Ladies and gentlemen, amongst the almost unbearable levels of hustle and bustle in Aldwych, lies a haven. After a struggle through standstill pedestrian traffic, I found myself ducking right into the heart of it all--the gorgeous, Victorian-era Somerset House. Although I thought that I was, for sure, in the wrong place, I decided to take a beat to enjoy the muted change of pace. Luckily, the hidden gem of Pennethorne's caught the corner of my eye, and pulled me in for the promise of some good food and drink to ease my frazzled mind. And boy, did they deliver.
If you're familiar with the Somerset House, then you already know that it is utterly dazzling and transcendent of time. If you have never been, well, consider this recommendation to be the reason to get yourself there immediately. Pennethorne's fits its outer façade almost seamlessly, boasting the grandeur of high ceilings, crown moulding, and, golden, gilded frames lining the walls.
However, there are some surprising twists to the décor that make it approachable and well, just really cool. Think of Pennethorne's aesthetic as a mere ode to the Somerset, rather than a full-on reprisal. Pennethorne's hanging geometric shapes and lamps, along with its dark accents, added unique, tasteful touches to a place that could easily scream petticoats and porcelain dolls.
First, let's talk Pennethorne's cocktails. Those with a boozy sweet tooth will find comfort in the aptly named, 'The Somerset', and its decadent counterpart, 'The Royal'. The Somerset was a pineapple- and passion fruit-laden concoction, complete with a bright yellow hue and cutesy flower garnish. Upon its arrival, the bartender told me that it was best enjoyed outdoors, and while that was all fine and dandy, I admit that I enjoyed it quite a lot tucked snugly in my plush corner seat. The Royal, on the other hand, felt like indulging in dessert before dinner, with its aromatic strawberry base, dashes of chocolate bitters, and top of Prosecco. It was fizzy, fun, and basically tasted like a grown up sundae. The grand finale was the more classic, subtle option of the 'The Strand', and it was the answer to my many, previously unanswered whiskey prayers. Made with Black Label and loved up with bits of black currant, honey, walnut, and ginger ale, I felt as if I was hit by, struck by, a smooth criminal.
Given at this point, I had quite the sufficient, wonderful buzz, I was ready for something a little more substantial than the traditional, albeit addictive, table staples of pesto-dusted peanuts and Gordal olives. Considering the staff at Pennethorne's were at the top of their game, they sensed my silent fade, and came bearing a giant-wooden-slab's worth of tapas. I was saved.
The selection was indeed abundant, all reasonably priced between £2-12.50, and really suitable for any palate. My plus one just had to be vegetarian, but it was okay, because the bruschetta, artisan breads, cheeses, and mushroom toasts were quality, filling, and perfect for munching on during our passive conversation about difficult diets.
Other notable nibbles included a cod and chickpea stew, ham and cheese croquettes, and a cold smoked trout. So, whether you're a fish person, meat person, or all of the above, Pennethorne's has something savoury and delicious to devour between drinks.
The Atmosphere and Clientele
The world of Pennethorne's could be notated as the ultimate, upscale happy hour. Unsurprisingly, the offering of delightfully bougie booze and bar snacks will attract a certain crowd, and those with loosened ties and discarded blazers ran rampant at Pennethorne's. However, blame it on the alcohol or the general vibes of the place, Pennethorne's felt like a true relaxation destination after a long day's worth of hard work.
Pennethorne's is a truly charming, little surprise tucked away at the heart of London. Whether you're looking to blow off steam with a couple of cocktails, or settle in for a more well-rounded evening with lovely small plates, then Pennethorne's is worth a check out. If anything, go to revel amongst some of the hippest professionals in town. I did it all, and I do believe that my coolness factor has since increased.