68 & Boston is a hybrid wine bar/cocktail lounge in Soho and is a collaboration between Eric Yu of The Breakfast Group, Martin Malley of Planet of the Grapes, and Luca Cordiglieri (former bar manager at China Tang and President of the UK Bartenders’ Guild). The idea is to have an all-day offering in the wine bar and then provide consumers with the option of retiring to the more intimate surroundings of the cocktail bar upstairs.
Note: I attended as a guest for the press launch of Boston
Cocktails: ★★☆☆☆ Wine: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★☆☆ Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆ Value: ★★★☆☆ Overall: ★★★☆☆
“Boston” – The Cocktail Lounge
Boston, accessed via a staircase just past the reception desk is a cosy intimate jazz-style lounge. There is a small bar area with stools and some standing tables but it’s really designed to be a sit down and chill out type of experience. To encourage that, they have table service which definitely beats waiting in line at the bar. All the cocktails are based around a wine (primarily a port or sherry) in keeping with the general theme of the place.
The cocktail list for the event was minimal (you can order any classic cocktail off menu and there are about 25-30 cocktails on the regular menu) and is a bit of a mixed bag. On to high side, the Loud Tempest with Lagavulin was delicious with a clean crisp flavour enhanced by a touch of smokiness. However, the squid ink martini (which I was really looking forward to trying) was overwhelmingly salty and was the only cocktail we left unfinished. Floating somewhere in the middle were the Dazed and Confused (a vodka fizz with a barely detectable hint of cardamom) and the Peace Offering (beautifully presented in a bespoke soda bottle but tasted like fruit juice) which I’d be hard pressed to describe other than “meh”. They’re not bad for a light drink but are over-priced given the lack of alcohol.
Overall, the bar shows promise and I think as they get through the holiday season the weak points on the menu should drop out.
“68” – The Wine Bar
The ground floor wine bar “68” is so named as there are apparently 67 wine producing nations (and presumably this is the honorary 68th?) and boasts a decent length wine list. In theory, the selection will periodically change as the buying team focuses on acquiring small batches in a continuing search for the best £20 wine. And that is the selling point with all bottles of wine are priced at £20 although you can get a glass for £5.5 or a carafe for £14.
We tried a couple of the wines recommended by our very friendly waiter and were fairly impressed with the quality given the price. Keep in mind, for £20 you aren’t going to get any mature wines but the a bit of poking around may find you sipping on something a little more complex than your usual pick from Tesco’s finest. I tried a Californian Zinfandel which was full of fruity flavour but had a slight undercurrent of spiciness which gave it more complexity than I was expecting. The Sauvignon Blanc fell a bit flat by comparison but was quite easy to drink nonetheless.
There are also a bunch of “not wine” options includes a selection of classic cocktails, a number of charcuterie and cheese platters, and well as a few sandwiches and salads to round out a meal. Prices on the food are reasonable and quite substantial from the platters we saw go by.
Worth the dosh?
For the wine bar, definitely. I love the concept and the prices are very reasonable, particularly for the area. It’s a good place to gather your friends before dinner or a night out in Soho. As far as the cocktail bar goes, I’m less convinced as there are a host of established watering holes with a solid menu behind them. That being said, I’ll give it another go if for no other reason than to try the Chorizo Old Fashioned I’ve just spotted on the menu.