Going Out with... Nico de Soto of Wacky Wombat

Going Out | Pubs, Bars and Nightlife

Going Out with... Nico de Soto of Wacky Wombat

The Wacky Wombat bartender shares his secrets

“New day, new city” seems to be Nico de Soto’s modus operandi. That’s no exaggeration: the globe-trotting bartender and owner of London’s Wacky Wombat even boasts about his maverick lifestyle in his Instagram bio, reading: “visited 104 countries and 1000+ cities.”

After decades of plying his trade in the world’s foremost cities — including New York City, Melbourne, Paris and London — he’s established himself as one of the global bar industry’s most influential bartenders and personalities.

But de Soto has earned his stripes. He’s not some new kid on the block who’s coasted by and landed on top thanks to social media clout. His CV counts time at some of the best bars in the world during their respective eras, including his award-winning bar Mace (New York), as well as Paris’s pioneering Experimental Cocktail Club and the London site in Chinatown that opened shortly afterwards.

As someone who spends most of his life travelling to bars and restaurants around the world for work, de Soto has undoubtedly developed a tasteful palate for food and drink.

Here, de Soto shares his expert intel. And if there’s one person who knows where to spend time in any city, it’s this travelling bartender who, on occasion, calls London home. 

If you could only have one drink in London for the rest of your life, which would it be and where? 

A Wild Strawberry Ramos Gin Fizz by Marcis Dzelzainis. I love the combination of fresh strawberries and cream, you can have it anytime of the day, any season.

Editor’s note: This cocktail used to be served at the Corinthia hotel’s since-shuttered Bassoon Bar, and will be debuting on the menu at One Aldwych’s Lobby Bar (1 Aldwych One, WC2B 4BZ, onealdwych.com) this September.

What's your most memorable meal in London and why?

Kol in Marylebone (9 Seymour Street, W1H 7BA, kolrestaurant.com). I've been there five times and each time the venue constantly amazes me; it's always my most memorable meal when I’m here.

I love the venue as a whole with the space, the creativity of the menu, the impeccable service, food, wine, decor and, of course, the stunning desserts. Also, the bar food in the mezcaleria comes from the restaurant upstairs, which is quite the feat for any foodies who want a small taste of the full restaurant experience.

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Where is your favourite place to go for a nightcap, and what do you typically order? 

Favourite place in London for nightcap has to be Dram (7 Denmark Street, WC2H, drambar.co.uk), which has opened next to Wacky Wombat. It's very convenient! You can head over and have some whiskies and cocktails.

Where do you go when you need to cure a hangover? 

Barrafina on Dean Street (26-27 Dean Street, W1D 3LL, barrafina.co.uk) is the cure to a hangover. Lots of tapas, hams and cheeses, the fat and saltiness is all that you crave. A little glass of sherry could help too.

What is London's best bar crawl?

I think you can find it in Soho: Soma (14 Denman Street, W1D 7HJ, somasoho.com), Experimental Cocktail Club (13a Gerrard Street, W1D 5PS, experimentalgroup.com), Atelier Coupette (9 Moor Street, W1D 5ND, coupette.co.uk), Swift (12 Old Compton Street, W1D 4TQ, barswift.com), Termini (7 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JE, bar-termini-soho.com), Three Sheets (13 Manette Street, W1D 4AP, threesheets-bar.com), Dram (as above) and of course Wacky Wombat (Manette Street, W1D 4AL, daroco.com). There's such a variety of old and new bars, with different styles of design and drinks. There's such a huge variety of places with high-end cocktails, which makes for the perfect bar crawl for any cocktail lover.

A Pinã Colada in Atelier Coupette
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What is your guilty pleasure cocktail and why do you love it?

A guilty pleasure will always be a Pinã Colada. I personally just love the taste of coconuts and the sweetness. However, the trick is to add a bit of pandan to the cocktail.

What is one bar in London that doesn't get nearly as much love as it should?

The Experimental Cocktail Club (as above) in Chinatown is such an underrated venue. It's never on the top bar lists, as well as never on the bartenders bar crawl. It's been open for 13 years, which is a huge achievement and there is still a queue to get in and of course very good drinks. Anyone who's a regular at ECC Chinatown will know Erald who's still at the door. It’s a solid, consistent bar and I don't understand why it's just not on the radar of most people any more.