David Ellis, On the Sauce at Bar Crispin: Somewhere to joyfully hear people say what they shouldn’t

·3-min read
Joyful: food on the zinc-topped tables in Bar Crispin   (Bar Crispin)
Joyful: food on the zinc-topped tables in Bar Crispin (Bar Crispin)

One of the great kicks of drinking is that people begin to say things they shouldn’t. This weekend I was at a wedding so buoyant with love that I blubbered like a tot through the whole thing and at the reception, an old schoolmate who’s become something of a successful TV bod began to spill about the programmes that never made it out of the planning room. And that’s how I learned the Great British public only narrowly avoided a reality show that would have seen scandal-hit former celebrities regain their standing over 12 episodes. The plan was to rehabilitate the worst of the worst. Do I need to go on or can you tell what it is, yet?

I doubt we’d have got the details without the drink (or the name, which legal say we can’t print — have fun guessing). And that’s partly what bars are for; they’re places to share, to say the things we can’t get out without a fortifier first. They’re spaces for our worst jokes and the secrets too good to stay that way. Though, sure, sometimes, you just want somewhere to get a half-decent glass of wine.

That’s what took me to Bar Crispin this week. It sits on ever-humming Kingly Street, between please-never-change Ain’t Nothin’ But… The Blues Bar and Soho’s worst Blue Posts. This Crispin is the kid sister of a same-name place in Spitalfields, and is a wine bar, a cereal-box sized room of zinc-topped tables and triangles everywhere – seriously, the lights, walls, mirrors... even the door handle is basically a block of Toblerone. It fits maybe 20, and there’s a small, happy terrace out the front for about half the same again. It’s rather lovely.

Fair warning: this is a natural wine bar. I know. The smell of feet is off-putting. But the natural wine trend is just long enough in the tooth that the days of everything tasting like cider seem to be on the wane; Crispin’s 150-or-so long list is about the kind of natural stuff that’s less farmyard and more fine-living (and anyway, experience shows it’s true that natural stuff goes easier on the hangovers — I’ll prove it again when I get to Battersea’s Aspen & Meursault as it opens next week).

There was a rather good chilled red from the north of Portugal, a Folias de Baco ‘Uivo’ Renegado – one of those wines to have on an endless, summer night when the light is as gold and straw coloured. Another, a white made by Misturas is worth asking for if you see it – the multi-coloured label looks like a Paul Smith number. It’s an Albariño; a little tangy, a lot saline, but brightly crisp. They also do Negronis and Vespers, the only two cocktails that really truly matter, although their Vespers come in a tumbler over ice. That’s novel, I thought when it arrived. That’s not right, I thought after a sip or two. Bring back the Martini glass — they’re triangular, after all.

Anyway, enough about the booze. It was good. The manager, Alex Price, knows what she’s doing. She’s a som. Yeah, I’d have preferred more than one bottle under £30, and I wish I’d had time for more of the food — that bread, those perfect olives and oysters... But I sat alone for while, waiting on a friend, and over the music – the only other low-point, it sounded like stuff you’d hear at an Ibizan dentist – I heard people chat and laugh and sometimes clap their hands over their mouths in reflex horror. They were saying what they shouldn’t; what joy to see it.

19 Kingly St, Carnaby, W1B 5PY, barcrispin.com, wine from £8 a glass

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