Bourne & Hollingsworth near Charlotte Street has long been one of my favourite bars, particularly in the winter, due to its fantastic cocktails and cosy décor. Then they opened B&H Buildings near Exmouth Market which I tested out for brunch. And now they’ve gone a bit further and created a hidden space below B&H Buildings (naturally called Below & Hidden) which is all about a rapidly expanding trend of pre-bottled cocktails.
What you need to know:
- You buy the cocktails by the bottle for the most part which is good (quick service!) but has the draw back of requiring some form of uniformity in choices with your group
- There is no bar snack/food option – definitely worth planning around that
- There are LED lights in the walls
- B&H serves up a sharing cocktail in a giant Lego head…’nuf said
The idea behind Below & Hidden is a hybrid late night cocktail lounge/mini dance party. The space is fairly small with a square room lined with comfy bench seating around the wall and a scattering of stools. Tables are placed to semi-separate the seating into spaces for groups of 4-6 which matches up with the expected servings per bottle.
As the night progresses, the DJ ramps up the tempo and moves from a jazz/easy listening genre into faster dance numbers to encourage some dancing in the middle section into the wee hours. On the press night there was little dancing going on, but I can imagine after a bottle or two there would be a few people bouncing around.
There are 6 cocktails on the menu which cover the usual favourites. My favourite was the Negroni which would normally come served in a crystal decanter. The presentation was simple yet alluring and the flavours were well balanced and refreshing. Easily a drink that I’d be happy to polish off the bottle over the course of a night. The old fashioned was perfectly fine but while nothing stood out about it, I wouldn’t complain about having one either.
The rest of the range started to blur together in a mix of fruitiness (really not my type of cocktail) but in general are light, refreshing, and easily to go through. I think it was the Still Life, a vodka based cocktail with wine, peach liqueur, and pineapple that was my favourite out of the lot although it was the garnish that made an impression – a boozy pineapple marshmallow type block that made a great little snack.
If you are going for a sharing cocktail (which is a tad strange in a place which serves bottles of cocktails to…well…share) then you are in for a treat. You can get a double serving of old fashioneds in a mini cask (it makes you feel like a pirate) or two of the cocktails with the “it’s all in your head” option for an extra £25 which means the bottle is poured into a giant Lego head and topped off with a bottle of bubbles. It’s one helluva way to get the party started and for the sheer entertainment it’s worth trying it out at least once.
The (inevitable) Chaos
Things start to get a bit crazy as the night goes on. The room lights start to dim as the walls begin to glow as Below & Hidden boasts a dynamic LED lighting system where the DJ can map the lights to the music. It makes for a rave-style setting to get you up and dancing or at the very least powering through the next drink. Max points for creativity but it also signals the end of the chill night in – I’m of two minds about it and suspect the enjoyment of the setting will largely be due to how energetic you feel at the time. But if it’s not for you, you can always retire upstairs for one more cocktail before heading out.
All cocktails are £50 for the bottle which seems expensive at first but if you consider each bottle holds 5-6 servings then it’s very much on par with most cocktail bars in London. And while it feels a tad out of the way, it’s a short walk from Exmouth market and the range of bars/restaurants there so easily accessible after dinner and drinks at Paesan.