Paesan Underground in Clerkenwell
Exmouth Market is one of those streets in London that you stumble upon one day and wonder why you never knew it existed. A popular after-work, evening dinner and weekend brunch destination, the selection of restaurants to suit most budgets means there is a diverse and social clientele crowding the doorways during peak hours. Paesan restaurant opened in July this year and its team were keen to differentiate themselves from local competition and create a uniquely authentic and rustic Italian menu, best shared among family and friends. Paesan Underground, its new bar, extends this culinary vision – serving simple but delicious cocktails.
As the name suggests, Paesan Underground can be found a flight of stairs beneath the main restaurant. It has a shabby-chic, relaxed aesthetic with scattered tables, a wooden bar and floor, and stone booths set into the exposed brickwork. The whole place is dimly lit with bare light bulbs and industrial light fixtures, with pipes running down walls adorned with graffiti, antiqued Italian adverts, posters and religious artwork. The music maintains this cool, urban image with some of Justin Timberlake’s back catalogue and lo-fi house remixes of other popular chart and dance music from the last decade.
The main event is the extensive range of cocktails priced from £7.50, with long lists available for vintage drinks, sours and martinis. To complement these classic flavours there are some fun, modern twists and a fusion menu to showcase Paesan’s desire to use ingredients produced in-house. As well as cocktails, beer, wine and spirits there are homemade liquors available: limoncello and sambuca at £3 each. On the cocktail list, the Rosemary & Ginger Spritz was complex with layers of sour and sharp lemon, sweet bubbly prosecco and slightly perfumed earthy rosemary. The Strawberry & Basil Daiquiri (or “not so innocent smoothie” as it could be renamed) was thick and fruity with an after-kick of bitters, but lacking in the subtle peppery taste of basil, which would really have added to the flavour. Accompanying the drinks, the food menu at Paesan Underground includes small bites such as Grissini with Spicy Soppressata and Pancetta, quiche, and homemade crisp flatbreads rich with herbs.
After the Rosemary and Ginger Spritz, the best thing about Paesan Underground was the complete lack of pretence and snobbery from the bar staff. Uniformed in waistcoats, but each worn with individual style, a lot of effort has been made to keep the tone light and friendly in conversation. While the cocktail making process was undertaken with calm professionalism, the staff were happy and confident to explain how the homemade rosemary and ginger syrup was created, why certain flavour combinations are so successful and as a result explaining their favourite cocktails on the menu.★★★★★Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
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