This unique bar, from the people behind Purl and Worship Street Whistling Shop, is inspired by the 17th century, and takes its name from the Dutch East Indian company. To this effect, VOC cleverly attempts to meld ancient seafaring tradition with 21st century mixology.
Located just by King’s Cross station but tucked away from the buzz of travellers, VOC is a treasure chest for those who stumble across it in Regent’s Quarter. The bar combines plush and comfortable sofas, armchairs and poufs with maritime artifacts, and goes all out with its nautical theme. The wooden deck is covered with worn, vintage rugs and the exposed brick walls add a rustic charm. Glass-caged candles are suspended from the ceilings and walls, harking back to simpler times. A small bar that holds old cask barrels and interesting-looking bottles is found to the rear, and little sailing ornaments and the bust sculptures of ancient admirals are balanced on shelves and tables. The nautical theme even expands to a top deck, where black candlestick holders line the tables, illuminating the portraits of even more admirals that decorate the walls.
Dingily lit and cosy, VOC carefully apes the 17th century atmosphere of a sailors’ tavern. Every nook and cranny is filled with comfortable and secluded seating, and they make the most of the bar’s small size. Sea shanties are, however, up-to-date folk and gentle indie music. Customers include young professionals enjoying a relaxing drink after-hours. Despite this, it rarely becomes overcrowded here, and there is no queue at the bar since staff come to take orders from your table. This all makes VOC a cut above neighbouring bars.
There is a limited bar snack menu here, to help soak up the heady punches and home-made brews. Sherry washed cheese and artisan bread (£5.50) certainly echo the sailing theme. Anchovies on toast (£4.50) is another simple dish on offer, however sailor’s bruschetta (£4.50) and vermouth cured olives (£3.50) are a little less in keeping with this bygone era.
Sailing the seas wouldn’t be complete without a big glug of barrel-aged punch. At VOC they revamp three age-old recipes for a modern audience. As such, Old Dutch Punch (£7.50) is a contemporary blend of Bols Genever barrel-aged with lemon oils and zest, Dutch tea bitters, cloves and honey. It seems a bit more fancy than a sailor’s tipple, with a sophisticated bitter-sweet taste that does a good job of warming the cockles and quenching a thirst. Barrel-aged beverages (£8.50) are left to mature for two months and come in the form of Bergamot Grog, a brandy cocktail, and VOC Spiced Rum. And if barreled beverages are not your thing, mixed drinks are at hand. The Porter Cup (£7.50) is a blend of ale, brandy, ginger, nutmeg and chocolate porter, garnished with cucumber, which is a refreshing and lady-like take on a hearty pint of ale. Other mixed drinks include Dutch Trade (£7.50) – a cocktail of vodka, lime cordial, Bols liquorice bitter and mint – and the Raspberry Shrub (£8.50) – a blend of Pampero Aniversario rum, lemon juice and fresh raspberries, all bottle matured for a week.
VOC also does well to house an extremely good spread of spirits, which can be navigated by continent on the menu. This list is vast and includes rums, whiskies, brandies and vodkas, as well as some rarer continental wonders, ranging from £6 to £20 a measure. There are a few wines and champagnes served by glass or bottle at VOC, but they are select choices, including two Veuve Cliquot champagnes, a merlot and a viognier (£5.30 a glass, £21.50 a bottle). Similarly, there are four ciders, ales and lagers to choose from by the bottle, including Grolsch (£4.50), Meantime Pale Ale (£4) and Chocolate Porter (£6.50). Even cigars and tobacco are available, to finish off the full effect.
The Last Word
Taking inspiration from maritime history, VOC is an unusual and inventive find. The revamped barrel-aged punches and historic cocktail recipes are out of the ordinary, and VOC embraces its nautical theme in a bold, tasteful and contemporary fashion. This all guarantees that VOC is an essential port of call for the discerning cocktail connoisseur.