Like the wardrobe to Narnia, Panda & Sons immediately makes you feel part of a secret and select few. Tucked under the facade of a barbershop on Queen’s Street, Panda & Sons is a speakeasy cocktail den hidden behind a bookcase. Upon entering, you receive some complimentary chilli popcorn to start your night with a spicy kick. You may be tempted to think the place is streaming with paparazzi from the amount of people updating their Snapchat stories, but they are just first time visitors, turning their social media friends green with envy and enticing their crew to come join the magic.
The menu is filled with illustrations by Via Fang, and tempting names such as ‘Häagen-glass’: a homage to the ice-cream that “makes tears disappear”, while including a “tiny wee drop of absinthe”. The menu boasts an endlessly entertaining array of puns, and as History of Art students, my friends and I were naturally drawn to the ‘Must be the Monet’. This drink, to be split between two or three people per order, saw a half bottle of prosecco, champagne saucer glasses and “fruit paint” tubes all presented on a mixing palette.
If ever there has been a fancier dressing to a Bellini, I have yet to experience it. The paint tubes (which we added ourselves to the glass, before topping with prosecco and stirring), were a nice enough idea, but definitely more of a one-off order rather than a go to. The non-prosecco drinker ordered ‘Petal to the Ketel’, a cocktail described as a “Scottish Garden in a glass” and including Ketel One Vodka, Aperol, rose petal cordial, egg white and lemon juice. There was also a lavender garnish, lit, but it seemed a little pointless. She thoroughly enjoyed this and for her second, asked for the ‘Detective Burdock.’ Even though this is not actually on the menu anymore, the bar staff nevertheless kindly made the beverage, which she described as “nostalgic, with vodka”.
As usual, I only had eyes for gin. ‘Say Aloe to my little Friend’ was an interesting take on the traditional G&T: we’re talking Hendricks and cucumber, with aloe vera juice. It was definitely refreshing and, at £4.50, was one of the cheaper pours. Cocktails were priced around £8, and wine was £4 for a decent measure of a great Merlot.
Panda & Sons is not overly friendly to the student budget, but the cocktails were enjoyed by all of our party as something a bit different. It is not a chain pub like Spoons; it has a unique character all of its own. The interior décor continues the barbershop theme with barbers’ chairs, portraits of the Panda Barbers, and tea lights in old Brillo tins. Occasion-wise, whilst maybe being less of a venue for a drink after class, it is a perfect place for bringing visiting friends from home. It may be a little hipster, but this little speakeasy should definitely be on your radar.
Image credit: Ruby @ rubyrubyslippers.blogspot.co.uk