I love Barts. I guess you could call it my first [speakeasy] love. I visited about three years ago and thought I was being dead cool suggesting a date venue that was hidden in the basement of a Sloane Avenue apartment block. And I was!
Barts is the original venture of Inception Group, the team behind Mr Fogg’s, DISCO and Bunga Bunga – so of course it’s a bar with a backstory. One of the first speakeasies to open in London, Barts is based on the actual hidden bars of the prohibition era, where many gangsters bootlegged out of apartments.
This bar is the eclectic and quirky home of Uncle Barts, a quintessentially British gent who provides the perfect alibi for all the comings and goings to the ground floor flat of the 1930s apartment building on Sloane Avenue. Walk brazenly past the receptionist, take the corridor and short flight of stairs to the left, and you’ll come to a nondescript black door.
Through the first door, you’ll find a B&B sign and doorbell. Upon pressing the bell, a hatch snaps open and a pair of eyes assesses you – is there space to accommodate your party, are you suitably dressed, have you made a reservation? Hopefully your attire will be deemed fit and you’ll be permitted to enter!
Barts just celebrated its fifth birthday with a grand refurbishment, so it’s looking spiffier than ever at the mo. An elegant salon, with chintz wallpaper, luggage racks, taxidermy galore and many famous paintings (OMG has somebody defaced the Mona Lisa?!), the interior is quite a sight to behold.
The copper-topped bar dominates one wall, and is home to some stunning mixologists. The cocktail menu is hidden in an old book. Our waiter (in braces and a flat cap) thankfully gave some great advice as I umm-ed and aah-ed for ages, spoilt for choice and unable to decide.
Eventually, we ordered a Black Forest (with Bulleit bourbon, blackberry jam and balsamic vinegar – seriously drinkable, I polished it off in less than five minutes!) and a Basil Fawlty (with vodka, pineapple and basil homegrown in Barts’ very own herb garden – the aromas and flavours were divine). From the menu of Japanese dishes, we ordered some edamame beans (£4.50) and crispy chicken bites (£8.50).
It was soon time for round II. Sophie had her heart set on a Yogi Bear cocktail made with rum, yoghurt and Haribo sweets! And the bartender mixed me a bespoke Old Fashioned, with chocolate orange bitters, Knob Creek bourbon and dark chocolate shavings.
Barts prides itself on some weird cocktail concoctions – Gone Fishin’ contains Alaskan salmon smoked whisky, and is served with some smoked salmon on the side; or there’s a cocktail infused with blue cheese, and served on a cheese board! Sharing cocktails are also available – served in teapots, top hats and a gramophone?!
Barts is not cheap – but then you are in the heart of Chelsea – with cocktails starting from £11. I guess you are paying for service, a great atmosphere and setting, interesting flavours, and all the excitement of discovering a true hidden gem just 10 minutes from South Kensington and Sloane Square tube stations. Take a date, and you can be sure to impress.
Somewhere on Sloane Avenue*
Book: firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7581 3355
* Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue, SW3 3DW