When the winds pick up and the entire city sits under a threatening grey cloud, a trip south of the river is usually the last thing on my mind. But driven by the promise of ace small plates and charming cocktails, I headed for The Hide Bar with a spring in my step.
The Venue & Ambiance
From the outside, you wouldn't believe that The Hide Bar was a bustling, lively drinking den. It's modest, to say the least. The venue is wedged into the side of an old warehouse building and peaks out onto the street through two huge arching windows that break up its red brick face. The venue immediately opens up as soon as you step inside and being totally truthful, I wasn't really sure what to make of it initially. The rustic metal bar is sits in the middle and is the beating heart of the venue. The walls are lined with glass cabinets, all filled with a vintage wine collection and odd-yet-brilliant antiques and mementoes. At the back of the venue, there's a cosy seating area, complete with leather armchairs, more randomly-filled glass cabinets and butterfly wallpaper. You can see why I struggled to place my finger on the vibe at first.
That said, things quickly fall into place. Once you're seated, you notice the easygoing, carefree atmosphere that's created by the constant chatter and occasional yelps of laughter. And it's then that you begin to see the point of the decorations. The venue isn't trying to be anything or highlight a particular theme. Instead, it's just giving itself a bit of eclectic edge without losing its suave look. If it were a person, The Hide Bar would be a smooth guy, sitting at a bar with a high-ball, wearing a fedora and smoking a cigar while making the girl next to him smile with a rude joke.
The Drinks & Food
The cocktail menu rules the roost here. Split into aperitifs, highballs and Anywhere, Anytime cocktails, the real charm can be found in the drinks created by the experts in bowties, flairing behind the bar. Whisky seemed the most obvious choice for me, so I dove headfirst into the Marco Polo (£9.50), created using Japanese Hibiki whisky and 15-year-old H&H Madeira, infused with mango tea and a ginger and lemongrass syrup. I was surprised to see it came served in a vintage china teacup, but that didn't matter after the first sip. It was smooth and easy to drink; after a warm, citrus hit from the syrup, the drink kicks into life thanks to the whisky, which linger nicely at the back of your throat.
Next came, the Elder Statesmen (£9). With a Broker's gin base and rounded off with St Germain liqueur, pink grapefruit and egg white. Though I'm not a fan of the gin, this concoction only had a mild afterbite and was dominated by the contrasting grapefruit-egg white flavours. The gin was thankfully just there to sharpen things.
But the star of the night had to be the Stay Classy San Diego (£9). Composed of Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, sugar, pimento dram, bitters and a layer of egg white, it sounded like a traditional whisky sour. But promising an 'added Ron Burgundy' twist, I knew it would be something different; I was guessing a liqueur of some sort, or perhaps a drop of scotch. I don't think I was prepared for what followed. When I looked down at my cocktail, I saw Ron Burgundy starring straight back at me. Telling me that they use a red-hot stamp to burn the outline on the egg white top, the grinning manager then proceeded to ask me what cologne I was wearing. I told him 'Sex Panther'. He laughed and told me he didn't speak Spanish but that he loves lamp. It was a weird exchange, but I wasn't complaining. The drink itself was delectable; the sharp taste was enhanced by the lemon and the bitters gave the entire drink a sweet note. It's cheeky and perfectly epitomises what this venue is all about; a must-try for me. After all, they've done studies you know, 60% of the time, it works every time.
The small plates proved to be the perfect companion for these drinks. We enjoyed the trio of mini burgers (£9), the grilled chicken tacos (£6) and the Sicilian pea and mushroom arancini (£5). The tacos came slathered in a moreish chipotle sauce and the mini burgers were each topped with different flavour combinations, but the arancini balls were unsurprisingly the big hitter. Served piping hot, as arancini should be, the crunchy outside quickly followed a rich, cream-like inside. It burst with flavour and really came to life courtesy of the cheese dip on the side.
I have to admit, I've got a bit of a crush on The Hide Bar. Giving off a dishevelled chic vibe, the combination of daring cocktails and moreish small plates goes a long way. The friendly staff make you feel at home, but more importantly, the venue seems to have this uncanny ability to lift your spirits, all the while holding onto its poise and class. Thanks for a great night Hide Bar, we should do this again sometime.