The bar scene in Italy is having a bit of a moment and in Milan especially. The likes of Nottingham Forest are already well-known (as the regular queues outside Daniele Poggi’s bar attest), as is the delightful Camparino where you can enjoy a Campari Shakerato or classic Negroni with an uninterrupted view of the Duomo. But after a while, the bitterness of Milan’s trade mark liqueur can get a bit samey and one needs to refresh the palate.
A disruptor has emerged with Unseen Bar. Far from the well-trodden fashion district or the popular Navigli, ground-breaking Unseen is in the residential Lambrate suburb to the east of Milano Centrale station. As soon as you walk in you notice there’s something highly unusual about this bar, and not just the Lynchian vibe from its minimalist dark blue décor and projected graphics on the wall. There is just one communal table in the centre, encouraging guests to talk to each other (though there’s no pressure to).
Also, there’s no back bar (or at least one that isn’t really visible). Bars like Crossroads in Camden are already experimenting with the idea of hiding all brand labels from their stock so that guests come without any preconceptions or brand loyalty, and leave the mixologists to do their thing. Perhaps to the chagrin of Diageo whose marketing department spends ages on designing their labels, this neutral approach works well, and at Unseen (as its name suggests) they take this blind concept further.
The cocktails themselves are thought-provoking, vivid and downright delicious. I started with the eyebrow-raising “Pamela” (10€), a little like a traditional Americano (the cocktail not the coffee) with Zucca Rabarbaro (a bittersweet Italian amaro) to replace the Campari, and coconut, which was an interesting re-think of a classic. Then, the “Luxury Elite” (12€) which they described as a “highball twist on a Martini” using umeboshi (Japanese sour plums), pink peppercorn and Tanqueray 10 for a citrus and juniper hit.
Fashionable mezcal makes an appearance too in the “Microsoft Ritmo Green” (12€) but I concluded this visit with a refreshing “Gran Turismo” (10€) – basically a G&T with black tea and a lemon wedge coloured blue (because, why not?).
All of these were served on a floppy disk for a coaster, which is an inspired touch and a clever way of preventing plastic waste. These old storage devices aren’t so obsolete after all.
On this particular visit service was fine though the bar was suspiciously quiet (I’m not complaining about that though when there’s only one large table). It took a bit of finding too but overall it was worth the trek. Unseen Bar could very well be the pioneer of the post-Negroni age and a template for bars of the future.
Via Ronchi, 13
20134 Milano MI
by J A Smith