Plotting Parlour cocktail bar review and interview

[metaslider id=34885]Known previously as The Aquarium, The Plotting Parlour is fairly well hidden despite being just a 30 second walk from Brighton seafront. I’ve strolled past many times and have been intrigued by the beautifully painted building with half-frosted windows, hiding its inner workings. After hearing that the bar won a number of awards in 2015, including Best Cocktail Bar in Brighton and the city’s Food Festival Awards (as well as being featured in the Sunday times list of Top Bars in Britain), I was very excited to finally get the chance to discover the treasures hidden within.

The interior is a softly lit paradise with lighting ranging from candles to twinkling fairy lights, to an arrangement of old gramophone horns hanging from the ceiling. The bar is clad in copper and the rest of the interior is all dark wood and plush red velvet furnishings. In the back you’ll find a very special seating area full of old drop-down theatre chairs and a beautiful ceiling covered in wallpaper of a huge classical painting. To keep the place toasty in winter there’s a wood burner and for summer there’s a part-covered conservatory with bare wooden benches, stools and plants, the perfect place to sip something in the sun.

After taking our bar-side seats we peruse the menu, which is full of boozy classics and interesting twists on old favourites. It’s incredibly hard to choose what to have and to be honest I’d love to try everything on the menu but I’m not sure how long I’d last! Eventually I go for the Cascade Collins (£9) a mix of Beefeater gin, grapefruit bitters, PP hop syrup and Route 1 IPA. It’s a long, refreshingly light mix and the citrus gives the beer a nice fruity twist. My partner goes for The Beekeeper (£9) consisting of Buffalo Trace bourbon, borage leaves, lemon and lavender marmalade, honey and lemon. Every cocktail we have throughout our evening is a miniature piece of art and The Beekeeper was the most beautiful of them all. This cocktail comes with a wooden honey dipper on which the homemade marmalade is served topped with a small ‘bee’ made from borage leaves. The marmalade was very special indeed, tangy and sweet yet smooth and our barman mentions this is his best batch so far. I believe him. The idea with The Beekeeper is to lick some of the marmalade and then take a sip; this creates a sweet, citrusy taste with hints of fresh green leaves and cucumber.

After struggling once again to pick my next drink from all of the exciting choices on offer, I go for the Mowgli’s Fire (£9.50) with Eagle Rare Whiskey, PP burnt caramel, Bluebirds Mowgli’s Fire Chai and old fashioned bitters. This truly is a winter warmer, deep and fiery and served with a shard of caramel on top creating an almost volcanic look. My partner chooses the Winter Berry Smash (£8.50) comprised of Absolute Vanilla vodka, creme de mure, blackberry, cranberry and Bramley apple sauce. This creates a tasty, tart, sweet-yet-sour blend with a strong fresh berry tang, incredibly refreshing. As we’re tucking in to our drinks we’re treated to another bonus in the form of the If You’re Not Into Yoga (£9), which I’ve been eyeing up all evening. A twist on the classic piña colada made with Koko Kanu, Mozart’s White Chocolate, PP marshmallow fluff and pineapple. This comes in a small jug with it’s own mini marshmallow toasting station in the form of a small fiery bowl, what a sight to behold! The drink is lighter than the usual heavy piña colada recipe and is a delicious blend of creamy white chocolate with pineapple hints.

As manager Luke says, “we have a professional but not pretentious team, we don’t want to scare anyone off.” They certainly are a welcoming and friendly bunch – we are very well looked after throughout our stay by our barman Jake.

If you’re after a well-made cocktail (or three) in cosy, stylish surroundings with friendly, expert service then this is the place to go. Even better, Luke is keen to let me know that they’ve just launched a two for £10 list on Sundays with a rotating, smaller list of drinks than the full menu, so you really have no excuse to not pay them a visit.

The Plotting Parlour, 6 Steine Street, Brighton, BN2 1TE

Check out our mini interview with Luke the bar manager below…

1. How did the Plotting Parlour come about?

The venue is owned by a gentlemen called Chris, he had experience in guest houses prior to owning the bar. I met him whilst I was working in Bohemia, we got talking, turns out he’d just bought the venue known previously as ‘The Aquarium’ and needed someone to run it once he’d finished refurbishing. We stayed in contact and I ended up designing the launch menu and the bar itself, whilst he did the customer side of the venue. We got Jake and Toby [bartenders] on board fairly early and they’ve been the bulk of the small team I have here ever since, both contributing to further menus and the development of the venue itself.

2. How would you describe the Plotting Parlour?

I’d say it’s the only premium cocktail venue in Brighton that offers exclusively table service, quality drinks, knowledgeable staff and all in a beautiful setting. You can get all these things elsewhere but I don’t know anywhere in town that does them all together.

The amount of people that come in for one and stay all evening is great. It’s a proper cosy little space and being table service, it gives us the the ability to give each customer the time they deserve, as well as meaning we never get absolutely rammed with people crowding the bar, this gives us the time to make each drink the right way.

I only hire people that enjoy what we do and who are in the industry long term. This means we have a professional but not pretentious team, we don’t want to put/scare anyone off, like I think some places do.

Anything else you should know?

We’ve just launched a 2 for £10 list on Sundays. This is a smaller list of drinks than our full menu but we plan on rotating it fairly regularly. We’ve won a number of awards this year, including Best cocktail bar in Brighton in the B & H food festival awards. We’ve featured in the Sunday times in their list of Top bars in Britain.

We hope to keep on getting busier and busier as we have done all through our first year, with eventual plans to expand. Other than carrying on releasing interesting cocktail menus and providing the venue and service we do that’s probably about it.


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