This newly refurbished speakeasy and dim-sum joint attempts – successfully, we might add – to hurtle visitors from the streets of Brixton back to the glamour, splendour and debauchery of 1920s Shanghai.
Courtesan, named after the Chinese entertainers – and occasional sex workers – of the period, is all red velvet drapes, geometric shapes and dimly lit elegance. Sprinkled with birdcages, paintings of geishas and bamboo encased arm chairs, the place is abuzz with an alluring sense of decadence and femininity.
The all-female chef team at Courtesan – led by Feng Juan Xue – will be churning out original twists on dim sum, noodle and rice dishes. Think spiced pumpkin-stuffed bao buns (which we can thoroughly recommend), jerk chicken steamed in lotus leaf and ricotta filled parcels.
The matriarchy continues behind the bar with the world’s first thoroughly female wine and spirit list; offering only drinks that have been produced and grown exclusively by women. The extensive cocktail menu, written in Chinese and English, infuses typically Asian ingredients – poppy liqueur, jasmine tea and beetroot powder – an ode to the Shanghai-inspired roots of the venue.
More than a lady-led booze and food spot, the Courtesan is a two-tiered entertainment space. Head down the geometric, neon-lit staircase to the underground boudoir. The intimate space sees walls slathered in optical illusions, coated in mirrors and topped with paintings of Chinese erotica.
This is to be the late night performance den hosting weekly burlesque, cabaret and live jazz. Plus DJs playing into the wee hours and a space for the Shim Sham Club, London’s queer vintage night.