Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There are two of my favourite books. It’s a shame that Tim Burton was ever allowed near them (and the horror isn’t over; look out for Looking-Glass sacrilege in 2016), but luckily there are Alice fans out there who’ve been inspired to do good by Carroll’s most famous works.
And by ‘do good’, I mean ‘open awesome bars’. The Looking-Glass Cocktail Club, at first glance, is a small ground-floor bar cut from similar cloth as a hundred other bars in East London. Low lighting; mismatched furniture; good-looking, waistcoat’d bartenders turning tricks with tumblers and cocktail shakers. But swing open the enormous mirror – oh, alright, looking-glass – on the back wall, and there’s a whole other space to be explored. In short, it’s the perfect date venue (so long as you don’t get distracted by those sexy waistcoats).
To celebrate Alice’s 150th birthday, LGCC has pulled together a special menu rewriting some of Carroll’s most famous words and interweaving them into a drinks list of breathtaking complexity. It’s all rather charming, though it does mean everyone has to spent at least five minutes in silence skimming the storybook to decide what they want.
But it’s worth it. You won’t find any daiquiris, whisky sours or other clapped-out cocktail bar classics here; instead you’ll find elaborately concepted drinks such as The White Rabbit, a long and refreshing brandy-based cocktail “that tastes like carrots!”, and The Red Queen & the White Queen (£22 for two), a pair of contrasting cocktails one tall and white, the other short and red. My favourite was the Farewell to Joe, a sweet, smokey concoction made from homemade Panettone liqueur and Perique tobacco liqueur. I’d never tasted anything like it.
The emphasis is very much on original, botanical cocktails made with home-made shrubs and exotic liqueurs, and reminded me of J.W. Simpson on Goodge Street (although much better decorated). Mixers are in short supply; occasionally you’ll find your poison watered down a dash of lemon juice, lime oil or fermented coconut milk (!), but almost everything is wildly alcoholic. Think of it not as an after-work beers sort of venue; it’s more of a fine dining (drinking?) experience. Happily, the potential pretentiousness of it all is offset by the not-mental drinks prices. Most cocktails hover around the £10 mark, and bottles of wine vary between £19.50 and £25.50.
As though its eclectic drinks list and swinging looking-glass door weren’t big enough of a draw, the LGCC also puts in a lot of effort on the events front, with regular listings for everything from burlesque nights, niche DJ sets and the occasional ‘death drawing’ session from Art Macabre. (Last time I checked: naked men with beards.) Whatever you go for, the LGCC is a rabbit hole worth falling down.
The Looking Glass Cocktail Club, 49 Hackney Road. London, E2 7NX
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.