The New Bloomsbury Set is one of the first gay venues to break into the hotly tipped Bloomsbury area of the capital, and it does so with an elegance missing from many Soho bars, whilst remaining welcoming to all.
This slightly bohemian basement is literally underground: the pillars that divide the space presumably support the buildings above, and the venue’s two attractive low-ceiling cellars were likely coal deposits during Victorian times. This is no dingy basement though: tables and chairs are cutting-edge and the blue lighting helps set the scene while corners reveal Chesterfield couches, tassel lampshades, old-fashioned hat stands, cow skin prints and Persian rugs. The two cellar rooms - named Tom and Jerry after the owners - are furnished with a mountain of pillows and you literally have to crawl into them. They comfortably seat eight people and they’re ideal for intimate groups and small private parties.
The venue deems itself a gay bar, but perhaps calling it gay-friendly would be more appropriate. Attracting plenty of men in their 30s, casually attired in jeans and t-shirts, it swerves the hackneyed stereotypes by being nicely relaxed, open to all and definitely welcoming. The bar clearly wants to offer a viable alternative to the camp, loud or hardcore party venues in Soho and, although it's slightly limited by a lack of a live music license and it's only currently open till 12am, it does make up for this with an early opening (4pm) and by marketing itself as a place where you can hold court. Despite some background music, conversations are far from impossible and you won’t need to shout to be heard.
The drink list is quite succinct. A larger cocktail menu is likely to develop quickly but, at the moment, there’s a handful of twisted classics (£7.50), like the Bloomsbury Julep, Sidecar, Bacardi Mojito and Pimms. The rest of the list puts the accent on the spirits (£4.50-£8 for 50ml) but you sense this is more a space-filler while the management establish their signature concoctions. Alternatives to cocktails and spirits are already available: you can pick from about ten bottles of wine (£15-£28.50 a bottle; £4-£4.50 for small glasses; and £5.50-£6 for large ones). Sparkling and champagne (£18-£65) options are satisfactory with five bottles on offer, and the beer/cider selection (£3.50-£4.50) is quite good, with the likes of Budvar, Vedett and Rekorderlig cider on the menu. Teas (£2), coffee (£2.50) and soft drinks (£2) are also available alongside cakes, flapjack and snacks (£2).
The Last Word
The New Bloomsbury Set is a welcome addition to the gay scene. Setting a new, more relaxed trend, this bar is set to become a London favourite.