If Matt Whiley's previous ventures – the co-founded Worship Street Whistling Shop and Purl, as well as his own Peg + Patriot at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green – hint at a predilection towards pushing boundaries, his most recent opening Scout, on Great Eastern Street, nails it to the mast.
Along with a handful of other London bar luminaries including Tony Conigliaro and Ryan 'Mr Lyan' Chetiyawardana, Whiley is leading the charge for bartenders who want to go beyond simply mixing drinks, and turn the cocktail bar into a multi-faceted, resonant experience.
Even upon ordering a drink in this compact bar, that much is evident. First of all, no alcohol is listed on the menu. That doesn't mean the drinks aren't boozy; just that Whiley would rather you ordered according to what flavours take your fancy, not which spirit you think you like. And the drinks aren't crowd-pleasing – it's clear Whiley wants to make you think about what they represent, rather than just how they taste.
A strong anti-waste sentiment pervades the menu, and everything is sourced from the British Isles, which means no lemon peel, no orange wedges; garnishes are more like the dehydrated waste coffee grounds and salt that adorn the glass of the 'Beetroot', an earthy drink we're later told is made with Patron Café, a bit of tequila, burnt apple and a beetroot caramel. 'Wheatgrass' has a celery-like zing, with wheatgrass-infused grain spirit and burnt pear distillate. The most accessible cocktail here is the 'Fig Leaf', an old-fashioned-style drink that arrives in a tumbler glass with a huge monolith of ice stamped with the bar's logo.
In terms of design, the room is Scandi-slick – clean lines, new-school, minimal aesthetic, crisp, thin-lipped glassware, and small square tables lit in movie-star spotlight, with not so much a bar as a central station around which ingredients and glassware are housed on wrap-around shelves.
Below ground, there's a drinks laboratory with a private table for drinkers who really want to dive in to the philosophy, and there's a food menu, too, which aims to close any loop left open with the ingredients used in the drinks.
All of this points to the fact that Scout isn't necessarily an everyday drinking destination. But the philosophy here means a visit will stay with you far longer than an evening.
93 Great Eastern St, EC2A 3JD; scout.bar