You'd think that with affordable Oriental chow and all-you-can-scoff destinations on tap, i'd have more sense than to stroll on through Chinatown, but with Opium having launched their latest libation lair, it's all about screwing with sensible notions and supping some serious potions instead. Wait now, what's that temple of taste over there, all you can eat noodles for a fiver?! Well I never.......
Echoing something from a Crystal Maze episode, the labyrinth that is Opium harbours more than just broody nooks and countless sets of stairs. Check out those newly buffed up glutes. With Peony hidden but a door away from the speakeasy swoon of Opium's main restaurant area, this 25 strong room feels a little less bar and a lot more luscious lair. A room harbouring Chinese teapot trinkets, Dragon emblems, intricately cut trellis' and space enough for a main cocktail creation area, Peony is a secret best kept between you and I.
It's all in a name at Peony as cocktails come inspired by exactly that, the flower. Inspired by the delicacy of this floral wee gem, cocktails were a blend of the punchy, the eccentric and the lustrous alike. As a Sazerac came presented in its own decanter, and alongside a glass flourished with flavoured smoke and Chia seeds, it was pretty clear that time taken on cocktails at Peony are within good, theatrical measure as ingredients the likes of dragonfruit, tequila and coconut come as standard. Coming in from roughly the £9-11 mark, these bold brews aren't a bargain, but heck if my palate cared.
While Peony was clearly a destination that can easily seduce guests with its sensual undertones, dimly lit divinity and Oriental charm, something surely has to be said for the bombshell behind the bar. Rasa Gaidelyte not only cultivated the entire Peony menu, she cultivated some serious happy in my heart. Passionate, bold and brimming with chatter, Rasa not only ushered guests into her cocktail arms, she reminded us that these lush libations are just as much an art as anything you might see on gallery walls, and these ones just happen to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
A little less Karate Kid, and a little more Memoirs of A Geisha, the amorous antics to be found behind the Peony doors certainly deserve a look in. If only for their teapot collection alone, these cocktail cavorters know their china. Expertly mixed drinks with bartender Rasa churning out more affluent cocktail attitude than a naughty Negroni, Peony is pushing the art of oriental punch to new heights.