By Katie Wilson
When we first heard about new cocktail bar The Duchess of Dalston we were excited for two reasons.
The first is because Dalston in east London used to be our old stomping ground and there was a distinct lack of good cocktails in the area until a few years ago. Secondly, The Duchess of Dalston is from the same team behind Alice In Wonderland-themed Callooh Callay in Shoreditch, so we knew it was going to be good.
Not only does this place serve killer cocktails – which are a decently priced £10 – there’s a buzzy vibe about it from the moment you walk in. You want to hang out here, whether it’s for an after work cocktail, tasting in the back room, or one of their soon-to-be legendary weekend brunches with acts ranging from jazz quartets to drag queens.
Another thing that makes us like The Duchess of Dalston even more is their conscious efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Their partnership with EcoSpirits means for each cocktail served a tree is planted, so it’s essentially sustainable drinking. What could be better than that!
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We visit on a Tuesday night and even at 6pm there is already a speakeasy vibe about the place. A few customers are perched at the bar. There is also seating outside, plus a fairy-lit window seat for those visiting on a date.
Our seats are the leather booths opposite the bar, giving us a good look at everything that is going on around us.
One of the first things we notice is the Duchess – a tattooed lady with long flowing hair and a moustache giving us a cheers with her cocktail – is everywhere. From the coasters to the hand sanitiser and, of course, pride of place behind the bar.
The decor is also much chicer than some of Dalston’s other cocktail bars. There is cool artwork on the walls, a panelled ceiling, and wooden floors leading to a room in the back which was open for a gin tasting when we visited.
Manager and cocktail extraordinaire Nazareth Rodriguez, who deserves a mention for his epic name alone, is our server for the evening.
When we tell him we like gin and ask what we should order, he immediately recommends the West End Girl, a blend of Portobello Gin, Strawberry Syrup, Lemon Verbena and Kiwi Soda.
This may not be on the menu for future visits, as the cocktail menu changes every month – but if it is, order it. It’s one of the most easy drinking cocktails to have ever passed our lips, so we might have ended up ordering quite a few more after that.
Cocktails we hope become a regular fixture for their name nods to the local area include the Ridley Me This, a reference to nearby Ridley Road market.
While their namesake cocktail, The Duchess, is a take on the gimlet made with Pink Pepper Gin, Giffard Bananedu Brésil Liqueur, Tío Pepe Sherry, Avocado Leaf Syrup and Lemon.
You don’t have to stick to what’s on the menu either, as these guys are expert cocktail makers. You seriously won’t have a bad one.
We went for their twist on a gin sour called The Perfect Lady, which has a peach flavour to it. We tried another version of this made with Cointreau orange liqueur.
In a nice touch, the cocktails are infused with herbs grown on The Duchess of Dalston’s roof.
Food is also available. When we visit there is a Mexican menu featuring dishes such as Homemade Guacamole and Totopos (£6), Tuna Tostada (£7) and Sea Bream Ceviche (£11).
There was also a selection of Quesadillas (£7), including a vegan option. These come small, so order more than one if you’re really hungry.
By day, The Duchess of Dalston doubles as a coffee shop for those wanting a brew and a pastry between 9am and 1pm.
And on Saturdays and Sundays, boozy brunches are served between 10am and 3pm.
Best for: Drinks with friends or bring a date
The Duchess of Dalston, at 392 Kingsland Road, Dalston, is open Tuesday to Sunday until 11pm in the week and 1am at weekends
Cocktails start at £10. Bottomless brunch is £30pp
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