Intu Lakeside. It’s the Essex girl’s mecca. One of first out of town shopping centres (opening in 1988) and something of a precursor to Westfield, I haven’t needed much of an incentive to “go dahn Lakeside babe” for, like, the last 20 years.
But if you have fallen out of love with the Thurrock mall, well, the arrival of the 360 Champagne and Cocktail Bar will iron you right out.
Sat right in the centre of the shopping centre (by the lifts) it’s not easy to miss. And you shouldn’t.
A friend and I visited on a Friday evening (after I’d extracted her from Oasis. She was trying on a dress. As one does.)
And from the second we popped ourselves down on one of the white leather bar stools (we later moved to a booth which was uber comfy) the cares of the week immediately began to melt away.
We started with a glass of Prosecco, Barocco Brut NV (£4.95) each. This is a particularly drinkable drop. Not at all sharp, and served with a slice of strawberry, it’s everything you expect from a glass of fizz.
However, we were very quickly distracted from our gossiping and not so lady-like sipping (it had been a very long week) by some other, rather more exotic, concoctions. Someone just along the bar from us was served a drink that was bright blue. Even brighter than a WKD Blue (and we all know what they do to the colour of your tongue!) So naturally we immediately collared the chap serving it (Scott, the bar manager, it transpired) to find out what other, more exciting, drinks we could order.
Minutes later we were presented with a coconut that had two straws sticking out of it. There was candyfloss spilling down the side, and sprigs of mint perched jauntily on top. And the cocktail inside it. Well, if you visit, for heaven’s sake, make sure you have one of these (it’s called a Copacabana Beach coconut cocktail.) There was raspberry vodka, mixed with some butterscotch schnapps, some Chambord and some fizz. It was beyond lush (super chuggable to quote my friend Mel.) And it cost a mere tenner (well, £9.95 to be precise.)
Having polished that off (the coconut container btw, is carved by staff at the bar – they use the coconut milk for other cocktails there. It’s quite a difficult job, apparently, but well worth it) we perused the menu some more.
I settled for a Crack Baby. It’s reportedly the duchess of Cambridge’s favourite (who knew?) and is a fab mix of vodka, strawberry and Champagne. Off the premium cocktail list, it was one of the bar’s more expensive cocktails at £9.95, but they don’t scrimp on the measures, and they also don’t fill the glass half up with ice to fool you into thinking there’s more in your glass than there is, so it’s worth the price tag. Mel, meanwhile, tried out the Rowdy Ribena (the bar’s most popular cocktail) which was dangerously drinkable – so sweet it could have been a soft drink.
As we chattered away with our drinks, we couldn’t help but marvel at the people-watching opportunities afforded by the bar. It’s literally a people-watcher’s paradise, especially when you’re tucked away in one of the booths. The endless stream of folk passing by provided us with plenty of entertainment (one woman was so orange she was basically purple…)
We polished our evening off with some nibbles (the pitta bread with the humus was oven-warm. Joy!) and a final drink each. I’d loved the Copacabana Beach coconut cocktail so much that I ordered it again in another guise, the Candy Floss Martini. Served in a martini glass with a shot glass of candy floss on the site, it was a super sweet note to finish our night on.
So, 360 Champagne and Cocktail Bar? It’s the perfect accompaniment to a shopping trip. Having discovered it, I shall certainly be stopping by again. In fact, I’ve already made plans with my ma to fuel our annual Christmas shopping trip with a glass of fizz or two from 360. Shopping fuelled by fizz? The husband’s credit card is wincing already…
PS You can get non-alcoholic drinks there. And teas and coffees. So you don’t HAVE to drink anything boozy, but why wouldn’t you want to?
Fancy a visit? Go to www.360bar.co.uk for more information.