Review: Callooh Callay
Anyone that spends some time getting themselves acquainted with the cocktail bar ‘scene’ in London will soon find themselves coming to the conclusion that there is something for everyone. From decadent luxury in the 5* hotels, to modern alchemy served in prohibition-esque basements, to rough-around-the edges dive bars, there really is plenty to choose from. Whatever their style, the success or failure of each bar is in no small part down to whether they can make their customers feel comfortable and welcome. Customers are tricky things however, and what they are looking for from a hotel bar on a Monday afternoon is quite different to a late-night good time bar on a Saturday evening. Therein lies a problem, to attract customers you have to appeal to their needs or wants, and it’s not possible to be all things to all people.
There is however one bar that challenges such wisdom. Located in oh so trendy Shoreditch, the quirky-decored Callooh Callay has become quite an institution on the London cocktail scene, and for good reason. It seems that no matter what you are looking for, Callooh Callay will deliver the goods. The main bar is a lively space where this bar lays bare its soul. Knowledgeable and friendly staff serve up consistently well-executed drinks from a great-looking something-for-everyone menu which changes just often enough to mean once you have worked your way through the whole list, it is time to start again on the new one! There is plenty to choose from with not a hint of pretension about it. You can come here with 20 different friends all with different tastes and they will all leave with bloody great grins on their faces. They are not shy on flavour, and there are frequently drinks on the menu the include interesting and unusual ingredients, often created in-house by the bartenders themselves. At weekends, the main bar is the place to be to let your hair down, with DJ’s keeping the music flowing as fast as the drinks.
Stepping through the wardrobe (yep, you heard right) transports the guest into a second lounge which goes all out on the retro-disco styling. With a bunch more seating and no bar (efficient table-service keeps you well lubricated), this is an altogether more intimate space. Serving the same menu as the main bar, this is the place for those looking to put the world to rights over a delicious beverage or two. It is also impossible to sit in this room and not order some food from the kitchen that exits into it. Bar snacks are the name of the game rather than full-size plates, which means you have a great excuse to order one of everything. This is not a bar where you’ll be needing to make a trip to the kebab shop on the way home to satisfy your nutritional requirements.
The third space at Callooh Callay is so secret that I probably shouldn’t mention it here, but it’s also so fantastic that it would be a crime not to! It goes by the name of the JubJub and is accessed only by those lucky enough to be invited, or to hold a members key. Membership is gained through the demonstration of an appreciation of fine drinking, and those lucky enough to be granted access will be richly rewarded. It is an intimate space with seating for only around 25 with the bartenders taking turns to create a bespoke menu that changes weekly. You’ll find all manner of drinks on the menu here, as the bartenders individual styles and creativity are allowed to shine. The result is a bar that can claim to have delivered the greatest number of “wow, I never knew a drink could taste that good” moments of any bar I have been in. With regular tasting events also being held, this is the place for those with a genuine interest in spirits and cocktails.
It is with the JubJub that Callooh Callay delivers the full circle of being all things to all people. No matter whether you are looking for a place to let your hair down on the weekend, or to have your horizons broadened with some sophisticated libation exploration, Callooh Callay is the place to do it. Go, now, you’ll love it.