitchen combining traditional and modern menu; laying out one mighty party to your taste buds! 52 North at the rim of Soho juxtapositions country classics and urban chic in one large split level venue well worth keeping on the radar.
Ambience and decor
Perhaps it's the bright runway lights running across the venue or the mix of graphic design and bare-bricked walls, but if I hadn't done my research before setting foot inside 52 North I'd say this place paid homage to New York rather than London. Nevertheless, the mix of dimmed spotlights and mismatched wooden furniture create a cosy and welcoming setting. The size of and layout of the venue also create a nice change from the usual rather crammed spaces which you tend to find in neighbouring bars in the Soho area. 52 North is mainly a sit down affair particularly on week nights when we visited, mixing large sharing tables with smaller ones, as well as a few sofas dotted around. The bar runs along the whole back wall of the venue with a large empty space in front, which is presumably filled by thirsty punters after work and during the weekend. The restaurant bar also has a second area downstairs, which also carries the cosy feeling; however it is predominantly in use at the weekend or is otherwise available for private hire. Gracing the venue with our presence on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was pretty full and buzzing with conversation and people tucking into their dinners or drinks. The crowd combined with upbeat slightly loud music made conversation hard to hear at times however became easier as the clock ticked and the venue emptied.
Clients and Atmosphere
Being on the edge of Soho and relatively new, as is to be expected on a week night, the venue pulls in a predominantly local professional crowd. Nevertheless a common desire to enjoy a good old British drink; be it beer, wine or cocktail dominates over age or profession. The large sharing tables also make way for lively conversations and buzzing groups which make this place far from stuffy and dull.
At its busy peaks, the venue draws you in with its atmosphere however because of its open space layout, can feel a bit cold once the punters start flowing out. This said, I presume getting a seat is a much smoother affair once it quietens down. Unfortunately, as it was busy on our arrival we felt somewhat like a sour lemon left standing at the entrance waiting to be seated. There seems to be no seating system set in place with staff floating around taking little notice of who comes through the door-not a great start however we remained optimistic.
Mixing old and new in a trendy yet intimate setting
Food and Drink
Having heard that this place prides itself on all things British, I was curious to see the menu offer and how it sets itself apart from other places with similar concepts. Having received both the drinks and food menu simultaneously, naturally I took a look at the drinks first! I glanced over the beers selection, which I was informed were from the Innis and Gun Brewery in Scotland and aged in whisky or rum casks, however not being a keen beer drinker, I opted for one of their interesting sounding cocktails. Mixing spirits such as Campari and Aperol made the drinks sound more Meditteranian than English however each drink includes a British spirit such as good old gin, whisky or bourbon which lend themselves well to their continental counterparts. As per recommendation, I opted for a Bittersummer long cocktail (£7.50) consisting of gin, Campari shaken with lemon, passionfruit or grapefruit. Served in a tall glass, I expected the drink to last me more than a couple of sips and felt that despite its size it had a touch too much ice; nevertheless the taste was pleasantly balanced and was not overpoweringly bitter. Having seen that cocktails won't take us far, we decided to continue the evening over a bottle of wine. Ok so Britain isn't greatly known for its wine but I did feel that the wine list could have featured more than a single English wine option. That said, the selection was one of Kent's finest and generally the list is well put together and features some strong selections with bottles starting at a very reasonable £18. Not feeling in the mood for white, we settled for a bottle from across the pond of Chateau de Seguin Bordeaux, which was very drinkable and easy on the palate.
Not feeling terribly hungry, we made an effort to sample, rather than dive into the food menu. Between two, we opted for Jerk chicken skewers with a cool dip as a light bite and stuffed peppers and halloumi as a main - neither options screaming British cuisine, however we took their word about sourcing ingredients locally. Both dishes were well portioned and hit the spot although the Jerk chicken was a tad spicy and probably would have bought a grumble for those not keen on spice; luckily I embrace the heat so rather enjoyed them. The stuffed peppers main was interesting although the filling was a little dry and felt a bit overpriced at £13. The desserts were the winners though with both the Knickerbocker glory (£5) and the cheesecake (£8) getting our thumbs up!
Strut your stuff in this new trendy Soho restaurant bar
52 North is well worth a visit for a homely feel with a Soho twist. Definitely a restaurant rather than bar in terms of setting, complete with full table service. That said, it is still a place well worth keeping in mind for an after work drink or catch up with friends. Set a stones-throw away from busy Oxford street and open from 12pm, 52 North also offers the perfect daytime getaway from central London's shopping crowds. Reasonably priced, welcoming and suitably charming this bar and kitchen makes a good effort to twinkle as brightly as its 600 indoor lightbulbs. However like any new kid on the block, it needs to work a little bit harder to impress the "in the know crowd" and based on its trendy surroundings and interesting menu it might just do that.
Budget: Happily Affordable
Pre-designs: After work drinks, Catch up dinner, chill out with friends