West London’s food and drink renaissance continues apace. Amaro – one of the capital’s best new cocktail bars to open in recent times – has brought a much-needed injection of independent hospitality to Kensington. Following on from that success, Elon Soddu and team opened new bar Twice Shy just before Christmas 2023.
A hop and a skip from Earl’s Court station, Twice Shy is a compact, dimly-lit two-floor affair. There is space for small private parties downstairs, though the best seats are of course at the bar which dominates the ground floor. This is not simply another branch of Amaro though; like any younger sibling trying to forge its own path, Twice Shy has a distinct personality, being a bit more playful with drinks rather than Amaro’s classic approach (though Elon and his bartenders can make any classic on request).
I usually worry when any bar installs an onsite laboratory but there are no clouds of smoke, crowded garnishes or pretentious concepts here. This is a grown-up bar, not Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. In a similar vein to peers Swift, Kwant, Crossroads, Tayer + Elementary and the like, Twice Shy’s cocktails are unfussy, made with an apparent simplicity that belies the planning and thought involved. They are also priced very reasonably for this part of town, most drinks coming in around the £11 to £13 mark.
I cannot recommend the mortadella focaccia enough
For a lighter option, the ‘Vanilla and Sakura’ is one of several carbonated drinks with vodka, Sakura vermouth, vanilla and bergamot. The vanilla here is quite prominent, evoking pleasant memories of childhood ice creams, but not overpowering or cloyingly sweet. Meanwhile, the ‘Mint and Peat’, which may sound like a comedy double act at the Edinburgh Festival, is another fizzy drink combining both gin and peated whisky but softened by mint tea and dry sherry.
On two visits so far I’ve been particularly impressed by the ‘Scotch Bonnet and Blackberry’ – using scotch bonnet distillate may sound bizarre but the distillate extracts the inherent flavours of the chilli rather than its heat. The drink is rounded off by Punt e Mes, that dark and slightly bitter vermouth which is so crucial in a St John Negroni. Or there’s the ‘Rum and Sultana’ – this pre-made blend of Havana Club 7 Year Old dark rum and sultana, which is then mixed with Campari and Pedro Ximenez, has to be the ultimate dessert drink. A little molassy but it is multi-layered and luscious.
The drinks may be different but one family trait Twice Shy definitely shares with Amaro is its warm hospitality. Whether this is attributable to the Savoy background of some of the staff, or simply because they like serving people, they always remember you and what you like to drink; you can tell it is genuine because they remember returning guests by face alone, without any prompts from a booking system, which always impresses and makes any customer’s day.
A quick word about the food. Decent cocktail bars are seriously upping their game on the snack front at the moment. Bowls of nuts or ramekins of questionable crisps are now passé. Twice Shy do some very interesting gelatos but if you’re peckish I cannot recommend the mortadella focaccia enough. Mortadella is one of the most delicious salumi ever devised by humankind (bless you Bologna). It’s wonderfully silky by itself, but served with sun-dried tomatoes and burrata in focaccia oozing with olive oil, it is divine and works extremely well with the ‘Scotch Bonnet and Blackberry.’
So now there are two excellent, friendly bars within minutes of each other on the District line. The trouble will be choosing which one to go to; as they’re so close why not both?
14 Hogarth Place
by J A Smith