Wednesday, 6 February 2013


The 1800s saw the might of the Empire of the Great Qing rise up against the British and French Armies in two separate wars that would rage for seven years. The cause of all this kerfuffle? Opium. 

Obviously that time it was the drug Opium, but while almost certainly not as heavily addictive (to be fair, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried opium because I’m not completely insane), Opium Chinatown is sure to be the subject of a hell of a lot of discussion in Britain too. 

Having launched extremely recently, we were keen to try the delights of Opium as soon as possible, so we rushed down there one Saturday with some women we were desperately trying to impress. So desperately were we trying to impress them in fact, that we got there before the ‘amber light’ came on and we had to go and sit in a pub round the corner for half an hour before Opium opened. Fucking hell. 

The doorway into Opium is the perfect way to feel like you’re Pat Bateman (when really you’re more Pat Sharpe. Or at least I am, but I’m pretty sure the mullet’s going to make a comeback any day now, then we'll see who's laughing). They advertise themselves as ‘behind the jade door’, and they’re not lying. Alright, they are a bit, it’s slightly less ‘jade’ than it is ‘chlorine’ but let’s romanticise it a bit and say jade: 15-16 Gerrard Street is a nondescript door sandwiched between two Chinese restaurants, with a single buzzer beside it. Ring it - once the amber light is on that is, otherwise they’ll tell you to go away and you’ll have to drink warm flat lager in a sad pub round the corner - and they’ll buzz you in. 

Opium is built in an old townhouse, and as such, you walk straight into the stairwell and begin the climb up. We were taken up three flights of very well-decorated stairs to the very top floor, which gave an amazing view out over the top of Chinatown and down towards the river. 

The interior is particularly well done, it’s actually Texan-style. No, obviously not, it’s Chinese. Opium have painstakingly created the perfect Chinese / British fusion, right down to the wood used in the floorboards and the patterning on the seats. Then again, the nearest I’ve been to China is a day-trip to Hastings when I was 12, so what the fuck do I know about it? Basically, it looks loads like the bits I remember in House of Flying Daggers but I mainly remember that bit that happens in a blizzard so again, I’m a bit useless here. If anyone who reads this blog has actually been to China and would like to disagree, please leave a comment below which we can promptly ignore. It looks cool, alright? 

Anyway, Opium looks cool, smells like those rugs you can buy in Camden and has a massive cocktail menu: so far so good. 

Apparently Opium specialise in dim-sum, and it’s particularly delicious, but I wouldn’t know anything about that, because I was too busy panicking over the fact that the only beer I could see was Tiger for £5.80. Indeed, many of the drinks confused and scared me, casting an eye through the menu I noticed ‘The Classics’ as well as the many Chinese-themed cocktails, such as The Shanghai Surprise and The Kung Fu Fizz. All these interested me about as much as cocktails usually do: barely at all. 

But then, I stumbled across the area of the menu entitled ‘Chinese Temperance Cocktails’ (non-alcoholic in other words). These all sounded like the kind of concoction you’d read about on the internet if you Googled ‘how do i get gum out of hair not my hair’. I’m a fairly adventurous drinker, but cress? Parsnip? No, I’m sorry, these are a bridge too far.

In the end, a friend of mine had one of the Temperance Cocktails, because apparently his tastebuds did something really evil in a former life, but he claimed it was ‘quite nice’. Some of the others we were with had a selection of the cocktails and declared them; 'stop asking me fucking questions about my cocktail, I already told you it was nice'.

I, aghast at the price, only had a £25 scotch. It definitely wasn’t because I absent-mindedly said the wrong thing to the waiter at the last moment. Not that at all. It’s because I’ve got loads of money and when the bill came I definitely didn’t consider trying to pretend another man ordered it and trying to leave.

(In fairness Opium is actually pretty reasonably priced if you’ve got a working human brain and don’t suffer from the Tourette’s version of the fucking Midas touch.)

To sum up then: Opium is a really cool bar, with great, relaxed settings, and a good cocktail menu, even if some of them do seem like they were mixed by Beetlejuice. The price is right, and it’s perfect for pretending you’ve got your ear to the ground in the throbbing London bar scene. Definitely go, and if you go from the 7th, it’s Chinese New Year, so I have no doubt they’ll have some great stuff on.

I know what you’re thinking. In answer to your last question: they left very shortly afterwards. After we took them to a lonely pub and I had an apparent brain haemorrhage whilst trying to order a drink, they cut their losses and they left. God I’m so alone.

P.S: Puns I considered using in this review but then didn’t manage to:
Crouching Lager, Hidden Flagon.
Big Trouble in Tipple China.
The Carafe Kid.

J. Clee

Behind The Jade Door,
15-16 Gerrard Street,

020 7734 7276


  1. i can't believe you went here without me, i could have translated and explained the cultural differences

    your half chinese best friend

  2. oh and don't forget: s/o to asian girls, let the light dim sum