Anyone will tell you, I’m a sucker for a secret door. I don’t care where it’s going or where it is, just show me a secret door and I’m a happy guy. With that in mind, can you imagine how pleased I was to wander past the super discreet entrance of Reverend JW Simpson a whopping three times before noticing it?
The Venue & Atmosphere
There aren't many bars in London that say 'quirky' more than one found in a subterranean flat, salvaged back to form and inspired by its former inhabitant; an eccentric Reverend who left the property back in 1989. As you descend the church-like entrance and down into the bar, it’s evident that not much has been done to the shell of the venue since the excavation – no real ceiling to speak of, retro bathroom tiles, original barely-hanging lounge wallpaper and an old fireplace. Though some might write it off as contrived, I loved the authenticity. It’s like stepping into a piece of history, and who doesn’t love a bar with a good back story?
The bar is intimate and cosy, and is split into two rooms – the main bar area and the “bedroom” which is a lovely private nook hidden away out of sight. There are long sharing sofas and small tables-for-two dotted around. It’s wonderfully close, so although you don’t feel like the people next to you are eavesdropping in on your conversation, you do get more of a convivial vibe here.
Although PERFECT for date night, also expect to see media-type catch-ups and groups of friends too, all off-set perfectly to an eclectic soundtrack of funk, pop, old school hip-hop and everything in-between.
Those of you that have read my previous reviews will know that I love a cocktail, and the thought that goes into a drink. But with that, I also loathe bars that make cocktails for their bartender peers, rather than thinking about the end consumer, who if are like me, just want to just enjoy the taste rather than be impressed by the 18 different types of bitters in it. This is where Reverend JW Simpson gets it bang on. The head bartender, Mikey, is an absolute dream of a front man; passionate, knowledgeable, talented and not one jot pretentious. The menu ranges from some safer bets to more complex drinks, and even has one section dedicated to blending culinary flavours and the techniques that go into the them.
Between us we tried out six different cocktails, which all hit the spot on both taste and intrigue - but there were two stand-outs for me on the night. First up, the Izakaya Blues (£11), which is a blend of bourbon, amaretto, plum juice, lemon, wasabi and egg white. Yes…I did say wasabi. I’ve never tasted a drink like it; the first sip was bourbon, then you got the smoothness of the plum, and then a tingle of wasabi on the way down - bizarrely delicious. The Rio Grande (£10) was a tall refreshing hit of Brazil, mixing Cachaça, lemon, mango, pink peppercorn-spiced pineapple juice and agave, all served in a cut-down Cachaça bottle - it's a real showstopper.
Without a doubt, Reverend JW Simpson is one of my new favourite hidden gems. It scores highly on everything I want in a cocktail bar; fun entrance, great atmosphere, tasty and well-thought out drinks (with wine and beer available too), no pretentiousness and a feeling of escapism. I’m sure the Reverend will be thanking the Gods that his flat has been turned into such a great drinking hole.
Praise be to cocktails.