The bartending brothers behind Dalston’s industry haunt and much-loved neighbourhood bar, Three Sheets, have launched a new basement venue in Spitalfields Market. Sated descended down to the den on a busy Friday night to see if the new spot lived up to the Venning brothers’ reputation.
We wander into Blixen and, after a cursory glance at the restaurant, follow the stairs down to Bar Three. The space is dark and atmospheric, with occasional spot lighting and flickering tabletop tealights casting shadows onto the Prussian blue wall panelling. A bar sits in a cove by the stairs where a number of high tables create a relaxed atmosphere for imbibers; another section with tan leather banquettes and round group tables is viewable through a window. The team have utilised the quirky nooks and crannies of the building to create intimate lounge areas with a warm wood palette and tactile twine-covered walls. Period features such as a cast iron fireplace and Old School pub-style ceiling panelling work well with the contemporary design to create a memorable and intriguing décor.
We are greeted by Noel Venning, who shows us to our table. He gives us a three-times-folded paper menu, marked with the bar’s name before diving off into the crowd. It is definitely buzzing for a venue that quietly opened less than a month ago and Noel admits that he will need to employ more staff to keep up with the customers.
The cocktail menus is divided into four sections – Free (alcohol that is), Light, Medium and Full – denoting their booziness and flavour profile. We are struck by how profoundly affordable the drinks are for this part of town, with alcohol-free choices prices at £6.50 and all others at £9.50. We opt for a ’French 75’ (Star of Bombay, Orange Flower, Verjus, Caronated) and a Pisco + Black (Fermented Blackberry, Blackcurrant Leaf, El Gobernador Pisco, Soda) to start with and choose a number of bar snacks from the Blixen menu – Bar Three will have its own presently but the brothers are currently debating dishes, with Noel’s preference being for simple and light dishes such as Egg Jam on Toast, which would make use of the yolks that are usually discarded when bartenders need egg whites for cocktails.
Settling into the cosy busyness, we notice a mixed crowd of young(ish) professional-looking types, less artsy in demeanour and dress than the bar’s older sibling attracts whilst clearly interested in something more original than a Sex on the Beach from the Be At One down the street. Our drinks arrive in that beautifully fragile, contemporary glassware that makes you feel cool and adult. Pisco + Black has a jamminess to it that manages to remain light. The blackberry is brilliantly fruity and full, working with the Pisco to create a nicely zippy cocktail with an intriguing astringent quality that somehow throws a dryness to the top of the palate. A Venning classic, the ‘French 75’ has made it onto the menu. Bright, floral and wonderfully carbonated, our first sip is delicious whilst almost entirely non-alcoholic. As we continue, we find that the Star of Bombay is in waiting for us at the bottom of the wine glass, making us question whether the drink was mixed properly.
We head straight to the Full section for our next drinks, choosing the cognac-based Apple + Plum (Fanny Fougert Cognac, 30&40, Apple Cordial, Acidulated Butter) and the Woodford Reserve, milk punch-ed Whisky + Milk (Woodford Reserve, Milked washed Earl Grey, Cedar). The first is very rounded with a delightful fruitiness and quaffability that belies its place under the Full category. However, the standout of the menu is most certainly Whisky + Milk. Exceptionally smooth to the point of almost being caramel, the sweetness of the Woodford Reserve is pronounced yet balanced by the gentle bergamot flavour and light nuttiness. The taste lingers on the palate and calls for us to slow down and savour this brilliant concoction.
The atmosphere and design of the space and down-to-earth charm of the team make Bar Three a promising and entirely desirable cocktail den. Whilst there are a few minor teething problems that will no doubt be worked out over time, the venue is one that we would happily return to for a night of laid-back drinking. We can’t wait to see how Bar Three evolves and look forward to finding out what dishes they choose to accompany their cocktails.
Bar Three, 65a Brushfield St, London E1 6AA
Open 4pm – 11pm Tuesday – Saturday