One might not have heard of Anise Bar but it’s likely the discerning diner will have heard of Cinnamon Kitchen by Vivek Singh. Perhaps one might not have heard of Devonshire Square but everyone has heard of the City of London. There are associations with India in the very fabric of the buildings here.
Between 1768 and 1820 the East India Company built warehouses on this land for their flourishing Asian trade. Those warehouses stored raw silks and textiles from India. In the 1830s the warehouses were sold to the St Katharine Dock Company, and at the start of the 20th century they were bought by the Port of London Authority. Clocks, oriental rugs, all manner of exotic goods and tea were all stored here. But by the 1950s most of the tea business had been moved to the London Dock. The space was then used to store other beverages such as wine, port and sherry. The warehouses closed in the late 70s with the advent of shipping containers.
Installation of the high and impressive roof over the Western Courtyard is a feature of this contemporary and striking refurbishment. The original brick façades still remain although those bricks, which have seen so much haulage activity, have been cleaned to a soft honey colour. A unique open space has been created which is usable all year round.
Cinnamon Kitchen has a beautiful vista over this piazza. It has dining inside and out, and there is Anise Bar and Lounge attached. This is a classy entity in its own right and is becoming the watering hole of choice for savvy city workers and for those who have discovered this to be a Destination Bar.
Unmissable bar snacks
Anise is part of Vivek Singh’s collection of restaurants, with Cinnamon Club in Westminster being the Grande Dame. Yes, this bar connects geographically to Cinnamon Kitchen but it’s independent, so you don’t need to be visiting with a whole meal in mind. But they do offer food here which is very much Indian inspired, and it’s from the Kitchen so offering a little taster of the goods next door. Hot and sweet shrimp skewers with mango dip; Pepper chicken “toddy shop style”- stir-fried chicken thighs with cracked Malabar pepper and onion; and Paratha Platter – fresh baked tandoori flatbread with Punjabi black lentils – are unmissable bar snacks here. I am often asked what my preferred Indian meal might be: well, the shocking truth is that I crave bread and lentils. Pure comfort and deliciously executed here.
But Anise is a Bar so food will likely be accompanied by some beverages with, perhaps, a soupçon of the East. Talented Bar Manager Rafa Santi hails from Brazil where, I hear, they have a tradition of excellent cocktails. This man has a quick laugh, professional flair and inspiration. He presents classic as well as House cocktails which draw on flavours of Asia. For instance Asian Sour Apple – Zubrowka vodka, apple sake, fresh lime and apple juice – would be tempting for this Japanese sake lover, as would Spiced Plum Saketini – Bombay Sapphire, plum wine, sake and galangal. Sake is trending!
Singapore Sling is a standard in many bars but here the expected ingredients are laced with coriander and ginger along with hibiscus sugar. Rafa adds a point of difference.
A blushing thirst-quencher
Nashi Momo is another cocktail with notes from afar although nashi pears are now grown in the UK. This is Bacardi Oro, peach liqueur, coconut, fresh lime, guava juice and nashi pear. A tall, light and refreshing cocktail but alcoholic. Raspberry Cooler is a virgin option and seasonal – fresh raspberries, fresh lemon, vanilla sugar and lychee juice combine to produce a blushing thirst-quencher.
There is a small but perfectly formed wine list here for those who don’t want their drinks fiddled with. I would recommend 2014 Gewürztraminer Réserve, Cave de Hunawihr, Alsace, France, or a wine for which I have a passion, 2014 Malbec, Kaiken Reserve, Argentina. Both reds and whites are solidly chosen at Anise and some are available by the glass.
Rafa Santi is an apt front for Anise. His skill and personality shine in every glass. Come here for drinks before dinner at Cinnamon Kitchen, but you will be in good company if you choose this spot for a smart drink or two before heading home after a long day at the coal-face, or as a well-located venue near Liverpool Street Station for meeting friends. It’s making its mark.
Monday to Saturday: 17:00 – 24:00
Anise Bar at Devonshire Square
9 Devonshire Square
Phone: +44 (0) 207 626 5000
Bar review by Chrissie Walker © 2018