By Molly Lamb, WBM Brand Ambassador.
Venue: The Looking Glass
Closest Tube: Aldgate East
Gin: Theodore Pictish(50ml)
Wine: Manzanilla (10ml)
Vermouth: Home made Rose Wine based Vermouth (15ml)
Twist:Orange & Lavender Bitters
Martini No. 2
Gin: Portobello Road (65 ml)
Vermouth: Noilly Prat (20ml)
Twist:Lemon (Peel & Zest Spritz)
Accoutrements/Nibbles: Slightly Salted Popcorn
Ambience: Shabby Chic, exposed brick and low lighting vibes. Candles everywhere in every shape and size of alcoholic beverge.
Toilets: Nothing to write home about but nothing to complain about.
We zig zag along the cobbled streets of Shoreditch with East Londoners spilling out of quirky and cosy bars and restaurants tucked in alley ways, shortly arriving at the ‘The Looking Glass’. To the passer by or to the busy commuter it is an unassuming establishment which you might just miss if it were not for the beautiful hanging flowers in every shade of pink above the entrance.
Entering the small and comfortable bar we become well acquainted with our brilliant host Carlos, a man we later learn who knows an awful lot about Shoreditch boozers!! Ibiza Chill music is floating through the air and we very quickly relax into the smooth beats and soft atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets.
Carlos, our trusty East Ender (and superb Martini Stirrer) greets us like old friends. We take our seats at the bar, leaving the London grind at the door. The first thing we notice is that Carlos’ bar is very artistic and each shelf oozes flair and personality. The bottles are intertwined with copper ornaments and flowers unfurl between both big and small alcohol vessels creating a wonderfully homelike impression, as if we have gained entry to our very own private home bar.
For Martini #1 Carlos begins with Theodore Pictish Gin. In colour, the Gin is oak yellow which we learn is created by infusing a tea bag in hot steel, producing such a warm colour. The Gin itself is perfumed and has over 16 different botanicals creating a floral nose elevated by the colourful flowers in bottles dotted around the vicinity. Next, Carlos adds in a Dry Sherry Wine from Spain called Manzanilla in a small quantity of 10ml. Following this, Carlos reaches for a nameless, label-less and entirely anonymous glass bottle with a pink liquid inside. The secret to The Looking Glass’ Martini slowly unfolds as Carlos lets us in on the secret. The vital and unique ingredient is a home-made vermouth that is rose wine based on a Peruvian grape, mirroring the botanicals in the gin. The sweet concoction certainly takes the edge off the burly Celtic Scottish Gin (not that we can’t handle it as a Welsh woman and a Scotsman!)
For the finishing touches, orange and lavender bitters are added and last, but by no means least, dry pieces of berlinese blossom, an elegant and dainty white flower, is sprinkled across the surface. By this point our martinis are so aesthetically pleasing they would be a ‘sure thing’ at a Mad Hatters Tea Party!! We sit back and enjoy the martini tasting drinking in the exposed brick, Chesterfield sofas and mutterings from small groups comfortably seeking refuge from the velocity of the London life.
Carlos enquires if we have time for one more Martini… he knows his audience!! We give the nod and our classic dry martini is prepared for us in sharp fashion. Navy Strength Portobello Gin is stirred with blocks of ice at quite a tempo….. for quite some time!! (Decreasing the whopping 57.1% alcohol content & saving our heads in the morning!!) Once Carlos is content the gin won’t send us west, he places the stirrer down and picks up Noilly Prat’ s dry vermouth. This is added and subsequently flung from the glass in a matter of seconds and our ice cold martini is poured into dainty glasses that could have been remnants from one of Gatsby’s great parties!
The Gatsby-esque glasses are coated in a lemon peel ‘jus’ leaving our noses and mouths refreshed and our hands smelling like we’ve been in the kitchen slaving over a lemon drizzle for hours! (I’ve smelt far worse leaving bars believe me!) We natter about the days victories and losses over our clean and crisp dry martini’s accompanied with lightly salted popcorn and a room full of candles in every colour planted into old wine and spirit bottles.
As we enjoy our drinks Carlos reveals his urban knowledge of hidden gems dotted around London that make a brilliant & interesting martinis (they do say good people know good people… and if Carlos’ martini’s are anything to go by.. we trust him!) We are offered up another challenge by Carlos which we delightfully accept.
We step back out onto the streets of London leaving satisfied knowing that our next challenge is just around the corner and that we are once again back on track with our mission – to save our loyal readers from bad martini’s one bar at a time! (See.. Not all superheroes wear capes!!)
P.s. If you happen to find yourself in the Looking Glass… ask to see what’s behind the mirror. You won’t be disappointed.
WBM Score:7/10. If you’re looking for a cosy rabbit hole to settle into for a few hours, where time seems to slow down, surrounded by flickering candles and chilled out tunes, this subtly, quirky bar is worthy of a visit and a martini (I’m sure Alice would agree…)