It’s the first payday weekend of the year and you can hear a collective sigh country-wide as everyone finally has a bit of cash in their pockets. With most of us getting paid prior to Christmas it felt like a long old month, but all of that’s in the past now and if you’re planning to spend some dollahhhhs this weekend and treat yourself to a night on the town DO I HAVE A RECOMMENDATION FOR YOU.
Now, those of you that follow me on social media or have read this blog before will have heard me waxing lyrical about my favourite restaurant and bar, The Royal Hotel. I am besotted with the place and it is my go-to whenever I want some good food and even tastier cocktails.
Obviously, as I always say, YOU HAVE TO GET YOURSELF DOWN THERE ASAP, but now there’s another pretty special string added to their bow and an additional bonus to spending a few hours under their roof – their speakeasy style underground bar, Dr Legba’s Emporium of Cocktails and Curiosities.
Open the gate in the old black railings from the High Street, walk down the steps and through the private basement entrance and you find yourself in a magical wonderland of bohemian, steam-punk-esque styling.
Green high-shine venetian plaster walls contrast against a copper colour ceiling. Cosy booths are situated along the walls creating comfortable little nooks for you to settle down in. The bar is topped with a solid piece of oak off-set against the bank of 2p’s that make up the outer decoration. There is copper piping, novelty dog-shaped light fittings, decadent printed artwork, plus an old display cabinet and bike. The toilet is hidden behind what appears to be a photo frame, soon to hold a large, bespoke image of the lady that summarises the whole vibe of the space – the absinthe fairy.
Whilst I was visiting, I was offered the chance to try a twist on Hemingway’s favourite cocktail – Death In The Afternoon. Knowing the reputation absinthe has for knocking people off their feet I was a little nervous, but if you’re going to trust anyone to make you a cocktail of perfect proportions, it’s these guys. Using their stunning absinthe fountain (which is supplied fresh water via the copper pipes), they mixed 1 part absinthe, 3 parts water and topped it all with champagne; pop in a star anise and the drink was complete. With a heady scent of aniseed this drink is surprisingly – and pleasantly – easy to drink. When complete it is about 68% alcohol content so it’s not a drink to be sipped all night, but the flavours are such that if you could find a slightly less boozy version of it, I would definitely order more than one.
The champagne used for this cocktail was a new one for me, Veuve Clicquot Rich. Despite the name it’s not as expensive as I expected, being around £60 a bottle, but the name – I believe – refers more to the rich nature of it as it is differently constructed to other champagnes you might have tried.
Your average bottle of champagne will have 10-20g of sugar in it – Rich has 150g, so is 10 times as sweet, 10 times as tasty and 10 times as calorific! This isn’t a champagne for sipping simply poured from the bottle, instead you should drink it with ice to balance the sugar content, and it is recommended you add different elements to it to enhance and adjust the flavour, much like you would with a gin. You can experiment with your own taste, but I tried it with black pepper (which felt strange but was really nice!), orange slices or cucumber; each version tasting slightly different as the champagne took on the traits of the garnish.
(Fun Fact: The first time I ever had black pepper in a drink was at The Royal Hotel last year when I tried their Earl of Grey cocktail – and very tasty it was too!)
I don’t need to tell you all again how much I love The Royal Hotel – to be fair, I don’t stop banging on about it – and adding Dr Legba’s to their already sterling collection of offerings feels like the icing on the cake.
With a capacity of around 40 people, Dr Legba’s is usually open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, however, being of the underground speakeasy style, it’s worth giving them a call to double check in advance. You can also have hire of the space Wednesday-Sunday for private parties which I am definitely considering for the future!
If you’re in Essex I 100% recommend you check out both Dr Legba’s and The Royal Hotel; the team there have absolutely nailed it when it comes to hospitality, quality, service and style, and I’m already counting down the days until I can go back.
* In Association With Brand *