London's most discriminating barflies are drawn to the basement bar by the sheer wonder of the drinks list and the skill of the mixers. Many of the clientele know each other - an elite but not exclusive coterie of the funky drinks set. But all sorts of customers come for cocktails and a mind-bending range of other tipples - there are 220 types of spirits and liqueurs listed. Cocktails, with or without alcohol, are all made with fresh fruit juices, and Lab's bartenders are perfectionist enough to set light to fruit zest on a seabreeze - it caramelises the orange oil.
It goes with the territory - the edgier end of Soho - that there has to be someone on the door, but they insist they're not that selective about who is admitted. Early Saturday evenings are still relatively quiet, and at the Sunday-night open house anyone is welcome to wind down over board games. Daylight is not a high priority; the decor is Seventies dingy. Designed by Paul Daly in sludgy browns and greens, its most controversial feature is what's written on the toilet doors: "bitches" and "bastards". Take your pick.
Lab, 12 Old Compton Street, London W1 (0171-437 7820). Mon-Sat 9am-midnight, Sun 9am-11.30pm.
As drunk by Ernest Hemingway in Cuba, a deliciously sharp but not savagely citric drink.
Method: Add to a cocktail shaker 11/2oz Bacardi Gold, 1/2oz Maraschino, 3/4oz grapefruit juice and 1 teaspoon caster sugar. Shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a slice of blood orange.
A sweet, slushy, purple, fruit-gum flavoured source of vitamin C.
Method: Take a tall glass and put in five blueberries, five blackberries and the juice of half a lime, 2 teaspoons caster sugar, and muddle together. Add 2oz Absolut vodka and fill the glass with crushed ice. Lace the top with 3/4oz of creme de mure (blackberry liqueur).
One of a range of non-alcoholic fruit cocktails available at the Lab bar that are named after James Bond's leading ladies. It's not as sweet or as thick as it sounds.
Method: Add to a blender 1/2 banana, 1oz orange juice, 1/2oz fresh passion fruit, 1 tablespoon natural yoghurt, 3/4oz honey, 1 teaspoon dark sugar, 1/2 scoop of crushed ice. Blend for 20 seconds. Serve in a goblet. Garnish with strawberry and a slice of star fruit. n