It’d be churlish for an otherwise stellar cocktail bar to lose points just for playing truly awful music, but on a quiet Tuesday evening the new branch of the Cocktail Trading Company came very close. Beleaguered by a Maximum Dad Rock playlist, it was hard to focus on the excellent drinks they kept sending our way. Okay, it wasn’t that hard.
This new bar off Brick Lane is the Company’s second follow-up to the closed Soho original. More spacious than their year-old Smithfield branch, the new wood-panelled drinking room is two parts classy cocktail bar to one part comfortable pub, stirred with a dash of wink-wink, owl-heavy retro kitsch.
Then there are the drinks: a cocktail list two-dozen-strong at £9 apiece. A rich and gulpable espresso martini proved that they’ve got the classics in hand, but once we got to the weirder stuff, things really started to fly. The Guido Forks came whisky-rich, smoky and sour and served with a small explosion. The One In A Million was sharp and refreshing with a chilli kick and a lottery ticket. The Handy Nightcap used a frozen golf ball instead of ice. I could (and did) go on. Even the menu was a tiny treasure, pocket-sized – according to our friendly bartender – so we could take it home. Which, believe me, you’ll want to do.
With its superb booze and constant stream of icebreaking surprises, CTC could well be the best place for a first date in the whole East End. And to be fair, the music offers an inbuilt vetting system: if your partner starts tapping their foot to the Stereophonics, you know it’s time for an early night.