London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Evans and Peel Detective Agency

Earl's Court

There was a period in time in the early 20th Century when the sale of alcohol was illegal in some countries, including the USA. The First World War ushered in an era of puritanism that led to the entire booze industry being closed down, with distillers and brewers going out of business and pubs ceasing to trade. However, the general public weren't so keen on giving up the drink and the 1920's saw the rise of the speakeasy - a secret underground drinking club where like-minded people could get together away from the eyes of the law and enjoy a beer and a cocktail. These illicit drinking dens were hidden away and disguised as other businesses or buildings - to be in the club, you had to be in the know.

Which brings us the Evans and Peel Detective Agency. Why, you may ask, is a drinking and dining website reviewing a detective agency? You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to work out that this is no average gumshoe office and that concealed inside is more than a private investigator business. A very plain locked door on Earls Court Road gives no clues other than the name of the agency, but having booked ahead, we ring the bell and are allowed in. Down the stairs, a well-dressed gentleman sits in a small 1920's-style office, a gramophone plays in the background. He asks us how he can help and when we tell him we're here for our reservation, he looks puzzled and denies knowledge of any bar. This charade goes on for a few moments before he relents, walks towards the bookcase and pulls a hidden lever, revealing the large speakeasy behind it, filled with vintage fixtures and furnishings with staff perfectly presented in retro outfits.

The venue has a long and detailed cocktail list, but here the barmen are happy to make drinks to your exact requirements based on the flavours you like. Whiskey is a speciality here with dozens available: we tried a twist on an Old Fashioned. We also sampled a gin with grapefruit (very refreshing and not bitter as we expected) and vodka with prosecco and cherry (is you have a sweet tooth, this is one for you). The cocktails here are taken very seriously - you're unlikely to find anything as mainstream as a cosmopolitan - and the bar staff are always keen to put their own individual spin on the classics, including one mixologist who bought some of his grandmother's homemade jam to use as an ingredient. The attention to detail is fantastic.

The food at Evans and Peel is delicious too, with emphasis on small size plates: in keeping with the era we're told. We tried a  platter of mini sliders: bitesize burgers made with a range of fillings - pulled pork, Reuben-style pastrami and pickle, smoked salmon with hollandaise, and red pepper with houmous. Alongside this, we also tried several side dishes includin smoked sausage with chutney: an excellent bar snack, and a chunky roast squash, broccoli and barley salad, which helped us feel a little more virtuous. The highlight though was the smoked goat’s cheese fritter with maple syrup: if I'm ever on death row (for a crime I didn't commit, obviously), then this would be my last request. Fried cheese is probably not a health food, but it tastes like gooey molten heaven. If you're hungry then we'd certainly recommend ordering a few plates, but it's nice to be able to have a smaller portion to nibble on as a snack if you're not there for a full meal.

The prohibition themed details continue with bottles of wine and beer being served in brown paper bags. The dimly lit room with low ceilings has a great ambience and a real sense of fun. It doesn't feel gimmicky as you might expect: the staff are attentive and the food and drink is great quality. We'd certainly recommend bringing colleagues or friends along to Evans and Peel and for anyone with impending celebrations, it would make a great party venue. One would imagine the novelty would wear off after a few visits, but it's so well done that we're willing to take that risk. Just remember to keep it a secret...

310c Earls Court Road, SW5 9BA 

Average price for a side dish: £6
Average price for a glass of wine: £9
Food & drink: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value: 4/5


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