Usurum, a bar that cares about its craft
Tom Hall is not a man easily impressed by frilly mixology and noisy bars. Yet, he is someone who takes his barber’s recommendations mid-shave seriously. So, when he endorses a bar where the drinks are complex and nuanced, and the music is on point, we listen. Here’s a taste of what to expect at Usurum.
The backstreets of Psiri are quite an experience, from the Disneyland on Acid frontage of Little Kook to the amplified bouzouki players in the restaurants on the square it is quite an assault on the senses. Hence why it took me a couple of weeks to make good on a recommendation from Andreas at Mansfield Barbers to check out Usurum. Now, Mansfield is a fun place to hang out, and Andreas has the relaxed confidence of a man who knows a good bar when he sees one, so it was only the busyness of the area that kept me away. And I wish I’d taken him up earlier as it was a real pleasure.
The newly opened bar is small and elegantly fitted out, bridging the road with a covered area and rooftop the other side of the street. We were sat at the bar and were so happy with our front row seats that we didn’t make it across the road, but they tell me it’s lovely. Give me a bar stool and a counter any day.
Three things stood out about our visit, the end of which is slightly hazy, such is my commitment to comprehensively tasting the cocktail menu.
Firstly, the cocktails are excellent, with a familiar list of the classics turning out to be a thoughtful and purposeful set of innovations instead. They have leaned into the sweetness that is fundamental to a good old fashioned with the addition of a salted caramel flavour and a butter washed whiskey. It tasted like the unholy offspring of Ollie Read and Werther’s Original and that is high praise indeed. The daiquiri had an elegant slick of peridot-coloured fig leaf oil that gave the drink a pleasingly grown-up vegetal note. The margarita, the closest of the cocktails I tried to the original, still came with an edible flower and a dried crisp of bell pepper which sounds odd to the page but made lots of sense in the glass. I didn’t try the pornstar martini which Giannos claimed was their signature cocktail because I was a young adult in London in the late 90s and the very words give me spine tingling flashbacks. I’ll go back and try it next time after I’ve worked out some issues with my therapist.
The second thing that stood out was the quality of the music, not always a guaranteed pleasure in a Psiri bar. The DJ’s selection moved seamlessly from Fleetwood Mac to obscure early Daft Punk b-sides via 90s hiphop and some tasteful bossa nova, with the DJ, who clearly loves his work, mouthing along to all of them. We found ourselves looking forward to the next track which isn’t something I say often at this stage in life. We were there early and apparently it doesn’t get properly going until later but I’m sure it would have been interesting at any stage in the evening.
The last thing of note were the engaging, knowledgeable people behind the bar. They seemed rightly proud of what they’ve created and keen to share it with their guests. The combination of this with quality booze and great tunes means I will be back. Thanks Andreas.