Published on April 26th, 2017 | by Ben Southwood


Augmented Reality Cocktails at City Social

Have you ever been using filters in Snapchat or Faceapp to edit yours and your friends’ faces and thought: hey you know what cocktails are missing—they’re missing Snapchat-esque cyber-elaboration? Probably not, but if people only provided what the consumer thought they wanted they’d never have invented the iPhone.

This is the philosophy that Jason Atherton and his group are working with in their new cocktails menu at City Social, which has a glorious view of London, being 24 floors up tower 42 slap bang in the middle of the City. Floor 24—as a waiter accurately boasted to me—is actually better in some ways than being right at the top: you can still see endlessly off into the distance, but you get more detail. We used that close view to pick our favourite roof gardens on nearby properties.

Everything at City Social is high end, thought through, and well put together. I guess that’s why Atherton is one of the world’s most successful restauranteurs, and everything he touches turns to gold. This attention to detail starts with the embossed gold menu, advertising 12 cocktails, which seems about the high end of the ideal range. You want a choice but also a sense that everything is special.

What makes this offering different to well literally everything out there—they really are the first people to do this—is that when you download their app and scan the bar mat/coaster underneath the drink (each drink has its own particular mat) a flurry of activity appears. It’s a bit like wearing VR goggles, though it doesn’t encompass your whole vision, because it has perspective: move to the right and it moves to the left, and so on.

No one could possibly claim this was necessary, but on the other hand, it’s incontrovertible that so much of a very high end drink is theatre. The drinks folks at Social stressed how what they were doing, though totally novel, was inspired by the epic, elaborate presentations you get at places like Artesian at the Langham. It just is more enjoyable when you get your drink out of a heavy wood Pandora-style box with smoke billowing out. It just is. This is a noble attempt at the same thing.

It comes at a similar price. I think there was a £15 or £16 drink on the menu, but they ranged to an astonishing £36—although to be fair that one contained a champagne that was not only vintage but comes with an insanely expensive special “Belle Epoque” bottle design. The story was the same across the menu: high prices reflected delicate and detailed presentation and inputs that command high prices themselves. They know what clientele they’re aiming for.

Needless to say, the food at City Social is also very good. It fits exactly in with where I see high end dining in London as being right now: hearty as well as subtle, like the perfectly slow-cooked lump of Irish short rib. Most people simply can’t hit the exact spot, but good kitchens can every time: the precise midpoint between that pulled, shredded, decomposed—overcooked—texture, and undercooked chewiness. Your knife—and teeth—glide through it without it coming apart in any way. Stuff they do is good.

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