When there’s Friday evening sun to bask in, a basement seems a cop-out - And the Pimms drinkers lining the Chancery Lane pavements might agree. Below the pavement, Provincial Pastis drinking awaits, and wiping away any sun FOMO anxiety, I continue down to the Provence inspired bar.
Oh-so-cool exposed brick work and lime green pillars lead up to a welcome change of a high ceilinged basement bar, and with 1950’s style pin-up artwork, Baranis exudes nonchalant chic. The bar, specialising in herb-infused cocktails, Pastis and Absinthe, is a focal point. As is the ‘cage,’ which my drinking companion decides ‘would make a good venue for an S&M party.’ Or a Pétanque party, perhaps? All smutty boules jokes aside, the ‘cage’ is actually an indoor gated Pétanque court. Complete with gravel, you are transported to a provincial village to enjoy a free game. Since I’m incapable of playing any sport (I like to blame my left-handedness) I don’t usually embrace bar activities - Ping-pong is unnecessarily painful, controlling miniature footballers is indescribably frustrating, and it’s just not worth the ordeal of accidentally impaling a fellow drinker with a pool cue/purposely impaling my pool winning opponent. But Baranis has got it just right. A simple enough game, which you believe you can play - All I have to do is throw three small metal balls as close as possible to that smaller wooden ball? Simple. Effortless. Satisfyingly addictive fun. I obviously lost.
Food and Drink
Any Pétanque losing sorrows will be drowned in Baranis’ extensive range of unique cocktails. The herb-infused cocktails, with a hit of Pastis or Absinthe, feature fresh ingredients, and will mainly cost you £8-£10. We enjoyed the St Raphael Spritzer - French vermouth and gin infused with elderflower, lemon and herbal scent, a lavender and lychee variation of the gin martini, and a blend of absinthe, tequila and passion puree, aptly named Lady Killer. And wine buffs need not fear, Baranis’ wine menu goes well and truly beyond the mere ‘house - bit posher’ palette I usually communicate with.
With exceptionally attentive service, we sampled the majority of nibbles. Rustic Provençal dishes, presented on slates with a knife only - very much a ‘dig-in’ and share affair, and who cares - your knees are already dusty from all that ball throwing, may as well get those hands to match. We gorged on a charcuterie selection, onion and anchovy tart, fish goujons, ewe cheese, green tomato and basil crostini. Priced at reasonable bar-standard prices, it made a change to order something other than bar-standard nachos or sweet potato fries. And green tomatoes – How exciting! Maybe I should get out more, but that doesn’t happen that often, right?
Maybe the sight of a green tomato doesn’t induce excited squeals from everyone, because even with a hen party occupying one side of the bar, the general atmosphere was rather chilled. A mixed clientele of relaxed couples in booths, groups seated at tables, or propping the bar watching the shakes and stirs. The dim lighting, and music, complemented this cool feel. Swing, with a modern house twist, it’s a playlist you will want to whisk your phone out to Shazam at. But, being a basement bar and all, phone signal was particularly poor. And according to our waiter, this is nothing but a positive for the area’s city types, eager to escape the constant ping of emails, and sip a Provençal cocktail, away from it all.
A basement bar with a cool twist - With its high ceilings, and a spacious feel, Baranis is a refreshing change from the usual bars hidden beneath the pavements. Offering a wonderful selection of reasonably priced, fresh, interesting cocktails and Provençal inspired nibbles, it’s a perfect Friday night retreat. And a Pétanque court? Well, what a winner. Even when you’re the (non-sore) loser.