Jewel Bar Covent Garden
With the continuous opening of burger chains around town and the pop up bar trend showing no signs of slowing down, London appears to be in the midst of a regression into understatement. Among all this, Jewel harks back to a time of try-hard opulence where each cocktail is served with an obligatory side of glitz and glamour.
Sister venue of the Piccadilly site, Jewel can be found among the sentimentally English pubs aimed at hordes of tourists that flock to Covent Garden. But past the deceptively small exterior, Jewel is as far from musty carpets, beer mats and sticky tables as you can get. Sprawled across multiple floors and decorated in lavish dark wood and ornate chandeliers, Jewel’s decor is over-the-top decadence. There’s even a – perhaps ironic, perhaps not – Michelangelo-style ceiling mural, which wouldn’t look out of place in a chapel. Downstairs, a moodily lit room adorned with the same plush leather seating can be hired out for private events.
The candles dotted throughout do make a good attempt at creating an intimate atmosphere, but with a venue as large and spaced out as Jewel, it’s a difficult feat. Having said that, the area does grant some rare personal space for a central London hangout so even if the place does get busy, there’s plenty enough room to keep your distance. Young and attractive drinkers make up the majority of the well-heeled crowd on a weekday evening, and expect it to get even more glamorous come the weekend. Jewel does come across as more of a place to see and be seen (and see yourself, if the amount of mirrors is anything to go by) and can err slightly on the side of pretentious rather than a spot for a relaxed drink. On the music front, a steady stream of house and RnB is the perfect accompaniment for weekday drinking but come the weekend, DJs promise a stream of floor-filling classics.
Jewel’s food menu has a lot of the classic bar snacks like crispy spring rolls and edamame beans, as well as a selection of sharing plates and miniature burgers. Generally speaking, the prices tend to be high and the portions small, we’re talking £5 for a bowl of spicy Thai crackers, albeit with a sweet chilli dip; but the quality of the dishes is good and the ingredients taste fresh. There can be blips in otherwise attentive service – such as food turning cold by the time side plates and cutlery are delivered to the table – but the Peking duck pancakes are delicious, and happily served with a rich plum sauce, cucumber and Thai crackers.
Jewel’s resident and award-winning mixologist regularly updates the cocktail list with new recipes and themed limited editions, and almost all are under £9. From the Mojito menu, the Lemon Drizzle is a sickly sweet mixture of rum, Sicilian lemon and a touch of butterscotch. The Passionfruit Daiquiri is an excellent choice, mixing Bacardi with lime, fresh passionfruit and syrup for an equally sweet finish. New for this summer, the Wimbledon-inspired cocktail is set to become an instant favourite. A rum concoction served with fresh strawberries, sprigs of fresh mint and cream, it really tastes like the Great British summer in cocktail form and is a great swap for pudding. Alternatively, Jewel stocks a wide selection of fine wine starting at £18 a bottle, a good selection of spirits and bottled beer. The happy hours are well worth a look-in; between 5pm and 8pm you can find selected cocktails at £4.50 and some bottles of wine at half price, making it the perfect pitstop for an after work drink.
The Last Word
While reasonably hidden, Jewel isn’t quite the gem it could be. The venue’s large space is likely to be appreciated in an area so highly populated by post-work drinkers, but what it has in square foot, it lacks in atmosphere.