Mystery bar number 33
After a bit of prompting, and some rather lame clues from me ("it has something in common with Sandwiches"), David identified the previous mystery bar as Toast on the Terrace. It's a pleasant enough café that's known for good brunch, and it makes a fairly half-hearted attempt at being an after-work bar for the suity crowd on Thursdays and Fridays. It's reasonably stylish, but in a minimalist way that's now quite redolent of the 90s.
Today's mystery bar also recalls the 90s. The 1890s, that is. There's lots of dark, masculine wood, lofty ceilings and reminders of the past. The walls are lined with caricatures of loyal former habitués, and the occasional dead animal. The atmosphere is generally not one of raucous inebriation but of calm and sobriety. At least, it was until our party turned up.
When I say "masculine", you might get the impression that it would be ideal for a stag party, but you'd be wrong - the only stag in sight was stuffed and mounted. It's a bit more exclusive than that, though certainly much less exclusive than it used to be, and there are dark tales of licentious behaviour in the past that had to be severely punished. The wine list was reasonable, and the food, though not quite up to the "fine dining" standard that it claims, was delicious and more inventive than one might expect. The perfect place for a Martini, wouldn't you think? Alas, no, for they had no Vermouth. At least the young and enthusiastic staff were willing to try, and apologised effusively for the lack of ingredients.
This place has almost all the ingredients to straddle the difficult divide between the traditional and the contemporary, and with a bit more work could achieve a wonderful blend of old world luxury and modern quality. But at the moment, it's not quite there.