What’s particularly weird about Congo is that things should be so much better. The country has repeatedly been a victim of its own natural profusion which has acted as a magnet to exploiters. The Belgian Prince Leopold started this trend back in the 1890s when he relieved Congo of much of its rubber, became wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice and offed anywhere between two and 15 million Congolese into the bargain. Subsequently, diamonds, copper, uranium, coltan (a rich metallic ore) and cadmium have had their moments – each could have made the country rich, each has brought only powerlessness, violence and misery.
Snow ends in a cadmium mine containing some reasonably optimistic workers. Inevitably, the mine is run by Canadians. Not cheerful viewing, then, but if you’ve ever wondered why phones, laptops and tablets come so cheap these days, you could do worse than take a look.
The menu is housed in an empty cassette case, the toilet is hidden behind a secret door in the wall and the cocktails have such cringe-o names as 'Ume? Yes You' and 'Fennel Countdown'. Sure, Callooh Callay sounds gimmicky, but the tipples at this long-established Shoreditch bar are the real deal. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable (no moody, 'I'm actually in a band’ hipsters serve here) and mix delectable elixirs like vodka and rhubarb with vanilla shrub and whisky with apricot jam and chocolate bitters (just ignore the names). The exposed brick walls, Milk Tray-coloured soft furnishings and abundance of tealights make Callooh Callay a very cosy spot to sit. Neither trashy nor pretentious, the vibe here is fun but still stylish, and, unlike in neighbouring bars, you won't be surrounded by swarms of obnoxious suits or stag-dos.
Venue says: “Winner of the 'world's best high volume bar' at the 2016 Spirited Awards. Open seven days a week 6pm-1am. Cocktail classes also available.”