The Gascon Paradox. For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to the region of France which produces and consumes the most foie gras, and indulges in the highest amount of animal fat, per capita. Yet the local population possesses the lowest rate of heart disease in the entire country.
Chelsea is a part of the world that has its paradoxes beyond mere idiosyncrasies. It is a land of high wealth (generally speaking) and demanding clientele, who expect the best – but not in their own neighbourhood. On their doorstep is an area of unremarkable pubs and bars, and eye-wateringly overpriced, low-end cocaine, where social boozing evolution these days is almost non-existent. Every establishment along the King’s Road seems to be slowly being assimilated into one single Joe & The Juice entity. One which, within our lifetimes, will likely stretch from Sloane Square to the World’s End.
Only now, there is an exception to the rule; the paradox has been annihilated. Within what seemed like minutes of the late JuJu’s departure from these lands, a new establishment had risen, a glorious liquor phoenix from the ashes, to take its place.
Immediately upon entry into Callooh Callay, I clocked unmistakable glassware and customary hydration put in front of me, screaming that this land of plenty was headed-up by alumni of Milk & Honey – the genesis and rite of passage which is responsible for many of the finest cocktail bars we have in London today.
Under the erudite and masterfully steady hand of Will Hawes – a man who once had a big enough pair of ice cubes to tell the late, great Sasha Petraske that his Old Fashioned wasn’t crafted the right way and got away with it – this heritage is reflected in the menu. A comprehensive pamphlet of M&H favourites is combined with original offerings over a spectrum to suit every taste. The expert balancing act that is the Meteorite is an instant classic that had us ordering again and again.
This was a gamble for Callooh Callay. For a Shoreditch institution with a discerning cocktail clientele to branch out into a neighbourhood which could not be more alien was risky; thank goodness they did it. There is a delicious, satisfying, and refreshing irony that, to break the mould in a part of the world where not much changes, a bar offering such a classically influenced experience is the one to do it.
316-318 King's Rd Chelsea London SW3 5UH calloohcallaybar-chelsea.com