A new Victorian-themed cocktail bar opened in Exeter last month; Dr Ink’s Curiosities. I was alerted to this fact fairly quickly by my friend Dru, who prefers to dress in strictly Victorian clothing. As a lover of both history and cocktails, I immediately made plans with him to go there.
It took us a couple of weeks but we finally agreed to meet last night, accompanied by my new housemate. Hannah and I arrived first and strolled up and down the quayside looking for the bar. Then we walked a little further up the road.
Resorting to GoogleMaps sent us in circles. Finally I caved and called Dru, who was running late. He told us it was at the Customs House – which was clearly closed for the night.
But just to the left of the customs house, tucked behind a discreet courtyard garden was a blue door, standing open. We had found Dr Ink’s.
It’s the tiniest jewel of a bar. Beautifully decorated, with original oak beams across the ceiling, a library corner, and a boudoir alcove with plush red velvet and god leaf walls. It even has the nicest toilet I’ve been in, complete with music piped in through a hearing trumpet!
The staff were incredibly friendly and very well-trained. They were happy to either banter with us or leave us to enjoy our drinks and each other’s company, whichever we preferred. When Hannah and I mentioned how difficult it had been to find them, they explained that they’re aiming for quality, not quantity (although they did promise to give some thought to my suggestion of a 12-piece brass band to announce their presence).
They certainly delivered. Hannah and I were both impressed with our first cocktails – a scrumptious citrus and honey concoction entitled “The Bee’s Knickers”. Dru arrived whilst we were sipping them in the sheltered courtyard, and ordered himself a scotch and water. He’s not the biggest fan of cocktails, but he promptly perused the menu.
Dru kept supping his scotch while Hannah and I moved onto our next drinks; Genever Daisy for her, and an Augustus Julep for me. I liked my julep with its notes of peach and mint, but Hannah found that her drink was a little too sour for her – she prefers her cocktails sweet. Dru was under strict instructions to order her the sweetest cocktail they had when he went up for our third and final round.
We’d managed to convince him to try one of the cocktails by feeding him tastes of ours throughout the night. He’d chosen the Black Orchard Shrub; whiskey based and flavoured with apples and blackberries. I have to admit that the tiny bit I managed to try was delicious, but not nearly as much as my Lady Luscombe, which closely resembled an alcoholic Lady Grey tea. I dearly love both Lady Grey and Long Island tea, so it was the perfect cocktail for me. Hannah was delighted with the Edinburgh Clouds, which was crowned with fairy tears and definitely sweet as well as yummy.
I refused to let them clear the table all night just so I could get a picture of the aftermath, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, you’ll have to content yourselves with this picture of the last few drinks.
Once we were done, we headed inside to say a big thank you for a fantastic night. I was very pleased to be kindly allowed a copy of the menu to take home with me and Dru was delighted to have finally found a cocktail that he likes. Then it was time for the long trudge back up the hill to the High Street via the Roman Wall, and finally home to bed.
I’ll definitely be heading back to Dr Ink’s. Not only is it a magical place to spend an evening, but I also need to finish working my way through their menu!