How close is Eve to a Michelin star? Oh, about ten feet: it’s under Adam Handling’s frog a well-deserved restaurant in Covent Garden. And as you’d expect from this connection, the drinks and food on offer have the same level of creativity and detail.
“Try it! You won’t even taste the drink!” There are very few things I truly hate in the beverage world, but this line is one of them. If I want to drink squash, I’ll drink squash. But I love a drink and if I’m paying over £15 for a drink I’d better damn well taste the alcohol in it.
That’s not a problem at Eve, where the cocktails are creative, clever and very clearly show off the booze – while being gorgeously infused, inventive. These aren’t drinks you sip and ignore, they’re drinks you sip, question, share, sip again, check the menu, and sip some more. They’re the star of this particular show, as they should be – even if some of Frog’s signature dishes are available as bar snacks.
The new menu is called “V” and, unsurprisingly, it’s divided into five sections: agave, juniper, grain, malt, and corn and sugar cane. Each section features three cocktails that use the corresponding spirit, as well as “additional flavors.” A delightfully eccentric three-word description accompanies each drink name, making it easy to understand what’s actually on offer. For example, Red Flags from the Juniper section contains Boatyard gin, Hendrick’s gin, apple juice, miso and champagne and is described as a “fresh – bubbly – croissant”. And to my delight, it tasted like a boozy, buttery French pastry.
From the Malt & Corn section, Boy Pink – made with Yellowstone, Baldoria sweet vermouth, anise, fennel and Campari – is described as “bitter – textured – harmony” and, judging by the ingredients, is somewhere in the Zona Negroni only whimsical and, one might say, bolder.
First up is the Perfect Three Cherries, a fancy version of Chef Handling’s favorite drink. This cocktail epitomizes the level of in-house experimentation and original twists the team brings to the (preparation) table located in the bar’s glass laboratory. The pitted cherries were lightly toasted to bring out their natural almond notes and then added to the sweet vermouth. Dry vermouth is flavored with cherry blossom, and the drink is garnished with three cherries dipped in whiskey. This is the kind of cocktail that will make me want to go back to Eve in no time.
If the drinks set Eve apart from many competing bars, the food menu takes those distinctions to a whole new level. I liked the cheese donuts, but while they are good, they are actually inferior to the beef tartare (made from the restaurant’s “waste” beef) and the egg, bacon, and maitake mushroom served in egg-shaped cups on a nest of hay (and, brilliantly, on dry ice, like in the 80s).
And there is chicken butter and sourdough. Oh, sweet insert-divinity-of-your-choice-there’s butter chicken and sourdough. It’s a brilliant little crusty bread while still warm, served with butter emulsified with chicken fat and topped with crispy chicken skin, and a small dollop of exceptional chicken liver parfait. Somehow it’s more chicken than real chicken, a real little flavor bomb that, at £10, could be one of the best bargains and truly exceptional bar snacks the capital has to offer.
I don’t know about you, but I have certain expectations of what a cocktail bar should look and feel like, probably based on movies and television. Lighting should be dim. The bar should be long. Staff must be knowledgeable – and wear aprons. Drinks should make you feel like Don Draper. You know the drill.
This basement bar ticks all the boxes with its eccentric artwork, simple yet elegant glassware and charming, wonderfully knowledgeable staff. All in all, Eve is – cough – Adam a great bar.
Eve; 34 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7HF; evebar.co.uk