Lots of my friends work in The City. This is a annoying for a variety of reasons.
It’s annoying because I now know far more about insurance and reinsurance than I ever wanted to. It’s annoying because they get to go on corporate ski trips and I don’t. But most of all, it’s annoying because so many post-work drinks take place in The City.
A few months ago I officially boycotted the Jamaican Wine House due to the chronic bottom slapping. Ledenhall Market is crammed with too many suited packs of braying City Boys. And all the other pubs dotted around the Bishopsgate-Cornhill-Moorgate triangle are thick with whisky fumes and sweat. A gentle steam rising off wet suits, pork scratchings and dark, sticky carpets.
So, imagine my joy when I first went to The Folly—thought up by some bright spark who realized that there were a few girls who occasionally infiltrated The City and wanted somewhere nice to go…or indeed a few City Boys who’d started reading Men’s Health and decided that a skinny G&T was better for them than a pint of Fosters.
It’s a safe haven of clean glasses, soft music and thoughtful design. Living, floral centre pieces, charcuterie boards and Chablis. A couple of wing-backed chairs and small tables for intimate chats. It mightn’t sound that groundbreaking, but considering its location I assure you that it is. A guffaw-free zone where you’re safe from having someone’s eighth pint of the afternoon sloshed over you. Bliss!
So, imagine my excitement when I found out that The Folly was just one bar in Drake & Morgan’s extensive quest to drag The City from Dickensian misogyny into the twenty-first century. They’re also behind The Anthologist, The Parlour, The Refinery and, most recently The Drift—on the ground and first floor of the much anticipated Heron Tower.
Despite being chain-like in their set up, each of Drake & Morgan’s bars has a unique twist—the wooden, dock-side feel of The Refinery in Southwark is quite different to the daytime deli and florist in the botanical-themed Folly.
While The Drift retains Drake and Morgan’s characteristic feel of space and high-end urban design, the quirk that sets it apart is its 1980s vibe. And what better time to launch the concept—just as The Iron Lady is hitting the big screen, pussy bow blouses are making a come back, and city slickers are craving some Alpine après ski.
It’s not so much the design at The Drift which channels the 1980s, but its commitment to the Flambé menu. I can’t help but be a little scared of gimmicks. So when I saw the burley chefs navigating granny-esque tea-trolleys round the tables, ready to do the flambéing at the tables, I felt a little bit giggly about the scene unfolding before my eyes.
Perhaps it’s because I once went to Simpson’s-in-the Strand when I was little, and witnessed some of the original wheely trolleys where hunks of meat were pushed round the dining room and carved in silent ceremony—the sort of thing that makes tourists weep with excitement. A gastronomic experience that epitomizes the glamour of the cruise-ship era, where dessert trolleys and pudding trolleys are paraded past the admiring tables, with maître d’s whisking dishes onto starched linen tables with a mixture of Parisian flourish and British formality.
I’m not the biggest fan of pomp and fanfare. During all the nonsense ceremonies at Oxford I was cringing whilst others were moved to tears. So you might imagine that I was dubious about the sudden return to flambéing. But the reason that The Drift got it right was that formality was out of the window. Part of the reason behind the flambé trolleys was to break the barrier between the kitchen and the dining room—and once the chefs had been untied from the stove, there was no way they were going to harness themselves to the trolleys with dated formality. No, they were there to have fun too.
They were smiley and chatty as they set fire to pans of food with gay abandon. Sauces were effortlessly prepared and everything was cooked with great ease in the dancing flames. Inspiring for a foodie and entertaining for non-foodies.
There were three main course choices on the Flambé menu: Scampi Mornay (scampi served in creamy cheese sauce and flamed with cognac), Beef Stroganoff (beef fillet sautéed, creamy mushroom sauce with a hint of mustard and flamed with cognac) and Steak Diane (minute steak pan-fried in a rich creamy sauce with mushrooms, gherkins and a hint of mustard flamed with cognac).
The flambé theme stretched to a spectacular cocktail menu. Having worked for CLASS magazine in what feels like another lifetime, I pride myself on being a bit of a connoisseur, so I’m going to say with some authority that it’s unusual to get such exceptionally tasty and well-balanced cocktails in a restaurant.
The prawn cocktail starter was matched with a ‘Flaming Your Tai’ (rum, dry curaçao, pink grapefruit, orgeat, egg white, orange bitters…and a flaming lime which didn’t ‘flame my tie’ because I wasn’t wearing one—but it did almost burn my eyebrows!) Main course came with ‘The Starry Scamp’ (gin, crème de peche, sauvignon blanc, dry curaçao, star anise and a cardamom foam)—for me the drink of the night. Finally the crepe suzette came with a ‘Blood Orange Blazer’ (cognac, dry curaçao, overproof rum, blood orange, lemon juice and sugar).
The three course cocktail matching menu isn’t cheap at £45.95, but then a decent cocktail in London comes in around £8 which would bring in the other three courses at around £21.95 which isn’t too bad if it’s near payday.
For the three courses (without cocktail matching) it’s £27.95, and a single main course is £17.95 which, although described as a ‘flambilicous price’, seems a teeny bit expensive.
But then I suppose that’s what comes from eating in The City. It’s not so much of a destination you’d go to, but more of a stop-over point for meetings or end of the day drinks. I try and cover the exceptionally good-value restaurants in London in this blog, and I’m not entirely sure it fits the bill, but if you wanted to go somewhere with a bit of a (literal) spark for great food and fun…and you’ve got hold of the company card, then I’d recommend you put on your pussy bow blouse and head straight down to The Drift.
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Monday – Friday: 7.30am – 10pm
Saturday: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: 10am – 5pm