Take It As Red | Scarlet’s, 1 Upper St. Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NY
After being pleasantly surprised by how good the bar food was at The Sterling, we decided to give the all day menu a go at Scarlet’s in Covent Garden. Both Are under the Novus Group umbrella but, apart from sharing the same food and drink menus, couldn’t be anymore different.
Again we were booked in to visit on a Tuesday evening (traditionally a quieter day) and again Saff couldn’t make it. So this time I brought my friend Emma along to sample a few cocktails (Kelly, the lovely PR, is actually starting to doubt if Saff actually exists!)
Decor at Scarlet’s couldn’t be anymore different either. Far quirkier, fun and in places, kitsch. Random paintings and prints in ornate mix ‘n’ match frames hang on the walls. It looks as if they’ve raided a house clearance company who specialise in mid 70s to early 80s ‘granny art’. I’m sure my nan had some of these paintings in her hall.
Lighting is random too, but cool and contemporary, whilst seating is relaxed – small tables and colourful chairs are dotted about using good use of available space. Talking of space, it’s deceptively large. There’s the main bar area (where we sat), an area at the back that’s more suited to dining (loved the geometric flooring), a narrow first floor balcony (with cosy tables for two) and toilets on the top floor (with an attendant – yes, we know… So have some change ready or hold it in). That’s not all, there’s a basement bar/nightclub that’s open at the weekends if that’s your kind of thing (it’s not really ours).
The all-day menu is exactly the same as the one served up at The Sterling and shares a few items from the bar menu too. To be honest, we were here for the cocktails and as the food wasn’t quite on a par of that at The Sterling it didn’t really seem to matter. Scarlet’s isn’t really meant to be a foodie destination, it’s all about the drinks and the good times, after all it is ‘Covent Garden’s sassy little sister, full of thrills!’ I’ve even read that it’s ‘the most fun you can have in a bar’. Although better food wouldn’t have gone amiss.
Before I get on to the cocktails, let me very, very quickly run through the dishes we sampled. We thought we’d share a starter – Duck egg and chive mayonnaise served with warm grilled asparagus, shaved Lincolnshire Poacher (cheese) and toasted walnut bread (£6). This is basically egg mayo in a pot, sprinkled with hard cheese which you spread on the bread. Not what we expected and not really a starter that’s designed to be shared!
Mains were better (hard to believe from the photos, I know, but then Saff wasn’t there to take the pictures). My main was the Flat Iron steak, served with vine tomatoes and a choice of chips or salt-baked potatoes (£11.50). Presentation could have been better, but the beef was prepared really well and was still tender – this shoulder cut can be quite tough and chewy if cooked incorrectly. Loved the salt-baked spuds too, good job really, they dished up half a sack’s worth.
Emma played safe and ordered a Roast chicken club toasted sourdough sandwich (£8). Thick moist chicken, smoked streaky bacon, beef tomato, crisp baby gem and mayo – perfect drinking fodder!
Now the main event, we’d heard rumours that the cocktails here were good and Emma had the ultimate test for them. She had just returned from Bermuda where she became somewhat of an expert on rum, and to be specific, Goslings Rum. So it was a bit of a no brainier that she ordered a Dark and Stormy (£8.50). A simple cocktail of the aforementioned Goslings rum, fresh lime & ginger beer. And her verdict? Almost as good as the Bermudian original, just not as strong!
I started off with a Bitter Summer (£8.50), a trio of Italian aperitifs – Campari, Aperol and Galliano shaken with fresh lemon and sugar. The menu said that it would ‘wake up the palate’ and they’re not wrong – sharp and refreshing. Next up was an Espresso Martini (£9). This drink was famously created by Dick Bradsell and was infamously served to Kate Moss at Damian Hurst’s restaurant in Notting Hill. She allegedly asked for a cocktail that would ‘wake me up, then f@#k me up’. After a few of these you sure would be!
Next on our hit list was a Bramble – Bombay Sapphire gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar and Crème De Mure (£8.50). The Bramble was also created by the great Mr Dick Bradsell and the bartenders at Scarlet’s have kept it close to his original concept. Finally it was time to move away from the ‘classic’ section and try something else a little different from their signature cocktails.
I’d already had a Ginchello when I visited The Sterling so I went for the Rosemary Collings (£9.50). Fresh rosemary sprigs with Gin Mare (orange infused Mediterranean gin) with fresh citrus, sugar and soda water. This is Scarlet’s twist on The Tom Collins, Jerry Thomas’s (The Father of Mixology) cocktail. It’s the ultimate thirst quencher whilst the Rosemary added that fragrant, herby edge.
The bar was starting to fill with pretty young things, the lights lowered slightly and the music was cranked up (but not to ‘have to shout at each other’ levels). This bar obviously attracts London’s party people and the late night licence helps. But Scarlet’s isn’t a rip-off clubby bar serving watered down drinks. The cocktails here are rather really good and at a decent price too. There are various admission charges, different prices for different times so please do check before you visit.
So Scarlet’s seems to have all the bases covered, whether it’s a catch-up chat with a friend or a late night blow out with all the girls (or boys). So as we walked out, past the cheery doormen, to make our way home, we wished we were just a little bit younger to party the night away at Scarlet’s. But don’t be fooled, there’s plenty of life left in this old dog – anyone fancy putting that to the test? [Whatever… – Saff]
1 Upper St. Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden,
London, WC2H 9NY
Telephone: 020 7395 1200
Book a table online
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am – 3am
Sunday: 10am – 12am
Nearest station: Leicester Square (2 mins walk) Covent Garden (4 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Scarlet’s, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.