I’ve been planning to write about my experience at the Whistling Shop on Worship Street in Shoreditch for a couple of days now. It’s high time I do it now so I spread the word about this wonderful place.
In order for a place to be appealing to me, it needs to offer not just great food and/or drinks, but a smooth service and a good vibe. The Whistling Shop surprised me by offering yet another element. Intrigued? Yes? Please proceed reading then.
First, what kind of a place is the Whistling Shop?
The Whistling Shop is a Victorian-era-inspired drinks and food venue, emulating the then popular Gin Palaces and Dram Shops. Its name also refers to the Victorian expression used to descibe an alcohol vendor. The word ‘whistle’ was used to name one’s throat and if you wanted to invite somebody for drinks, you would have asked something like: ‘Wanna wet your whistle?’ 🙂
Anyways… back to my review. The place is located underground, deliberately dark, with low ceilings, wooden floor and glass paneling. The decor is reminiscent of Dickensian times with its many candles and gas lamps present. Even the staff wear 19th century garmets – authentic clobber, braces, frilly shirts and canvas trousers. (I thought it would be a good idea to add some mud and straw on the floor for even greater authenticity – Temple and Shian, if you read this, please at least consider it for a one-off event on Halloween!)
As their website rightly describes, they take elements of Victorian drinking culture, fusing them with very forward-thinking bartending techniques. On site they even have a laboratory and an old dram shop! I find the latter a very cool idea – it really makes you imagine how people used to cram themselves in one of those places and try to forget reality!
The selection of cocktails, along with the quality offered, would make even the greatest connoisseur happy. The very well-trained waiters explained to us that they use their own recipes for home-made tonics, syrups, sodas and bitters and that they have designed their own bespoke barrel-aged spirits, which sit on the back-bar. The menu informed me that a bespoke barreling service is also available!
My friend and I tried two of their drinks – the Panacea and the Civility Cocktail. The Panacea is really a panacea (I hope you know what I mean) and the Civility brings the association of the word ‘elixir’ to my mind. The former’s base is whiskey (but only a light one would do the job, I am told) mixed with a honey and lavender shrub (an Old Victorian style of cordial, the glossary at the end of the drinks menu informs me – yes, the glossary!), lemon juice and then shaken with an egg white to an angelic white foam and topped with sage dust. And all that bliss for £9 only!
This is what I call a drinking experience!
The food also dates back to the Victorian era (the recipes, that is!) – pork belly pies, oysters, potted shrimps – and offers well-balanced set lunch & a la carte menus. From midday till 1 am you can also order platters, tapas style bar food and boards to share. Or, if you consider yourself fancy and would like to treat yourself a Sunday Roast, you can pre-order their Sucking Pig Feast or Poultry Feast at £38 and £32 per head respectively (that is for 8 people sharing).
We decided to try their molecular food menu! Such a treat, such an entertainment! Don’t expect to eat and be full though! They had a choice of 3 for £12 or 10 for £35. We ordered a sample of three and first came ‘Pig in the Garden‘. Food was served with mini lamps, as I’ve mentioned above, it was pitch dark. I think by the second order, the smart staff have already figured out that I am going to write about their venue (note to self – ask less obvious questions next time :)) , so we had the head chef bring us a freebie – a delicious edible charcoal. The next thing had the exotic name of ‘Strawberry Spaghetti’ and it did not disappoint – strawberry puree frozen in the shape of spaghetti (don’t know how they do that :S) served in champagne glass with dry ice, creating a theatrical smoke on the table. The desert was a mini merengue, also served on dry ice and ‘smoke’ that you can blow once you bite into it, just like a cigarette one!
I felt like a big kid on a food playground, it was so entertaining!
From now on until the 15th of November, one can book a multi-sensory drinking experience, ‘The History of Rum’ for £95 per person. For two hours at their Emporium you will enjoy a two-hour selection of themed mixed drinks, food, aromas, video, sound, music, light and setting to match! ”A fairground ride of cocktail imbibation!’, as their website says.
The Whistling Shop deserves:
**** for Food
***** for Drinks
**** for Service and Atmosphere