Stylish London speakeasy Peony is the latest addition to Opium, one of the city’s finest dim sum and cocktail parlours. If you’re unimpressed by the lukewarm British summer or you need a place to go for after-dinner or pre-theatre drinks, then Peony is the perfect destination.
Soho is buzzing as you look for 16 Gerard Street, the glamorous location of Peony, in the heart of London’s West End. After courteously asking if you have a reservation (you don’t need one, but it’s a good idea if you’re bringing the entire gang), the porter opens the jade door and ushers you up a flight of narrow, dimly lit stairs. Once inside, you make your way past the diners and drinkers to find Peony occupying the cosy, intimate nook at the back of the second floor.
Here, oriental charm meets Jazz era decadence and the flicker of the tea lights, and the glow of the shaded lamps creates a low-key cocktail atmosphere. Add to this the subdued jazz and retro pop playing in the background, and you know you have arrived at the right place for unwinding. Hang your jackets in the tiny lacquered wardrobe, then take your seats at the bar so you can watch the preparation of the drinks. Rasa, the vivacious hostess and cocktail mastermind is about to introduce you to her kingdom of exotic ingredients.
The menu features tempting dim sum platters and signature cocktails. Like any good London speakeasy, the list is small, but rich in surprises, just like the place itself. Pick a punch to share and Rasa invites you to choose from the collection of dainty porcelain pots lining the wall. Green tea with honey, lemon, and whiskey makes a light choice for a group of two or four. You like punchier stuff? Then try out one of the headier individual cocktails. The Mexican in China combines three tequilas in a warming mix that smells as good as it tastes. The cayenne peppers of the spiced liqueur open up your senses and momentarily whisk you to faraway lands.
Every Peony potion creates a perfectly rich, layered palette of sensations, and as a true master of the cocktail ceremony, Rasa prepares them all with generous amounts of light-hearted chitchat. Expect to hear London gossip, recipes in the making, and tales of the little Chinese ladies who picked some of the wonderful ingredients. Perhaps it’s not all true, but you gladly go along with it.