A Pinch and a Punch…

March 11, 2012 at 12:38 am | Posted in Aunt Fanny, Eating and Drinking | Leave a comment
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Today we visited VOC, a modern day version of a 17th century punch house. VOC stands for Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (the Dutch East India Company) and the drinks have a Dutch and/or nautical feel with barrel-aged rums, genevers and punches with plenty of exotic herbs and spices of the sort traded from the East back in the day. I was hoping to channel something of the spirit of H.J.K.: Henry John Kirrin, great-great-great-grandfather of George and captain of the ship which, long ago, was wrecked at the mouth of Kirrin Bay upon its return from a sea voyage. H.J.K. was bringing back gold bars rather than the sort of commodities the Dutch and British East India companies generally traded but it’s hard to link the Famous Five to everything so please go with me on this.

Situated near King’s Cross, VOC is small but perfectly formed with comfy sofas, excellent glassware and maritime-inspired decor and objets trouvés scattered about. There’s an extensive and imaginative drinks menu too which includes three types of punch as well as unusual cocktails and a selection of barrel aged drinks including spiced rum and bergamont grog. We restricted ourselves to punch, sampling first the Old Dutch Punch (“Bols Genever barrel-aged with lemon oils and zest, Dutch tea, bitters, cloves and honey – served over hand-cracked ice”) (pictured above) and then the Rack Punch (“Ceylon Arrack rested with citrus oils, coriander seed, cloves, cinnamon and sugar”). The Old Dutch was the nicest, I thought.

The drinks were excellent but when we decided to sample some of the food offerings, listed on the menu under the enticing heading ‘In the heat of battle: Dishes eaten cold’, we were sadly disappointed. It wasn’t that the sherry-washed cheeses with bread, the vermouth cured olives, or the sailor’s bruschetta failed to live up to expectations but rather that we were told these had been replaced with a Japanese menu. Now, in ordinary circumstances I adore Japanese food but in the context of VOC it seemed a bit strange. True, the the Dutch East India Company was one of the few European organisations to have (very limited) contact with Japan during its Edo period of seclusion, but it’s pretty tenuous – even more so than my effort to link this bar visit to the Famous Five – and you can’t really do a 17th century punch house concept in a half-hearted fashion, can you?

Anyway, the mystery was solved when we visited the conveniences before leaving and stepped into an entirely different world behind the bar door – a huge Japanese restaurant with drunken girls taking pictures of each other in the toilets. Most surreal and a bit of a mood breaker. So, while I liked elements of VOC very much I have reservations too. However, I feel I may be able to overcome them in order to go back to try the Raspberry Shrub cocktail (“Pampero Especial bottled with fresh lemon juice, sugar and fresh raspberries – bottle matured for at least one week’) – surely something that would appeal to the palate of Henry John Kirrin’s great-great-granddaughter Fanny. She’s a dab hand at growing and bottling raspberries and I imagine she’s sorely in need a stiff cocktail from time to time to cope with her eccentric husband and adventurous daughter, nephews and niece.

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