“What did this place used to be?” I asked the bartender at the newly opened Basement Sate, which looked horribly familiar.
“It was The Player bar before,” he said. “You knew it?”
“Ah,” I said. I’d accidentally ended up there once at the grim, bitter end of night out, and left 20 minutes later when I realised I’d essentially landed in a crack den. “It wasn’t really my kind of place.”
The bartender grinned widely. “They used to say it was the only place in London you could get a free line just by wiping down the toilet.”
And, yes, well. Quite. Basement Sate, on the other hand, is rather my kind of place. Yours too, probably, if you like the idea of being ‘taken out’ for dessert, an American phenomenon I was always fascinated by as a child. Probably because, like most British children, I was never allowed to have it in restaurants (“We have ice cream at home!”)
Basement Sate is a novel concept; it’s something between a speakeasy and an ice-cream parlour, and it’s actually remarkable something similar hasn’t appeared sooner. This one is even more underground than London’s other ‘secret’ bars; there isn’t even a discreet sign at street level, except one, which suggests – rather tersely – that gentlemen in search of something other than a pudding should look elsewhere.
To business then. Basement Sate is truly designed as an early days date venue. The lighting is low, the cocktail list is wonderfully weird, and the idea of ordering a round of not drinks but desserts next time you’re at the bar is quite a pleasing one.
Sadly on this occasion the romantic atmosphere was wasted on me, because I was visiting with my (strictly platonic) friend Hannah, lifelong dessert devotee.
But first we started with cocktails. I chose Patrick the Wombat (£9.00), because I am shallow and sometimes choose cocktails on the strength of a really good name. It’s a fizzy concoction of tequila, vanilla syrup and ginger beer, which was actually really, really good, like ginger ale on acid.
Hannah chose the Squashed Nuts (£12.00), a butternut squash infused pisco, umeshu – a sweet ‘n sour Japanese liqueur – and vanilla syrup. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before, and managed to be at the same time both creamy and sour.
Predictably, I picked John Lemon (£8.00) to accompany Patrick the Wombat, which really was, well, very lemony. It’s a deconstructed, extra-zingy take on a lime cheesecake, with three generous scoops of lemon sorbet.
The Happy Unicorn (£9.00) is the obvious choice for chocoholics: slabs of dark chocolate encrusted with macadamia nuts, aand dollops of fresh gianduja cream. The gobs of green stuff are actually yuzu jelly. If you’ve never had yuzu, it’s probably best described as a delicate Chinese lemon, and in this case it helped to take the edge off a very rich dish.
Now, Basement Sate is quite naughty and still hasn’t sorted its website, despite being open since September. This means the menu is nowhere to be found online, which is a real pet peeve of mine. So here it is:
Looks good, right? But I’m sure everyone’s first reaction – as mine was – is to baulk at the dessert prices, but actually when you’re there it doesn’t seem that unreasonable to spend the same amount on a sweet treat as a cocktail. There’s a fun novelty to be had in eating a very posh dessert in a bar, and it’s an experience you can’t – yet – get anywhere else. My advice? Eat dinner elsewhere, skip dessert and head here for a sugar fix, a nightcap and a change of scenery.
We visited Basement Sate on a Tuesday evening, which was quite quiet but did have the option of the dessert and cocktail pairing menu, £36 for two and only available on Tuesdays. The website isn’t yet live, but they’re pretty active on Twitter.
Find Basement Sate next to Agent Provocateur at 8 Broadwick Street, W1F 8HN.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.