Although food always comes first, I have a soft spot for interesting and delicious cocktails. Opium, the newly opened cocktail and dim sum parlour, has some of the best I tried in 2012. Just don’t miss the inconspicuous jade door on Gerrard Street, and up the stairs you can escape the madness of Chinatown below somewhere altogether more inviting.
Inside, there is a maze of rooms spread across the floors, with the décor a cool mix of East meets West. We spent a relaxed Friday afternoon in the Apothecary bar, but I would love to go on a busier evening and visit the Bartender’s table above, where you can sit around with other customers and the bartenders while they mix drinks.
Although they are happy to mix up any classic drinks, the star of this place is their nicely concise and inventive cocktail list. The drinks feature intriguing combinations with seasonal ingredients and oriental flavours, all served with fun touches and a little theatre. The Emperors’s New Clothes (vodka, vermouth, grape juice, aloe vera, lime juice and green tea syrup) was brought to the table in a medicine bottle (behind the bar there are no branded bottles, but instead rows of ‘Chinese Medicine’), and had a fragrant, soft sweetness. The Royal Plums (tequila, Chinese plum wine, poached black plum and rosemary syrup), was garnished with flamed rosemary, and was punchy but well-balanced.
There are dim sum to eat (ranging from £5-£10), and the selection we tried were very good – soft, steamed vegetable dumplings, Char Siu Bao with a generous tangy barbecued pork filling, and delicious sesame lobster prawn toast.
The cocktails are a little pricey (most around the £13 mark), but worth it for the unique flavours and attention to the detail that goes into the drinks. The service was great and I loved the look and feel of the bar – I will definitely be returning to Opium one evening soon.