Before you ask, yes, the bar is named after the long-lost Hunter S Thompson novel.
But while a red brick interior and nautical knick-knacks channel the watering holes of Paul Kemp’s day, the title is more about a love of distilled sugarcane than any deep literary affection.
Look inside and you’ll find white, young and lightly-aged rums. There’s also an assortment of grassy agricole rums: spirit distilled from sugarcane juice rather than the more commonly-used molasses.
If you’re sitting on a fat wallet, throw it at the top-shelf gear like Zacapa XO, the 25-year-old English Harbour and a rare 1940s bottling of Laurent Monopole Mamita Rhum (allegedly one of the last few in existence).
While the chip ice behind the bar doesn’t exactly fill us with cocktail confidence, a spicy Gosling’s Dark ‘n’ Stormy and limey Hemingway daiquiri are both pleasingly cold and undiluted. Classics share billing with house specialties like the Ri-Tai. Say it “rye” as in Ribena, the syrupy inspiration for this sweet blackcurrant Mai Tai riff. Definitely enquire about the rum cocktail currently on tap, too. Maybe they’re still pouring a Right Hand (that’s a rum Negroni, by the by). Maybe they’ve moved onto a Treacle, Old-Fashioned or other rum-centric tipple.
Not in the mood for sailor-style drinking? Lower-proof options like beer, cider and wine should ensure behaviour remains above board. Theoretically, at least.
House jaffles do a fine job of soaking up excess liquor, but if the generously-stuffed Clint Eastwood (bacon, cheese, chipotle) is anything to go by, these toasted sangers offer more than booze-drinking ballast.
For now, the Rum Diary isn’t quite in the same league as some of Brunswick Street’s more established players. Service is nothing to write home – or a novel – about. But there’s potential here. Not to mention DJs, and a chance to re-live the buccaneering days when this was rowdy Gypsy Bar with an appropriately inappropriate measure on Ron Jeremy’s rum in hand.