Our decision to spend Easter Sunday at Barlounge, sampling one of their gin-infused activities across the weekend, was last minute and not without great deliberation. Thirty I may be, but the eighteen year old in me still honed in on the challenge aspect of the Bottomless Gin Brunch, and that terrified me. Ninety minutes to drink as much gin as you like? Fears ran rampant – how will I remain civilised? Can I brunch enough to soak up the damage? Why do I still feel like a student, desperate to get my money’s worth, with the potential sacrifice of my dignity?
Some of those answers can be found through therapy (hopefully).
It’s a potentially dangerous cocktail (and I’m not talking about the menu) – £25 for breakfast and booze before mid-day. Even so, we approached with gusto – mutually agreeing to aim for five drinks, with anything beyond that a bonus. I’m not new to this game (even though I’m probably too old for it) so I stuck to the same drink (there were a few options and not all gin based) – a delicious twist on the Tom Collins involving guava juice. I smugly sipped watching everyone else mix it up with spicy Bloody Marys and Prosecco – amateurs.
We each managed seven drinks by the end of the session. And what did we win? That’s right Chester – hangovers.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Around drink two we tucked into food and it was clean plates all round. The veggie breakfast was definitely the winner in terms of portion size – and no doubt a smart carb load. My steak and sourdough was concise but delicious and staff were happy to swap the eggs for avocados – much appreciated.
Once the eating was done with, we cracked on with the drinking. It’s hard to get too crazy in the stylish setting (even if I do come from Nottingham). The live piano music was a lovely touch, the place was buzzing but not silly, and staff dashed around to fulfil the back-to-back drink requests from lively tables. Amongst us reckless brunchers, families were ordering from the main menu, demonstrating restraint and sobriety. It was nice to have something to aspire to, you know, one day.
Other than the occasional loud belly laugh, we were the picture of decorum and only a little tipsy. When the bill was paid, we could finally relax. The challenge was complete and no one was currently, nor had been, embarrassing (that we’re aware of). I left the bar with all of the possessions I entered with – another great sign.
We took our happy flushed faces and joviality into Chester. The next victim was Corks Out – I had a forest gin and lavender cocktail – at my leisure. It was definitely refreshing to be drinking without the crowds (a day drinking perk) – though the place soon filled up with post-Barloungers, now on a perilous mid-day crawl.
Next – Oddfellows for other gin-based wonders in liquid form. I’m a bit woozy at this point, but still very much myself. I’m initially taken aback to see children in the bar. Children! At this hour! Slowly, I come to realise it’s only 3pm. At ease. Some people have plastic Easter Eggs and seem to be winning things like free shots and Lindor chocolates, but we’re happy in a corner, giggling to ourselves (that sounds a bit creepy, but it’s okay, there are four of us).
Then it’s the Cornerhouse, to get some of our friends near to the station. I’m glad of the excuse to finally check this place out and discover I love it – they have some creative, tasty gin concoctions on the menu, all to be enjoyed lazing back in leather armchairs. We eat a lot of crisps and start to get very sleepy indeed.
My husband and I drop off our friends and go for a giddy walk along the canal to get us back on Northgate Street. We’re heading to 9 Elephants for a much needed thai curry, but all the tables are booked and they can’t fit us in. It makes me happy to see them doing so well, and we console ourselves with an equally stupendous antidote – hanging kebabs at The Blue Bell. And since it’s the Easter weekend, throw caution to the wind and order more gin with lots of berries.
We’re not on the floor, or really that drunk, but by God we’re dedicated to getting to both. I worry that the quality of my conversation is somewhat lacking amidst the sheer joy of eating chips. We stop off at the local Tesco to see if they’ve started discounting chocolate eggs yet. They haven’t, and I try not to let it ruin my whole day, but it’s emotional.
Back at home I announce to my husband that I’m well and truly, ‘smushed’, whatever that means, and pass out in bed.
Success, with a slice of lime.