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BAR REVIEW: DIRTY MARTINI, ISLINGTON

Dirty Martini has long been a fixture of Covent Garden and now Islington has its own taste along Upper Street – and about time too, it seems

That’s the thing with cocktails. Unless you really analyse the ingredients, you never quite know what you are going to get. In place with a party of ten, the majority of whom were ladies, one of the men in our group decided to go for a manly sounding cocktail in the shape of Apocalypse Now. When it turned up in a small tumbler, reddish/pink in colour and a little pink umbrella, his face was priceless and I sipped on my Asahi with a wide smirk on my face.

In all fairness, the cocktail that fused Sipsmith Gin, Solerno blood orange liqueur and Manzanilla sherry, shaken with fresh lemon juice, homemade raspberry syrup and then finished with an Absinthe mist, tasted mighty fine. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the menu at Dirty Martini and, judging by our visit soon after its opening, Islington locals have been waiting for it with bated breath as there weren’t many seats free.

It looks great – the long, thin entrance way leads to the bar area and tables beyond, with comfortable leather booths and a real clean metallic sheen to the design. Arriving during happy hour, where a host of Martini cocktails are half price, unsurprisingly everybody present seemed to be tucking into the drinks menu. Being an old fashioned pub loving kind of guy, my issue with cocktail bars in the past have always been how long you have to wait for a drink whilst the mixologist does his stuff behind the bar, but Dirty Martini have taken that into account with its table service and high staffing levels.

Bar Review: Dirty Martini, Islington

The long bar area at Dirty Martini Islington is well stocked with drinks and staff on any given night

It would be impossible to review every single drink we had during our evening at Dirty Martini – and it does become a little hazy when we come to the later hours – but there were some real gems: the Passion Palmer (Grey Goose Vodka, Solerno blood orange liqueur and Campari, shaken with fresh papaya juice, fresh lime juice, vanilla sugar and fresh passion fruit) was a real thirst quencher, and The Diva (Beefeater 24 Gin and Amaretto shaken with fresh lemon juice, fresh pineapple juice, orgeat syrup, topped with Prosecco and a spray of ‘Diva’ perfume) suited some of those in our party, whilst tasting great at the same time. And, yes, even the beer lover in me was happy with my purchases of Asahi, Corona and the terrific ale, Doom Bar, as the night progressed.

Don’t go expecting to have three courses along with your cocktails as Dirty Martini only serves up bar food, but the quaint offerings suit the theme of a night out here, with mini burgers, small plates and a choice of three sharing dishes (Mediterranean, vegetarian and Thai fusion) on offer. But food really is the last thing on your mind, particularly with so many cocktails to get through – although you may find yourself finding it difficult to stay from your original choice. I am pretty sure, later in the evening, that my aforementioned companion was seen drinking a second Apocalypse Now…

Words: Mark Kebble

74 Upper Street N1 0NY; 020 7632 2212; dirtymartini.uk.com/islington

MORE: 14 GREAT COCKTAIL BARS IN SOUTH EAST LONDON

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