As we walked through Chancery Lane, we quickly found our destination for the evening – Baranis, a basement bar heavily influenced by the South of France. As we headed down the stairs we were instantly transported to Provence, a world away from the hustle and bustle outside – our working day woes quickly being left at the door.
Venue and Atmosphere
Baranis is an open but cosy space with exposed brick walls, modern wicker furniture and Tom Dixon lighting which oozes an orange glow throughout, all the elements adding to the unique French feel of the place. In no way was this a stuffy basement bar, it was fresh and elegant, priding itself on its individuality.
As we took our seat in one of the intimate booths, around us were couples on dates, friends catching up over cocktails and nibbles, and groups of colleagues having post-work beers. The atmosphere was cheery and relaxing; Baranis felt like the perfect place to socialise.
Another thing which makes Baranis so unique, is that it's home to the only indoor petanque court in the UK. We did play - and I’ll get onto that - but hearing the occasional cheers and roars from the groups made it a very enjoyable place to be.
Food and Drink
Baranis’ cocktails are twists on classics, made with homemade infusions, syrups and cordials, all of which are enhanced with the true flavours of France. I started with the Napoleon Sour; strong with Corsican whiskey, sweet with mandarin syrup and finished off with fresh mandarin and lemon juice, it was fruity, punchy and so refreshing. My boyfriend opted for the Pastis Old Fashioned. I’m not a lover of aniseed, but he said that the Pastis infused bourbon worked perfectly and was a great variation on such a notorious drink.
With two strong cocktails under our belt we decided to order some food. If you’re looking for fine dining, then sister venue Cigalon is conveniently located upstairs. Baranis - the cooler younger brother of the two - offers a menu of small plates, but there’s plenty to choose from, and the relaxed atmosphere means you can order as and when. The Fish Goujons at £5.50 were meaty with, a golden batter and topped with crushed peanuts. I’d never have thought that the fish and peanut combo would work, but the nuts provided a real ‘satay’ flavour to the dish, making it a delicious one to start with. We then had the Aubergine and Goats Cheese Crostini (£4.50), of smooth aubergine atop crusty soft bread, topped with punchy goats cheese and sweet, sun blush tomatoes. The cheese we ordered was nutty and soft, and the charcuterie board had the most delicious Provençal & Corsican meats at just £12; think soft, melt-in-your-mouth parma ham and thickly cut salami flavoured with more herbs.
For my second cocktail, I ordered a Lemon Thyme Margarita. The tequila was strong, but complemented by the homemade, lemon thyme syrup. This was served on the rocks with a couple of sprigs of thyme, giving off the most amazing smell. If I closed my eyes I could have been running through the fields of the set of French film ‘Jean de Florrette’.
As well as taking bookings on the night, you can book the petanque in advance. Unfortunately, due to having too much of a good time with our food and drinks, we ran slightly over our slot. When we headed to the court (now with two glasses of delicious rosé wine from the region), two other guys were setting up. Fortunately for us, these guys were two delightful French men, informing us ‘zat doubles is ze only way to play ze petanque’. Petanque, a little like boules, is a game where the aim is to hit a small wooden ball, with larger metal ones. It was fun for a few goes, but a little embarrassed of my skills and my hand eye coordination (a little off due to the cocktails i’d say), I left the boys to it and watched them play as I sipped on the delicious rosé.
The friendly staff and relaxed atmosphere of Baranis means it’s a welcoming venue for any occasion. The space also lends itself to being for private hire, being open and spacious with the added extra of the petanque to get everyone going. Real care goes into every cocktail and each of the small plates, which makes you want to try every one and go back for more. Our perfect Provencal getaway ticked all of our boxes, making it a real City gem and one you need to visit.