The older I get, the more I begin to understand that genuine need for a glass of something at the end of the day. Just to take the edge off, help you unwind, relax and wash away the tensions caused by those passive aggressive office emails about someone’s missing lunch. A tipple of something strong and delicious really is the cure to adulthood, and there’s a spot in Herne Hill that provides the tastiest selection of ‘medicines’ to help the cause - we went for a checkup at First Aid Box.
Venue & Atmosphere
Across the road from Brockwell Park you will find First Aid Box. Look for the giant red cross, marking the spot for cleverly created libations. Inside, the walls are tiled white – there is a sense of doctor’s laboratory about the place. The shelves are stacked with a number of extraordinary spirits and liqueurs, and an unusual collection of glassware sit waiting on the sides. Above our table, a taxidermy squirrel dangled from a harness attached to the overhead lamp.
Drinks are mixed on an island bar and with the glasses and ingredients piled high, it's tricky to see what the team are shaking up, so you don’t quite know what is going to be brought to your table. It all feels rather Frankenstein, though not in a sinister way, rather like something exciting is being created here.
Food & Drink
There are a few similarities with this venue’s sister restaurant, Brixton’s Shrub & Shutter; the menu is currently being brought to you by the people behind SCRAN, a pop-up kitchen by Henry Osborn, formerly of Michelin-Starred restaurants such as ‘Maze’ by Gordon Ramsay and ‘The Boxtree’. Levente Bonczidai is leading things at First Aid Box and the dishes on offer are a little different but the quality and innovation remains the same with a focus on British seasonal food.
My friend and I ordered a selection of plates, starting with the beautiful warm, fluffy bread with a smooth charcoal butter, and the Bagna Cuda with a poached egg, which was utterly divine; rich, salty and creamy. The dish is essentially a hot dip made with salted anchovies, olive oil and garlic and we gladly scooped up every remaining morsel with the remaining bread.
For our main courses (which we shared), we chose the Pappardelle with cauliflower, blue cheese and truffle and the octopus, pink and elegantly spiralled across the plate with a Romanesco sauce, potato grain, peppers and spinach. The octopus was perfectly cooked; tender and not chewy. The Pappardelle was silky, with a rich saltiness from the blue cheese and a decadent earthy quality provided by the truffle.
For the drinks, the concept is health, nutrition and doctor’s orders but with their own unusual alcohol-based twist. The menu is packed with cleverly named cocktails, and plenty of puns to put a smile on your face and begin the healing process. The ‘Coffee + Cigarettes’ (£10) was my first cocktail of choice; a smoky rich drink made with Campari, Picon, Amaretto, orange bitters, alchemy espresso, served in a cloud of smoke creating a harmoniously bitter sweet drink. My friend meanwhile went with the ‘Man’s Not Hot’ (£9.50) a sweet and spicy concoction made with tequila, mango, passion fruit shrub with fresh lime, chipotle agave and garnished with a pickled mango, guaranteed to put some colour onto your cheeks.
What I love most about First Aid Box is the creativity and smart thinking that has gone into every detail. The décor isn’t gimmicky but instead intriguing and cool, the food is elegant and refined, and the drinks have a brilliant mix of humour and ingenuity, which after a long week of adulting is just what the doctor ordered!