When my fiancé and I visited my sister in popular seaside town Southend, I knew that a mere change of location would not dampen her fervour for finding swanky and intriguing venues to indulge in her cocktail cravings – you could take the girl out of London, but she was going to drag her London lifestyle with her. Having discovered a bar come restaurant that oozed casual class she was eager to take us there, so we entered East Coast Social all anticipation, as we went for cocktails before our dinner at Maya’s World Buffet.
Upon entering, I completely agreed with Jess that East Coast Social took the swagger from the city and slapped it centrally in Southend, on the beginning stretch of the high street. Really roomy on the inside, the layout is cleverly done, with long picnic bench style seating suitable for larger groups, whilst trios of art deco bucket chairs clustered decoratively around circular hammered metal bistro tables for smaller parties wishing to sip wine. Alcoves were well used with sofa and table seating accompanied by cow pattern cube seats, whilst tall tables with matching high chairs framed the windows looking out onto the pavement.
While presenting an eclectic mismatch of pretty much everything, East Coast Social had the appearance of one of those innately stylish people, who can just throw anything together and still look pretty damn awesome. Bare brickwork was juxtaposed with large old fashioned seaside scenes of ladies in tasteful one pieces, the random splashes of colour popping out of the predominantly black and white art work. A vibrant red telephone box stood proudly by our small table, next to a flight of stairs which led to a quieter dining area. The wood panelled bar took up a large portion of the back wall, red neon scrawled lettering illuminating the venue’s name against more dusky brickwork. East Coast Social was distinctive and stylish; your head constantly switching round trying to take everything in. Suitably impressed by both the cool atmosphere and the city styling, it was time to see if the drinks menu was up to snuff.
Although they offered a delicious mix of foods, including a classic burger, we were strictly there for drinks only. The happy hour offer on cocktails was three for £15, which was quite a good price considering the normal charge was just under the £8 mark. Three is a bit of an awkward number though, so Jess ordered her two choices, whilst I put in my request. Designated driver Dan had to stick with the soft stuff, opting for his favoured coke.
The cocktail selection was nice and varied, with a mix of traditional favourites such as cosmos and mojitos as well as more unusual ones that you don’t always see as often – for example Jess’s first choice Purple Rain, which seemed to be a vodka, lychee and cherry like concoction that came up a suave mauve in colour, served in a tall glass with summer berries balanced delicately against the rim. I also went for something that you don’t always see on the menu, a white Russian – a rather decadent drink featuring coffee liqueur Kahlua, vodka and luxurious lashings of cream. Jess’s second cocktail choice was the minty mojito, a refreshing favourite of hers.
The bartender painstakingly created our cocktails with such tender love and attention to detail it almost seemed a shame to guzzle them. The alcoholic mix of punchy espresso coffee tones paired with the deep smack of vodka sunk straight to the bottom of my glass, ice cubes in the centre acting as a dam to the pure white cream on top of the wide tumbler. Crunchy coffee beans were scattered thoughtfully on top, providing a great colour contrast against the pale white with their rich brown hues. Carefully reminding me to mix it together before sipping, the bartender promptly moved on to his next piece of alcohol laden artwork, the mojito. Stacks of mashed up ice formed the base, the liquid laced with whole mint leaves, although the crowning glory was undoubtedly the ice basket on the top, which held a generous wedge of lime as well as a bunch of the potent mint. More lime was squished inside the packed ice, adding extra zest. The purple rain was probably the most standard appearance wise, doing the usual fruit on the rim of the glass thing, however the loud and unusual colour gave it some extra va va voom.
I must say, I adored the white Russian. I am quite a fan of coffee or chocolate based cocktails, often favouring creamy flavours, much to the frustration of my waistline. I really loved the way the cream provided a silky and thick base for the expensive and alluring Kahlua, which came across strongly due to the undertone of vodka. I couldn’t help but eat most of my ice cubes too, as I couldn’t stand to see them coated in the white of the leftover cream and to have that tiny bit wasted! It was almost dessert like in it yumminess as well as being filling, acting like an appetiser for my main meal. It was delicious and on the whole, East Coast Social has a fantastic vibe for being one of the best cocktail bars. It may be out in the sticks slightly but it is well worth a visit, although you may want to check your bank balance beforehand, as they have mimicked London prices as well the city’s trademark retro cool.