Advantages Cheap, cheerful, great service and quality product
Disadvantages Loud, will cause hangover
|Value for Money|
|Standard of Menu|
|Standard of Service|
The Drunken Monkey is one of those mythical destinations, a place of unbridled joy- and certainly a rite of passage if you skulk around East London for your jollies. A typical working week discussion in or around the City, Shoreditch and Liverpool Street might include lines like “Where were you last night?”“I was at the Monkey. Hammered.”
Or, “The Drunken Monkey happy hour. You weren’t there man!”Well in true, stubborn Mike style I refused to be drawn in by a place that enjoys the sweet smell of success off the back of drunk Cityboys and those tossers who wear thick-rimmed glasses, skinny jeans and a ‘Gok Wan’ earring (you know who you are). There are plenty – literally hundreds – of excellent bars in this throbbingly vibrant area of London so it’s not like I am ever out of ideas when it comes to a decent East End knees up.
However, I will admit that I have been a little ignorant on this one as only two weeks ago, I was informed by a friend – a friend with a notoriously shocking track record when it comes to picking a good haunt – that the Drunken Monkey not only serves food, it actually sports a full-blown Dim Sum restaurant as well.Well food is – for no better word for it – food, so when we needed to line our stomachs for a night out in Shoreditch that promised to be um, ‘messy’, the Drunken Monkey was in a fine location for the evening’s festivities to begin.
So as we said, the Monkey is better-known as a post-17:30 watering hole, with a notorious happy hour from 5 to 7 on school nights. It is primarily a cocktail bar, offering a dangerously extensive selection of long and short drinks, which are also dangerously cheap (even if one disregards the happy hour).My mate sorted out the booking which, when considering it was for 8pm on Friday night, was very odd as few places around here will even take bookings at such a date and time. The booking was made last minute dot com as well. Now, it does take a bit of time to make me look beautiful so we arrived late and didn’t call to tell them. So imagine my surprise when we rocked up at 25 minutes past to find a table – and a very good table – still waiting for us.
What I mean by a ‘good table’ is that the Monkey appears to be one long, narrow room with the heaving bar near the door. There are dining tables right at the heart of the action, which looked like hell on earth. We were offered a sturdy wooden table right at the back of the dining room, away from the noise but with a great view of the marauding hordes at the bar. The restaurant was packed (always a good sign; and this made me relax a lot more) but there was decent space between parties and at not one point in the entire meal did I feel like a sardine.The Drunken Monkey is an ‘atmospherically dark’ eatery (I had to squint to read the menu), themed in a basic Chinese style with red lanterns, wood, red paint, wood, oriental pictures and more wood. A bit too dark for my liking but the theme works; and at least it’s too dark to clearly see the aforementioned clientele. The tables are adorned with little more than Dim Sum paraphernalia- plates, bowls and chopsticks.
We were greeted by a waiter who – and I am not joking here – looked and sounded exactly like Gok Wan. Seriously. He was great; it was his first or second shift apparently (I know, I know, the classic ‘give me a better tip’ line, but I believed him) but overall we felt well-attended to and considering we left a lot of the ordering down to his judgement, the recommendations were spot-on.
...especially as these oriental-inspired concoctions are amongst the best I have tasted in London. We tried a wide variety of drinks such as the ‘Oriental Pimms’ (made with ginger ale), ‘Black Rose’ (Bourbon, Cherry and Champagne), a ‘Watermelon Martini’ and a Pisco Sour. All the cocktails were served quickly, were presented well and tasted incredible. I guess that what I am trying to say is that the Drunken Monkey crosses every ‘t’ and dots every ‘i’ when it comes to mixology, and the bartenders’ talents extend beyond simply getting the natives paralytic. What can I say- the Monkey is proving me wrong so far!
I must admit that we were getting through the drink like Oliver Reed at Oktoberfest – thus reducing our faculties somewhat – and so after our Gok Wan lookalike had come back for the fourth time to see if we were ready to order we gave up, selected a main meal each and asked him to recommend some smaller sharing plates.
We ended up with beef dumplings, chicken satay, deep dried tofu and ribs. We all chose Singapore chicken noodles as a large option. The food was dirt cheap; the smaller dishes between £3 and £5 and the larger ones around £6 or £7. Of course, such a meal adds up on paper but we certainly weren’t short of food and the portions were as generous as the drink.
Everyone I met at the Drunken Monkey were superstars. I found our waiter to be very friendly and knowledgeable. Those who have read my other restaurant reviews know that to call me anal when it comes to service is an understatement, however it looked to me that everyone here seemed to enjoy – and care – about what they did and to be honest, this is seldom seen in London. It surprised me even more considering that my expectations of this venue were near as makes no difference to rock-bottom.I left the Monkey that night not just half-cut, but feeling valued and completely satisfied – and that was nothing to do with the complimentary shots of Jägermeister delivered with the bill (for four people, three drinks each with no service - £65).
Most definitely- I am a complete convert. The Drunken Monkey is – and forever will be – a bar with a side helping of restaurant; the drinks are just too good. However, don’t let this dissuade you. The Dim Sum offering is excellent (if a little run-of-the-mill) but combine this with excellent value and the best service I have received in London without paying over £50 a head, then the Drunken Monkey is elevated beyond a trusty local dive, but a special destination in its own right. Highly recommended, more for parties and less for intimacy (but bring Neurofen).
222 Shoreditch High Street | London | E1 6PJ0207 392 9606
Bookings also taken via OpenTableReview also published by Mike Dalley at thefunkytruth.wordpress.com
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DRUNKEN MONKEY - DVD
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Manufacturer:Optimum Home Releasing
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