52 North is a new bar on Poland Street in the old Amouse Bouche – which was a cavernous, offensively inoffensive champagne bar with ridiculous low tables. That’s about all I can remember of it.
The Match Bar team have certainly transformed the space here. The size is obviously the same, but they’ve worked hard to make it more urban and yet intimate – with monochrome murals of the 52 North typefaces and associated patterns, and a fantastic lighting installation. Yes it’s lot of light bulbs but, no it’s not the old filamenty Polpo chestnuts. They’re smaller and more numerous, sweeping like a catwalk from the entrance to the bar and then off at a sharp right angle.
The premise is supposedly British (hence the name referring to our latitude parallel) but it’s not overly themed or even that obvious. It’s nice not to have wanky concept rammed down your throat and be able to ponder it yourself.
The cocktails are certainly global in scope, and the very accomplished bartenders were challenging us punters (and themselves) by asking what we fancied or liked, and knocking something up. My New York Sour (£7.50) was expertly made and went down a treat. So did the second and third…
|chips with 'ninja sauce'|
The food here isn’t ground-breaking but it’s not trying to be. I think the idea is that it’s primarily for drinks but then if you get hungry, it just so happens that the kitchen is turning out competent, relatively thoughtful grub.
Ale battered fish & chips (£13) was excellent. Two small fillets of Coley, (which is essentially Pollack so 'fess up), nicely battered in an unspecified ale. Tartare sauce and mushy peas with a slight minty twinge accompany lovely double-fried chips with a bit of skin on.
|fish - chips on the side (above)|
The Coley fish fingers were even more crispy and salty. Great bar snack for those with a kids' tea craving.
The rest of the quite tightly edited menu features loin of pork with mash, lamb rump, risotto, Caesar salad and some other staples from the higher end of pub grub. A morcilla and egg salad for instance.
No burger or steak though. Which is absolutely fine, but worth noting.
It’s not destination in terms of the food itself, but the drinks are great and the service is keen (Max & OB from Hollyoaks seemed to be enjoying it too). There are loads of beers including on draught but I was in cocktail mode so relatively oblivious.
I imagine it’ll fill up with the after work W1 crowd and also that questionable weekend W1 crowd. It’s a bit like Graphic, but with better food and staff – and you’ve certainly got a better chance of a seat and service than a lot of other W1 venues.
After dinner, we nipped round the corner for a night cap - in this case the almost legendary 'donostia' G&T at Copita. God I love Soho:
Food – 7/10
Drink – 9/10
Service - 7/10
Value – 8/10
Tap water tales – 7/10