If you’re looking for a bit of satisfaction…
If you walk too quickly, you might very well miss the red door that leads down into Basement Sate, one of Soho’s well-known hidden treasures. What you might not miss is the sign on that very same door that reads: This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address. True to London’s red light district, Basement Sate is the perfect place to satisfy a desire, or rather, an appetite to the full. That’s why the bar is focused on doing two things very well: cocktails and desserts.
We’ve arrived before opening which gives us the opportunity to speak to just about the entire bar team — a real treat as it gives us a myriad of perspectives on the bar which is dark, cosy and perfect for a date night. The blend of cultures amongst the bartenders adds to the finesse and international-feel of the cocktail menu. Danny Ruiz-Lamas who grew up in London with his Peruvian family is talking about London’s Pisco Week, whilst Luis Felipe Lopez of Ecuadorian heritage takes us deeply into the cocktail menu, all the while Latvian German Golubev prepares our Brockmans cocktail.
German has coined it, SATE-isfaction, a clever play on the bar’s name. It’s made with fresh mangos which provide the colour and sweetness, and cherry tomatoes for a sour touch. The salt and pepper open up the flavours, whilst the lemon, elderflower, and Maraschino cherry balance out the botanicals in Brockmans. In Brazil, salt is generally added to mangos for a more savoury snack, and that’s exactly what this cocktail is, with a bit of a salty finish. We sip slowly as we peruse the dessert menu.
Danny tells us that many come for the desserts, but linger for hours once they get a taste of the cocktail menu. The chocolate cigar box which arrives smoking in an ashtray with ashes (all edible) or the carrot cake (naturally served in a garden pot), are as delicious as they are Instagrammable. Wanting more, we ask how often customers come in to make their way through the dessert menu. Luckily for the first-timers, Basement Sate offers a whiskey and mini dessert pairing, given their whiskey collection has developed rapidly over the years. All thanks to gin, Danny notes.
“Palates change. And that’s in large part because of the popularity of the G&T. Gin was never something you could really drink on its own, apart from Brockmans, so tonic helped people develop a more bitter palate. Negronis and old fashioned’s developed this even further as people looked for something else, and this, in turn, opened up the palate to fruits and sugars. Whiskey blends caramels, fruits, and spices, which the palate is now more accustomed to.” The majority of the back bar is now made up of whiskeys from around the world, all of which the team personally taste on Thursdays during brand trainings and dessert testing.
By constantly learning about spirits, background stories, and botanicals, the team is well equipped to make recommendations, not only to customers, but during the bi-annual menu change. The process for this is quite simple: everyone submits recipes, and they all sit down to incorporate one another’s ideas. With the large amount of time spent together, it’s no wonder that many of the ideas merge beautifully to create the final new product. And then there are menu items that never leave, such as the Wolfberry (a clarified milk cocktail) and Made in Ecuador (cocoa nibs infused gin, banana & cherry liqueur, lemon juice) due to their popularity.
We ask how Brockmans has made it on the limited, but intriguing gin list. Luis tells us that he and Danny used to work at a bar in Northwest London where they came across Brockmans. “At the time, we thought it was like a sloe gin without the low ABV. The taste speaks for itself and there’s a great flavour balance.” So when they came to Basement Sate four years ago, they wanted a gin customers could drink neat without pulling a face.
As people start to peer into the bar after their trip down the stairs, we start to pack up our things. The team laughs about how many people poke their head in to ask if the bar is open when the doors are wide open and the bar team stands prepared to make drinks. It’s certainly a place for people who enjoy life’s curiosities and pleasures…
by German Golubev
- 25 g Fresh Mango
- 1/2 Cherry Tomato
- Pinch of Salt
- Pinch of Pepper
- 10 ml Lemon Juice
- 35 ml Brockmans Gin
- 15 ml Elderflower Syrup
- 1 bar spoon Maraschino Liqueur
- 1 Maraschino Cherry (garnish)
- Muddle the mango and cherry tomato along with a pinch of pepper and salt.
- In a shaker, add ice, Brockmans Gin and elderflower syrup.
- Shake and double strain into a Nick and Nora glass.
- Pour Marashino Liqueur on top and add a Maraschino cherry.
If you’re looking for late night satisfaction, visit Basement Sate. And if you haven’t got a sweet tooth, there are plenty of savoury nibbles, and of course drink options…