The Reading Room

Upstairs at The Library, Laycock Street , London, N1 1RU

SquareMeal Review of The Reading Room

Absinthe – the medicinal-tasting, once-taboo spirit – is dispensed as tradition dictates at this quasi-clandestine, first-floor salon above The Library bar-restaurant. The procedure entails iced water from an art nouveau fountain being carefully poured over a sugar lump set on a silver spoon, which turns the clear pine-green herbal spirit a milky shade of mint. Divine decadence? Downright disgusting? Absinthe polarises opinion. Novices may prefer a gentle introduction in the form of cocktails whose recipes call for the anise-flavoured stuff only in small measure. Chrysanthemum (a Martini made with Benedictine and Noilly Prat) or Sazerac (a rye whiskey Old Fashioned in an absinthe-rinsed glass) are two of the old-timers to savour. If you prefer an absence of absinthe, choose alternatives such as Pisco Sour or Vieux Carré. Live mellow jazz and blues keep up the spirits every Saturday.

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