Garlic & Shots, 14 Frith St, London W1D 4RD
Well, if you hadn’t already figured Garlic & Shots does exactly what it says on the tin.
Whether it’s food marinated in copious amounts of garlic or a choice of 101 different flavoured vodka shots, the understated venue in Soho is a must when adding to your alcohol bible. With its slightly withered exterior and squashed between the usual socialite establishments you’d find in central London, Garlic & Shots is a cross between a pungent Italian restaurant and your grandads trinket collection. Confused? Don’t be. The inside matches the usual quirky, cluttered criteria but with a very laid back atmosphere. It’s a small but welcoming pub with bar staff ready to reel off the well rehearsed assortment of shots.
To name a few –
BLOOSHOT -Vodka, Tomato, Chilli, Spices (for the avid fiery vampire in you)
SPIDERWOMANS KISS – Chilli Vodka, Sambuca (spicy aniseed kiss anyone?)
SWEET DEATH – Vodka, Peach, Cointreau (don’t trust what they say, fruit will kill you)
The idea originated from Stockholm by the Olssen Brothers who swear by this simple motto:
“No dishes are served without garlic. You can order extra garlic, but never less. As you leave the restaurant you should feel like you’ve been garlic marinated. This is our mission from god.”
And with that, I ordered my pint of novelty Garlic beer and sat myself in the smoking pit out the back. A very narrow and somewhat dishevelled concrete patch, teamed with a few pigeons and shrubbery creeping in over the walls. Of course; I say this all in jest, the ‘decoration’ suits the atmosphere to a tee. They’re not an overly flamboyant bar and it wouldn’t have the same appeal if it were.
Anyway, back to the beer.
It was a strange taste, slightly bitter like ale. With hints of Garlic it was basically a jazzed up pint but if you live by the hideously overused motto ‘You only live once’ then garlic beer is sure to make the list.
We all know that when the drinking begins, the bladder weakens, but the toilets turned out to be quite educational. You see the odd scribble and curse word on the back of most loo’s these days but the Garlic & Shots washroom had an entire archive of visitors (I’ll admit, I sat there for a while having a good read). Ladies from the US had a gay old time back in 1999, the classic ‘we woz ere 03’ made an appearance. But the question that always resonates with me after these toilet trips is ‘WHO THE FUCK REMEMBERS TO TAKE A SHARPIE PEN WITH THEM EVERY TIME THEY LEAVE THE HOUSE?’ I’m yet to meet said person who pulls out their pen at 1am and begins their memoir on the back of a toilet door, but they must exist. Anyway, that’s another story.
As the hours passed and the cigarettes depleted, the garlic scented venue got a lot busier, a lot of side-stepping involved to get yourself around. Imagine you’re in a test tube, holding your pints above your head because you’d rather get an elbow to the face then spill a sip of your drink, yeah, that’s how busy it got. Don’t see that as a negative though, who wouldn’t want to meet strangers while breathing heavy garlic odours all over each other?
If it gets to0 crowded inside, step out the front for a bit of space and fresh air. Oh wait, no, it’s 11.30pm in Soho square, where every night becomes an endless street party. I’m pretty sure the majority of Soho-goers spend more time on the streets creating merriment than they do inside the bars. Hey ho! Its all part of the ambience.
I’m not going to flower this up; it’s a small unique bar in the middle of one of London’s most popular hotspots. It’s got weird-named vodka shots, garlic infused beers and an overall rustic feel. If you fancy a great atmosphere, a local welcome and a date with the king of the bulb vegetable food group, then Garlic & Shots is definitely one to try.
And for the love of god, don’t forget your sharpie pen, you know who you are.