The Courtesan in Brixton re-launched this September after an extensive refurbishment and this dim sum restaurant/tea room/cocktail bar/late night live entertainment venue which combines the exoticism and rituals of ancient china with the legendary clubs of 1920s Shanghai is certainly doing everything to set itself apart from other places – in a good way!
The Courtesan bar not only features an all-female chef team lead by dim sum chef Feng Juan Xue, it also boasts the World’s first true ‘female’ wine and spirit list, supplying beverages produced or grown exclusively by women.
We were recently invited to celebrate the women behind the ‘Female Spirits’ in the form of a brindisi, an evening of music with West End stars Tim Rogers, Anna Woodside and Rebecca Parker; short speeches by some of the women behind the spirits or their brand ambassadors culminating in a toast, generous samples of the spirits, delicious dim sums and lots of laughter and enjoyment.
The evening kicked off with the Courtesan, a beautifully crafted cocktail made with Blossom Sour Cherry Syrup, Briottet Cherry Liqueur, Square One Vodka and Argeo Ruggeri Prosecco. I love cherries, so this was perfect.
Aude Dupont, Founder of Blossoms Syrup, was at the event to speak about her passion for making her award-winning 100% natural fruit syrups which now come in 13 flavours and are used by bartenders and Michelin chefs alike.
The first spirit we tasted was Vintage Velvet Vodka and we toasted Gabriella Thorpe, the woman behind it. Gabriella was on hand herself to introduce to us her wonderful vodka which is made with sweet beets and English Chardonnay grapes. This was followed with a toast to Joy Spence, Master Blender at Appleton Estate Rum, and the first female master blender in the industry. Rum is one of my favourite spirits, and the rum we tried was delicious. Next up was a toast to Joanne Moore, Master Distiller at G&J, accompanied by a refreshing G&T with her Bloom Gin.
It is really inspiring to see just how many women are working in the drinks industry at top level and one of those women is Sonia Espinola, Jose Cuervo’s brand heritage director. She was the subject of the next toast which came with a glass of a special Jose Cuervo Reserva. From Mexico to France and on to a taste of cognac, specifically Guillon-Painturaud, and a toast to Line Sauvant who is continuing the family tradition of making one of the finest cognacs on the small family farm. The last spirit we tried was Naked Grouse and Kirsteen Campbell, The Master Blender at Famouse Grouse, was the final woman we toasted. We drank this Scotch whisky first neat and then in the Courtier, a cocktail made from Lapsang Souchong Tea, Naked Grouse Whisky, Famous Grouse Smoky Black, Chilli and Fig Liqueur.
You might think this is a lot of alcohol (and it was) and we were mixing different spirits (also true), but we didn’t have even a hint of a hangover the next day. I attribute this to the high quality of the spirits and also to the excellent food that was served throughout the evening. Feng Juan Xue and her team spoilt us with a seemingly never ending supply of delicacies, including Szechuan Ribs (so good!), Deep Fried Sea Bass and Squid, a variety of dumplings with fillings like Scallop & Shrimp and Wasabi King Prawn and fluffy hot bao buns filled with CharSui, Curry Pumpkin and more. And the Frozen Mango Truffles were the perfect end to this feast of flavours.
The Courtesan has a programme of both residencies and one-off performances, with the venue presenting a wide array of shows throughout the week with special late-night ‘Courtesan Lates’ shows on Friday and Saturdays. In fitting with the venue’s unique aesthetic, the intimate, atmospheric bar will host burlesque and cabaret acts, live jazz music, DJs, parties and West End performers. Please check The Courtesan’s website or facebook page.
69-73 Atlantic Road
London, United Kingdom
020 8127 8677