European Vacation Day 1: O Frabjous Day at Callooh Callay!
Our fabulous European vacation began on August 15th, 2012, but really started on August 16th when we landed in London. We lost a day travelling and I felt that I actually lost a little more with the lack of sleep and sadly due to a cold that I caught while on the plane. Despite my slightly weakened system and need of sleep, I made sure that I was there and present for Janice’s first official day in Europe.
After checking into our hotel, the Premier Inn at their London-Wembley location (where I have stayed all three times I’ve been to London), we looked around locally for a place to eat lunch. I like the Wembley Park location because it is literally a 10 minute walk to Wembley Stadium, and it’s just a quick hop on the Metropolitan or Jubilee Line into the city. After a swift walk around, we settled on a pub called The Crock of Gold. Janice was determined to experience fish and chips while officially in London, so we each had that with a couple of pints of beer. Although our lunch was quite delicious and the beers were refreshing, we were still lacking sleep so we headed back to our hotel to take a quick nap.
After our nap, we got ready because we needed to head over to an establishment called Callooh Callay in the Shoreditch area of London’s East End. I found out about it from the Travel Channel on a show called London Revealed. Intrigued by the exclusivity of the Jubjub Members Bar, I made a reservation in hopes of trying to get a key (as the website states, they only give this special privilege to “discerning drinkers only”). We relied heavily on my sense of direction because I was the more experienced London traveller. But because I am unfamiliar with East London, we arrived famously late for our reservations. Despite our late arrival, we were eagerly and pleasantly greeted because I had mentioned when previously making our reservations that we were travelling all the way from San Diego.
Callooh Callay is a gem of a place, hidden in the streets of Shoreditch on Rivington. From the responsiveness of the reservations team to the awesome bartender, everything was fun, casual, cool and exclusive feeling. First , we were led through the front called The Bar, which was a very laid back space. I loved the use of cassette tapes for part of the decor and drink menu. With all of the whimsy of Through The Looking Glass, we were then brought to a mirrored door that resembled a wardrobe. Behind the door was The Lounge, and then passed some velvet curtains was the stairs leading to The Jubjub Bar where the elusive key would be used if we were members.
The Jubjub Bar is a fantastic little cocktail lounge with stuffed flamingos popping out of picture frames, animal pattered walls, fluffy pillows and chairs in various sizes. I felt it was very comfy, like a dimly lit boudoir. Janice immediately noticed the handsome gentleman behind the bar, and it was only later that we realized he was the creator of their August drink menu. The bar itself was chock full of libations, interesting bottles and fresh herbs, which made me feel like we were peaking into an antique apothecary cabinet.
The drink menu was just as eclectic as the bar itself with names like The Westerners Erofeitch and the Paracelsus’ American Laudanum (both pictured above). The Westerners was very refreshing because of its citrus base (fresh lemon juice, lemongrass and vodka), which was Janice’s first drink. When I ordered the Paracelsus’ as my first drink, our waitress asked, “Are you sure? It’s quite strong…” That only piqued my curiosity, and she was quite right. Even though I could probably have drank it quite quickly because it was so good, I nursed that drink the entire night with a glass of water because I could tell it was very strong. Since I’ve become a mum, I’m no longer used to nights out drinking, and I think it was the bourbon and vermouth combination that did me in. We dined on mini hot dogs and mini burgers, all of which were tasty.
The most unconventional moment of the night was when Janice decided to try The Hyper-Ventilator. Our lovely waitress said that she loved this drink because it felt like you were doing something a bit naughty (I think it’s all the sniffing). Elliot Davies, the esteemed bartender of the month of August, came over and explained the secrets behind this cocktail experience. He said that he was at a herbalist and the person in the store was purposely wafting licorice dust at him and he really enjoyed the feeling it gave in the back of his throat, so he wanted to try out different drinks after inhaling the licorice dust. Eventually, he came up with The Hyper-Ventilator, which is a bitter cocktail that is offset by inhaling the licorice dust. Janice said that the bitterness softened more and more as she inhaled more licorice dust.
That was probably one of the most unusual and unique drink experiences I have ever had, and both Janice and I had an amazing time at Callooh Callay. We had such a good time that we made reservations again for our last night in London because Elliot said that he would make us drinks that were “off the menu”. I thought about including that night here in this post, but I think that night deserves its own post because each of our drinks were distinct and delicious, with a great story behind each one. My next vacation post will be about our first experience at afternoon tea. Cheers!
Please note that most photos were taken with my iPhone unless otherwise noted. Photos 4, 8, 9 and 10 were by Janice Gutana (photo collages are counted as one photo).