If you weren’t looking for Opium Chinatown, you’d never know it was there. You won’t find it on street view (I tried, so that I could show you). On its website, you’ll simply see its address as ‘The Jade Door’. Locating said door is not particularly easy when it’s open, and the jade bit is now the black inner face. The only other thing left to identify Opium is a solitary brass plaque, and a door man.
Don’t be put off though. It’s all part of Opium’s mystique. Think of it as an Asian-themed speakeasy.
We headed over to Opium after a wave of saliva and other bodily fluids (I’m just assuming here) flooded The Duke of York’s theatre, as a result of Kit Harington’s beautiful face in Dr. Faustus. With the show cancelled, and Anna and I at a loose end, we thought we’d go and find a bar. It was purely by chance that we decided upon Opium. Wandering towards Soho, the sight of Chinatown triggered some bit of my lizard-brain, and I remembered about this bar that I’ve always wanted to try. The rest, as they say, is liquor-fuelled history.
“There is one of those Chinese waving cats sat opposite me, and ever since I tried to get him to work, he waves once whenever I’m not looking directly at him.”
We sat on the top floor at the bar, which as far as I’m concerned is the best seat in the house. There we were free to laugh and chat with the bartenders, argue about drinks, and generally make a mischief of ourselves.
The lights are low, the décor deliberately shabby. With the nights getting lighter, the closed blinds on the windows throw a certain dappled amount of dusky-light into the room. We sit with the exposed rafters above us, surrounded by the weird and the wonderful. There is one of those Chinese waving cats sat opposite me, and ever since I tried to get him to work, he waves once whenever I’m not looking directly at him. Dry ice bubbles away in a glass of bar spoons. What appears to be a thigh bone fashioned into some sort of shaman’s staff sits among the bitters and bottles in front of me. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud.
The drinks are excellent, with a range of seasonal cocktails and Asian-inspired drinks to whet your whistle. I stuck largely to the classics, but I was particularly fond of my negroni that came served with a single massive chunk of ice in it. It was a little nerve-wracking watching these guys wield a meat-cleaver with such reckless abandon.
Next time you’re in Soho, check out Opium. It’s worth the trip. Booking is recommended.
Opium Cocktail & Dim Sum Parlour
The Jade Door
15-16 Gerrard Street