In Crystal Palace, one of London's many mini-villages south of the river, most of the drinking and dining action happens in the commercial hub known as The Triangle - a trio of roads lined with bistros, gastropubs and local specialists in cuisines from Indian and Thai to North African and European. If they want a drink, most people who live here head to the pub.
Cocktail Embassy is a bar that's trying to change that mind-set, but whether it will win over residents with its dated look and awkward collection of mostly Prohibition-era/style cocktails – heavy on booze and light on mixers – remains to be seen. The menu is a combination of out-there concoctions such as vodka with raspberries and beetroot, through to made-over holiday tipples, although decent classics can also be knocked up on demand.
The cocktails we tried were good. A Sun Leaf (spiced rum, vanilla, orange marmalade, mint, lime juice and orange bitters) was simply presented and nicely balanced, despite losing its sweet-sour power towards the end. A Mai Tai, served in a heavy, straight-sided glass goblet with a slice of house-dried fruit and a layer of 'rum float', bore no resemblance to most of its more conventional cousins. However, Cocktail Embassy’s décor is stuck in the early Noughties, and its ambience is far from cosy: shiny black chandeliers with electric flickering candles, leather seating all facing the L-shaped bar, loud flock wallpaper, and lighting that was way too bright. It’s not a place that invites you to settle in for the night, whereas plenty of the nearby pubs do just that.