Worship culinary cocktails at south London’s Communion

Communion_main bar

Mark Ludmon steps into a world of culinary cocktails and biblical stained glass in south London

Camberwell in south London, close to Peckham, is not known for its cocktail culture but, tucked away beneath a tapas bar, is a new bar with striking stained-glass décor and inventive culinary cocktails using exotic, locally sourced ingredients. Called Communion, it has been created by brothers José and Mel Raido who opened the Church Street Hotel upstairs in 2007 followed by Spanish tapas destination Angels & Gypsies two years later.

Formerly used as storage space, the basement has been converted into a cocktail bar by Mel and José working with Steve La Bouchardiere and Andrew Harwood of leading hospitality design practice DesignLSM. They evoke Spanish style through patterned fabrics on the furniture and Latin tiling imported from Mexico’s Guadalajara alongside pottery hand-made by potter Chris Lewis who also creates vessels and urns used for cocktails.

But the most striking features are the large stained-glass art on the walls and bar front by Polish studio Witraze, which supplies churches all over the world. Along with smaller pieces in Angels & Gypsies upstairs, they depict biblical scenes such as Moses parting the waves, Creation, Jacob’s Ladder, the Golden Calf and the Holy Trinity.

“The idea came about as we were looking to carry on the ecclesiastical feel of the business,” Mel explains. “We are on Camberwell Church Street, and the Church Street Hotel started this tradition. The reverence that is placed on the beverage is what we really liked, since we are so passionate about our cocktails, botanicals and house infusions as well as the food.” José adds: “We are not interested in the dogma of religion but more its magical ability to create community and the fine reverent art it creates.”

The cocktails have been designed by Mel, the chef, using ingredients sourced locally in an area populated by many different ethnic communities. They range from mauby bark, granadilla fruit, ortanique oranges, Julie mangoes, guava, guinep and jelly nut to fruits such as rambutan, dorian and jack fruit and Turkish raki and coffee. They also make ingredients in-house such as their own ginger beer and Kombucha fermented teas.

Cocktails include the Likkel Rascal which mixes Appleton Rum, The Kraken spiced rum, Jamaican sorrel, pineapple, nutmeg syrup, orange juice and fresh sugar cane, while the Tannery combines vodka, Araku rum coffee liqueur, Nigerian Guinness foam, chilli and raw chocolate.

Added to the mix are delicious bar food and regular live music. “We believe we’ve created something special with Communion,” Mel adds, “a neighbourhood cocktail bar that is as serious about its drinks as its food – a place for the local community and hopefully also a destination bar for Londoners.”

29-33 Camberwell Church Street, London SE5 8TR
Tel: 020 7703 5984

Design: DesignLSM
Contractor: Bluecrow Projects
Furniture: Hill Cross Furniture
Bar equipment: Dentons
Stained glass: Witraze

Originally published in the August 2014 print edition of Bar magazine

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