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The Grand Union
Classic Burger Bar and Cocktail Lounge
Last week my friend from university celebrated her 30th birthday party by booking an area in the Grand Union Bar.
According to their website , "The Grand Union brand is a unique blend of Classic Burger Bar and Cocktail Lounge with an individual style servicing a broad clientele. Based in popular areas for dining and drinking in London, each venue has an atmosphere reflective of the area, suitable for a number of occasions."
They have bars in the areas of Camden, Highgate, Twickenham and Islington, the last one being the location for the birthday party and the subject of the following review.
The bar is located at 153 Upper Street in Islington. It was very easy to get to and find. Once you exit the tube at Highbury and Islington you turn right out of the station (which is Upper Street) and then walk for about 5 minutes and you will find it on that side of the street. It's not the best area I've ever been to but it looks quite up and coming with quite a few bars and restaurants on both sides of the street. In fact there was a sushi restaurant just a few doors down which I wish I had know about before I had dinner that night otherwise I would have liked to go there.
Walking into the bar the first thing that struck me was that it was not very big. It was quite long and narrow so there was not too much space. The bar took up most of the right hand side as you walked in. There were a few tables at the front of the bar but these were quite near the door which were not the best location. Then when you walked down to the end of the bar there were booths along the wall on the left hand side with chairs on the other side of the table and there were also low tables on the right hand side with posh looking upholstered chairs you could sit in.
The décor was quite interesting. It seemed to have quite a clash of different decorating styles going on. It had lots of plants and greenery around. Like I said they had quite luxurious chairs and boudoir looking wallpaper which gave it a quite kitschy, posh look but then they had a Cocktail (the movie with Tom Cruise in it) poster up behind the bar which I thought didn't really go with the rest of the décor. They also had a plasma TV screen over the door with a fireplace scene on the TV going all night, a bit weird I thought but each to their own.
We didn't have any food unfortunately as the burgers coming out of the kitchen looked great and really piled high with lots of ingredients. By having a quick look at their menu I saw that the burgers were quite reasonably priced, the highest being approximately £7. The list of ingredients looked great with lots of fresh ingredients and different ideas for burgers such as Aubergine and Goats Cheese and Falafel!
The thing that let this bar down for me and my friends unfortunately was the bar staff and the cocktails. Now, for a restaurant/bar that labels itself a Cocktail bar I don't really think the bar staff should have bits of paper behind the bar telling them how to mix a cocktail. When I go to a cocktail bar I like them to know exactly how to make them, what ingredients go in and to do it quickly and with a bit of flair. I ordered a Cosmopolitan (a pretty basic cocktail). I was first met with a blank stare (most of the staff were foreign and either couldn't speak English very well or were just plane rude) but we all had to repeat our order several times and in some cases tell them how to make the drink. Then she took a few minutes to leaf through these sheets of paper to find the drink I had ordered and then kept on having to refer back to it to make my drink. At first I thought she was new and gave her the benefit of the doubt but when everyone of the bar staff did this it just wasn't on. In fairness though, once I did get my drinks they were very nice.
All in all, I enjoyed my night at the bar but it wouldn't be somewhere I be rushing back to in a hurry.
Classic Burger Bar and Cocktail Lounge.