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17th April 2013

Lounge 10

Step into a world of velvet resplendence and mellow gin

Lounge 10 is a recently re-opened speakeasy bar with all the persona of a breasty, silk-adorned cabaret singer blowing you a sultry, cigarette kiss. Upon arriving, we knocked on the door and gave our password to the lady behind the sliding panel. It took me more than a few minutes to adjust to the incandescent lighting, the opulent folds of velvet drapes and luxury plastering every inch of space not to mention the suave, swaggering staff. I was enjoying it an awful lot.

Upstairs we were shown the equally resplendent toilets, where the suited toilet attendant proudly introduced us to Vivienne Westwood (he was pointing at a portrait) and explained that she helped Lounge 10 design the aforementioned drapes, don’t you know.

Once we had also glimpsed the white baby grand, the dimly lit restaurant and the door handle to the back stairs which of course was the shape of a large, veiny penis, we went to the bar and ordered cocktails. On offer was the lofty ‘The Best Gin And Tonic In The World’, a drink made using Sloane’s gin and 1724 tonic. Sloane’s gin is produced using a more laborious method than other gins, separately mixing the infused ingredients to create a perfect blend. The 1724 tonic is made using quinine found at 1724 metres above sea level, which means the taste is mellow compared to other tonics. This actually was the best gin and tonic I’ve ever had – so smooth and dangerously drinkable. I ordered another.

We sampled the speakeasy menu which was a variety of amuse bouches served on a three-tier stand. The quality of the food was admirable – the brie lollipop with cranberry foam was anyone’s idea of deep-fried cheese heaven, and the smoked duck roulade with raspberry and a date puree and the curried rainbow trout with avocado and salmon were well balanced texturally and intense in flavour. The chocolate brownie, however, required a Mary Berry side-crunch to attack its exterior. That is not anyone’s idea of a brownie. The whole selection is offered at £18 for two people. While I thoroughly enjoyed most of it, as a student, I would much rather spend money on food that constituted a whole meal, rather than a few bites. Of course, there is a restaurant upstairs, with a moderately-priced menu that combines French and British cuisine in a modern way.

But one of my favourite things about Lounge 10 is the absinthe lady whose sole job, it seems, is to guards bottles of the aniseed spirit alongside an absinthe fountain. The fountain slowly drips cold water into the drink, giving it a milky, cloudy appearance which apparently is the proper way to drink it. So much for those nights out in Eastern Europe.

And just in case one tires of one’s own company, there is a magician who will astonish with astonishing card and coin tricks as well as his politeness.

Of course I can’t forget the music, a set mixing jazz and cabaret style songs, provided by very competent musicians – a saxophonist, double bassist, male pianist and singer and an extremely attractive female vocalist who held nothing back in her performances. I think there was something going on between her and the magician. The only thing that let us down as music students was the occasional resort to backing tracks which spoiled the authentic vibe.

All in all, Lounge 10 has hooked onto something good. All the staff were passionate about their jobs and we were very well attended. I was very impressed to learn that the bar stays open till 4 in the morning. But I am slightly wary of is the difficulty that some establishments have in cultivating a members’ style club. Becoming a member at Lounge 10 is free though, which brightens its chance of success – and you don’t have to be a member to just go in for a drink, if you book ahead. Lounge 10 is in the city centre next to Albert Square, open from Wednesday to Sunday. I would heartily recommend a visit, if you’re in the mood for a world of velvet extravagance and mellow gin.

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