Someone's gone to a lot of trouble to make this Chinatown cocktail bar and 'dim sum parlour' look shabby. The design is Eastern smoking den meets Western hipster hangout, with Chinese vases and burning incense mixed with deep funky beats and retro armchairs straight from granny’s sitting room. Be sure to visit the loo: there are motion-activated lights and the speakers will blast you with terrifyingly loud Mandarin announcements.
It’s all very theatrical – but that’s nothing compared to the drinks. The signature Opium Cocktail No.1 is poured into a crimson dry ice-based vessel at the table for maximum effect. So while you may not be smoking, your glass is. A heady, syrupy concoction of two kinds of rum, a lick of absinthe, mandarin juice, kaffir lime syrup and a mini-shot of liquid ginseng, it doesn’t taste half bad, either.
To eat, there's dim sum. Strictly speaking, yum cha is a lunchtime food, but they’re not playing by the rules here. Of the steamed dumplings we sampled, the dough could have been a little thinner, but the ingredients (such as sweet, juicy prawns with crushed water chestnuts and slices of chives), were bang on the yuan.
Another plus is that the place is open very late - until 3am at weekends, with food served until 2.30am.
To find Opium, look for the jade-coloured door on Gerrard Street, close to Chinatown’s main gate. And don’t be scared of the bouncer. He’s a real sweetheart.