Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Zahra Bar

Clapham Old Town has an exciting new addition. Bringing a Moorish twist to SW4 is Zahra Bar, which has just opened its ornate doors in the basement of newcomer restaurant Del' Aziz on The Pavement – a road seemingly named by Adele. Set across two floors, the ground-level bar is flatteringly lit with stained-glass lanterns, which prettify the giant bronze tables that could double as satellite dishes.

Low slung copper light fixtures hang nonchalantly, illuminating the gold thread on the silk cushioned sofas. Gazing up, I'm greeted by a playful dance floor of a ceiling, scattered with luminous pink and orange oblongs. The 30+ cocktail list is divided into the usual suspects: Martinis, Long Drinks, Shorts and Fizz. I opt for the signature Zahra cocktail (£7.50), a mixture of Pampeo rum, pineapple, spices, lime, egg white, and a cheeky dribble of absinthe. Expecting something sickeningly sweet, it delivers an ice-cold, deliciously thirst-quenching drop, with an impish liquorice finish.

Moving to the main bar downstairs, the lighting is as low as the ceiling and the music as loud as the Middle Eastern mosaic wallpaper. Brick red stools line the bar, expectantly waiting bottoms. The stained-glass lanterns make a welcome reappearance, and a belly dancer weaves her way, serpent-like, through the crowd. The place has the feel of a clandestine vice den in Beirut, where the cool kids come to feed their bad habits. Thirsty for a second libation, I opt for an Aviation (£8), made with calvados, cassis, lime and absinthe. Having already been charmed by the green fairy, she works her magic a second time, proving a delightful addition to the satisfyingly sharp, raspberry pink drink.

In keeping with the Moorish theme, my harem and I sample a selection of the mezze on offer, from salty slabs of halloumi and cooling tzatziki to creamy houmous bejeweled with ruby red pomegranate seeds. For the optimum opium den experience, you can choose from an array of forbidden fruits, including cherry, strawberry and watermelon, on the Shisha menu. Though due to the smoking ban, the hookah pipes won't be able to be puffed on until spring. Perusing the wine list, I'm impressed to see both Lebanon and Morroco in the line-up, but the cocktails are of such a high calibre, this lady's not for turning. It may be freezing outside, but Clapham's new jewel is burning bright.

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