Every year Square Meal run a cocktail competition, challenging 10 bars to invent a twist on a classic. This year the spirit of choice was Ketel One Citroen and the cocktail was the Bloody Mary. Over the past few years it has become a tradition for me and my friends to book a date into the diaries, start early and visit as many of the participating bars as possible. The ‘Bloody Mary Crawl’ took place on Sunday as we had set aside the bank holiday Monday to recover. We had very cleverly pre-empted that some of the places may be closed on a Sunday and did 4 of them the previous week (The Bathhouse, Great Eastern Dining Room, Hawksmoor and Pinchito Tapas).
A motley crew of 8 of us met at 2pm at Smiths of Smithfield. I’ve always wanted to sample a lazy Smiths brunch but unfortunately that’ll have to wait for another day as on this occasion there was no leisurely brunching on the agenda only the quaffing of copious amounts of vodka and tomato based drinks. The Smiths bloody mary didn’t have much of a twist but was still a pretty good classic – it’s all in the spice mix!
We then moved onto The Luxe. Their mix contained red wine, coriander and chilli and a good splash of lemon juice, which served to break down the gloopy thickness of the tomato juice. For a salt fiend like me, the margarita-esque dipping of the glass in celery salt scored them extra points plus they served queen olives, chorizo and manchego as a little complimentary accompaniment.
The next stop was The Big Chill Bar, which was rammed as always. We were all quite disappointed with their entry as it was just their standard bloody mary – no extra effort at all.
After which we forced our way down a very busy Brick Lane to The Redchurch. It was my first visit and I was very impressed. It’s a great little bar and the staff were lovely, making us feel very welcome. They had done a lot of preparation and instead of just adding a spice mix had infused their vodka with chilli, horseradish and lemon thyme. They even asked us how spicy we would like them and made them to our individual tastes – now that’s what I call service.
Our penultimate visit was to Rivington Grill. Bythis point we were a bit over the whole tomato thing but fortunately Rivington had devised a very fresh, uncloying cocktail with a good horseradish kick. They served it with some sublime welsh rarebit.
And finally, experiencing severe tomato overdosage we stumbled (quite literally) into The Hoxton Grill. It was a pretty unsatisfactory experience – the staff had real attitude and didn’t enter into the spirit of the competition at all. They wouldn’t explain their twist or tell us which ingredients they had used as, apparently, it was their ‘secret recipe’.
I didn’t know, until that night, that it was possible to experience tomato dreams….and on Monday morning U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ lyrics suddenly felt extremely apt…”oh wipe your blood shot eyes”. It may be a while before I’m ready for my next bloody mary.