If you’re planning a night out in Central London for food and drinks, you’re more than likely going to be checking your bank balance with one eye closed the next day. To save myself from such a fate, I decided to visit Voltaire; a snazzy cigar and cocktail bar in Blackfriars who boast an unbeatable cheap and cheerful burger deal. As my Mother likes to say, look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.
Having originally been built to house a Bank's treasures, Voltaire is a venue with a killer story to tell. It’s located down a steep set of side steps on New Bridge Street and once you hit that last step you’re immediately plunged into an dimly-lit intimate atmosphere. Although there’s a decadent hotel-like bar inside, with plenty of dreamy grey and cream leather booths and large amounts of space, this venue's selling point goes to the sheltered outdoor cells. There are eight cosy vaults to choose from, all decked out with heating, luxurious plump cushions, and a wifi controlled sound system, but be warned - they have no wifi which means you have to use your data.
My favourite aspect of Voltaire is that they managed to retain the original cells and latterly vaults of its past, keeping its history of being a former prison and a bank (not to mention being located on the site of King Henry VIII’s royal Bridewell Palace) alive and kicking.
The Food and Drink
Voltaire boast cocktail masterclasses, luxury afternoon teas and bubbly brunches but myself and my comrade trotted off to Blackfriars one fine Saturday to sample their wallet-friendly Burger and Cocktail Combo Meal. Available Monday to Saturday, from 5pm - 11pm, you can tuck into either a cheese, chicken or mushroom burger, a hand-crafted cocktail, and a side for £15; not bad considering their cocktails start from £9!
Having consumed about a thousand chicken burgers between the age of eight and 15, I opted for Voltaire’s veggie option, the Portobello Mushroom Burger with Caramelised Onions topped with Melted Halloumi Cheese. Every bite was as meaty as the last, and I’d 100% recommend it as a filling meat alternative. However I was disappointed to find that the Nachos side I ordered came served without any salsa, sour cream, or guacamole - it was just a bowl of Nachos with some melted cheese sprinkled on top. After questioning our friendly waiter we were told that the sauces are not included in the Combo meal. It would have been helpful to have this information before ordering as I had my eyes on their Chunky Chips, but five minutes later we were presented with said sauces, so all was forgiven.
Like I said, Voltaire’s cocktail range starts from £9 which makes this offer a bloody brilliant one. With rain starting to drizzle and a strong desire to be on a Mexican beach, I couldn't help but order a tequila based drink (even though I go loco on the stuff). The French Margarita (Excellia Tequila Blanco, triple sec liqueur, crème de mure, blackberry purée and hand made lime and thyme syrup) hit the spot and I could tell from my company’s empty glass that she enjoyed her Grapevine tipple too (Tanqueray gin, white wine, lemon juice, fresh white grapes and basil).
For a Saturday night, Blackfriars was like a ghost town. I’m talking that level of quiet where you think a tumbleweed is going to roll by your feet. And you know what, it was actually kind of...nice. London is a city where things go at a speed of 100 miles an hour, so it was like a breath of fresh air hopping off the bus to an uncrowded street.
Voltaire was reasonably busy for a Saturday night either, with groups of young men scattered in and outside, some taking advantage of the fine cigar selection Voltaire offer. There were even some families inside watching the Euros. As we popped by on a quiet night it’s hard to scope out the foundation atmosphere of the venue, but seeing as they attract everything from families to cigar-loving bachelors, I presume it's laid back and easy going.
Just as promised, I woke up after my Voltaire review and was actually able to stare my bank balance in the eye without flinching (which, at the end of the day, is every Londoners’ dream). Not only is Voltaire rich in history but it caters for varied budgets; whether you want a luxurious cigar and champagne poppin' night or a bargain burger combo meal.