We swam against the critical tide a little for the first series of ‘Sherlock’ in 2010, finding its knowingness irritating, its swagger presumptuous and its modern setting, perhaps perversely, suffering in the light of so many inferior contemporary takes on a genre virtually invented by Arthur Conan Doyle.
We were converted, however, by 2012’s ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’, repeated tonight. Based upon ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’, it’s an absolute triumph. It wears its complete self-assurance more lightly; its virtuosity is inclusive rather than alienating; and it offers Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (playing Holmes and Watson, of course) subtle, significant character development to feast upon. To say that Morarity is more panto villain than genuine threat is but a minor caveat; Lara Pulver as Irene Adler, ‘the woman’ of Holmes legend, makes a more than capable adversary for Sherlock.
Doyle’s well-worn characters – archetypes of their kind – are now seamlessly integrated into the modern world. Watson’s blog on Holmes’s exploits is a sensation, and Sherlock even Skypes into a crime scene; the sinister hand of state is represented with great poise and complexity by Gatiss himself as Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft. This is just great television, from its smart, witty resolution of the series one cliffhanger at the swimmming pool to its ghoulish, outrageous but hard-won final twist. Go on, treat yourself – if only to see if any clues are laid for – spoiler alert! – Sherlock’s ‘death’ two episodes later…
Cocktail Trading Company
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 star
Venue says: “Every bottle of liquor in the house is £9 a double! Sample some top-shelf delights 'til your heart's content, without breaking the bank.”