Imogen Lepere finds herself thoroughly stirred by The Connaught Bar’s famous martinis. The best part? It’s just two stops away from Pimlico on the tube, ideal for your special Christmas outing or drinks with the team.
It was named second best in the world at the 2019 Bar Awards but can The Connaught Bar live up to the hype? Our visit falls on a crisp Thursday night when the first of the Christmas lights are already twinkling in the plush boutiques along Berkeley Street. A water feature in front of the hotel billows blue steam as a doorman in what could be Victorian regalia beckons us forward. The revolving door feels like a portal to another world.
Tucked away at the back of the landmark hotel, this dimly-lit drinking den is impossibly glamorous. Cubist and art-deco inspired, a series of mirrored archways frame a bar where mixologists spritz their creations with herbal tinctures from perfume-style bottles. An impossibly beautiful crowd reclines on crocodile skin armchairs and spears olives with manicured fingers frosted with diamonds.
As soon as we’re settled, a truffle pizzetta and salmon sashimi on deep fried rice arrive to line our stomachs as the show unfolds. The menu modestly refers to the cocktails as ‘masterpieces’ and this proves to be no exaggeration. For around £20 a pop you’d expect nothing less, but the price tag proves well worth it. This is the sort of bar where drinks are the focus of the evening rather than a backdrop. First up we try the Mayfair lady, a sophisticated blend of tequila, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and a lick of walnut oil diffused with a hand-chipped ice cube. It’s subtle, feminine and perfectly balanced. The dusk (Calvados, blood orange, Champagne) proves equally memorable, with a dash of Electric Bitters contributing an intriguing popping sensation on the tongue.
However, the star of the show has to be the martini trolley, which was custom-made to celebrate the bar’s 10 year anniversary in 2018. A sharp-suited bar man wheels it right over to our table, almost as if he’s driving a chariot. We opt for house gin (infused with Amalfi lemon, nutmeg mace and red wine from Bordeaux), and a dash of tonka bean bitters, which adds an intriguing hint of vanilla. Watching him stir rhythmically and pour the mixture into a chilled glass from a great height is mesmeric and the end result is, well, a masterpiece – complex, crisp and a touch saline from a juicy olive garnish.
As we board the tube at Green Park, our cheeks gin-warmed in the strip lighting, it’s hard to believe the capsule of glamour that is The Connaught Bar co-exists so close by. If you’re looking for martini magic, follow the steam to the revolving portal. But don’t forget to wear your favourite diamonds… the-connaught.co.uk