A hidden drinking den deep in the heart of Soho...
To the untrained visitor, it looks like an ordinary whisky shop until you open the bookshelf door at the back, which leads to the cocktail bar in the basement. As a kid, I always dreamed of having one of these doors, and as an adult, the novelty factor is still just as strong.
Owner Simo who is 'bringing back the 90s by going by one name like Cher', his words not mine, built the bar himself, using his construction skills to rescue the bar from its tacky 70s interior to transform it into a comfortable, cocoon-like space where one can easily while away the hours while enjoying a stiff tipple.
Joining him at the helm is Bar Manager Natalino Marano, formerly of Coal Vaults on Wardour Street, (where he met Simo). Italian born and bred (the name kind of gives it away), Natalino is all charm as he furiously shakes cocktails into submission, ensuring that every drink is perfectly executed.
The two make a dynamic duo and you get the impression that they really love what they're doing. In fact, they're so friendly and welcoming you're made to feel as if you're a regular, even if it's your first visit. I'm going to think of it as my own personal Cheers (a popular American TV show in the 80s and 90s for those who may not get the reference).
During my visit I sampled several cocktails featured on the Summer Cocktail Menu, all of which were totally unique and exceptionally prepared. One of the things that sets apart the cocktails at The Vault is their use of fresh ingredients and their love for infusing spirits using fruits and herbs.
Bar Manager Natalino said that the most difficult aspect of making cocktails is knowing what appeals to different palates. He said: "If everyone's tastes were the same it would be much easier, but boring." Based on the innovative drinks that form the cocktail menu, you can tell that they are really pushing the boat out in efforts to avoid being labeled as dull.
Highlights of the cocktail menu included the Carnabation Army (barrel aged Boulvadier, Bourbon, Campari, Camparno Antica); Blood in the Snow (White Armagnac, Figs, Demerara Sugar, Lemon, Egg White, Peychaud's Bitters); the Red Rimmer (Mezcal, Jalapeno Pepper, Agave, Lime, Grapefruit, Spiced Rum) and the Scandy Dandy (named after its Scandavian base spirit) and mixed with Caramel, Vanilla, Sea Salt, Lemon and Rosemary.
Get there now before you need to fight off the crowds to secure a stool at the bar...
Milroy's of Soho
3 Greek Street