words: Marion Rankine
Rivington Shoreditch comes highly recommended: by friends, by Google, and by Jay Rayner, who once blew off a review meal in favour of a restorative feast within its minimal, yet welcoming, surrounds.
On the night we visit, Christmas lights twinkle out from the cosy interior and garlands tickle our knees as we sit at the bar, recovering from the sting of a chilly evening. Rivington Shoreditch have promised us a Christmas miracle, and we blink around at our fellow diners, wondering what’s in store.
As it turns out, the miracle – like most good things – comes in the form of gin. Rivington Shoreditch have teamed up with Plymouth Gin to create a bespoke Christmas menu of gin cocktails, all crafted from ingredients locally foraged by the bar manager Piotr. Order one for the chance to win a gift from the Gin Tree: a Christmas tree hung with tiny messages-in-bottles, each revealing treats ranging from Plymouth G&Ts to a trip to the Plymouth Distillery itself.
As if that weren’t tempting enough, the menu itself packs a serious punch in just four drinks: one short, one long, one martini, one hot. In keeping with the naval spirit of Plymouth Gin, each cocktail is named after a traditional sailors’ toast. I open proceedings with something short and dry: May They Never Meet, a deceptively simple blend of Plymouth Dry Gin and spruce needle tincture. The spruce (harvested from a secret location in East London and infused onsite) lends the drink a lovely woody flavour and the scent of a pine forest. It tastes like an icicle snapped from the branch of a North Pole evergreen.
My partner opts for Absent Friends, a martini-esque mix of Plymouth Navy Strength Gin, homemade Christmas vermouth, Maraschino and Angostura bitters. It’s full and spicy, with a nod to the ‘pink gin’ (Plymouth with a dash of Angostura) traditionally used to relieve sickness on the high seas. He chases it down with The Willing Foe, a combination of Plymouth Sloe Gin, Salerno blood orange liqueur, lemon juice, clementine, and pink peppercorn soda. Pink peppercorns and gin have never let me down yet, and this drink is no exception: richly flavoured, sweet without being cloying, this is probably the most universally enjoyable of the list – even for gin skeptics – and it’s served in an elegant fish-shaped goblet.
Finally (and I would definitely recommend saving this one for last) there is the Our Ship At Sea Gin Punch, a hot heady brew of Plymouth Dry Gin, red aperitif wine, pineapple, citrus (mine arrives with an attractive wedge of dried blood orange nestled beside a stick of cinnamon bark), spices, and, in an inspired touch, Lapsang tea. It comes in a ceramic cup just large enough to wrap your hands around, and if a tastier, more comforting alcoholic beverage exists I am yet to hear about it. It will ruin mulled wine for you forever.
With such delights on offer it’s easy to forget that Rivington Shoreditch also do food (not to mention a serious range of drinks, including over 200 different gins). We order two courses each: cider battered prawns with chilli jam, scallions and coriander and a beetroot salad with walnuts and feta for starters, followed by the woodland mushroom and barley risotto (the only vegetarian main) and the fillet of cod with tomato, spinach, olives, garlic and lemon oil. All are done to perfection.
Prices at Rivington Shoreditch are moderate, but they’re worth every penny: the care and attention to detail shown by the bar and kitchen staff shines through in their food, their cocktails, and their expert presentation. Service can be a bit on the slow side, but honestly: cancel your evening plans, because this is a place you’ll want to linger. Visit before New Year to try a couple (or for the sea captains amongst you) of their uniquely festive Plymouth Gin cocktails. Is it a Christmas miracle? Maybe that’s stretching it just a little. But a soothing balm for the icy nights? Most definitely.
Plymouth Gin’s Miracle on Rivington Street is on until 1st January 2017
28-30 Rivington Street
Tel: 0207 729 053