August 22nd, 2015
The weather in London has been warm and sunny the last few days so Dan and I wanted to spend our last Saturday night of the summer (we’re heading to Snowdonia and the Welsh coast to go camping next weekend for the bank holiday!) doing something outdoors in London.
I had picked up an issue of TimeOut London at the tube station the other day and saw an article about ‘cocktail gardener‘ Lottie Muir, who serves up exquisite drinks flavoured with herbs and fruits grown at London’s foraged cocktail summer pop-up bar Midnight Apothecary held Saturday nights at the rooftop garden of the Brunel Museum.
Dan and I are huge craft cocktail fans and the idea behind foraged fizz ingredients sounded intriguing, not to mention that the venue, the Brunel Museum, is a pretty cool place itself so I went online the morning of and booked us two £5 entrance tickets for a night of campfire cocktails and Greek food. Tell me the below event info from the website wouldn’t pique your interest as well?
Campfire cocktails in the city are back! Join us every Saturday (and occasional Friday and Sunday) for events in our secret rooftop garden above Brunel’s Thames Tunnel in Rotherhithe from 5.30 – 11pm (last orders 10pm). Relax around a fire pit. Imbibe exquisite alcoholic prescriptions prescriptions infused with ingredients grown in our garden or foraged close by. Cuddle up to watch the sun set over the river. Toast marshmallows on the fire. Listen to birds, insects and other local musical talent. Descend underground into the Brunel Tunnel Grand Entrance Hall for a guided tour and sate your appetite with great Greek fare from I Should Be Souvlaki on the terrace
Ticket includes entry to the garden and museum, complimentary toasted marshmallows and an optional guided descent into Brunel’s Grand Entrance Hall.
We arrived at the museum ready to relax fireside with a wild cocktail … wait, let me back up and give you a little info about this unique museum first. The Brunel museum is dedicated to the work of engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first project with his father Sir Marc on the Thames tunnel. Work began in 1825 to build the first ever pedestrian and cargo tunnel under the Thames in order to link Rotherhithe in South London to Wapping in East London and was a monumental feat of engineering, taking 18 years to complete.
It is the oldest tunnel in the oldest underground system in the world after being converted to a railway tunnel in 1869 and then becoming part of the underground in 1914. The London Overground now uses the rails. Pretty cool right? The museum hosts several guided tours a week allowing you access to closed off areas such as the Grand Entrance Hall to the tunnel and a secret underground chamber (check them out here).
Alright, back to drinking. So we arrived at the museum and were immediately greeted with the delicious smell of fried halloumi and lamb skewers from I Should Be Souvlaki set up on the lower patio. After grabbing some grub, we climbed the short flight of stairs up to the garden area and made a beeline for the bar. Dan and I settled on a pair of Rum and Blackberry Fizzes made with house-made mint syrup, though the Gin Thyme looked like a popular option as well. We took a seat on one of the few remaining benches available to wait for the runner to bring our cocktails to us while we enjoyed the amazing lamb wraps surrounded by planters of mint, lettuce, and other various greens.
The venue was already a busy spot by 7pm that night, likely due to the TimeOut article, and all the seats around the campfire were being monopolized by a large group celebrating a birthday (that didn’t look like they would be moving anytime soon!) so we didn’t end up roasting any marshmallows. Although they wouldn’t have minded if we jumped in to cook up a marshmallow or two, I just felt like it would have been a bit awkward, like we were crashing their birthday party. I was too full from the delicious lamb wrap anyhow and I really only enjoy marshmallows if they come with a side of graham crackers and melted chocolate! My suggestion would be to get there early if you would like to snag a seat near the fire.
After we had finished our drinks, we opted to tour the tiny museum and take the guided descent down into the Grand Entrance Hall via a short narrow tunnel and metal scaffolding to hear all about the construction and history of the tunnel. Given that the methods invented then are still in use for tunnel construction today, it’s pretty impressive! I got such a kick out of the paper stereoscopic peepshows on display in the museum that they use to sell as souvenirs prior to the invention of the photograph to the million visitors who came to walk the tunnel the in the first 15 weeks it was open. You can see the crowded Thames and the below is the new pedestrian thoroughfare.
Following a tip from our guide, on the way home we took a detour on the Overground under the Thames getting out at Wapping and walking to the end of the platform so that we could see the lights of the next train light up the tunnel for the best view. A fun summer date night with an educational cherry on top! Just my kind of sundae.
*Event Location Details*
Brunel Museum Roof Garden, Railway Avenue, London SE16 4LF
Transport: Rotherhithe Overground (one minute’s walk away!)
Midnight Apothecary is still running its summer rooftop party every Saturday night until the end of September and then occasional Saturdays throughout the winter. Hurry up and book tickets here before the summer dates end and the cold weather sets in!