Describing our trip to Threadneedle Bar has to start with Heston Blumenthal. He doesn’t work there, he has no affiliation as far as we know, but he would recognise the philosophy almost immediately. Summing it up in a Guardian interview back in 2012 he says; “taste is inexorably linked to all the other senses and memory” – context is key.

By way of an extreme example have you ever had a celebration at work where someone hands you a paper cup filled with not very cold champagne? It’s not the same is it? Chill that puppy down, put it in a flute and drink it at the bar of a high-end hotel and it’s a whole different ball game. Take this to the other extreme and providing context, filling the senses and adding a little drama can lift your experience to a new dimension – making the ordinary pretty extraordinary. And this is what Leo and his team at Threadneedle Bar have done with their new menu of smoky cocktails.

Threadneedle Bar: The Lowdown

For those who haven’t seen the Royal Exchange it’s a remarkable building. Lead upstairs to the first floor gallery, seated at the bar overlooking the courtyard and the box marked setting is already ticked. Leo – replete with magnificent beard – is quick to tell us more, regaling us with the history of the place, twice burnt down before being rebuilt in its final form in 1844.

A celebration marking 350 years since the Great Fire back in 2016 saw the invention of the Smoky Mandarin, an indulgent concoction of whiskies, mandarin liqueur and cinnamon and the starting point for the rest of the 5 drink menu as it currently stands.

Threadneedle Bar: The Cocktails

The cocktails are undeniably delicious but what sets these apart is the theatre. Our first drinks came served on uplit wooden stands underneath glass cloches filled with the smoke from sherry cask wood chips. One whiff of the smoke and you’re propelled into a wing backed leather armchair, facing a stone fireplace. There’s probably a dog at your feet. You’re warm – outside it’s cold.

Callum started with the aforementioned Smoky Mandarin, Charlie the Mexican Negroni – where the smoke in the cloche perfectly complements the inherent charred quality of the Mezcal and is finished off with subtle warmth of fresh chilli. Quick to follow came charcuterie, tangled towers of the stuff, interspersed with piquant bursts of pickled artichokes – a perfect partner to the warming drinks.

Of the other creations The Lumberjack jumps out from the page: a boozy breakfast in a glass made from bacon infused bourbon, maple syrup and bitters. This served in an apothecaries bottle, the smoke sealed in with a cork – Mad Hatter’s Tea Party stuff, all that missing was the “Drink Me” label (Heston would be proud). Alongside, and by no means outshone, was The Art of Rum, with 23 year old Ron Zacapa, cherry liqueur and banana syrup. In danger of being over sweet, all that fruit is perfectly balanced by the smoke and left us dreaming of sunset in an incense perfumed beach bar.

Travel plans complicated by the snow left us with no time to complete the list but a snifter of some of the ingredients by Leo’s PIC Charles showed off another great strength of the place; fantastic hospitality, knowledge and passion. Whether intentional or not they’re forging the same path as Blumenthal, and whilst there’s still a chill in the air why don’t you get down to Threadneedles and let yourself be spirited away…

For more information on Threadneedle Bar, visit the website hereRoyal Exchange, London EC3V 3LR