A welcoming embrace back to London in the boozy bosom of Opium.

November 14, 2014

The prodigal daughter (yours truly, natch) returns to London and how better to welcome her back to this beautiful, chaotic, contradictory city than to envelope her in a comforting, hazy incense-cloud of a embrace in the warm bosom of a Chinatown parlour?
Every travelling Oriental eases the culture shock and the transition between two starkly different countries by seeking out Chinatown, and so I overcame my jet lag with copious cocktails and some dim sum at Opium, a cocktail and dim sum parlour in Chinatown. Henry and I enjoyed a most satisfying evening at the gracious hospitality of Greg, Julian, and Rasa, the most brilliantly uproarious bartender who not only handled Henry's craziness with aplomb but rather added the fuel to the fire; responding to Henry's mad stories about how Lana Del Rey was his wife and is really a coconut, and that Bruce Willis is a hamster by asking "Good luck with getting custody of your children from Lana! Maybe you can ask Bruce Willis to help you and he'll bring you your kids into his cheek pouches." She's a firecracker, that one! How very apt that you'd find her in Chinatown (firecracker, Chinatown *nudge nudge*).

We found the discreet jade door to Opium on 15-16 Gerrard Street, beside Golden Pagoda and just around the corner from Chinatown's entrance where Macclesfield Street meets Shaftesbury Avenue. 

Crossing the threshold, we were greeted with the intoxicating scent of incense which set the tone for this Sherlock Holmes-esque hangout. We ascended three flights of stairs, the corridors of which were deliberately sparse and almost shabby so as to literally take your breath away in two ways: one; by the time you get to the bar or restaurant you'd be panting, two; after the seemingly bland and nondescript surroundings of the stairwell the decadent, theatrical rooms bathed in soft red light from Chinese paper lanterns made you gasp as you took in your lush surroundings, your physical exertions rewarded with the sight of a parlour most pleasing to the eye, decorated so lavishly and cozily so as to give you the impression of having chanced upon a mysterious member's club. 

The delightful Rasa (guess where she's from? Noone has ever got it right, apart from Henry) who whips up a mean cocktail, or in our case ten cocktails which accounts for my hangover this morning.

We started the night with these three cocktails---

Wild Blossom (shaken) - noilly amber, bitter truth elderflower, hint of lime juice, dashes of rose water, topped with rose champagne.

Blood & Sand (shaken) - Chivas Regal 12 year old, cherry heering, martini rosso, and fresh orange juice.

War Of The Roses (shaken) - Beefeater 24, fresh white grapefruit juice, oolong-raspberry tea syrup, lillet rosé, egg white, white grapefruit zest, garnished with mint leaf. 

The most theatrical cocktail we were served was the Opium #5, an opium cup that billowed dry ice smoke, yielding a fruity tequila cocktail to be drunk through a special straw. 

Opium #5 (shaken) - altos tequila, Briottet liquer de cactus, pimento & prickly pear, dark oolong tea, balanced with sugar and lime.

We finished with Blackfriar's Flip, a fruity creamy gin cocktail with egg, and My Mother's Cocktail, a rich, sweet rum cocktail flavoured with the X.O that my mother's generation love so much. 

My Mother's Cocktail (stirred) - Dubonnet, Mount Gay X.O, Barolo chinato cocchi, and dashes of Angostura bitters.

Blackfriar's Flip (shaken) - Plymouth sloe gin, Beefeater London dry, double cream, Briottet cr éme de mure, egg yolk, caster sugar, blackberry garnish.

By this point Henry and I had had about eight cocktails between us, not including shots, and I could barely string a sentence together so Julian very kindly gave us a dim sum platter to help sober me up.

Dim sum platter: 4 siu mai, 2 char siu bau, 2 har gau (both of which I gobbled up, they're my favourite) and 2 summer vegetable dumplings that I didn't get to sink my teeth into because of this greedy walrus here---

Suffice to say we enjoyed ourselves tremendously and couldn't have wished for a better welcome back to London nor a more pleasing way to get over jet lag. Thank you Opium, thank you Greg, thank you Julian, and last but not least thank you Rasa!

Opium's cocktails are £10 - £18 and a dim sum platter is £16. There are vegetarian options for those so inclined, and adventurous dumplings like the crab & samphire, and lobster. All three floors of Opium; the Attic (the catalyst for the concept of Opium) and the Academy, and the Apocathery were rammed with people, no doubt thanks to their late opening hours: till 2am on Thursdays, 3am on Fridays and Saturdays with food served till 2:30 on weekends. A full list of Opium's opening hours are to be found here. We even got a glimpse of the new space in Opium ahead of it's soft launch this weekend (tentatively) that I can't wait to show you...all I can say now is that it has a sweet feature that I can't wait to one day have in my dream kitchen. x

Opium website
Opium on Facebook: Opium Chinatown
Opium on twitter : @OpiumChinatown

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