As a resident of the trendy plains of Shoreditch, I tend not to venture further west than Soho, or anywhere south of the river. So, journeying all the way to Clapham on a Thursday night was dedication to my palate’s cause indeed. My curiosity had been ignited by the Prohibition-themed delights on offer at The Blind Tiger. Only one month old, The Blind Tiger is open just from Sunday to Thursday; thereafter, its sister venue Lost Society looks after your weekend debauchery needs. Frequently, my little party shoes just can’t wait until the weekend, so this sounded like an excellent idea to me. Or at least an excellent excuse.
My friend and I arrived at The Blind Tiger only to feel like we’d got the wrong night. Looking shifty standing at the heavy, embellished, and very definitely locked door, we tugged, pulled and peered, and only after an embarrassingly long time spotted the small intercom to our right. A little slot opened in the door, and the person on the other side asked if we had a booking. Once our embarrassment subsided, we agreed what a charmingly exclusive detail this was. Before we were even inside, we felt like the cast of Bright Young Things.
The Blind Tiger drips with vintage decadence: an abundance of distressed leather, chandeliers, candelabra and sumptuous hues of purple and red, extravagant but uncontrived. We snuggled in the downstairs bar for cocktails from a charming menu divided into ‘The Golden Age’, ‘Prohibition’, ‘Post-Prohibition’ and ‘The Blind Tigers’. I opted for a slightly watery take on a classic Blood and Sand, while my friend had rather more luck with a fiery Lemongrass and Chilli Margarita. As we drank, The Blind Tiger’s Old Hollywood vibe steered us into a conversation about, and the application of, seductive red lipstick, which seemed most appropriate for the setting.
Lipstick freshly applied, feeling every inch Hollywood starlets, we were shown upstairs to our table, observing yet more exquisite décor on the way: peacocks adorning the walls, crisp white tablecloths and soft leather sofas to sink into. We ordered a mid-priced bottle of Cotes du Rhone, light-bodied and fresh. The Blind Tiger’s wine list was extensive and varied without being overwhelming, but if you were here just for drinks, I’d recommend making the most of the cocktail menu. That’s the real star of the show.
As we nattered and cooed over the interior design, and indulged in a little ‘pre-dinner totty spotting’, a group of dapper gents took up their instruments to provide the evening’s entertainment. Benoit Viellefon and His Orchestra transported us to a bygone era, with sexily understated walking bass lines. Viellefon brings a glorious Gallic charm to The Blind Tiger’s suave setting.
But, no matter how classy or distracting our entertainment, our stomachs demanded some attention. The menu, created by Marek Novak, is British at heart, with some subtle nods to Europe. Heavily populated by meat and game, the only vegetarian option is a pretty unadventurous pearl barley risotto, but the menu changes often, so you never know what you might find. I opted for a thick and tasty pumpkin soup to start, served with a glutinous dollop of mascarpone. Although a fairly staid option, it was simple and heart-warmingly effective. My friend opted for a tart blue cheese-filled filo pastry, which was rather sadly semi-cremated, spoiling what would have been a scrummy starter. Thankfully it was served with a side of rocket and walnuts in a tastebud-tickling honey dressing, which hit all the right spots.
Our congenial and efficient waiter moved us swiftly onto our mains. A perfectly cooked leg of duck arrived for me, falling off the bone and delicately crisped on the outside, served atop a mound of flavoursome red cabbage. Rather less flavoursome were the oversized lumps of sage gnocchi, dry starchy slabs that were anything but appetising. I dipped into my co-conspirator’s cod served with mussels on a bed of crushed new potatoes, nicely balanced in flavour but, we agreed, a little dry.
The stage changed hands at this juncture, and we were graced with the extensive talents of the Dixie Ticklers. New Orleans acoustic jazz numbers were performed with a lackadaisical sense of vintage chic, another spot-on musical choice at The Blind Tiger. Our toes tapped and we relaxed, giggled and generally pretended we were glamorous Moonshine gluggers of the Prohibition, and we ordered a dessert to share: a chestnut and rum mousse served with biscotti. It was disappointingly watery towards the bottom and lacking in flavour, but we were having such a lovely overall experience, it hardly mattered.
If the food at The Blind Tiger is not outstanding, the beautifully conceived and executed décor and spellbinding ambience more than compensate. Ideal for cosy cocktails with a beau, stylish yet low-key birthdays, or simply enchanting escapes to a bygone era, The Blind Tiger is definitely worth visiting on a school night.
The Blind Tiger will tell you the address once you’ve made a reservation. Tel. 020 7498 0974. Website.