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New Bar 68 and Boston opens in Soho
October 17, 2015
When 68 and Boston – the brainchild of Eric Yu (Opium and The Social), Martin Malley (co-owner of Planet of the Grapes) and Luca Cordiglieri (former bar manager of China Tang at The Dorchester) – opened earlier this month, we knew it was worth putting to the test. Located just off Soho Square on bustling Greek Street, the new bolthole offers two venues in one; perfect for the indecisive drinker.
68 sits on the ground floor, offering wine, sandwiches and nibbles all day long, while Boston is a late night cocktail lounge hidden at the top of a rather non-descript staircase rising from the entrance. Of the two bars, 68 is undeniably the centrepiece and the one most likely to make a mark on Soho’s nightlife. Taking its cue from the 67 wine producing nations, 68 encourages wine tasting with a relatively compact menu featuring just 24 wines. But there’s a reason for the focus: each and every one is sold for the exact same price. Bottles clock in at £20, carafes at £14 and glasses at £5.50, meaning drinks are appropriately affordable for anyone likely to find themselves wandering into a Soho wine bar.
Despite the budgetary restrictions, the wine list is impressively broad and varied, with options from eleven countries and a range of grape varieties. An Australian Sixty Clicks Shiraz Mantaro proved drinkable, with a light touch, while a Californian Zinfandel started smooth and progressed to a peppery finish with surprising kick. Moving away from the wine, there is a small selection of cocktails to trial, along with sandwiches and an array of wine bar snacks, with the usual suspects; olives, nuts, charcuteries and cheese, making up the main constituents.
The décor is a slightly haphazard take on a mediterranean theme, with Greco-Roman pillars giving way to Victorian coving and hanging lanterns sharing wall space with more modern glowing orbs. Dark wood furniture lends the main note of consistency, while a few small, intricate metal tables by the walls offer an ideal spot to share a bottle with a date. Taken as a whole, the atmosphere is warm and friendly, if a touch confused.
Boston boasts a more consistent visual identity, a relaxed, old-fashioned cocktail bar dressed in navy and mahogany. The menu combines original creations and twists on classics, alongside a small selection of ‘reserve wines’ starting at £27 and climbing from there, which are definitely targeting a different crowd to 68.
Cocktails are pricier too, ranging from £10 to £16, though most are unusual enough to justify the extra spend. But the house punch proved a bit of a disappointment; bold flavours cancelling each other out and leaving a rather watery end product. Ideal if you want something strong that goes down easily, but at a tenner each you’d hope for rather more than that.
68’s wallet-friendly approach to the wine bar makes it an easy recommendation – it’s a far more reliable way to get a decent bottle at a decent price than simply scouring the three cheapest options on your average menu. Boston, on the other hand, may have to do more to stand out in Soho, with little so far to distinguish it from the competition. Stick with 68 – there aren’t many better places for a date at £20 – a steal if you ask us.
Words by Dom Preston