October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015

The Platform room. All photos © tablehopper.com.


The main bar (with the last-call bell).


The curving tufted banquette.


The Gin Palace back room and bar.


Farmer’s cheese with turmeric oil, yogurt-roasted carrots, and naan.

Walking through the door at ~WHITECHAPEL~ last Thursday at a preview party, I completely stopped in my tracks. I just wasn’t quite prepared for the extent Martin Cate, Alex Smith, and John Park were going to take this “gin bar and private club in an abandoned London Underground train station” theme—but I also wasn’t surprised, because, hello, Smuggler’s Cove.

The space is truly spectacular. The main room, The Platform, has a barrel-vaulted ceiling that feels just like you walked into a historic London Underground station. Along the right side is a long and curving tufted crimson banquette that forms into booths/cozy seating areas for groups (with marble-topped tables) as it curves along the length of the room. The tile work along the wall is beautiful: the authentic acanthus tiles were designed for the London Underground in 1908, and Fired Earth in the UK still produces them today (to replace tiles in the historic stations). Kudos to Ignacio “Notch” Gonzalez (Top Notch Customz), who designed the bar and is one heck of a craftsman. No detail was ignored, and it also looks like no expense was spared.

To the left is the lengthy bar, with backlit bottles of gin lining the back bar. Whitechapel has more than 350 gins (which will be growing!), making it the largest selection of gin in North America, including rare selections that date back to the 1930s (you’ll see them at the far end of the room in gin lockers). Also of note behind the bar is the last-call bell, cast to order by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, which cast the Liberty Bell and Big Ben—and it’s the UK’s oldest continuously operating business (how’s that for some history?).

If you swing a hard left when you first come into the space, you’ll find a room called The Distillery, with nine “Ginfusion Tubes” bubbling along the walls—which actually contain real gin botanicals—giving it a bit of a mad professor’s workshop vibe. You’ll notice vintage distilling elements and more than 5,000 hand-applied rivets, giving it a quirky industrial look.

If you walk to the back of The Platform room and take a left, you’ll find the Gin Palace, a room with custom wallpaper and a very ornate style. It’s an homage to the public houses that gin brands started in 1820s London. There’s an intimate bar and a smattering of tables and corner booths where you can sit down and enjoy some food from the kitchen.

So, the drinks! The menu is downright impressive, with 18 original cocktails, like the aromatic Gilbert’s Melodeon (Sipsmith gin, green Chartreuse, pineapple gum, mint, lime), all $12-$13. There are more than 100 cocktails in all, showcasing the history of gin and genever. (Take a look at Camper English’s recent piece as he tastes through the cocktails.) Be sure to try the custom house gin made by Distillery 209, the Whitechapel Victorian Dry Gin. Look for upcoming classes, and Keli Rivers will be on the floor to help impart her vast gin knowledge and expertise.

There’s also a kitchen, and chef David Murphy (previously at Uchi, Austin) has crafted a creative menu—with some spins on many classics—that integrates British, Dutch, and Bangladeshi influences (like the farmer’s cheese with turmeric oil, yogurt-roasted carrots, and naan, and the mussels vindaloo with coriander chutney). You can be brave with the brain and toast, and go for the lightened version of Dutch rarebit, with Gouda and beetroot chutney on pumpernickel.

Our table was quite impressed with “a fish and a chip”—which revealed a perfectly fried fillet of rock cod, served with a latke-like potato “chip,” curryracha, and garlic aioli. Another easy bite for people to share is the trio of steam burgers, spiked with tomato marmalade, horseradish tartare, and Cotswold cheese. You’ll note Murphy’s pedigree when the coffee banoffee comes out, a complex and contemporary presentation of a classic dessert that you wouldn’t expect to find in a bar (hello, banana ash). Food is available until midnight nightly, and you’ll eat well.

Come visit this beautiful bar soon, one that San Francisco is so lucky to have. Whitechapel is open Sun-Wed 5pm-1am, Thu-Sat 5pm-2am. 600 Polk St. at Turk, 415-292-5800.


There’s no place like Dave’s. Yelp photo by Andy K.

Some updates for you on recently closed/closing dive bars, starting with ~ZEKE’S~. We saw some ABC license activity hit the wires, and Hoodline followed the story, discovering that the former director of operations for the Golden Bear Restaurant Corporation (MoMo’s, Pete’s Tavern, Pedro’s Cantina), Paul Cardinale, will be taking over the bar. Fortunately he just wants to give it a light update, keep it a neighborhood bar, and plans to open in a couple of months. The new name is ~LOCAL TAP~. 600 3rd St. at Brannan, 415-392-5311.

Also in the “if it’s a beloved dive bar, don’t fix it” category is the news about ~DAVE’S~. Yes, Future Bars is taking it over, but they really want to keep it as is—TVs, beer, and all. But it will have a new name, ~THE LARK~, opening in January 2016. And a new staff. And they will keep making chili dogs. Dave’s last night will be New Year’s Eve. (Via Hoodline.)

More Future Bars news: gossip is rippling around that they are (potentially) opening a tiki bar adjacent to Rickhouse in the FiDi (it seems like it’s going to be an expanded area/tiki room in the current space). Stand by for more news from Doug Dalton and Brian Sheehy on this soon—sounds like springtime will be targeted launch, but permitting has its own timing.

And Hoodline reports ~LUCKY 13~ has reopened its patio after being forced to close it a few months ago due to some licensing issues. Sorted! 2140 Market St. at 14th St., 415-487-1313.


Wine Down’s Jaime Hiraishi and Sarah Garand. Photo courtesy of Wine Down.

Some wino tidbits for you. We have been tracking the upcoming ~WINE DOWN~ since July, and now the owners are ready to talk (they just launched an Indiegogo campaign). Co-owners Sarah Garand and Jaime Hiraishi wanted to create the after-work space they always sought: a comfortable place to enjoy quality wine that wasn’t too expensive. They really care about value (the average glass of wine will be $10), a laid-back and friendly vibe, and sustainability is also important to them.

They will serve local wine (the list of 16 wines will always be changing), craft beer (5), and have some bites too. There will be bottles available for retail sales too. They add: “Some names might be familiar to guests (like Scholium, Broc, and Banshee) and we’re also excited to introduce people to some smaller producers like Harrington Wines from the Dogpatch or Lusu Cellars in Berkeley.” They hope to open in early 2016. 685 Folsom St. at 3rd St.

Fellow lovers of ~K&L WINE MERCHANTS~: do note they are moving into their new and bigger space (in the former TJ Maxx) and are currently closed through Thursday October 29th, reopening on Friday October 30th at 10am. (Thanks, Hoodline!) 855 Harrison St. at 5th St.

More wine shop news: New York’s Flatiron Wines is opening a shop in The Palace Hotel in the former Kyo-ya sushi restaurant. Look for boutique wines, international selections, spirits, and more. January 2016 is the targeted opening. (Via Hoodline.) 2 New Montgomery St. at Market.