For those infuriatingly health conscious, #cleaneating folk we find ourselves reading about in the paper – perhaps even knowing - cocktails and desserts are an either / or situation. Having both is seen as totally self indulgent, borrowing from the notion that treats like this are two health wrongs – and that two of them don't make a right. But it was the quinoa crusaders, not the indulgences, who were wrong. Basement Sate is not merely a basement bar, but one where what's bad for you will be the best thing that'll have happened to you all day.
It's underground. Shocker! Be careful with this one, though. Walk too quickly down the Soho backstreet and you'll miss it. Far from swinging or buzzing neon signs, Basement Sate's cursive logo is etched onto a bronze plaque not much larger than a business card and the door leading into the bar offers the simple, somewhat curt message: 'This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address'. True, whatever adolescent fantasies you had before entering have been denied at this point, but what you're offered instead is better. Push past the heavy door and the noise of the street disappears. The bar top, back bar and walls are a heavy, dark oak, the kind that sucks in harsh light, stress and the ache of the 9-5. The candles dotted around cast out a soft light. The leather sofas, high bar stools and partitioned areas ooze tranquillity and class. The bartenders and waiters are similarly polished, pouring with a confidence that many emulate, but few really manage to master.
Music: Ambient, Lounge, Jazz, Funk
Dress Code: None
Train Station: Tottenham Court Road
Address: Basement Sate, 8 Broadwick Street, London, W1F 8HN
Taking a second to locate the place is time well spent. So is making an effort to find the drinks that best suit the deserts. The tropical trifle is best served with one of the 12 cocktails. The chocolate fondant with banoffee ice cream is delicious and, when paired with the 2014 Malbec (as recommended), is rendered an utter sensation. The background music, if you listen hard enough, is Jazz and Funk. But you won't notice, as the music is never so loud as to make conversation difficult and you'll be too engrossed in the drinks you're having to actually bother.
This is a classy affair, with patrons as well-heeled in their choice of footwear as they are in their manners. They're people who recognise that luxury is not in plates the size of a bathtub, but in a particular attitude and exactitude. They're after a place that pays as much attention to the look of the back bar as they do the products that come from it. It's about the little things here. Water jugs are hefty, green reconstituted bottles; wine glasses are thin, light, spotlessly clean. Cutlery is weighty steel. Menus are printed on substantial paper. Everything here feels solid and secure, confident in its offering and convinced that you, like everyone else, are going to enjoy it. You're safe here among a Soho elite more interested in ticking off another cocktail and dessert than carving another notch on the bed post. How novel.
Why go through cold starters, rigid small talk and the wait between the main and dessert when, at Basement Spate, you can go straight for the good bits and arrive in style? When handled properly, cocktails and desserts go together in emphatic style. Here, they're captivating and never sickly sweet or sticky like those served from a sachet. Whipped cream and Baileys is no longer the stuff of dreams, for they exist here together and you, you dessert goblin you, deserve to indulge from time to time.