Spirits & Syrups
Since its opening last year, there has been much buzz about Covent Garden's BYOC. While the concept of a cocktail bar without an alcohol license may cause a raised brow or two, they have adopted the BYO element but not as you’ve ever experienced before. This is not your carpeted student curry house deal, this is a secret speakeasy with cocktail masters and a trolley laden with syrups, herbs, fruits and secret ingredients awaiting your tipple of choice.
Having heard mixed reviews about this hidden-below-a-juice-bar establishment, it was high time for me to make up my own mind especially since the novelty of such a place had already sparked my curiosity and once sparked, that fire refuses to be extinguished!
Because of its matchbox proportions, BYOC is a reservation-only affair. Like a breath of fresh air, my accomplice had been infected with a similar curiosity and cottoned onto the whole booking thing in advance so my invitation simply required me to turn up...a refreshing change when one is used to making all the plans!
Upon entry to what really was a juice bar, we peered through the lemons and blenders to see a tiny staircase behind the counter. After we'd paid the £20 charge which covered all drinks for the evening and a table which we nursed for two hours, we made like post ‘drink-me’ Alice and squeezed our way down the stairs and found ourselves in a basement room of miniature proportions.
The novelty of their license means you must arrive with unopened bottles so sadly no raiding of your alcohol cupboard’s circa Christmas-time obscure liqueurs, unless like yours truly, you hoard the miniatures in wait for an occasion that can justify opening such cute little bottles. Well, isn’t this convenient!
We chose to sit right next to mr mixer man and his trolley for maximum exposure. My accomplice was in charge of the Hendricks so I had to engage some extra creativity and decided to go for the hotel mini bar raid approach you see above.
Across from our table, we were delighted to see a genuine ipad gramophone circa 2014 and a wall covered in what we could only presume were genuine dusty books from the olden days .. or a 3D wall paper illusion .. probably the latter.
The rest of the room was a stripped back brick affair with glasses hanging from racks above our heads (space conservation at its finest) although we were firmly glued to our seats for the two hours so there was little danger of contact with the overhanging glassware. Daters and debaucherers would have a field day in this little underground drinking den with dimmed lights and candles on each table creating the perfect atmosphere...although not the perfect lighting for the humble iphone as is well demonstrated by the general state of my photos!
It took a little bit of prompting to find out exactly what the drinks don had created for us since each cocktail was placed in front of us without any explanation but testing our taste buds proved entertaining in itself. Whoever wrote 'I saw & I drank' on the wall below must have had a similar experience. Our creations ranged from a champagne and elderflower number, a chocolate and ginger rum based deal, a gin and raspberry tipple and I think there was another but my memory has (unsurprisingly) failed me.
My evening was fabulous, I'm all about a bar with a twist and BYOC really cuts it. Thanks must go to Matt at The List who gave some great tip offs and I can't wait to return although I can completely understand why BYOC has received such mixed reviews.
a) Neither myself nor my accomplice were huge fans of the two hour time-slot and although the next cohort were still to arrive, we were pretty much turfed out when our time was up.
b) The trolley man/ bar brother/ mix master had everything under control, our glasses were never empty for long and all the drinks were inventive and delicious. One could however have mistaken his mono-syllabicness for rudeness .. not being sensitive souls, we decided he was just protecting the tricks of his trade but it was a shame he wasn't a little more forthcoming.
My criticisms aside, I'm going to be keeping an eye on their twitter feed since their tables are booked up weeks in advance and they post updates about any table cancellations. One for the spontaneous amongst us!