Hot Dinners was at the Angel, Islington last night where Jamie Oliver and cocktail guru Simon Difford were holding court at the launch of Jamie's first Cocktail & Spritz Bar. The space has been carved out of what was previously more of a holding pen bar at Jamie's Italian - doing away with some storage space to create a pretty spectacular space with a central bar and lots of booths for groups.
"Until now we haven't taken cocktails super seriously," explained Jamie, "but we wanted to make it part of what we do. So we wanted to get the drinks right, the glasses right, the bar design right. In Islington we're very busy and people expect a lot."
"We have the biggest grappa selection in Britain," he said gesturing at a massive cage housing loads of bottles of the stuff. "It's a perfect example of things like tequila that we've gone through the eighties associating it with bad hangovers. But this stuff is beautiful and it's delicate and well crafted."
The new bar features a large range of cocktails with an Italian focus - so obviously there's a Negroni but also a full page of spritzes. On the food front there's a range of bar snacks, most of which we tried last night, the best of which were:
- Cobble Lane meat plank - charcuterie from just up the road in Islington - £7.50
- Scallop crudo with pomegranate, chilli and yuzu lime £6
- Crab arancini with wild garlic and lemon mayo £7
- Fried Pecorino Toscana with hazelnuts and lavender honey £6.50
And - like all good Italian bars - there will be an aperativo time from 5-7pm every weekday evening with complimentary antipasti on offer.
"We mean well," said Jamie. "We don't just want to make cocktails not just flash and wonderful and super-artisanal but take the best of the best and make it accessible and affordable and not too slow.
There's nothing else like this in Angel - so we predict it'll be a huge success.
Jamie's Cocktail & Spritz Bar is now open at 409-411 St John St, Islington, London EC1V 4AB