Fancy travelling to Japan and Mexico, all in the same night, without even having to jump on a plane? A new cocktail bar in Notting Hill is offering up that chance through the lens of taste. The cocktails in Viajante87 mash Pan-Pacific influences with ingredients unlike those found anywhere else.
The bar comes courtesy of the team behind Los Mochis, a local favourite Mexican/Japanese restaurant in Notting Hill. And they’ve also got some pretty hefty prestige behind the bar. Bar director, Panos Kanatsoulis, was voted the Best Bartender in Greece at the Diageo World Class awards in 2017. Now he’s brought his expertise to (beneath) the streets of Notting Hill.
Viajante87 bills itself as an “agaveria meets izakaya”. Guests are invited to descend into their subterranean agave lair, where they can watch mixologists work their magic with agave-based cocktails in the “secret basement mixology lab”. It’s all rather darkly-lit and moodily sexy, and, yes, you did read that last line correctly. The cocktails are almost exclusively agave-based; it’s all agave, all the time, at Viajante87. Barring, like, one or two exceptions…
Utter the words ‘basement bar’ and a certain image springs to mind. You imagine too-low ceilings, sticky floors, cluttered environs, and a weird smell that you can’t pinpoint the origin of. But such is not the case at Viajante87. I mean, obviously, we wouldn’t typically direct our readers to bars that smell bad. Or at least we try not to.
When you descend the stairs into Viajante87, it’s texture that springs to mind. Cork walls undulate around velvet seating wrapped in cool toned shades of teal and brown. Meanwhile, the bar, which is made from recycled bottles, commands attention immediately upon arriving. The vibe is moody without being angsty, and low-lit without being dark. It is, in a word, gorgeous. And with seating for up to 100, it strikes the balance between intimacy without being devoid of life, and pleasant hubbub.
A sustainable bar
Viajante87 isn’t just a pretty face doling out tequila shots. They’re also one of London’s new wave of zero-waste venues, and have had to find some nifty tricks to reduce their waste while keeping their drinks delicious. One of the main methods they use is to take waste and off-cuts from their preparation techniques, and repurpose them to create new products. In particular, they use fermentation to transform ingredients.
Their Smoked Earth cocktail, for example, makes use of lacto-fermented kitchen veggies, ranging from carrots, to sweet potato, red cabbage, and more. The product is then mixed with mezcal, jalapeno, sansho berry pepper, coriander seeds, wasabi distillate, and fleur de sel. There’s also The Smoky Monastery, where fermented grapefruit, mezcal, and sansho berry combine for a prickly, smoky affair.
Elsewhere their commitment to sustainability can be found in their Mango Zapateca, which makes use of waste mango skins from Los Mochis. They’re not just committed to reducing their own waste at Viajante87, they’re working across venues to do so.
The rest of the menu
There’s more at play here, though, than simply reducing waste and popping the new ingredients into cocktails. Viajante translates to traveller or explorer, and through the menu you’re invited to explore the natural world around you. And it’s quite a journey, from Tulum to Tokyo, by way of Notting Hill.
Among the cocktails to keep an eye out for on your visit are the Pico de Gallo, where reposado tequila is mixed with lacto-fermented tomatoes, jalapeno, and coriander, and the Peachy Gonzales, where peach, tarragon, dill, and citrus are shaken up with tequila. If you’re absolutely not an agave fan, the Queen Mayahuel has you sorted with an Old-Fashioned-meets-Revolver riff comprised of Michter’s Bourbon Whisky, Laphroaig 10, cold brew, banana, and chocolate. Smokey, sweet, and ever so smooooooth.
But the ultimate can’t-miss cocktail has to be the Sleeping Chicatanas drink. A blend of tequila, mezcal, and metaxa is accented by koji rice and honey. Sounds delicious, right? But why the singular call-out? The drink comes topped with a chicatana – an edible Mexican ant. Rich with umami, and purportedly high in protein, it’s the kind of drink you’re sure to order for unsuspecting friends just to see their reaction. But it’s ultimately just crunchy, crispy, savoury, and delicious. Who doesn’t love a drink with a snack?
A night at Viajante87
There’s not yet a food menu – although we’re told an announcement is coming soon. In the meantime, however, bar snacks include the likes of crab tacos, truffle and guacamole crispy rice, habanero teriyaki duck, wagyu sandos, and more. What? You weren’t expecting crisps, were you?
The bar also highly values music, with an emphasis on “tribal house beats inspired by global travel”. With the bar set to stay open until 2am on the weekends, you can expect plenty of DJ nights with unique, melodic, beats. There’s no stuffiness here. They’re serious about what they do, but a night in this agave haunt is far from a serious affair.
Any debates on where to go for your next cocktail are now moot. It’s simply a must that you try out Notting Hill’s Viajante87. Head downstairs for a special voyage. See you there?