Don’t you just love discovering a new place in London that, when you walk in for the first time, feels like slipping into one of you favourite old jumpers? A bit frayed around the edges but still perfect for you and comfortable and reminding you of the great times you had wearing it when you first bought it? Kansas Smitty’s is such a place. The little bar/music venue in the basement of The Off Broadway Bar on Broadway Market at the edge of London Fields opened only a year ago, but is undoubtedly Hackney’s favourite jazz and julep bar. Kansas Smitty’s was founded by eight guys who have their love of jazz (and presumably juleps) in common, and they also form the Kansas Smitty’s House Band which is now also in demand at venues like Ronnie Scott’s and jazz festivals around the country.
The venue has just announced a new weekly programme which features events and music that go beyond jazz, inviting talented musicians from all sorts of genres and backgrounds to share the stage.
Tuesdays are Poker nights, open to players of all levels and spectators. Buy 3 drinks, get 300 free poker chips. £5, 7pm
Wednesdays is Basement Tapes night. Members from the house band will play with musicians from around London and further afield. £9/£5 students, 8pm
On Thursdays you are welcomed to The Shed. An ever-changing array of musicians, amongst the best in their field will grace the stage. This could be a classical accordionist or Indian Sarod player. £5, 8pm
Friday night is Vinyl Night. All members of the house band scour every record shop they come across to buy records for the ever increasing vinyl collection of the bar. This covers the finest jazz (obviously), but also everything else from Colombian Cumbia to Louisiana Swamp Rock. And guests are invited to bring their own records to be played on the Audiogold PA system. There’s also cocktail experimenting going on, so two good reasons to come along. Three really, as entry is free. 6pm
Saturday nights are party nights with the Saturday Night Special band and everybody is welcome. Free, live music from 8.30pm
Sundays is Open House. Listen to live bands showcasing their latest music, listen to one of the playlists and enjoy. Free, live music from 8pm.
So, you’ve got great music, a fantastic venue, hosts that make you feel welcome – what else do you need?
Cocktails of course!
We were invited last week to taste Kansas Smitty’s new cocktail menu which will sit very nicely alongside the bar’s Julep menu, all expertly prepared by friendly and competent bar staff. I loved the Jesuits Bark Julep, with Appleton Estate VX Rum, infused with clove, pimentbark and minto, lime grapefruit, quinine cordial and mint and G liked the Smitty’s Julep with Wild Turkey Bourbon and Fernet Branca infused with raisin, peach, cassia. There’s also the Allotment Julep (gin, nettle, elderflower, carrot, coriander seed, apple, pear & mint) and the Sleepytime Julep (Scotch, camomile, pink peppercorn, raspberry, lemon & mint) and last but not least there is a Julep Special, which on this occasion was not available, as the ingredients were still being blended.
The new cocktails include First Dance, a sparkly little number with Courvoisier VSOP cognac infused with raspberry, almonds, tonka bean, peach and topped off with prosecco. G really liked this; I stood well clear as I had once a very unfortunate experience with cognac.
We both liked the Hard Times, a barrel aged blend of Wild Turkey 81 bourbon, London Bold aperitif and walnut liqueur. I also liked that it was recommend to me by one of the bar staff as it was “perfect to go with the Ray Charles record that’s playing”.
The long drink amongst the new crop of cocktails is the Corcovado, cachaca infused with averna and sage. Long, cold and summery.
Last, but not least, there is the Azalea, a Campari and Bols Genever infused with sloe berry, citrus and dry sherry. I have long been a fan of Campari (longer than I care to admit to), so I loved this one.
Entertainment on the night came from the very talented Blues vocalist and guitarist Marcus Bonfanti, who had a bit of a nightmare journey to get to the gig on time, but didn’t let that phase him. A set of Blues, folk, gospel kept everybody happy. I was particularly happy to hear a rendition of ‘A Midnight Special’, one of my favourite songs.
After the interval he returned with Femi Koleoso on drums and Jay Darwish on the double bass, playing more of bluesy jazz and jazzy blues.
And if you thought the small stage was already packed, after the next interval they were joined by Giacomo Smith, of the Kansas Smitthy’s Hose Band, on the clarinet, adding his special note to an already excellent musical evening.
Sadly, we could not stay right to the end (one of the drawbacks of living in South London and it being a school night), but we had a great night. We’ll have to go to a lot more live music gigs!
So, thank you to Kansas Smitthy’s and Kapranos PR for the music and the cocktails and the warm welcome. We’ll be back soon.
By the way, the bar upstairs, Off Broasway, is pretty great too and even has its own resident cat – meet Chairman.
And to top it all off, as we were sitting on the tube, hurtling towards Victoria Station, two women and a guy got on for only a stop or two and one of the women started singing ‘Midnight Special’ for her friend who didn’t know the song. What are the chances!