I love a bar with a bit of personality. Not mass-manufactured personality you find in some bar chains. I’m not bothered about forced quirkiness, or decor for the sake of decor. Sure, I love a gimmick, who doesn’t? But some are more believable than others, some go further than a marketing tool to get people through the doors. It’s the staff and service that really make a quirky idea work.
And that’s exactly what you get at Simmons Bar.
Whether you’re a commuter on the way home from work or just visiting the Big Smoke for a few days, it’s a stone’s throw from King’s Cross St Pancras station. And because of that, you’ll find a mix of patrons sampling the cocktails on any given night.
We visited at 7pm on a Wednesday. Because every night is cocktail night in London when you’re with a Laura. From the outside, it looks a bit like an offy, with cans stacked neatly inside and a huge glass façade. The entrance looks like it’s going through a bit of a refurb, but once inside it’s like stepping into your granny’s front room mixed with a primary school.
70’s style wallpaper adorns the bar, and there are shelves stacked with kitsch lamps, old typewriters and freaky artwork. Old school tables, complete with grafitti (hopefully no chewing gum stuck underneath), and exam hall chairs are available if you want to sit and relax with a drink, and there are also stools to perch on dotted around. Oh, and did I mention the retro board games by the bar?
The thing that struck us was how tiny the place is. Great in one way – I can’t stand bars so huge and with so many floors it’s impossible to find your mates after a loo trip – but it did make us feel a bit claustrophobic. There must have been around 20 seated on the tables and a few others milling around. Any more and I think it would have felt overcrowded.
Downstairs there are vintage games consoles and sofas. The whole ground floor can be hired out for private events.
Elliott at the bar was super friendly, dressed in tweed with horn-rimmed glasses. After browsing the cocktail menu (keeping the school theme, the menu’s presented on a clipboard) and finding it hard to decide what to try first, he invited us to take a seat and would be over with something to get us started. The mystery cocktail was called Strawberry Cake, and served in vintage tea cups. Made with strawberries, Amaretto, Chambord and cream, it’s perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.
We moved on to a Classic Mojito, which was muddled perfectly and a Toffee Apple, made with rum, maple syrup and apple juice. The latter was slightly too sweet for me, but the mojito was refreshing. Cocktails are on the small side, a trade-off when you’re drinking from china, so really this place is only worth a visit during happy hour.
Aside from the small space and tea cup sized cocktails, the only other thing that lets the place down is the loos. Small and cramped (hey, this is London) wasn’t a problem, but they just didn’t follow the theme through. It seemed like a bit of an afterthought, with a vase of flowers and service station cubicles (complete with dripping cistern). Not exactly what you’d expect when it seems so much effort’s been put in elsewhere.
All in all, this is perfect for people who want more than a Wetherspoon’s on the station forecourt. Kings Cross has an abundance of bars, but Simmons feels far more relaxed and homely. This is a great place to show out-of-towners, or to bring your vintage loving girlfriends to drink cocktails from a tea pot and cups. And with drinks at £2.50 from 4pm – 9pm Monday to Friday, it’s well worth a gander.