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Is London's Sexy Fish Really Overrated? We Find Out.

 

In a random poll of Londoners when asked what was the most overrated spot in the city, an awfully common answer was "Sexy Fish", and yet in the same poll when tourists were asked where they most wanted to check out in London - as you might've guessed - "Sexy Fish".

If that isn't hype I don't know what is - the very definition almost seems to be a place where many people want to go for the first time, and many people who have been before don't think it lives up to its - you guessed it - hype.

It's like a ritual of sorts, isn't it? 

I guess if the Sexy Fish is a cult experience, I'm going to have to experience it for myself - and you're coming.

 

 

A couple of years ago, at the height of dating apps - one of the top questions on everyone's mind to the Chief of Consumer Insights from one of the most popular dating app services was "what should I not do?". The data-backed answer was irrefutable - "Guys, do not put a photo of you carrying a fish! Your odds are down by 76%!" - before the deniers-turn-bargainers get a word in, she clarified that there was no close second in terms of fatal no-no's.

So how does one turn a fish sexy?

Just ask Richard Caring, the man who became the clothing supplier of the likes of Marks & Spencer. After a successful stint in the fashion retail business, Caring would go on to focus on creating super popular restaurants and nightclubs - one of which is Mayfair's Sexy Fish, which was established in 2015.

 

 

From the get-go - come on man, it's Mayfair, the sexiest district in London!

The uptown district is spec-ed out with incredibly glitzy interiors - count in Frank Gehry fish lamps (the ones you see above), Damien Hirst bronze mermaids and ceiling murals from Michael Roberts. Heck, even the floors are made from Iranian Esmeralda onyx marble.

Sexy enough for you?

When you first get to the Mayfair highly-talked about venue, you're greeted with a sight more familiar to nightclub aficionados - you hit a red carpet and a staff that almost comes across as a bouncer who then lets you in through velvet rope queue barriers.

The moment you enter, it's complete sensory overload. If it looks like a nightclub outside, it sure as hell looks like a nightclub inside as well.

There's dance music in the background, the interior lighting is dimmed, there's clusters of intimate high cushioned seating, with a bar that is well staffed and complete with a massive backbar. The entire floor is pretty large and looks like a cocktail club and a dancefloor had a child.

  

  

 

And yet, if you for a second thought that was it - what is ironically probably the most discounted part of Sexy Fish is it's incredible extensive Japanese whisky menu - and it's breadth is about as far as the discounts go, for they are not always all that cheap. How on earth is it that one of the most extensive Japanese whisky collection is the least known aspect about Sexy Fish is beyond me.

On their menu you'll find a whisky fan's dream - massive selection of everything from Suntory's Yamazaki and Hakushu, Nikka's Yoichi and Miyagikyo - and these are just the staples. Look further and you'll find a spectacular line up of Chichibu single casks - including Sexy Fish's own (which we'll review shortly). There's even an array from lost distilleries like Karuizawa and Hanyu - single casks from the Geisha range are just how high up the list goes - and we're not talking one or two bottles, we're talking solid double digits.

And yes, while many a whisky appreciateur had warned me prior to my visit that I could rack up a massive bill, I will say, having seen with my own two eyes, that while some of their collection - the largest in London by the way - can be priced pretty steeply, there are good value-for-money picks which while not cheap, are definitely worth the price considering how rare and sought after these bottles are (hint: the Chichibu's and the vintage Suntory's). There are even pretty great and difficult to find drams that are priced for under 20 GBP - also while not stated on the menu, you can ask for half drams.

And yes, I did find some of the bottles priced peculiarly (read: completely overpriced), but hey, willing buyer, willing seller. You really have just got to know where to look.

So picture an Asian guy - me - studying a menu with the same rigour I approached my country's infamously draconian state exams in the middle of what could easily be mistaken for a nightclub.

But let's just start with what is absolutely an unquestionable pick - Sexy Fish's own Chichibu.

  

 

This bottle itself is already pretty much a cult-classic, and so is an absolute must when one heads to Sexy Fish - it is probably the only Chichibu aged in an ex-Chassagne-Montrachet Pinot Noir Red Wine cask.

Any follower of the rockstar distillery will tell you that Red Wine casks are not their forte - for some reason it always comes off too thin, tannic or sharp. Hence for this to have stood out, that's saying alot.

And as they say with every debate - the only way to find out is to try it for yourself. Surprisingly, this also happened to be incredible value for money and having studied the menu religiously, I was rather shocked and pleased to find out that this was the most well-priced whisky.   

Tasting it, I was floored to find that this was an absolutely incredible whisky! The best Chichibu I have had by far - rumours of its legendary quality were not unfounded!

It featured heavy, intense notes of black grapes, tobacco leaves, cacao nibs and mulled wine with a tannin backbone that reinforced its denseness and depth. It's aromas were immaculate and its taste was as deep and dark as the ocean's abyss. It was incredibly big and bold, with such great expressiveness and integration - just absolutely wonderful!

You can read my full review of it here.   

  

 

Now two more - a Chichibu for another London establishment, Milroy's, and a Hanyu, the work of Chichibu's founder Ichiro Akuto's own grandfather.

The Chichibu for Milroy's is pretty unique as well, having been aged in a White Bordeaux cask - I found this rather tricky nonetheless. It had all the hallmarks of white port wine. I'm talking the chocolates, yellow raisins, gooseberries and walnuts, which don't get me wrong, were fantastic. However, it almost seemed to be masked by the overall denseness of the whisky, which therefore made them not particularly distinct of apparent, there wasn't as much expressiveness as one would hope for.

You can check out my review for Milroy's Chichibu here.

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The Hanyu comes from the Year 2000 vintage, which was also the last year of Hanyu's production, this one was bottled by British online spirits retailer The Whisky Exchange.

Tasting it, I found it rather musty - they call it the OBE or Old Bottle Effect - and also rather lactic, which I couldn't tell if it came from the whisky's handling post-bottling or if it's flavours were intentionally as such. Pushing past that, I did find some bergamot, orange blossoms, beeswax, as well as more on milk chocolates and cloves - all of which were aromatic and enjoyable.

That said, it wasn't as cohesive and flavour forward as I would have hoped, and sometimes makes me wonder if for all the praise we heap onto lost distilleries, that perhaps if Hanyu were around today, it may not be able to compete with distilleries of today that face much more competition and are way more flavour forward with their styles.

You can check out my review for the Hanyu 2000 here.

  

 

In between drams, I did go past their cocktail menu, which again, I kind of feel is rather underrated - they did seem rather tasty and within the flavour realms that I enjoyed - that is more floral, creamy and sweeter styles. Also check out that price! Very, very affordable for London prices.

And so I gave the Tonka and Champagne a go - pardon my poor photography skills - it was after all rather difficult to take photos in what was effectively a restaurant/bar decked as a nightclub.

To my delight, I found this concoction of Japanese vodka, passionfruit, ginger, soda and champagne foam, absolutely enjoyable! It was creamy and rich, with great body, lots of flavour, a velvety feel and was both zesty, slightly spicy and also sweet. 

It really, really hit the spot, and having toured several popular cocktail bars in the city - I'm almost ashamed to admit that this was one of the best cocktails I've had. So much texture, complexity - just damn right tasty!

  

 

As it was approaching dinner time, I thought why not try out something from the menu as well - got this fried squid tempura.

Bang on! This had a light yet crispy batter - none of that oily mess - good amount of salt and pepper seasoning, with squid that was so ridiculously render. It came with a mayo of sorts - goddamn was this good! 

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And so with a somewhat fruitful tour around Sexy Fish's drinks and food, it was time to bid adieu.

All in all, I was happy to have finally checked out this London establishment - and as for whether it's overrated? I'd say it's properly rated - you've just got to know your way around the menu and keep a keen eye for what's great value, and avoid the overpriced stuff. It's a menu of two halves - keep your head on straight, eyes peeled, and don't let the sexy fishes get to you.

 

Sexy Fish

Address: Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, London W1J 6BR, United Kingdom

Opening Hours: Daily 12PM-1AM

  

Kanpai!

 

@111hotpot