Sipsmith’s at The Trading House:
The Trading House is one of those places tucked away in the City that is so discreet from the outside that stepping through the doors really does give you one of those ‘wow’ moments. Now converted into a bar, this former bank is both stunning and quirky. Everywhere you look, there’s something else to see.
It reminded me somewhat of a visit to Hormiman’s Museum where the story behind it goes along the lines of Mr Horiman being a wealthy man had spent many years travelling and collecting items from around the world. Eventually snapping, his wife demanded that he stop cluttering up their house and move the artefacts; and the museum was founded! There are old books, packing cases, and some rather odd taxidermy all present in The Trading House; I wasn’t quite sure about the cockatoo peering at us!
My first visit was at the tail end of summer when a small group of us were treated to some refreshing and delicious gin and tonics from Sipsmith’s. Whilst we enjoyed our quintessential English drink, we were treated a talk on the history of gin and Sipsmith’s distillery. I was fascinated to hear how gin had been introduced to England by William of Orange, and the turn of phrase ‘Dutch Courage’ came from Dutch soldiers having a nip or two of gin before going into battle.
Sipsmith itself was established in London in 2009. It was the first copper-pot based distillery to start up in London in 189 years, after gin became known as ‘mother’s ruin’ and legislation was passed to stop people making their own ‘bath tub’ brews. This is a quality product, a traditional London gin that works as well in a dry martini or with tonic. We also tried the vodka, the sloe gin (always a favourite at Christmas), and the London cup which I liked a lot, the addition of the vermouth and earl grey tea made for a much less sweet drink than the other summer cups on the market. We didn’t try it, but I’m tempted to get a bottle of the new addition to the range – the lemon drizzle gin. I can see this as a lovely alternative to dessert wine with the right food.
My second visit was to try the food at The Trading House, now into autumn we felt the need for some comfort food. Whilst choosing our food, we kept to English produced alcohol; I enjoyed a glass of Hush Heath sparkling wine and Alex a Beavertown brew from the excellent selection of beers. The live music was good, a broad selection of covers from John Denver to Keane. You might notice that our place mats were a scene from the bar. Alongside the cutlery we found pencils, so if you are in need of being ‘mindful’, there’s an opportunity to do some colouring!
I started my meal with sesame coated falafel with a summer slaw and a spicy mayo. The photo doesn’t do them justice, they were light and delicious with the sesame adding a lot of interest.
Alex enjoyed his molten baked camembert with smoked bacon and crispy onion. It was a rather nice touch to serve this with sliced apple as well the toasted bread.
Still feeling the change of weather he went for one of the pies, what could be more hearty than pie and mash? The steak and stout pie was declared to be succulent with perfect pastry.
I wanted the heat, but not the heaviness, so went for a salad of spicy chilli beef. Unlike the crispy chilli beef served in Chinese restaurants, this was breaded, with the heat coming from the red chillis and the dressed salad.
We finished the meal with a sticky toffee pudding for Alex and a board of English cheese for me. This featured Appleby’s Red Cheshire, Stilton and Shorrock’s with celery, radish and fig chutney. All were served at the right temperature and were great, to be honest, this would be fine to share and I couldn’t finish it. I did finish my very nice glass of Shiraz, though!
This isn’t fine dining and doesn’t pretend to be. It’s good quality pub food, served in an amazing location, with live music and colouring in! If I worked in the City I’m sure that this would become a favourite haunt.
89-91 Gresham Street, City of London, London EC2V 7NQ