From humble beginnings, something something something. I forget. But from Bourne & Hollingsworth’s cosy underground bar in Fitzrovia spawned a small family of venues across London. Apparently after 10 years of spreading out it was time to give the original bar a bit of love though, and Bourne & Hollingsworth has been duly refurbished and brought up to date.
Gone is the bar’s previous ‘40s living room theme, replaced by… something. I’m not sure what. There’s still a sprawling fireplace against one wall to create a homely feel, but the rest of the décor gets more eclectic. The pastel pink wallpaper evokes smeared cave paintings more than anything else, while the rooms twin artworks do little to make things clearer: one Union Jacks, the other a rather godly ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’.
To cap it all off, the bathrooms are tucked away behind a secret, unmarked door, which is fine and trendy and not confusing at all, but was it really necessary to also resist gender signage? Paying the bill is meant to be the most nerve-wracking part of visiting a London cocktail bar, not tentatively opening the toilet door and praying you don’t get branded a sex pest.
Still, return from the toilets without a restraining order and you will at least have some pretty excellent drinks to celebrate with. The Fitzgerald pairs rose petal vodka with bitters, lime, pomegranate and some fizz for that rare drink that actually tastes as good as it looks, floating rose petal and all. Others are safer in nature: the Rapunzel is essentially a Moscow Mule; the Back in Black an Espresso Martini. Nevertheless, they’re well made, though presentation can be hit and miss – the short drinks are uniformly striking, the long ones a bit more ‘will this do?’
The requisite ‘talking point’ drink is the Love & Hate, which boldly bills itself as ‘Served polarising.’ With bourbon, port, muscavado, and an artichoke bitter, it lives up to its reputation. Responses ranged from sheer adoration to immediate disgust, and even one claim that it didn’t taste of anything at all – though that may have been more a symptom of all the drinks that came before.
At a flat £10 a drink the bill doesn’t sting too much, and there’s a lot to recommend Bourne & Hollingsworth, even if it is aesthetically confused. Just try to go to the loo before you get there.
Words by Dominic Preston