Contemporary art rules at this trendy Soho venue, conjugating temporary exhibitions with a thematic cocktail list.
With its inconspicuous façade shielded away in Golden Square, Graphic can easily be mistaken for a private members' club with an open-door policy. Likewise, you could think the deep room an art gallery, if it weren’t for the many wooden tables, chairs and sofas covering most of the floor space. Shop shutters, placed indoors and brightly painted with giant letters by hot contemporary artist Eine, declare the commitment of Graphic towards contemporary art, to the point that the décor is regularly overhauled by guest artists like, at the time of writing, Jim Sharp, 3D painting maestro. Sharp’s work is to be appreciated via the 3D glasses provided, making for a novel, intriguing experience.
The private members' club aura is particularly evident in customers who are mostly stereotypical media types working in Golden Square for some production house or another. You almost get the feeling they could all know each other. Graphic is indeed particularly packed on weeknights when local workers stop here to drink and party. Even on a Thursday night at 8pm, a guest DJ will be blasting out fashionable tunes - the volume makes conversation nigh-on impossible but definitely adds to the excited atmosphere. Some may complain about this pretentious trendiness, but it’s unfair to expect anything else from Graphic, which, in the end, is located in the heart of the media industry and works to showcase hot graphic design and talked about, contemporary art.
Graphic has always marketed itself as a bit of an all-rounder, where you can stop for lunch, an afternoon coffee and wi-fi pit-stop, drinks after work or even a birthday party. The only staple they don’t provide is breakfast. The menu is short but caters effectively to all levels of hunger. Pick between baby burgers (£4.25 for one, two for £7.50, three for £10.50), grilled options (£6.50), small salads and sides (£3.75) and a sharing board (£15.50), or choose one of each if you are after a full meal. The seasonal selection is varied and interesting: smoky cheese polenta chips, winter slaw with red cabbage, apple and walnuts, and roast fennel with bread salad. The many burger fillings (imagine shredded pork with chipotles barbeque sauce, lamb with cucumber and tzatziki and many others) are all tantalising.
Graphic cocktails (£7.75-£13.50) shine, with fresh ideas and good execution. Home to the largest selection of gin in the UK - a 180-strong choice ranging from classic to niche - Graphic’s house concoctions combine the art theme with gin expertise, with six cocktails served in trademark paint tins. The final touch is a fragrant, edible paint sprayed on top, making these drinks a true experience. And if you want to splash out, you can order the behemoth Gold tin including a bottle of champagne (£100). The drink menu covers a lot more, including gin-based Mojitos and Cosmos. Together with revisited classics, you can also order rare gins stirred with matched tonic and herb or fruit garnishes. Gin not your thing? Other cocktails are also available together with wine (£17.50-£35 per bottle, glasses at £4.50-£6.25), champagne (£33-£160), unusual beers (£4-£6) and a DIY cocktail kit (£50), adding a fourth dimension to your drink via a selection of edible aromas.
The Last Word
Originality and innovation are Graphic’s strength given that these are particularly appreciated by the idea-hungry creative industries that surround this bar. But don’t be put off by the potentially daunting crowd, especially if contemporary art and novelty cocktails will brighten up your evening.