Situated inside The City’s latest dazzling complex, Old Bengal Bar is an impressive cocktail destination bound to serve the locale well. The Old Bengal Warehouse takes over a part of the East India Company’s old empire, an 18th Century Grade-II listed building that spans 10,000 square feet, all of which is now part of a very different empire, that of D&D London. The international restaurant gurus provide this unique space in the heart of Bishopsgate with two new restaurants, a wine shop and right at the end, a glitzy cocktail bar.
As you approach Old Bengal Bar, passing New Street Wine Shop, Fish Market and New Street Grill, you get a real sense of The City, with suited workers out to play on New Street. Enter through the red brick entrance and you’re greeted by an outdoor terrace that looks like a posh Puerto Banus cocktail lounge and marks this end of the warehouse as the City boys’ party destination. Tropical trees line the perimeter and wooden decking and white cushioned sofas give a touch of the exotic, not to mention the patio heaters in abundance.
Once inside, this light and airy feel is replaced with a warehouse effect - true to its name - with the exposed brick look du jour and a black wooden floor, but the exotic side of things is still in tact with turquoise hue paintings and an extravagant marble-topped bar running the length of the rear wall. Parallel to this is one elegant, low metallic slab of a table with comfortable, striped pouf seating, while red leather settees with oval shaped tables sit by the windows. The bar is back-lit by an elegant cabinet with colonial embellishments displaying top-drawer liquor, and a mirrored side wall evokes the same period but pushes back to reveal toilets, a touch of class for a stylish venue.
Low lights are supplied courtesy of modern circular lighting rigs that hang from the ceiling and more old-fashioned but expertly positioned candles in jars, creating the perfect, moody ambience. Meanwhile, a soundtrack of non-descript minimal and electronic drones provides an appropriate hum and buzz to the venue – not that this is lacking in any way, as Old Bengal Bar rapidly fills out of an evening with a dominantly masculine and occasionally boisterous crowd. Expect City workers on the majority, dressed for the occasion. And bar staff dress glamorously too, from the cocktail makers in smart grey waistcoats and red ties to the waitresses in matching red, paisley dresses who slink around the bar with their silver trays in hand.
The food menu ranges from posh nosh snacks to burgers and items from the grill, as well as a few desserts for indulgence. Cheese straws (£3) or Scotch eggs (£3) are thoroughly enjoyable snacks, the Scotch egg coated with crisp breadcrumbs and with a delicious meaty filling. While Dorset crab on toasted sourdough (£5.50) seems impeccably in keeping with the venue as a luxurious canapé. For mains, a few salad options (starting at £7.25) and sandwiches (starting at £6.75) are accompanied by the fishcake of the day (£12.50) or native lobster macaroni (£17.50). But it’s the burgers and grills that will doubtless do a roaring trade at Old Bengal Bar. The house burger (£14) with 100% Black Angus steak comes with streaky bacon, Montgomery cheddar and house relish and the meat is as succulent and pink as you’d expect. But for something a bit different, the Bengal burger (£14) is served with dopiaza onions, raita and tamarind chutney. Dessert is a touch more traditional British, with rice pudding, chocolate tart, apple pie or a British cheeseboard to choose from.
It’s all about the cocktails at Old Bengal Bar, where bar manager Milos Popovic, previously of le Pont de la Tour, has devised a menu of drinks that make historical references as well as championing classic cocktails with an Old Bengal or British twist. For example, the Dirty Truffle (£14.50) utilises truffle oil and olive oil brine with its mix of French dry vermouth and Konik’s Tail vodka, while British Gardens (£9.50) is a more traditional blend of Hendricks gin, cucumber, elderflower and mint, which is delicately sweet and soothing on the palate. Cocktail connoisseurs will marvel at a lengthy menu with crowd-pleasers for all appreciations, including an original Cosmopolitan, a Caprinha, a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, and a Mai Tai, to name but a few. Aperol Spritz (£10.75) also makes an appearance and comes in a generously large glass, but could perhaps use a dash more Prosecco, while the Negroni is much closer to perfection, a dry and smooth taste, served with a gobstopper of an ice cube and a swirl of orange peel.
Champagnes are also paid homage by Popovic, but don’t expect them to come on the cheap, with some vintage bottles weighing in at over £1000 each, although bottles can be sought for under £100, and a glass of Piper Heidsieck is yours for just £9. And with the neighbouring New Street Wine Shop on site too, whites and reds are expertly chosen from around the globe, with a slight preference given to French grapes, found in the Domaine William Fevre 2011 Chablis (£10 a glass, £42 a bottle), for example.
The Last Word
Old Bengal Bar completes the D&D warehouse space, as the ultimate City boys’ playground. This will put some Londoners off a visit, but those who do choose to venture to this Bishopsgate cocktail spot will be lulled into relaxation, indulgence and high-class hedonism.