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  • 3 out of 5 stars
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Louche, a new bar and music venue in London's Soho
TheyCallMeGT - Graham Turner

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Louche. According to the dictionary, it means unconventional and not respectable, but often in a way that people find rather attractive’. I wasn’t sure how much Louche, the new Greek Street cocktail bar by the guys behind Old Street Records, would live up to its name. Unconventional: not particularly. Attractive: I guess? 

With low-lit interiors and framed photos of jazz musicians and nightclub icons dotting its wood-panelled walls, Louche brands itself as the saviour of Soho’s ‘old-school spirit’. Maybe all the hedonism, vice and debauchery ingrained in the area’s seamy history could be revived by some clever lighting and a retro sideboard?

Or maybe not. When I arrived on a Friday evening, the vibe was so mellow that the people in the photos seemed to be having more fun than the folk there. I was shown up a narrow staircase to a candlelit table for two with a perfect view of the stage, promising entertainment like live jazz, vinyl DJs, and surprise cabaret performances. But by the time I left, the live music still hadn’t started – the most amusement I had was watching someone dutifully tuning instruments and a generous bowl of salted nuts. I later learned that things were just about to heat up (most of the live stuff on weekends starts around 10pm). Moral of the story: go late.

Drinks, luckily, is where Louche excelled. There’s a selection of wines and fizz as well as all of the spirits you’d expect – but what you’re really here for is the cocktails. There are all the classics and a robust bespoke menu, as well as the consistent clatter of that distinct cocktail-shaker sound in the background. I started with a Louche Espresso: a twist on an Espresso Martini, made with Bacardi 8, coffee liquor, espresso and a subtle hint of banana, leaving a softer aftertaste than the classic’s usual bitterness. The banana should have felt wrong, but somehow it really worked. 

The Picante – made with El Jimador Blanco tequila, agave nectar, lime, cucumber and chilli – was zingy and sharp, but lacked real heat. The Pear 75, made with Grey Goose La Poire, peach and prosecco, was rudely underwhelming. But the Raspberry Collins, made with Bombay Sapphire, lemon, raspberry and soda, was a tasty balance of tart, tangy, sweet and citrus. And, although not as theatrical as some cocktail places, the drinks all looked good enough to grace your Instagram story (if you’re that way inclined). 

While Louche has a lot of potential – it has intimate spaces and lip-licking drinks that could easily provide a proper night out of hedonism – I would have liked to see more attitude. That’s not something you can build overnight. 

What’s the food like? Bar snacks like olives and nuts. No slap-ups here. 

What’s the drink? Sultry cocktails galore. 

What’s the vibe? Soho seediness, but in a good way. 

Time Out tip? Check the programme of entertainment before visiting.

Written by
Chiara Wilkinson


5 Greek Street
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