A ‘secret’ bar in Soho, The Blind Pig offers a cracking night out with an adventurous cocktail menu and unpretentious vintage theme.
This is the sort of bar that only those in the know are likely to track down and even then it’s no picnic; The Blind Pig is a 1920’s term for a speakeasy – an illegal bar selling bootlegged alcohol during the Prohibition era – so naturally they’re not jumping up and down waving you over from across the street. You’ll spot it by the life-sized 3D pig’s head next door to Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, on a black door that doesn’t appear open to the public… but it is. Once you’re in, you’ll probably flounder for a few seconds trying to determine where this secret bar is hiding, since there are no signs. Head upstairs and you’ll find a heavy curtain, behind which, finally, hides The Blind Pig. You made it! There’s no denying that finding your way into a ‘secret’ speakeasy makes you feel pretty excited and proud of your discovery and you’ll probably like the place right away, just because they’ve made you work hard to get here. But wait, we hear you cry, it isn’t a speakeasy! This is 2013 and booze is plentiful, so why are they so cloak and dagger? The Blind Pig is clearly working on the assumption that the bar is so good, word of mouth is all the marketing they need.
And there’s no doubt that this is a cool bar. Everything’s draped in gold and dark leather, and the reflective ceiling lends a really glamorous, sensual feel to the place. There’s loads of seating including lots of large booths for groups, and if you get a spot by the window you can gaze down onto Poland Street while you sip. Or if you want to watch the masters at work, perch at the large bar while your cocktails are expertly mixed in front of you.
As you’d expect, there’s a definite 1920's vibe. Male staff wear braces and the women are fashionable but modestly dressed in knee-length frocks. The staff, by the way, are very friendly and eager to please, though they don’t like you to hang on to your drinks menu and will whisk it away as soon as you’ve ordered, even though most punters are probably staying for at least two cocktails. Background music is a mixture of jazz and more modern tunes with a 1920's twist: think The Great Gatsby movie soundtrack.
Clientele is mixed, including groups of tourists who booked a table in advance and couples having a quiet drink. Almost everybody orders cocktails – that’s what this place is known for – and a few customers nibble on bar snacks and desserts while they drink. The atmosphere overall is a fun one, thanks to the theme and the really clever, over the top cocktails.
As it’s run by Michelin-starred Jason Atherton, you’d expect the bar food to be decent, and it is. You can have a look on the website in advance to get an idea of what’s on offer but the menu changes regularly so you’ll just have to wait and see on the day. There’s a selection of sharing jars including smoked mackerel pate and spiced aubergine for £5.50, which are a good sized snack between three or four people, and ‘bites’ like duck fat chips at £3.50, which don’t come as an enormous portion but should satisfy one person. The desserts are the real winners here though, all modestly priced. Don’t leave without trying the chocolate éclairs with salted butterscotch cream, just £5. They are absolutely delicious – crispy on the outside, soft and delicate inside and stuffed with an incredibly moreish butterscotch filling - you’ll find yourself licking the cream from the board once you’re done, wishing you could order another portion. You get three, which is just enough for two people to share.
This is The Blind Pig’s crowning glory. You won’t find the usual cocktail menu of Mojitos and Cosmopolitans here, but rather a long list of unique, creative concoctions with snappy names and theatrical presentation. The Thermo-Nuclear Daiquiri (£9.50) mixes overproof rum blend and absinthe (not for the fainthearted!) with spiced pineapple and lime juice, and is served literally glowing with biohazard tape wrapped around the glass. The Cereal Killer (also £9.50) is a mixture of rum, white chocolate and… wait for it… coco pop milk. It comes served in a milk carton-shaped glass with stripy straw. It’s impossible not to break out in a smile when your drink turns up, and the entire bar is full of people snapping photos on their phones.
There is a slight feeling of style over substance with this menu, though. Yes, the names are hilarious (Cuba Pudding Jr or Dill or No Dill, anyone?) and the presentation will simply make your night, but whether or not the drinks themselves are worth the money is another matter. They taste good, no question - particularly the delicious Kindergarten Cup with its mixture of Wham Bar syrup and skittle vodka - but often the flavours are so subtle they won’t blow you away as much as the glass they come in does. The Cereal Killer, for example, looks incredible, but essentially tastes like a chocolate Bailey’s. It’s definitely worth a visit here though, if only for the novelty, and there are so many cocktails on the menu you’ll definitely find something that tickles your tastebuds. But if you fancy yourself a bit of a drinks connoisseur, you may well be left a tad underwhelmed by the flavours.
The Last Word
If you head to The Blind Pig, you’ve got to get a cocktail or two – you’d be mad to pass them up in favour or a boring beer or glass of wine – but just don’t expect an enormous burst of flavour to match the presentation of each drink. The attraction here is the novelty and theatre, and honestly, it’s worth it.