Cocktail Bar Review: Evans and Peel Detective Agency, London
Earls Court is not somewhere known for its cocktail bars, and even less so for its cocktail bars that feel like walking onto a Hollywood set from the olden days. And then pops up Evans and Peel. Entrance to this ‘by appointment only’ bar is via a somewhat shady-looking door a few strides off the main thoroughfare that is Earls Court Road (look for the flickering light at low level), and requires you to agree with the chap at the other end that no, you dont have a reservation, but yes you do have an appointment with some chap named Mr Peel. The buzzer sounds and you descend into what appears to the basement office of a an American detective agency from a very long time ago. Only once your credentials have been thoroughly vetted are you permitted entrance via the secret door into the bar.
After the surreal entrance, the rest of the Evans and Peel experience is relatively normal. It’s all very low-lit, with exposed brickwork walls and antiquated oddities dotted around. It could so easily feel a little bit Disneyfied but it doesn’t; instead it is fun, and plenty cool.
The drinks highlight a desire to have a play around with flavours and, whilst there is nothing too weird going on, it is the sort of place where it pays to ask the bartender what they’ve been up to recently. I was rewarded with an unlisted Old Fashioned made with pink peppercorn-infused The Singleton Scotch whisky, and was left wondering why no-one had given me this drink before. The menu itself lists about a dozen unique creations that takes its inspiration from the classics but adds what will surely become a characteristic Evans and Peel twist. The “Hop Skip and a Jump” for example twisted a classic brandy sour by the addition of a pale ale reduction, which offered a wonderful bitterness to balance the fruitiness of the brandy. Equally the “Grapefruit Blossom” was a beautifully simple combination of gin, sweet vermouth, grapefruit juice and orange bitters perfectly executed.
It’s worth noting that the chef has secured himself a smoker and promptly set about smoking pretty much everything he can get his hands on. Food is a focus here and whilst my five-spiced short rib slider with soy might have needed a little more work to get the flavour balance right, I could quite happily never eat another dessert again if they would give me a limitless supply of the hickory smoked cheesecake. It is great to see a bar play around with flavors in this way and whilst not everything was the genius of the Old Fashioned, this is most definitely a bar to try something new and step out of your comfort zone.
4 stars out of 5