"Floridita's Rum Shack - a not so rum do in Soho"Review Rating: Reviewed by Matthew B
Soho is an ever-changing district, morphing to suit the times. In the mid-90s Conran restaurants were the epitome of brash dining: big, glitzy rooms to be seen in, and Mezzo - at 100 Wardour Street - was one of the biggest. But times change, and Mezzo, now renamed Floridita, marches to a new, Latin beat.
But the grand showiness of the place remains, and you get an immediate hit as you descend the spiral staircase to make your grand entrance. Being greeted at the foot of the stairs by bikini-clad staff adorning us with garlands, as if we were straight off the plane at Honolulu, kicked things off nicely. We were invited along to sample some of the barís various rum cocktails, and the drinks were presented in various odd receptacles: for example, navy-style tin mugs and hollowed out monkey heads (our favourite).
Rum can be a bit of a Ďlove it or loathe ití drink. Personally, I still have a Pavlovian reaction to it after an unfortunate encounter with my parentsí drinks cabinet one Saturday night as a teenager, so itís taken a while to rub that experience out. All I can say is, when itís made in to a nice cocktail with good ingredients, it goes down a whole lot better. Floridita is named after a bar in Havana that invented the Daiquiri, so itís no surprise this is the signature drink of the barĎs Rum Shack. In fact, it boasts one of the most extensive collections of rum in Europe. If you are really into your rum they run a monthly Rare Rum Club. Time will tell if the spirit makes in-roads to the hearts of Londonís drinkers in the same way the recent resurgence of gin (a more native tipple) has.
Back in the bar a live Latino band appeared on stage and upped the decibels but also the atmosphere. Floridita is big on its music programming, with live music most days of the week, covering the various permutations of Latin/funk/soul/jazz sounds. We were half expecting the band to launch into ĎLa Bambaí at any moment - hey, weíre anything but connoisseurs - but they seem to take their programming pretty seriously. With London becoming ever more cosmopolitan, one would expect the demand for such music to grow accordingly. The place is large enough to accommodate a proper stage and dance floor though, so if you feel like pretending youíre in Havana for a couple of hours, this is the perfect place.
The restaurant side of things we canít really comment on; the night we visited it was all about the drinks. Looking at the menu, foodís not especially cheap: starters from £7 to £16 and main courses running to a lot more for the various Latino-influenced dishes. Thereís also a bar menu if you just want to nibble or share. If you are going to eat, earlier may be advisable, otherwise youíll likely end up shouting across the table to make yourself heard above the band. This isnít really the place for a quiet night, but itís civilised enough for people of all ages to enjoy. Certainly Floridita markets itself as something of a Ďone stop shopí, and stays open till 3am - a boon in Soho where a lot of the pubs still close at 11. So if you are the type that likes to remain in one place for your evening out, this could be a good choice.
Matthew B reviewed Floridita on Wed 13 Feb 2013