This Halloween weekend why not embrace the spirit world as well as the spirit cabinet by joining El Nivel bar in their celebration of Mexican Day of the Dead. Here’s an alternative to the annual bar crawl and perfect for those looking for a bite to eat.
El Nivel, Covent Garden
In Three Words: Authentic, Unique, Agave-licious
The Lowdown: We’ve had the Vodka Bar and the Gin Parlour – now make room for the Agaveria Experience. This small-but-perfectly formed little space is tucked above La Perla on Maiden Lane, and offers drinkers the chance to get better acquainted with all things agave. This plant is the base ingredient of tequila and mezcal, and sets the tone for the cocktail list.
El Nivel is full of more Mexican spirits than a graveyard on Dia de Muertos, and so what better time to familiarise yourself with this intimate bar than during their Day of the Dead celebrations, at a special supper taking place on November 1st. The focus will be on their artisan mezcals and tequilas, with some great themed cocktails to get you in the spooky spirit. If you can’t make the Saturday then never fear, as the special concoctions are available from Friday 24th October until November 7th.
Your Plus One: The friend that went to Mexico four years ago and still goes on about how fabulous the food and drink was, and how nowhere in England is quite as authentic. Well ha – you’ve found it! Also, someone who embraces tongue in cheek macabre and the more unusual cocktails on offer like their special Resucitador de cuerpos, made using mezcal, cocchi americano and absinthe.
The Decor: A tiny but bright room that feels like you could be in a little restaurant in Mexico City. There are places to perch at the bar, or tables for those dipping into the tapas menu. For Day of the Dead the restaurant will be dotted with beautiful flowers and aromatic lights, while the addition of a traditional alter completes the mystical atmosphere. There will also be a face painter on hand to complete the experience.
Cocktail Highlights: If you don’t like tequila – prepare to be surprised. The Durango Gimlet combines Tequila Ocho Blanco with homemade grapefruit cordial and has a smoky, subtle finish that is very refreshing. The Mezcal Fix uses QuiQuiRiQui and roasted pineapple with a saltwater spray, and the sweet, almost caramel taste of the fruit balances well with the saline aftertaste. Plus, there are some great Dia de Muertos offerings, such as the Calavera Cobbler, which promises to be a sangria-esque cocktail that could be delicious yet lethal…
Something to Soak Up the Booze: You couldn’t come here and NOT eat, given the delicious smells emanating from the kitchen. The special menu includes fresh Yellow fin Tuna served with guacamole, and succulent roast rib of beef accompanied by a zingy salsa.
Burning a Hole? The cocktails range from £9 – £13 – not cheap, but then these are high end, premium spirits, and you’re also not likely to chug them quickly since they’re so precisely and expertly made. On the Day of the Dead there’s a set menu for £45 pounds for a three course meal with 2 cocktails- definitely worth the Halloween outing.
Overall: If you’re kind of over Halloween and want an altogether more grown up evening, then embracing Day of the Dead is the way to go. El Nivel’s imaginative and exciting selection of spooky cocktails aren’t just gimmicky – they also taste fabulous.
Tequila is often given a bad rep by the likes of drunken students – much like when the classic Burberry trench was adopted by chavs as their uniform of choice. But places like El Nivel have sprung up to remind us that it’s actually a complex and diverse spirit that can be combined in many different fashions to produce a variety of wonderful outcomes. The cocktail list has been created with an expertise that ensures non-believers will soon be triumphing the tequila and appreciating the agave.