Chiringuito is a new Spanish-style bar in Bethnal Green. Loosely translated, we’re informed Chiringuito means all-day, beachfront bar. A refurbished public toilet next to the dirty descent into Bethnal Green tube station, a beachfront bar does not make. And that’s just the location.
A converted derelict toilet block has been converted into an all-day bar. Several sharing benches scrubbed tables with a few tables-for-two dotted around the floor-to-ceiling glass walls and interior wall decorated with azure mosaic tiles and a hand-painted mural designed by Mallory Dawn. The small space has a a peseta-topped bar, the main focal point.
Further seating is available outside on the terrace, and rooftop, which apparently has a walk-over skylight. However in the chilly mid-October darkness, nobody is dining out there. The only people venture outside are the staff, most of whom seem to take regular cigarette breaks, which inevitably blows smoke back into the dining space of Chiringuito.
The owner says patrons “won’t be rushed through service or hurried to leave”. What we found was taking the “won’t be rushed” to the extreme. On entering service was so relaxed that we were seated for almost 20 minutes before anyone bothered to greet us and provide a menu. However, once we had been noticed, as one table amongst a handful of covers on a quiet Monday night, service was polite and prompt.
To drink we chose a couple of cocktails, it was Monday after all, and we had now been waiting. Our tipples arrived in the form of a Museums Gardens (£8.50) named after the location, made with basil-infused vodka, elderflower liquor, lime, mint and basil bitters, and a Pisco Sour (£9), made with rhubarb syrup, rosemary and absinthe mist. Both soothed us from the earlier lack of service, with their delicate colours, smoothness and flavours.
On first glance the food menu does seem to offer a varied tapas and pinchos inspired selection. We opted for a couple of small and large plates to share including chorizo served with bread (£5), Seabass fillet with a chilli, passionfruit and grape sauce (£12), Roast pork belly with mashed root vegetables, soy and ginger sauce (£13), and Roasted aubergine with vegan cheese, peppers, tomato, onions and roast chilli sauce (£9). Of the four dishes the meat was the most edible, namely nobody can go wrong frying chorizo or roasting pork belly. Overcooked fish and passionfruit is not a combination we will entertain again at Vada Magazine, nor tasteless aubergine. Sorry vegan cheese lovers, there was just no flavour in this.
Daring desert we chose Alfajores (Peruvian biscuits) served with Lucuma ice cream (£5), and a Dark chocolate torte with fresh fruit and a strawberry coulis (£6). The Alfajores were the dictionary definition of tasteless, but the chocolate torte was smooth and richly flavoured.
Would be go back again? Given the (re)lax(ed) service, passive smoke inhalation from staff and mediocre menu, the verdict is: unlikely. That said the cocktails and chocolate stood out. If we were passing again and in urgent need of the toilet, we would pay homage to the building’s original use by popping in to use the facilities, and purchase a cocktail again.
Chiringuito Bethnal Green is located at Museum Gardens, Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9PA.
For more information, visit chiringuito.co.uk.