palate cleanser

Three Sheets (Soho)

Soho, W1D

Three Sheets – the highly-regarded bar in Dalston – opened its new (and larger) branch in March, complementing an already exciting cocktail scene in Soho. Located on Manette Street (once home to Crobar and The Borderline for those who remember), it’s metres away from Noble Rot Soho, L’Escargot and the underrated 10 Greek Street, though if you’re looking for a strong Hemingway-esque pre-dinner sharpener this may not be the place.

Most of the drinks are refreshingly light and low ABV. Also consistent with owners Max and Noel Venning’s ethos, many of the drinks are pre-bottled (and indeed, they provide these to many successful restaurants and have published a book on the subject). It’s a slightly uncompromising approach that can be both admirable and irksome: whilst I appreciate the amount of work that goes into conceptualising the drinks, testing them, carrying out the mise en place and so on, there’s little of that magic you get in a cocktail bar when the drink is made à la minute, or to order, and ends up essentially just being a dispensary. Still, on this visit, they got a lot of the tiny details right: no witchcraft, but efficient service, good glassware, water regularly topped up and clear ice.

Pedants may be uneasy with the “French 75” (the inverted commas are intentional), being a carbonated mix of an undisclosed gin, clear lemon, orange flower water, Chardonnay, cloud tea, oak and verjus. By definition, not a French 75 at all but cover versions can sometimes cast the original in a new light: this was still delicious, and I can see this being a lovely curtain-raiser before tucking in to chicken with vin jaune sauce at Noble Rot Soho. 

Their interpretation of the Bramble impressed, with a blackberry, framboise, red wine and beetroot syrup that essentially bleeds into the gin mixture as you sip it. Who needs bartenders to stir or shake when the drink mixes itself?

The only dud for me really was the ‘Cherry Americano’, based on Americano Vergano, a light twist on a vermouth known for its inherent cherry notes, and enhanced by cherry bark and plum. It sounded very promising on paper but I found the cherry element underwhelming. This, however, was far more noticeable in the Martinez…

Indeed, there’s no escaping the classic cocktail test. The Martinez was made very well and assuaged my disappointment when they said they couldn’t do an Aviation. At the same time though I appreciated the honesty. They say they can make any classic on request so long as they have the ingredients, which is fair enough (a far better response than Bar Lina down the road who had never heard of a Campari Shakerato – quite surprising for a place that purports to be Italian and stocks Campari on the back bar, but that’s a whole other story).

Overall, would I return? Certainly if I’m in the area but, for me, it doesn’t quite have that je ne sais quoi of a destination bar. Maybe I’ve just had too many Egerton Martinis and prefer drinks with more punch. Maybe their Carlingford oysters can convert me. But it’s a pleasant space with friendly staff and very handy as a new option in Soho.

13 Manette Street

May 2024


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