Ray’s Bar in Dalston launch
Dalston is known for being a trendy area and balances rebelliously on the cusp of gentrification. Rays Bar echoes this, managing to feel a bit divey in the spirit of a 70s disco.
Despite this, there isn’t a particularly unique sense of character in the basement venue that would leave it any more memorable than another subterranean bar: low lighting, dark colours and swathes of glittering walls are fairly standard, as are the neon-style accent lamps. Similarly, the blue and pink lights to signify men’s and women’s toilets manages to become a decidedly condescending – and confusing – design choice, especially after you’ve had a drink.
What does set Ray’s apart, though, is it’s pizza. At £26 each, it’s the perfect comfort food to accompany cocktails, and bribe even the most reluctant friends out for an evening. And while it sounds steep, bear in mind it’s a huge 22” pizza made for sharing, which will sate even the worst munchies.
The whole experience is carefully curated, with the drinks menu growing from light, fruity starter cocktails to heavy, richer mains, and sweet dessert options. It’s an interesting touch, and helps guest move away from that “signature” cocktail they’ve been getting for years.
The Pink Flamingo is a great starter cocktail, photogenic and vibrant, not sickly like you’d imagine, but a subtle fusion of rhubarb, campari, prossecco and grapefruit. It has a tart aftertaste that’s pleasant, and is easy to drink. The Shady Pine is also a great way to start your evening, with clean powerful flavours: Beefeater gin, Strega, lemon, egg white, and rosemary blend together in an aromatic and somewhat savoury cocktail with a slight kick.
Work your way up to the main courses and try the Tunnel Dancer, titled in honour of the venue’s previous name. It’s only served after midnight and it’s clear to see why. A strong heady mixture of Lagavulin, Jim Beam double oak, chili and rhubarb bitters – this is a party drink. Strong, smokey and rich, it has a serious kick to it and a moreish flavour.
This far in to your liquid dinner might leave you swaying slightly, which makes it a good time to rally and order pizza.
Served fresh in huge slices, the variety is broad and mouthwatering. Porky’s is a meaty Cumberland sausage, Stilton, and red onion delight, and will satisfy the largest appetites. There are plenty of other options too, including a vegan recipe, so no need to worry about your lactose intolerant friend.
Finish up with a sweet creamy drink from the “dessert” menu and embrace the waves of warmth that come from a hard night of comfort eating and drinking.
Ray’s is a decent bar with high-end drinks at average prices, but sets itself apart with its thoughtful menu and excellent pizza. It’s an interesting experience, and one could see the bar becoming a “go-to” haunt, chiefly with foodies. Expect big things from this little venue.
Photos: Matthew Pull
To book a table at Ray’s Bar, 95 Kingsland High Street E8 2PB, call 020 7254 8860.