I’m not a huge fan of Chinese cuisine, so my main prerogative for venturing into Chinatown are the cocktail bars. One in particular, in fact. Hidden away so as not to be obvious at first glance, Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour comes out top in my books.
Opened by Eric Yu and Dre Masso in December 2012, Opium is a triple-floored, multi-roomed venue in the heart of Chinatown, and is much more than just a bar. Hidden behind that unassuming jade green door (although the massive bouncer standing outside gives a hint that there is something of note inside), Opium is a combination of apothecary-style cocktail bar, dim sum parlour, The Academy mixology school and tea parlour. Take the dark stairs upwards, forging on through a heady fog of incense, until you reach the delightful den.
The styling is oriental-meets-bohemian, and evokes the feel of opium dens from bygone times. Book a table and you’ll be ushered into low, plush chairs inside the beautifully wallpapered rooms, surrounded by family photos from 1950s Hong Kong, and served by well-turned out staff who have an endless knowledge of the drinks they serve.
Staffed by a cherry-picked team of bar professionals who are masters of, and passionate about, what they do, The Apothecary Bar serves drinks that are carefully administered from medicine bottles and pipettes, featuring imaginative effects, interesting vessels and plenty of dry ice – just what the doctor ordered! The bar team is headed by Esther Cuesta Medina, who is widely regarded as one of the most influential people in the bar industry today, whose passion is “mixing drinks with a dash of love”.
For those wanting to take their own skills to the next level, Opium’s Bartenders Table is the best seat in town for the cocktail curious. The Cocktail Academy teaches you how to make classic fancy drinks with an exotic twist, in a hands-on and sociable three-hour class – with sipping and tasting aplenty.
Times when you want something a little different – Opium has an unusual theme and styling, and the cocktails are all served with a good dose of drama and theatre. I like to come here for drinks with friends (cocktails are about £11.50), and can always guarantee good service and knowledgeable staff who’ll help you out with recommendations.
Oh and they play Chinese speeches over the tannoy in the toilets, which is always a nice touch!
Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour
The Jade Door, 15-16 Gerrard Street, Chinatown, London, W1D 6JE
Book a table here
020 7734 7276 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Open till at least midnight every night.