A Little Plug- The American Bar at The Savoy

savoy

stock photo from fairmount.com

There are many places in the world which have absolutely no need at all for a thumbs up from me, and the world famous American Bar at the Savoy Hotel, just off the equally famous Strand in London, is certainly one of them.

The hotel itself a beautiful spectacle just for a walk through if you are in the area, sheer luxury and decadence with loos bigger that my entire flat. Tucked away up some stairs and round the corner you will find The American Bar- so named back in the day for offering ‘American Mixed’ drinks. Yes it’s a cocktail bar, steeped in history and glamour which you can read all about by clicking here.

I first visited on a fiercely hot day out in London with my BFF when we found ourselves in town perilously early in relation to our itinerary of planned events. It was too hot and potentially expensive to shop, so sod it let’s go for a cocktail. Now I say potentially expensive, I was well aware that you are to expect a tab at roughly £20 a drink here which is well above my usual bar budget. I don’t earn a lot, I don’t live in London and I don’t consider dropping fifty odd quid on a small round of drinks (plus service) in any way average. But that my friends is the point- it’s not average.

The bar space itself is pretty, strictly art deco with the classic touches of a grand piano, the bar and table staff impeccably suited in white. Your hosts are gracious and just attentive enough to be un-invasive, sliding in a fresh tray of hellishly enjoyable nibbles as you take your chair and consider their extensive cocktail menu. It’s all about the detail here- the bound tome of boozy information offering not just prices and options but little snippets of history and dates of creation for your American Style drink of choice. You can of course take a straight beer or glass of fizzy wine but frankly, why would you? You can get that anywhere!

Our first choice was The Phone Box- a flawless refresher of a cocktail, basically a sexed up pimms with celery bitters and champagne subbing for the lemonade, darling. A perfect choice for the day in hand. Also a dangerous choice because this is where they get you- you’re relaxed and having fun and it’s so nice just to sit in here with the tinkly music and the equally twinkly waiters and actually, after all those salty little nibbles, you probably could go for another one. Remember when I said it was too expensive to go shopping? D’oh.

phonebox combo

Next up, a Maid In Cuba for me and a Rolling Stone for her: a cucumbery cousin to the mojito and a bright pink meringuey thing respectively. We both agreed that I won on that round. It’s at this point you understand the horror stories of various expense accounts running into the thousands for a mere night out in a bar, because it’s all so good and so tempting and once you’ve warmed up with a couple of cheeky starters you lose the fear and the cynicism and start to think actually yes I will try this vintage port and cognac combo coming in at the equivalent of a weeks’ mortgage payment, what the hell I’ll treat myself!

mic drink

The Maid in Cuba.

The trick here, unless you’re in the lotto win/family butler brigade, is to just accept that it is expensive and you are paying as much for the history and the prestige as you are the drink and the nice man with the shiny tray who brings it to you. Read through the history snippets and cocktail ideas and just enjoy yourself, in fact take comfort in the knowledge that it’s not like you have fallen into the shark infested menu depths of the Original Sazerac- a grandaddy to the Old Fashioned made with century old ingredients touted once as London’s most expensive drink at a jaw dropping £5,000 a glass. Wowzers.  Set a budget and a time limit and stick to them. Once you’ve done that, get over the expenditure and enjoy the decadence and the scenery. Check out the superstar photos in the stairway. Eat as many of those nibbles as you can get through then when the bill comes shake your head with the wry, telling smile of someone who can now say that they have been here, and that it was good.

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Three Wise Monkeys

ed 30.05.16 more recent review here pls see if planning to eat here

ed 30.03.16- note originally written prior to ground-floor expansion, very different feel now

twm logo

If you’re local to Colchester and you’ve not been to Three Wise Monkeys yet you are probably really sick of everyone going on about how you should go there. The short version of this blog is that yes, you really should go there. But it’s Saturday morning, the coffee pot is full and I don’t feel like getting out of my pjs just yet so I shall expand.

You really should go and check out Three Wise Monkeys.

outsideBased at the castle end of Colchester High Street they have taken on a large old building previously reserved for night club ventures of varying success or, if you’re as old as me you might remember US style ice cream diner Sad Sacks. It’s a great building to start with, conveniently chunked up into separate areas over three floors. Ground level is the comfortingly stark Tap Room- big windows, sensible seating, steel and tiles. This is where the serious beer drinker comes to drink proper beer in a very serious fashion. Of course you can get a glass of wine of one of your flittery cocktail things but with a massive range of draft, keg and bottled beers available it is time to test my theory that yes, you do like beer. Even you over there who swears you don’t like beer- there is one for you. The Tap Room is a great place to stroll up, chat to the knowledgeable bar staff then take a seat and contemplate your choice in a serious looking seat.  No fear for the indecisive (or designated drivers) as all drafts are available in third pint glasses as well as halves and full pints. I am unable to sit in here without thinking of my Grandfather who would have fit so perfectly in the corner on a school day afternoon, enjoying his prescribed pint and a half (no more, no less) before all the bloody kids came in.

Moving up to the first floor the space opens up somewhat to a larger bar and seated area. They could have easily fallen into the current trend of bare boards and prison metal tables up here which, well, they did but it is quite nicely offset with some low sofas and wonderful greenery which takes the edge off the faux industrial feel. More gloriously high ceilings and it’s a airy, comfy space to indulge in the extensive beer list. I have been thrilled on all my visits to discover something new to drink (Yakima Red where have you been all my life?) as well as the general expected bar fare and an impressive range of spirits. Extra points for a number of British breweries on showcase including Meantime and the ever popular Brewdog and in recent weeks my very favourite cider ever Old Rosie. Brills balls.

On to the food. TWM boasts an ever expanding menu mostly falling under the generic BBQ label. I can hear you groaning already. Oh, great, more pulled pork. I am the first to admit that the massive trend of southern UN cuisine and Soul Food is potentially boring however when done well, slow cooks and home smokes don’t have to be tiresome. They are indeed entirely awesome when executed correctly- by which I mean in no way involved with a chain sub sandwich or supermarket ready meal. TWM are progressing well with gradual menu additions as they continue to provide the expected classics.

combo editSo what are you eating here? Stacked burgers, brisket, ribs, imaginative subs, home smoked sausage and yes, yes pulled pork. Limited veggie options available and some decent looking salads. I say decent looking as I have never tried one as I am incapable of tearing myself away from the smoked chicken thighs with cajun sauce which are as good as anything I have tried in the more established London BBQ joints making the foodie headlines these days. It is a great place to eat with friends (as you can nick little bits off their plates) and I can also recommend by proxy anything involving brisket, the chicken chorizo bun and in the words of my beloved ‘It has to be a combo’. The onion rings are perfect. Desserts and new brunch menu also available and you can take a nosy at everything on offer by clicking here.

onion rings

Awesome onion rings, order at least two!

Food is on the menu (ha!) until 8pm daily when they revert to being a friendly bar, lively at the weekends, with occasional live music and other events always well plugged on their twitter feed @TWM_Colchester

I said three floors didn’t I? There’s a club/private hire space further up which I can’t tell you much about but based on everything else, I’m sure they are also good offerings should you be in need of them.

Colchester really needed Three Wise Monkeys and it’s great to see their apparent and increasing success. Town centre is in danger of becoming an unending line of sterile chain Italians and unfriendly chain pubs rammed with angry binge drinkers listening to crap music and it’s great to see somewhere a little different making it when so many independent shops and traders are quietly shutting shop.

So yes, if you haven’t been to Three Wise Monkeys yet then your friends and their friends and that bloke at work who’s name you forget are all correct- you should go. I might see you there.