A fun and central basement bar with a quirky cocktail menu, party atmosphere and one of the best happy hours in Covent Garden.
Foundation is a basement bar a stone’s throw from Covent Garden station, and while you can say goodbye to your phone signal for the evening, the amount of space this grants the underground venue more than makes up for it. The main room is spacious and colourful with lots of different seating options and a bar that runs along the full length of the back wall. Its fun, eclectic design has lots of nice features, like 60s-inspired chairs and a table with a tree covered in fairy lights growing out of the middle, the kind of details you can tell will make their way onto many a snap happy Instagram account. This first room, however, is the tip of the iceberg, and a set of doors leads to another large room, which is opened when busy. Complete with another bar and a dance floor surrounded by booths, this in turn leads to two more rooms: a small restaurant area open only at weekends and a quirky for-hire monochrome room, designed to be the perfect space for a private party.
Foundation’s daily happy hour between 5pm and 7.30pm (which covers all drinks and platters) has become legendary in a notoriously expensive area of London, so you can expect it to get very busy around that time, with a sudden rush to the bar inevitable in the final minutes. Predictably, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest, but thanks to the central location and generous happy hour, there is a steady stream of customers throughout the week – reserving a table is recommended for larger groups. The low lighting, occasional swirl of disco lights and steady thud of dance classics fulfils Foundation’s reputation as having a fun, party atmosphere even during the week, so it’s probably not the place for a quiet catch-up. Large groups of twenty- and thirty-something media types make up the usual crowd, interspersed with couples looking for a cheap mid-week date night.
The menu covers a lot of the predicable bar food fare you would expect, from burgers and ribs to the more sophisticated chargrilled lobster with new potatoes. But since it seems a little too much of a party bar to feel like the right setting for a full meal, most opt for the fast food classics, which are unfortunately pretty forgettable. The sharing platter is made up of a promising selection of pepperoni pizza, chicken wings, pulled BBQ pork spring rolls, chilli popcorn, fries and dips but, apart from the very tasty skin-on fries, it’s a bit of an underwhelming selection. Food does seem to be a bit of an afterthought at Foundation, understandable for a bar that puts so much emphasis on the drinks, but it may disappoint given the effort many London bars have put into bettering their food offerings of late.
Foundation claims to be one of the first bars in London to have served cocktails in jam jars, and novelty certainly seems to be the name of the game as far as the drinks menu is concerned. The cocktail list is extensive and covers a lot of the classics, as well as a section dedicated to sharing cocktails served in teapots. The bar never takes itself too seriously and lots of cocktails come with quirky accompaniments, like Almondation, which comes with a packet of nuts, the Chocolate Orange Martini garnished with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange segment, and Tea & Toast, which is served in a Marmite jar alongside pieces of toast. These fun touches not only add to the enjoyment of choosing a cocktail, but also help you feel as if you are getting just that little bit extra for your money. Elsewhere on the drinks menu there is a good selection of wines – divided helpfully into taste brackets – with bottles starting at around £20, and all of the spirits and beers you would expect sit along the well stocked bar.
The Last Word
Foundation’s strengths lie in its prime location, generous happy hour and fun, frivolous cocktail menu. If you’re expecting top-notch service and an exciting food menu you may be disappointed, but Foundation certainly still knows how to draw in the crowds.