PURL: drinking den not knitting circle

PURL is grubby. And that’s why it took me three and a half years to check it out.  Even though it’s only a 6 and a half minute walk from my place. And even though I love cocktails.

But - and this is why it’s on this London Blog of goodies - a bit like my friend Pete, it’s only grubby on the outside.

I wonder if it’s actually meant to be a bit grungy? A bit sad and divey looking on the outside to echo the sort of 1920s speakeasy bars it pays homage to?  How far does that go as an explanation for the shabby stairwell, faded signs and insect carcasses littering the glassed-in box at the entrance?

Never mind.  Once you’ve passed muster with the doorman (and the insects), and are in the bowels of the Georgian basement, everything is transformed.  It’s Alice’s wonderland with alcohol. Plenty of alcohol.

It does feel all a bit naughty down there as you enter the plush, opulent surrounds to tinkering piano recordings or lush thick vocals from ladies of decades gone by.  The banquettes are lavish and the eclectic interiors whisk you away ‘elsewhere’.  Marylebone melts and fogs, foams and creatively coaxed aromas envelope you; you are now wherever you want to be.

The cocktail list is a creative endeavour unto itself.  It could be a “Mr Hyde’s The FixerUpper”: rum, homemade cola, orange bitters, served in a smoke injected, wax sealed potion bottle with Lapsang fog. Or maybe a “Smoky and The Bandit”, where the bandit (smoked salmon) comes captive in a preserving jar and when opened emits an intense smoky aroma which wafts over you as you imbibe the accompanying alcohol.  High on drama, high on theatrics.  We love it.

Far from ‘knit one PURL two’ that sprung to mind when I first came across the cocktail bar, PURL is actually named after an old English beverage of the 1800s made of warm beer, spices, gin and wormwood, to be drunk in the early hours of the morning.  As PURL only has a license to serve alcohol from 5pm til 12pm this timing regime won’t be adhered to.  And as it’s a small serving window, if you want to be guaranteed a table, you will need to book. You can do that online at: http://www.purl-london.com

Firmly on my list of fave local haunts now, I’m very pleased to have pushed past my mild mysophobia to discover PURL, one of the coolest speakeasy in London’s bourgeoning speakeasy scene.


The Scratch Score
£££ A little pricey, but reasonable when you consider they have strict capacity quotas.  You’re paying for the full package - cocktail, environs, exclusivity. Jazz occasionally on offer some Monday nights.


50-54 Blandford Street,
(020) 7935 0835



About Michelle Francis

Michelle is an ex-restauranteur and chef, a chatterer and a food lover. She currently runs London food walking tours in the neighbourhoods of Soho and Marylebone. Antipodean by birth, Londoner by love.

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