Last Thursday I met up with martini guru R and we went to the Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell for cocktails. I whizzed round on the Metropolitan Line from Euston Square to Farringdon which was a surprisingly fun experience - the old dreary grey, graffiti-marked trains have been replaced by something whizzy and modern resembling a giant bendy bus - and Farringdon station appears to have expanded to the size of several football pitches.
Unfortunately the Zetter Townhouse website seems to be down at the moment which shows the perils of relying on the online cocktail list to remember what we both had... I'd been to the Zetter Hotel for Sunday lunch before and was favourably impressed, so was looking forward to this. The Townhouse is round the corner, in a very nice Georgian building on St John's Square. You go in through the front door, past a curtain and find yourself in something that looks like someone's living room - comfy sofas and chairs, old tables, bookcases. At just before 6, it was quite full but we didn't have to wait long before someone came and found us a table tucked around a corner.
To start with we had dry martinis made with Plymouth gin, with an olive in R's case and a twist for me. They weren't served in traditional martini glasses but rather what looked like antique champagne cups, full to the brim. They were very good and in R's opinion only surpassed by the ones we had at the Lanesborough back in the days when Salvatore Calabrese was still working there.
The other cocktails we had were also very well-made and interesting with unusual ingredients, particularly in R's choices from the house cocktail list. When I asked why R had wanted to come here in particular, he said he'd seen it on some list as the no.1 cocktail bar in London, and I could understand why.
Our only quibble was that there were no free nibbles, but on the other hand the cocktails were about £8.50 so about half the price of a posh hotel bar these days. We ordered a little pot of olives to share, which came in a miniature jar. We also got unasked-for glasses of water which were regularly topped up by the waitress - we were certainly well-looked after. The atmosphere was cheerfully without being too noisy and we weren't too close to anybody else. All in all, it was a really good experience and I'll definitely be back.