The team behind Cigars Ltd and Liverpool tobacconist Turmeaus bring an unrivalled touch of class to the city with their 1920s-inspired speakeasy
Those walking in a hurry down Liverpool’s Old Hall Street could be forgiven for missing The Puffin’ Rooms. The cocktail bar’s entrance, which sits above the rest of the bar at street level is subtle and unassuming, with the daily throng of commuters heading for nearby Moorfields station likely to walk straight past in their rush to get home. They’ll hear about it soon enough, mind you. The Puffin’ Rooms won’t be a secret for long, it’s too exciting to be kept underwraps.
Inspired by 1920s speakeasy culture and housing a bar and cigar sampling lounge, The Puffin’ Rooms is a classy venue, with every effort made to make sure every detail is perfect. The decor is Gatsby-esque but not showy, the main room can comfortably fit 25, with room for another 20 in the sampling lounge, in which visitors can also order drinks. Nostalgic photography lines the walls, whilst a piano sits in the corner. The bar is a home for live music, seven days a week. Attention to detail is everything, from the weight of the Dalmore drinks coasters, to the backlit leatherbound cocktail menus. Service only comes in one metallic shade: silver.
The Puffin’ Rooms deals in drinks and food, but not like you’ve had them before. The food is luxurious small plates, think oysters, beef fillet, oak-smoked chicken, tasty and filling, whilst the drinks menu is a sight to behold. The cocktails at the Puffin’ Rooms are an artform. The sort to show off with, to marvel at, many of which are finished off at the table by attentive staff, fully trained and knowledgeable to the finest detail. The larger menu, charting the bar’s impressive spirit, wine and of course whisky selection is the size of a tabloid newspaper. The selection is tremendous and indecisive customers might be overwhelmed if it were not for the expert knowledge of the staff.
Despite only being open just over a month, there’s a buzz about the place. Speaking to resident pianist and singer Victoria Sharpe, who plays a host of vintage and modern classics throughout our visit, she’s excited for the word of mouth to spread. “There’s nothing like it in the city.” She says. “And i’ve got the best seat in the house, sat at the piano watching people’s jaws drop as they’re served their drinks.”
It’s definitely one of those places, a place to impress people. The cocktails, when served at the table are miniature events in themselves. A casual conversation with the barmen reveals he has never had the pleasure of working with a speedrail of such quality before. “We certainly ain’t using the cheap stuff”. Ask head barman Andreas Symeou for recommendations and he’ll suggest two in particular:
“The place to start is our house Old-Fashioned. It’s called an ‘Old Tabashioned’ and is a combination of our own independently-bottled Stalla Dhu Islay whisky, Perique Tabac, demerara sugar, a dash of our house bitters and orange bitters. Perique is a super rare Louisianan tobacco and Perique liqueur de Tabac is the liqueur made from it. Very complex, leathery and, of course, tobacco-y. We then use a calculated amount of filtered water to dilute the drink to a potable level, without having to stir using ice, and bottle it.”
“The bottled Old Tabashioned is then delivered alongside an old-fashioned ‘rocks’ glass which contains a piece of hand-cut block ice and is filled with ‘whisky-smoke’ (wood chips soaked in whisky, dried and then burned for their smoke). One of our servers then pours the cocktail into the glass, which in turn effervesces smoke in front of the guest. A small piece of theatre which, along with the smoky-Islay whisky and tobacco liqueur, creates a palatable smoke that has a lot of depth.” It’s a cocktail that has to be seen to be believed, as is the ‘Orchant Royale’, a cocktail that words (and word counts for that matter) simply can’t do justice.
The Puffin’ Rooms is an exciting prospect in Liverpool. What’s for certain is it will not remain a secret for long.EJ