Open Tue–Thu 5pm–midnight; Fri–Sat 5pm–1.30am; Sun–Mon closed
Smith’s feel very ‘now’, fitting into the ‘speakeasy’ category that London is currently swooning over. If there wasn’t a sandwich board at pavement level, you’d never know that it was open. Here under the Brook Green Hotel pub, clandestine conversations and couplings can be conducted in the shadowy parts of a bar where the lights are low from lampshades. Similarly trendy is the flavoured popcorn you can idly chew on while scrutinising the cocktail menu. There are quirky pipe arrangements and exposed brick walls whilst a pre-club soundtrack will get your blood running alongside the alcohol. Speakeasies are popular because you feel like you’ve found a secret drinking den away from the hordes. It all felt pretty cool.
There was a group of work colleagues happily mounting up a bill that would be going through expenses the next day, a couple of pods of ladies empathising with each other about thoughtless partners and one bloke waiting for the other half of his bromance to turn up. In short, this is a place for everyone. Make sure you book, mind. We went on a Wednesday and there were several ‘reserved’ signs on the tables.
Four platters (all at £16.95) are available to help soak up the grog. Our ‘Carnivore’ (there are fish, veggy and cheese options) was big enough for two. The honey and rosemary in the bangers was spot on and went nicely with the chutney and tomato jam. They let us know they were out of wings, but then forgot the chicken liver parfait, which was about as good as you’d get in Tesco’s, (just not the ‘Finest’ version).
Which, if you’re reading about a cocktail bar, is the thing you’ll want to know about. The menu looks good – not too long, a page of classics and a few riffs on the familiar (a mojito with rhubarb syrup, for example). There are also a few experiments and sadly, those we sampled weren’t good. We felt we should try the ‘Gustav Holst’ (£18.95 for two) as it came with a history lesson. Turns out old Gustav was a resident of Brook Green and taught at the girls’ school down the road. He is saluted in the form of two drinks and his eponymous tipple is a riot of rum and fruit served in a double sized Martini glass that made me think of those bucket drinks in Thailand. That or hen nights – it was all a bit Essex for this classy part of W6 and so hit a bum note.
Further experimentation was equally unrewarding. A ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’ (£7.25) came with chocolate but without the advertised Pedro Ximinez sherry (they’d run out). The barman told us the substitute would be Harvey’s Bristol Cream but that’s like the difference between a Mercedes and a Ford Escort. It tasted exactly like what it was – a malty stout covering up a couple of hidden shots of booze. A ‘Raspberry Kiss’ (£6.95) was better as the opening bubble gum taste gave way to a pleasing bitterness, but it still came over like a Slush Puppie. We trudged out into the cold a little disappointed, but the venue is interesting and we’ll be back to see how they handle the classics.