The Gibson: Wow. From the get-go it’s been thrilling discerning drinkers with its unique creations, cosy shadowy ambience and surreal cocktail list. The drumroll of anticipation for its opening was intense: ever since we found out Marian Beke (formerly of Nightjar) would open a bar with Rusty Cerven (previously senior mixologist at The Connaught), we couldn’t sit still.
And with such an impressive DNA, odds are they were going to ace this set up. And that they have.
The Gibson is situated on a corner site in Clerkenwell and the Edwardian tiled façade is unlike anything on this quiet end of Old Street. But its one-of-a kind impact is what makes it so fabulous. It might only be February, but it’s already one of our favourite places to open this year.
Fusing old world art deco charm with a curlicue of Adam Ant drama, every little detail and nuance has been thought out to an immaculate T — it’s like they’ve zoomed in on every little pixel for the ultimate experience. The interior is decorated so as to assimilate the story of Charles Dana Gibson, the 1930s American graphic artist who allegedly inspired the “The Gibson” cocktail. Drawings of his “Gibson Girl” — the idealised American woman at the turn of the 20th century — appear on the windows and menus, further adding to the carefully considered and intricate detailing.
Same goes for the illustrative menu — all 16 pages of it. Designed like a calendar, each page is a different month so as to highlight the seasonal changes, and thus reflected in the cocktails and their ingredients.
Components of many might sound outrageous and foreign, albeit lest we forget that the guys behind the bar have adept skills as flavour experts: years of experimentations, scholarly studying of cookbooks and ingredient sources leaves us in good hands. Moreover, the team here at The Gibson are incredibly helpful and friendly, offering sage counsel and recommendations.
Leading the menu is of course, ‘The Gibson’ which comes served, ever-so-elegantly in a signature, ice-cold stainless steel martini glass. The classic cocktail of intrigue back in the 1900s, Rusty and Marian have transported this to the 21st century and kept it en pointe with their own renditions and subtle twists.
Take for instance, the “Way of the Dragon” which comprises Henessy fine, Chambord, fresh pineapple, pickled mango, longan juice, fresh lime, 3 styles of Madeira, galia melon, and pumpkin and walnut jam. The wordy ingredient list is just as complex as the flavours that bounce around then settle into a fresh, fruity-yet sour concoction. But the impressive presentation is what will knock you for six: a metal dragon blowing dry-ice out of its mouth accompanies the small cup, adding not only to the embellishment of the cocktail, but the overall experience.
Then there comes the ‘Tiger Balm’ — sip on a zesty infusion of tequila, chilli liqueur, diamond lime, grapefruit, agave syrup, fresh turmeric, and date & tamarind chutney, then wait for the subtle punch of the lemon balm laced around the rim. The ingenious piquant combination is very unlike your regular margarita.
The ‘Mock Turtle’ is an all-round pleaser too — ignore the mention of fresh gherkin juice, and let the lemon myrtle infused vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime and candied quince do the rest. Delightfully sweet and refreshing, the pickled juice delicately rounds it off.
Oh, and there’s snacks to boot. In orchestration with The Gibson’s play on different vinegars, a selection of pickled vegetables is an agreeable and intelligent alternative to the common popcorn. The cheese board is of upmost importance too — cleanse the palate with some aged parmigiano, crumbling ever so delicately on the tongue.
With a few small tables enough to accommodate 2-4 people, we suggest making a beeline straight for the bar if you want to see the barman work their magic.
And, if you detest the idea of standing in a non-moving queue whilst they prepare the labour-intensive cocktails, rejoice — table service. Win.
We could go on — overwhelmingly so. But we think you best book a table at The Gibson, pronto.
The Gibson, 44 Old Street, EC1V 9AQ