Streatham may still be a little rough around the edges, but the gentrification of south London continues apace. Bar 61 has been providing sustenance to the locale for well over a decade in charming surroundings.
The area itself contains a delightful mix of discount stores, greasy spoons and trendy cafes. Occupying a former antiques shop, Bar 61 has retained some fantastic classic fixtures and furnishings, including early 20th century advertising posters. The lighting is superb, with low shades and an array of tiffany lamps. Combined with luxuriously thick table cloths in the restaurant area, a classic dining effect is created.
Bar 61 attracts young professional types in their droves, clearly drawn in by the quirky interior and friendly ambience. The service is outstanding, with staff taking real care to provide a relaxed experience for patrons.
The music is delightfully cheesy; rumba blended with Euro-pop, adding a light-hearted touch to the atmosphere.
The food is somewhat below par in general, with flashes of promise. Lemon sole goujons (£6.75) are heavy on crumb-coating, light on actual fish, and lacking in flavour. The mushrooms in breadcrumbs (£5.90) are also unimpressive.
Happily, the mains are of a higher standard. The fillet Henry VII (£21.50) uses an exceptionally tender cut of beef, and is very well executed. The side dishes of sauté potatoes and seasonal vegetables are over seasoned and over cooked. The bocconcini di pollo (£13.90), while served with the same uninspired set of sides, is nicely accompanied with a piquant tomato sauce infused with peppers and mushrooms.
Bar 61 really comes into its own with its fine array of wines, spirits and cocktails. The wine list leans heavily on European varieties, with some outstanding vintages from Rioja including a Coto de Imaz Reserva (£30.50) and a Bordon Crianza (£25.50). For those wishing to splash out, there’s a Bollinger at £70, and even Cristal available (£390). Most popular with patrons appears to be the cocktail selection, with a choice of 22 varieties at the very reasonable price of £5.50.
The Last Word
There are few places in London to match Bar 61 when it comes to quirky décor and bubbly atmosphere. Unfortunately the food does not scale the same heights. It is an excellent destination for drinks, though, in a unique setting.