London’s newest Cocktail Bar, Rev. JW Simpson looks unassuming from the outside and unless you know it is there you would easily walk past it. Even when you know where it is there is that first trepidation of entering and going downstairs, just in case you are at the wrong place. But get past those nerves and you are welcomed into an almost secret location that serves some of the best cocktails in London.
It is named after the vicar who lived there until the 1980s, after which, allegedly, the place was temporarily a den of iniquity. Its current state as a top cocktail venue would no doubt lift the Reverends spirits. From what I have seen here it is sure to lift yours. So walk in, go down the stairs, and discover this hidden gem.
The décor is different from the norm. The walls and ceilings are exactly as they were when the Rev. JW Simpson lived there, and looking around you can shudder at the wall paper they had in those days. The tables and seat however are all new and very comfortable. The contrast between the two actually works well, and keeps the focus on comfort and cocktails.
As well as the open downstairs cocktail bar lounge area, there is also a smaller space to the back of the lounge, ideally suited to small parties or closer encounters.
Rev JW Simpson don’t do food, so the barstaff are focussed purely on giving you the best cocktails they can, and an introductory cocktail menu is available to list some of their house specials. This is a good place to start, and has a range that is sure to please everyone. Obviously you can order anything you want later if you so desire.
To start out, I chose a Mead Feast (out of curiosity) and a Port Berry Stinger.
The Mead Feast is traditional Mead mixed with Basil and a Honey and Quince Liqueur, then sharpened with lemon juice and bitters to give it an edge. It is poured over lots of ice and maintains a nice aromatic honey taste with only a hint of the dry earthyness of the mead. The quince gives it the sharp refreshing finish that every cocktail needs.
The Port Berry Stinger is a mix of Port and fresh Mint leaves, shaken with a dash of sugar and Blackberries. Served in a traditional port glass, the aroma of berries filled the nose. It tasted initially a bit like a watered down port, but on sipping slowly and letting the flavours expand in the mouth the full this became quite a complex cocktail. It is probably better suited to someone who doesn’t drink hard cocktails on a regular basis!
I then moved on to a Rebourne Royale and a Tequila and Sherry Cobbler.
The Rebourne Royale was made with a Bourne and Hollingsworth Gin, lime and elderflower, well shaken and then livened with champagne fizz. Both refreshing and sharp, the elderflower somehow wraps around the bubbles in the fizz smoothing out the fragrant juniper of the Gin. This is probably the best cocktail I have had all year.
The Tequila and Sherry Cobbler was a superb mix of Tequila shaken with Sherry, Bitters, crushed pineapple and grapefruit, with a dash of Agave syrup to sweeten. This is a complete confusion of a drink, first tasting of Tequila but then the Sherry and Bitters combine to give a full flavour that torments the taste buds. the agave sweetens the finish just enough to be smooth leaving a soft tequila taste. Confused, yes, tasty, yes. Another? Oh yes.
The Rev. JW Simpson really is a hidden gem. Hard to find initially, it is definitely the place to be for those in the know. If your intentions are to expand your horizons this year then this is the place to start.
Rev JW Simpson
32 Goodge Street W1T 2QJ