Just What The Doctor Ordered!
Daniel Keane spent an evening at The Pharmacy in Devonshire Road
“Here’s to alcohol, the rose coloured glasses of life”, wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Beautiful and Damned. The literary prince of the Jazz Age would have no doubt been impressed with the authenticity of Chiswick’s new speakeasy bar, the Evans and Peel Pharmacy, offering booze in medicine bottles for that perfect post-work drink.
The bar succeeds in its emulation of Prohibition America’s speakeasies. Dim lighting, swing music and 1920s décor combine to create an authentic atmosphere. It feels exclusive and intimate: an elegant and sophisticated alternative to Chiswick’s more traditional pubs and bars. They take their image seriously, so make sure you have the correct password before turning up.
A bar like this in Chiswick feels long overdue, given that they have been popping up all over Soho, Covent Garden and East London in the past six years. The Earls Court branch of Evans and Peel – a ‘detective agency’- has enjoyed nearly six years of success, prompting the launch in Chiswick. Since opening, the Pharmacy has gone from strength to strength: launching their new ‘smokehouse’ menu last week and planning to serve ice cream from June.
The new smokehouse menu offers a range of snacks and bites, which range in quality. There are some original ideas that are well executed, but the menu feels inconsistent: not quite matching the strength of the cocktails.
The spicy buffalo cauliflower had a wonderful marinade; though this same marinade failed to do the trick on the chicken wings, which felt dry and lacked flavour. Mac ‘n’ Cheese Bites, however, were a real hit: crispy, filling and highly addictive.
Portion sizes were generous, and served in a delightful tin box accompanied by a creamy cheese sauce. While the recipes and the flavours could definitely do with some tweaking, the menu succeeds in providing a perfect pre-dinner snack to enjoy with a cocktail. I noticed, however, many other drinkers opting not to browse the food menu: patrons are clearly choosing to drink rather than dine.
Cocktails remain the Pharmacy’s clear forte. Names nodded to important figures from medical history, such as the chemist Jesse Boot and Scottish pharmacologist Alexander Fleming.
The Rheum Rhubarb was an exquisite blend of lavender and rum, with a faintly fruity aftertaste. Snake Oil, often recommended by the staff, is strong and syrupy, completed by a dash of liquorice and a gentle hint of bay leaf. The ‘Jesse Boot’ was a personal favourite: a raspberry syrup and lemon delight served up in a quaint teacup.
The staff were incredibly helpful in choosing the best drinks, and generally friendly throughout the evening. Service was fast and efficient, and prices – while high- were mostly matched by quality.
Doubts did linger in my mind about the menu, however. The bar will need to decide on the importance of its menu: is the food to be a highlight, or just a supplement of an evening at the Pharmacy? If it is the former, tweaks will need to be made to the recipes and the variety of the menu expanded.
Nonetheless, after a couple of excellent cocktails, I certainly left the Pharmacy feeling cured of all ailments.