Lots of new bars try to create an aged feel about their establishment from the outset. Every bar wants to be that neighbourhood place on the corner that’s been there forever. It’s really hard to pull off, however, and more often than not one can easily sense the attempt at history rather than the history itself. Anyway, Grant Van Gameren (of Bar Raval and Pretty Ugly fame) has lodged a master stroke with his mezcal bar El Rey in Kensington. The eclectic mix of south-of-the-border trinkets, string lights and modern design somehow make one feel like they’re stumbling into the bar of a long lost great uncle from a small town in Mexico (though that probably never happens). The drinks are obviously agave-focused but there’s something for everyone.
I love mezcal’s earthy, smokey influence in a cocktail, but it is an undisputed flavour bully, and rubs more than a few people the wrong way. A Mexican friend introduced me to drinking mezcal with slices of orange and the spicy, worm-based sal de gusano. My favourite drink at El Rey, therefore, was straight mezcal from their impressive list, served with cucumber and mild chilli powder (as pictured here).
Go for the agave spirits, the genuine feel of a crotchety old bar and the really good feel of the place. You won’t be disappointed.