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Garlic and Shots

Home > London > Food and Wine | Bars | Restaurants
by Karys McEwen (subscribe)
Freelance writer and wanderer always on the lookout for quirky activities that take you off the beaten track.
Published April 25th 2011

Garlic & Shots is the kind of place that you are either going to love or hate. In order to love it you need to:

a) Enjoy garlic.
b) Enjoy garlic VERY MUCH.
c) Be prepared for an even more alternative slice of Soho.
d) Not mind a bit of loud music and staff with tattoos and plenty of attitude.

If none of these appeal to you then steer far, far away. But if you think you can handle these aspects, plus the unconventional crowds and unreserved hankering for 'blood' shots and drinking games then you might just love the place. Its dark interior and goth appeal may not please everyone's taste, but Garlic & Shots is laid back and unpretentious and just somewhere a little bit different from the swarms of lacklustre, lookalike pubs you find these days. This place certainly doesn't involve awkwardly sipping your pint outside a packed venue surrounded by yuppies.

There are three main areas to the venue. There is the small and cosy restaurant portion where you can order all sorts of dishes as long as they heavily feature garlic. That's right; even the ice cream and beer are garlic flavoured. Quirky memorabilia lines the black walls and there are sofas and big tables for larger groups. Then there is the beer garden out the back where you can sip your drinks in a more restful setting. In the summer it is a great place to enjoy a London evening away from the bustle of Soho, but in the cold and rain it can be a bit of a challenge despite the outdoor heating. Lastly, down some very steep stairs is the small bar area where you can listen to ear splitting heavy metal. If a punk rock concert could fit into a three metre-squared room, this is probably what it would look like.

The overall scheme is very Gothic and heavily influenced by vampirism, which is a bit strange since vampires are supposedly repelled by garlic… this could be a seriously deadly flaw in the décor!

The menu prices are run-of-the-mill, the food is decent (if you like garlic, that is) and the shots are potent. Try the garlic bread, the Vampire Steak, the Garlic Pops (shrimp with garlic) or the garlic mussels– but only if you don't have a date afterwards. Your breath could reek for days, but it might be well worth it since the food is undoubtedly delicious. The staff are also generous enough to offer pots of parsley to help rid you of your newly acquired garlic aroma.

The drinks menu boasts 101 different flavoured vodka shots alone so any attempt to make a dent in the list might prove dangerous. Not all of them are garlic flavoured but a fair few are. If you're having trouble making up your mind then choose the house speciality: the Blood Shot, which has vodka, tomato, garlic, chilli and spices. When in Rome…

There's no silver service here and staff can be a bit surly and indifferent, but it kind of goes with the theme of the place. The service is definitely hit and miss but the portions are big and the food is good quality which perhaps makes up for the moody staff.

I wouldn't recommend Garlic & Shots to just anyone and especially not the fainthearted, but as long as you know what you're getting yourself into then why not give it a go. There is something kind of exciting about the feeling of being buried alive as you drink and devour heavily garlic tasting food.

Garlic is actually really good for your health and it's been proven to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. It has even been said to cure common colds. So maybe Garlic & Shots is on to something after all?

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Why? To get an unusually themed but nonetheless good Soho meal and drink… but just don't expect a snog after!
When: Monday to Thursday 5pm to 12pm, Friday and Saturday 6pm to 1am, Sunday 5pm to 11.30pm
Where: 14 Frith Street London W1D 9505 (nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road)
Cost: Free admission, averaged priced drinks and food
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