For a long time I gave Giant Robot the go by as the exterior suggested it was more of a restaurant than a bar. Then I was reliably informed that it was a good place for a drink too, so a few months ago I popped in for my first visit.
Seating myself at the bar, I ordered a Brooklyn (Rye Whisky, Amer Picon, Martini Dry, Maraschino) and settled in to make friends with the bar staff. I swung round to admire the tin ceiling and g-plan sofas only to catch the eye of a slightly drunk, slightly crazy chap standing at the bar:
# Crazy guy standing at bar: What’s that you’re drinking ?
# London Cocktail Guide: A Brooklyn.
# CGSAB: No way! A Brooklyn? No way, I’ve never heard of it. I’ll have one of those. I feel like I’m in New York. A Brooklyn? No way!
#CGSAB: I got an apartment in New York, you know…
#LCG: No way…
Which conversation neatly covers a number of feelings I had about Giant Robot that night. It has a New York vibe, a well-chosen cocktail list and is perhaps trying a little too hard to be something it’s not.
The cocktails were indeed so good that I soon left it to the barman’s expert care to suggest what I would want next, which is quite an accolade on my part. And each drink was spot on, from the New York Sour (Bourbon, lemon juice, egg white and Malbec) and the Clover Club to the Azzuri Margarita (Tequila, fresh lime, agave syrup, blue curaçao) not to mention various off-menu offerings.
Subsequent visits have provided a less impressive experience.
This is partly attributable to sitting in the restaurant area and not at the bar and partly due to the skilled barmen being absent. Not that the drinks were terrible but they weren’t polished ( on one occasion my Mai Tai was missing the orgeat) and the serve was quite different from the first visit – a New York Sour being served on the rocks changed the nature of the drink considerably .
The other thing that irks me is its slighty schizophrenic attitude. Their website describes the Clerkenwell branch (they have recently opened Tiny Robot in Westbourne Grove) as a bar/cafe/deli and diner. And of course the result is that it fails to deliver 100% sucessfully on any of these things – certainly no evidence of a deli in sight.
The (quite stylish) space itself seems largely laid out as a restaurant with the kitchen area a main focal point, yet the drinks menu is longer then the food offering. This lack of focus could perhaps be why the drinks are not as consistently high quality as they could be. Still on the plus side, service is pleasant, it’s quite spacious so relatively easy to get a seat and the drinks on average are passable and on occasion excellent.
Not quite as good or as cool as it thinks it is but a fairly safe bet in an area that abounds in mediocre pubs.