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Issue 97 - Behind Closed Doors

Whisky Magazine Issue 97
July 2011


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Behind Closed Doors

A new movement of discreet 'speakeasy' styled bars have started to take our capital by storm. Neil Ridley knocks three times and finds out what all the fuss is about.

It's a little after 7pm on a fairly warm Friday evening in mid-June. London's bustling Soho is especially busy tonight, with hordes of noisy, pre-weekend revellers spilling out onto the crowded pavements, holding every kind of drink; Champagne, in plastic flutes, pints of Guinness and a multitude of cocktails. But stop for a second amongst the commotion and you'll find a nondescript doorway, where no one is standing. It's almost like it doesn't really belong in Soho at all, adjacent to the seedy strip joints and sex shops, but behind it lies one of London's drinking gems.
Spuntino, like Shoreditch's Lounge Bohemia is one of the growing number of ‘Speakeasy' styled joints, where covert is most definitely cool.
One could argue that in an age of austerity, owners should be doing everything they can to champion the convenient locations of their bars. But with so much competition for your palates, it seems that doing just the opposite can have the desired effect. There is an undoubted benefit, when the reputation of a bar spreads purely through word-of-mouth and where entry is often carefully controlled.
Spuntino is the brainchild of restaurateur Russell Norman and the concept is ludicrously straightforward. Build something super-cool in an un-signposted, obscure location and then wait for people to discover it. “We don't fantasise about who we are,” explains bar manager Ajax, as I arrive to sample a Sazerac, served from a pewter teapot, accompanied by a pulled pork & ...

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