Holyrood St, SE1 2EL
Average cost of cocktails £10
Hidden in a back street, tucked away not far from London Bridge Station is a hidden gem of this vast city. Nine Lives is a cosy yet classy neighbourhood bar situated just off Bermondsey Street, with a dedication to reducing their carbon footprint, creating a sustainable menu and working with their local community. Everything from the repurposed sound system, to the interiors and uniforms are reclaimed materials and they grow herbs in their garden with the help of those from St Mungo’s charity.
We went at 9pm on a Tuesday night, following a movie and were greeted by an incredibly friendly and warm member of staff who talked us excitedly through the new cocktail menu, pointed out the shuffle board tournament happening in the corner and immediately made us feel comfortable and settled. The bar was lively, but relaxed, a DJ added music to the scene, which contributed to the easiness of the atmosphere, but was at the perfect volume so that you could both enjoy it, and maintain a conversation at a regular level.
After much debate I started with the Kelross Daiquiri – previously recommended to me as one of the top three on the menu. My plus one decided to go with a classic Espresso Martini – announcing that you can always make assumptions about a bar based on their execution of this drink. The cocktails came swiftly, elegantly presented, the simplicity of presentation was what made them so enticing. The Daiquiri was a gratifying balance between sweet and sour; the Espresso Martini was spot on, velvety crema and rich espresso punctuated with Ketel One and Tia Maria – my plus one gave a nod of unmitigated approval on the first sip.
We took a moment following our drinks to head outside and view the new artwork created by LGBTQ+ artists Trinity Tristian and Tim Whiting, brought to Holyrood Street by Nine Lives and Team London Bridge. It’s a striking image and immediately draws you in for a closer look; inspired by Margaret Clap, a heroine of the Industrial Revolution who opened her home in the 18th Century to the outlawed gay community. There’s something about bringing these past and hidden stories to contemporary London streets that feels vital to the LGBT+ community in claiming lost time and lost history. I was incredibly grateful that this artwork opened me up to some of my history that I was previously unaware of and cajoled me in to researching it further when I got home.
Following a breath of fresh air, we headed back inside to take another look over the cocktail menu. Nine Lives have created their own take on each of the old classics, some of which really sit outside of the box. I tried their version of a Whiskey Sour – The Yotei which featured mandarin, raspberry and plum. My plus one opted for their Negroni ‘D’Avalos. Again, we weren’t disappointed, by the flavours nor the presentation. This time mine came in a silver cup with fresh mint, and my plus one was intrigued and delighted by the single, giant ice cube accompanying his flavoursome Negroni, robust and underlined with the distinctive kick of rosemary and ‘boozy greek herbs’. We could have stayed for another cocktail or two each, I’m sure – but a Tuesday night meant it was time to head home.
I highly recommend dropping by to see the artwork and to visit Nine Lives. This is the perfect spot to spend an evening, whether as the destination itself, or as a stop off on the way home, which avoids the chaos and clamour of Soho or Central London. It’s an inviting atmosphere, and you’ll find the minutes melt in to hours in the ease and comfort of this unique London bar.