Callooh Callay – Whimsical Cocktail Bar in Shoreditch

We visit whimsical cocktail bar Callooh Callay on Rivington Street in Shoreditch.

You get to walk through a wardrobe into a secret back room at Callooh Callay. Do you even need to know anything else?

It was a pretty enchanting start to my visit to this eccentric cocktail bar that’s inspired by the nonsensical Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky.

Sure, there are loads of cocktail bars in London nowadays, and yep, they all have a theme, or a pop-up theme, or eschew the concept of a theme altogether, thus becoming a non-theme theme-bar (yes, it’s exhausting, I know).

But to have been operating for a decade so successfully suggests that this Shoreditch spot and its wardrobe are getting it right.

Let’s, to steal a phrase from another of Carroll’s creations, ‘begin at the beginning’ – November 2008 to be precise, when Shoreditch was definitely a ‘thing’, but not really in the way it is today, and Rivington Street didn’t boast quite the high number of buzzing bars and restaurants it does now.

Enter: a new fantastical enclave of delight, with a mish-mash of decor inspired by the famous poem from which its name comes:

(“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?/Come to my arms, my beamish boy!/O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!/ He chortled in his joy.” Since you were wondering).

Wardrobe aside, there are whimsical touches throughout, from a gilded, palm-tree shaped lamp and seating made from a bathtub to the private booth that sits against a swirling monochrome backdrop that you won’t want to spend too long looking at after a few drinks.

The choice of drinks is inventive and inspiring, with thoughtful tasting notes in case you can’t quite decide what Japanese spice mix tagarashi might actually taste like in a drink (spoiler: Very good).

As with all well-made cocktails, the alcohol content wasn’t the predominant taste in any of the concoctions we tried:

The Bristol Milk, despite a healthy dose of Ketel One vodka and Bristol Cream sherry, was a delicate thing, heady with the flavours of nectarine and orange flower, while the White Rose with its Bulleit bourbon, pedro ximenez sherry, marmalade and egg white was a frothy, velvety mix that stole the show.

I could go on, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the menu.

Just be assured that whatever you order, you can be sure you won’t have tasted anything quite like it before, which is exactly the point of the place – inventive, unusual and surprising world-class drinks in a fun-filled and fabulous setting.

Unlike its namesake poem, Callooh Callay makes absolutely perfect sense to me.

Please clcik here to visit their website.

By Vicky Smith

The Bon Vivant Journal

If you enjoyed this review of Callooh Callay, read some of our other latest reviews including Pizarro, our guide to the best restaurants in Shoreditch and the best cocktail bars in London.

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