The Reverend JW Simpson is a curious name for a bar, but there’s some history here. Surely no building in London has gone from such piety to profanity. This basement space was, apparently, home to the titular vicar until the late 1980s; in more recent years, it was known as the Capricorn Club. The walls were painted red, and when it was raided by police in 2009, women of ‘various nationalities’ were questioned.
But any seediness is long gone. These days, it’s a low-key, dimly lit cocktail den from the people behind nearby Bourne & Hollingsworth. The walls have been stripped back and left largely as they were when the man of the cloth departed, so you’ll see woodchip, pastel tiles and Anaglypta. Very atmospheric, slightly eerie, but you get used to it.
And the drinks list is excellent – options are limited, but that’s fine when they’re all this good. Cocktails are beautifully served in antique-looking glassware by benevolent staff. Extensive sampling showed two clear winners: the prune manhattan, made with a fruit infusion, and the Port in a Storm (port, dark rum, ginger beer and lime). There’s no food menu, although we were brought a nice little bowl of nuts for free.
Thankfully, you won’t have to listen hymns or Christian rock; the music sticks to honky-tonk, blues and swamp rock. And the bar isn’t open on Sundays, so at least some sort of sabbath is observed.