What with living South of the river it’s not often I pop East, but with talks of a new cocktail den adding to Dalston’s growing and diverse cocktail scene I felt the trip would do me good. Venturing below ground to Ray’s Bar, apart from the dim lighting, I was nicely surprised that this basement bar steered away from the conventional underground theme of the speakeasy.
Don’t be fooled thinking that this is just another bar, as it just so happens to be from the brains behind pizza parlour Voodoo Ray’s who have decided to turn their hand to cocktails. Once a former Dalston nightclub (Dance Tunnel), Ray’s Bar is tucked below the Dalston pizza store. The decor certainly pays homage to the venue's former dancing days by giving the place a trendy regeneration of a 90’s dive bar with mirrored walls and ceilings, neon lighting, and black sparkling vinyl table tops.
Towards the back of the room is a raised area which I assume was the previous dancefloor, decked with neon ‘V’s. There’s something refreshing about going underground to a cocktail bar and not heading back in time to another ‘speakeasy/prohibition’ themed mixology lab, not that I don’t love them, but you always feel that you have to be stuck down to your seat all night. Here I felt not only could I sit down all night if I wished, but also get up and dance when that time in the night came along and my favourite song appeared.
The Food and Drinks
Just like the Voodoo Ray’s pizza offering, oozing with cheese and cram packed with toppings, I expected no less than a liquid dinner of flavour and hard liquor. The menu is designed as a 3 course ‘dinner’ concept - starters, mains and desserts. But with this dinner you can go in whatever order you wish - we kick started our night off on both floral and refreshing notes with ‘In Bloom’ - a mix of Absolut Elyx, Rose, Pomegranate, Prosecco and a Shady Pines - Beefeater 24, Strega, Lemon, Egg White, Elderflower, Rosemary. Both priced at a healthy £8, they were good on flavour and on pockets to boot.
Now testing the talents of the bar I went off-piste from the menu and ordered a heart-warming Negroni to help devour our party sized 22” pizza; one half carnivore lover King Tubby (Fennel and chilli sausage, kale, caramelised onions, vine cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, tomato sauce) and half veggie cheese loving Giorgio Moroder (Goats Cheese, sun-blushed tomato, courgette, mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil). It seems our eating habits were the talk of the bartenders as we polished off 6 out of the 8 overtly large slices. I decided to tidy up with final pick 'Labyrinth' of Vida Mezcal, White Cacao, Vermouth, Dark Chocolate (£11) as my dessert which, paired with the bitter dark chocolate coin is rich, filling and liquor-laced.
Popping along on a hump-day in the middle of December, we should have known there would be a good old Christmas party booked in. With pizza, bubbles and cocktails flowing, the crowd certainly lifted the atmosphere with a merry buzz. Throughout the night, the speakers threw out a good mix of dance, recent hits and some classics for good measure. As the night continued, the adjoining booths started to fill up with groups, all ordering the massive 22 inch pizzas to soak up the cocktails.
With the party bar spirit still lingering in the walls of Ray’s Bar, you can pop by and have an all rounder night, food, drinks and a boogie if you wish - and hey, at the end of the evening you don’t need to wander far to find the local pizza place.