Thirty Something London

Bar Review – The Portside Parlour, E8

When I was 15 I got horribly drunk on whisky, wine, beer and gin (not all at the same time, of course). Believe it or not, this accompanied with a stern talking to by my mother was enough for me to not drink again until I was about 20. It was then that I decided to put all of my alcohol filled eggs into one basket, rum. This is a love affair that still burns bright to this day. So, when I read a couple of months ago that there was a funky new pop up rum bar called the “Portside Parlour” opening in East London, I knew I would have to poke my head in sooner rather than later to sample the goods.

The first thing that caught my eye about about the Portside Parlour was their “rum club” happening every second Wednesday. This is where a different brand of rum will sponsor a tasting event for just £10 per person. Due to other commitments I wasn’t able to attend my first rum club event until mid March, lucky for me though that specific night was hosted by Plantation, one of my favourite brands.

Rum Club

The great friend of mine who was supposed to come with me decided to cancel at the last minute. Despite this setback I was still determined to make my way down to Hackney and enjoy some of the world’s best rum…. Even if that meant looking like the stereotypical creepy guy sitting on his own.

I don’t normally get lost that easily, but after  hopelessly walking around Broadway Market for about 10 minutes trying to find the Portside Parlour, I finally see a sign in the window of another bar, “Off Broadway” stating that it’s actually hidden away downstairs.

Making an Entrance

At the bottom of the stairs, I’m confronted with a door built into a wall with a wash basin which could easily be mistaken for a just another wall. I instantly know this is my type of place.

Cool entrance.

Original entrance.

Raising The Bar

Not just another cool bar in Hackney. I loved the intimate atmosphere as soon as I walked in the East London “speak easy”. Even though I was on my own, I instantly felt comfortable as smiling faces from behind the bar showed me to my seat for the event. Because I’ve turned up 30 minutes early I decide to treat myself to something off the menu. Knowing that there will be copious amounts of  Plantation to come, I decide to have a look at what else is on offer.  With so many “speak easies” in London trying to out do each other in the “originality stakes” the subtleties can make the world of difference. The menu is printed on the front and back covers of old novels. My tab number was an old “Uno” playing card, both of which were very nice touches. I decide to go for my old faithful, a neat Gosling’s, although the choice stretches from all parts of the Caribbean and Central America with the qualities varying.  This is the wrong place to be if you fancy just a “Captain Morgan’s Spiced” or a “Sailor Jerry’s”. There are plenty of original cocktails for those who don’t want to drink their rum straight up.


The great intimate atmosphere. Photo courtesy of the Portside Parlour.

The great intimate atmosphere. Image courtesy of the Portside Parlour.

The Rum Club

Without a doubt I was extremely lucky to come on an evening when Plantation were presenting. Not only were we receiving 7 quality examples of rum produced all over The Americas and the Caribbean for only a tenner, but we were given an extensive education on the process of how various rums are produced in addition to a history lesson on swashbuckling pirates and the slave trade.

The list of rums we were lucky enough to try were;

Plantation 3 Star
Plantation Guatemala Grand Anejo
Plantation Barbados
Plantation 20th Anniversary
Plantation Jamaica
Plantation Guadeloupe 1998
Plantation Overproof

My favourite being the 20th Anniversary XO.

Plantation 20th Anniversary. Photos couresy of Plantation.

Plantation 20th Anniversary. Image couresy of Plantation.



After a very entertaining couple of hours at which point I realised I should have eaten before I’d arrived, it was time to leave on a high. I cannot recommend the Portside Parlour highly enough for anyone who loves their rums or is just into trying something a little different.


Atmosphere 5
Staff 5
Value 4
Style 5
Originality 5

Overall Rating 96%



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