Beijing imbibers with a few years beneath their belts will well remember bartender Paul Mathew and the fine cocktails he made in our fair city before he moved on to greener pastures. Even before he came to Beijing, however, he had established himself in London with the bar The Hide. Tomorrow, he and his partners at Blood & Sand will add two more drinking establishments to the portfolio.
One is a revival of Arbitrager, a dormant pub that is being revived with a “Drink London‘ theme. That means a focus on products from the city’s breweries and distilleries, including some three dozen gins made within ten miles of the place.
The other is Demon, Wise & Partners, a cocktail joint downstairs from Arbitrager. One curious twist will be the “Demon” and “Wise” cocktails, derived from the twitter accounts of Mathew and co-director Rufus Grantham, namely, @demonbitters and @wisebartender. Each cocktail will only be made 100 times, then retired, to be replaced by new concoctions. The first pair include: “a Rob Roy twist with Port Askaig 19 year old single malt and Martini Gran Lusso, and a Sidecar twist with Chateau de Laubade Intemporel No.5 Armagnac and house orchard syrup.”
I asked Mathew a few questions about the new places:
What inspired the made-in-London focus at Arbitrager and what can patrons expect?
“We’ve been amazed at the speed with which London’s beers and spirits have diversified in the eight years since we opened The Hide. We originally started using the few brands that were around us at The Hide — just Meantime beers and Jensen’s gin at that time — but the variety now is simply astonishing. Whilst there are lots of places selling one or two local products, we felt it would be great to open somewhere that showcased all that London has to offer!
“Dan [Persson] is running the show upstairs, and as a beer sommelier and enthusiast, you can expect him to find some of the best beers that are lurking around London. We are selling in 2/3 pints and 1/3 pints, so if it’s variety you’re after, that shouldn’t be a problem. Once you’ve identified a favourite, we’re also making them all available to take away with our Arbitrager growlers.
“If beer isn’t your thing, our London spirits selection covers most of the products distilled in London, from 30 or so gins, through to vodkas, vermouths and British aperitifs. We’re making our own tonic in-house and supplying it on draught, so everything really is made in London. That includes the bar snacks — charcuterie from Islington and Scotch eggs from Brixton.
“The Arbitrager is not a cocktail bar, but we will have a seasonal punch also on draught, with recipes drawing on London’s historic gin punches and cups.”
As you say, Arbitrager is not a cocktail bar, but you have that covered by opening Demon, Wise & Partners downstairs. Given your time in Beijing, will there be any China twists there?
We do use teas in one of the drinks at DWP, but I’ve very much let the team come up with their own recipes. I am one of the people behind it, but definitely not responsible for all their fantastic creativity! I guess if anything, China has helped me to appreciate the role that lower- and non-alcoholic drinks play in a bar.
Chinese guests were always keen to try more things, but without necessarily getting drunk, so I made sure there were lots of lower alcohol options that had just as much care and attention placed on them. I think we’re finding these are an important part of London drinking now too, as guests might visit a few different cocktail bars any want to try lots of things. Vermouths, sherries and wines are an important part of retaining flavour without too much alcohol.
What does all this mean for The Hide?
The Hide bar continues with a great team, and even as we’re opening the new venues, we’re working on the next drinks list. We already stock many great made-in-London products there, and may well draw on our experience of draught tonic and punches.
Note: The Arbitrager will be open Monday-Friday, noon to midnight, and can seat 40. Demon, Wise & Partners will be open Monday to Tuesday from 5 PM to 1 AM and Wednesday to Friday from 5 PM to 2 AM. Cold bar snacks available at both.