inking into plush velvet chairs in this swish new lounge at the Great Northern Hotel, we mull over this bar’s unusual name, inspired as it is by the “colour and unusual properties of coal”. A disco house soundtrack plays, and there’s statement lighting at every angle. From the window are wow-factor views of George Gilbert Scott’s iconic St Pancras clock tower.
Located on first floor, it’s a nooks-and-crannies-filled gem of a place. On our visit we snack on densely packed duck bonbons served with umami-laden Korean BBQ sauce, seared beef skewers alongside garlicky chimichurri and yellow-hued spheres of crab and saffron arancini atop a smear of aromatic basil mayo. Manager Gregory Kappas guides us through the whopping 39(!) page menu with flair.
A contemporary interpretation of the classic cocktail, its early sweetness gives way to a dry finish. That’ll be the Aztec chocolate bitters mingling with spicy four-year Flor de Cana rum – a reminder of my travels in Nicaragua – and Vermouth Del Professore Classico, a fortified wine made using fifteen different herbs. The finishing touches? Toasted coconut shards delicately placed on the base of the vessel and tart freeze-dried raspberries lining it.
A classic citrus-forward tipple, head bartender Balazs Nagy expertly blends Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, an orange-flavoured liqueur, with Remy Martin VSOP cognac and lemon juice. Garnished with zest and a sugared rim, the simple recipe reveals a complex and balanced flavour profile.
This inventive take on the whisky version (see main pic, above) is a quaffable celebration of nuttiness that proves to be a memorable finale to the evening. Honey-pistachio syrup and black walnut bitters fuse with raisiny El Candado Pedro Ximénez sherry, Buffalo Trace bourbon and egg white, creating a rich, moreish concoction. Hands down the best cocktail I’ve sampled this year: in fact, for as long as I can remember.
Maim image: John Carey