West End newcomer, The Bearded Lady is one of those bars that makes you feel cooler the moment you walk through the door.
There is a certain hidden-away hipness about the Boundary Street hangout that, rather than giving off an air of exclusivity, makes it all the more tempting to stay a little longer, and come back again soon.
The look of the locale, which once housed Jam Jar, somehow works remarkably well, despite a melee of different elements and themes. One moment the eye takes in down-home wooden surfaces, and arm chairs, hanging clocks, lamp shades, and pot plants; the next you're looking at, literally, a wall of colour, with bright stencil art splashed across pale brick.
The first piece of furniture most people will notice when coming in is the piano, situated directly across from the bar, which hints at the Bearded Lady's penchant for good music. The rotund, white stuffed bear, which can sometimes be seen sitting slumped over the keys, perhaps reflects the quality of the cocktails on offer (and that a bear's life ain't easy), but we'll get to the drinks shortly.
It might be too much to take in all at once, if not for the dim lighting, which mellows the vividness of the graffiti and multi-coloured fittings and ensures that every corner of the bar holds its own secrets.
The varied layout is, in fact, one of this smallish establishment's primary attractions. The front section, near the entrance, is a vibrant and social affair, while clusters of comfy chairs out the back allow you to nestle up with loved ones in your own little burrows. A giant square table in the centre is just asking to be occupied by a large, rollicking group of friends, or encourage convivial interaction between smaller groups of soon-to-be friends. There are also various niches to just pull up a chair and enjoy your drink.
And the drinks are enjoyable. There's a solid wine list and nice array of tap beers, but the cocktails are that special that you'll find it hard to resist sampling a few. Interesting in-house creations like the fun Mexicold, which is refreshing and tequila-ey and outrageously be-straddled by a fat chilli, and the Black Treacle, whose sweetness belies a potent kick, are available alongside perfectly-constructed classics like the Martini or Manhattan.
Management has decided to concentrate on churning out their alcoholic elixirs, rather than meals, but don't fret, if you're hungry they let you bring in takeaway food from outside.
Underlying the mixed influences that make up the decor of The Bearded Lady is a definite rock and roll vibe, and there are plans to make live acts a regular feature in the months ahead.
So find a partner, or a friend, or a bunch of friends, and see for yourself what this hirsute dame has to offer.
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Image Credit: Food Nasty