Kansas Smitty’s, or “Smitty’s” to its regulars, sits under a former art gallery and shop, Off Broadway, and is home to a unique troupe of musicians, the Kansas Smitty's House Band, who, until very recently, didn't actually have a 'house' at all. At long last, however, they've opened up their resident venue, and aside from the jazz it's a good little stop in for one of their famed juleps.
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, this nugget of jazz and juleps caters to a wide crowd – from moustache-twiddling hipsters to hard jazz enthusiasts, there's no shortage of variety in clientele as well as music.
Sampling Smitty's all-julep menu is worth a try, and there's plenty of variety to keep you entertained throughout the evening. Options include an adventurous mixture of exotic ingredients; from coconut, quinine cordial and rosemary, to thyme and salted heather honey. And, as any cocktail bar knows – presentation is key: all Smitty's juleps are served in recycled tin cans, in an authentic rehearsal space with an understated east London vibe.
It's definitely worth trying the Allotment Julep, made with nettle, elderflower, carrot, coriander seed, apple, pear and mint – a hefty combination but surprisingly pleasant. The Morning Julep is more unusual – a concoction of bourbon, coffee bean, stem ginger, cardamom, cocoa nibs and bitter orange marmalade. It's not as tall as the other juleps on offer, and is over in a few sips – but that works fine, as the flavours are fairly heavy on the taste buds.
The real treat, though, is the band – every Wednesday they gather for Basement Tapes, often carrying on sessions late into the night with a different line-up of musicians from the sizeable house band, as well as the occasional special guest. It's worth the ticket price to guarantee you make the most of Smitty's vibrant offerings.
Wednesdays are the only evening you can guarantee a fully immersing experience: the bar, however, is also the band's permanent rehearsal space, so chances are if you pop in on another night you'll be lucky enough to catch one of their improv jam sessions.
On a warm summer’s evening without the band, Smitty’s is likely to be left bare thanks to its upstairs neighbour proving more popular thanks to its outside seating.
The venue is small and, as with any jazz bar, loud – not suited to a quiet heart-to-heart. As London prices go its very reasonable at £7 a ticket for the full Wednesday session. With its relaxed atmosphere, minimal pretence and intimate venue, Smitty's is a great little spot to grab a drink and kick back with some great live jazz.
|What||Kansas Smitty's Live Jazz Bar|
|Where||Kansas Smitty's, 63-65 Broadway Market, London, E8 4PH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Bethnal Green (underground)|
20 Jul 15 – 20 Jul 16, Basement Tapes live sessions every Wednesday from 8pm
|Price||£8 cocktails | £7 tickets for Wednesday Basement Tapes|
|Website||Click here to go to the Kansas Smitty's website.|