Purl, London: Possibly the Most Pretentious Place on the Planet.

Purl markets itself as a post-prohibition (i.e. pointless) speakeasy, the kind of place you only know about if you know about it, housed in the basement of a building in Marylebone. On arrival, my two friends and I were told by a conspicuous bouncer at the top of the stairs leading into the basement bar that it was impossible for us to get in. Being 7pm, we guessed it was unlikely to be full, and bargained with him that we would stay for one only and be off. He took five minutes to go and ask someone inside (I’m still convinced he was just hiding inside the door) then returned and told us fine, twenty minutes. Already bemused by the place, we had to laugh when we entered to a roaring crowd of about 7 people. The interior is rich, dark and musty, and we were guided into a little stone cave-like booth with velvet couches along three sides and a low table in the middle, lit by dim lamps. It would have been a great atmosphere in the actual prohibition, or at least before the smoking ban, but in reality it was quite grotty and claustrophobic.

Purl’s private booths, photo from their website.

A cheap paper menu was handed to the three of us and our host disappeared. The pretentiousness of the place was solidified by the strange drinks on offer. It was as though they had made every effort to include as few recognisable words and brands as possible. This was pure upper-class hipster. The standard cocktails were between 11-15 pounds, and honestly none were too appealing. They opted for quirky and exotic over complementary flavours, so we ended up just picking at random. We went ourselves to the bar to order, the server having abandoned us, and our drinks came soon after. I went for a drink that was explained as gin, vermouth and creme de cassis served with a red wine ice lolly and fizzy grapes (…) The presentation should have been something to admire, but honestly it was just laughable. One of the drinks, an Old Fashioned,  came with a little spray of something that you either flavour the drink with or spray into your mouth before you drink, but the cute little spritzer apparently gets stolen all the time so the waitress would only let my friend try it, spray her drink, and then took it back. It also came with a tiny half-melted ice cream. The third was a Jekyll and Hyde theme and served in chemical bottles with dry ice.

Jekyll and Hyde at the top, my Poor Man’s Cuba Libre in the middle and the Old Fashioned.

I can’t deny the originality in the cocktails and their presentation and I get that any bar in as huge place like London has to do something to stand out, but it was such an uncomfortable experience I would never go back. A laugh, but not the right kind, and certainly not worth the money. Their website is HERE for anyone interested. Thanks for reading ❤ https://www.facebook.com/SipProKate

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