London is famous for its grand hotels, and names like Claridge’s and The Ritz are synonymous with five-star luxury and glamour. Almost as famous are the bars these hotels house, honey pots to the rich and famous and many, like the Savoy, with a historic link to the world of cocktails. In a continuing series, I explore the hotel bars of London and see if their reputations are deserved.
While most of London’s large luxury hotels are located in Mayfair a small enclave, including several of the most well known, are found just west, past Hyde Park Corner, in Knightsbridge. Among these is The Berkeley, a hotel originally located on Piccadilly and relocated to a purpose-built building at Wilton Place in 1972. Once a popular venue for society debutantes, today the hotel is
The Blue Bar is The Berkeley’s main bar and features a striking design by, you’ve guessed it, David Collins. The walls, carpets and furniture, plus original listed features that were preserved from the original Berkeley building, are all coloured blue, which is offset by a black crocodile print leather floor and a white onyx bar creating rich, if bordering on garish, surroundings.
After seating myself at the bar the barman offered me a menu and as I began to browse a delicious selection of complementary bar snacks was provided including caramelised nuts and a sort of savoury wafer biscuit – by far the nicest complementary snacks I have yet to encounter. The menu had a good selection of spirits and liqueurs, and though there were few classics and liberal misuse of the “Martini” name some interesting sounding drinks stood out.
Unfortunately after handing me my menu the barman disappeared for a good ten minutes leaving me waiting to order my drink, an Acapulco from their premium cocktails section (£16 each), and even once a waitress had taken the order and the barman had returned it took a while to eventually get a cocktail in front of me. While the service was rather slow the cocktail was eventually made with good care and was stirred thoroughly before being double strained in to a chilled cocktail glass.
The drink was a mixture of añejo tequila, dry and sweet vermouth (the menu listed Martini & Rossi, but the bartender used Antica Formula and I certainly wasn’t complaining) plus Angostura and orange bitters with a agave syrup rinse in the mixing glass. It was a nicely aromatic mixture with the vermouths playing very well with the tequila, and the balance was spot on with just enough sweetness without it being cloying.
Moving on I went for an Ambassador, a hi ball containing Campari, pomegranate liqueur, fresh kumquats, brown sugar and soda water. Unfortunately they were out of Campari so with my blessing the barman tried to approximate it by using Aperol and Pimm’s, and even threw in a few raspberries for good measure. Unfortunately the result, while interesting, was far too sweet which was a real shame as with Campari I imagine it to be quite a tasty drink.
Overall I was fairly happy with my visit to the Blue Bar. The menu has a varied and interesting selection of drinks, and while they aren’t superlative they are well made and tasty. On my visit the few staff working seemed a little stressed and rushed even though the bar was fairly empty, but I’m sure on busier nights with more staff on hand this problem would be alleviated. All in all a fairly respectable bar which sits comfortably in the better half of hotel drinking holes and is worth a visit if only to see the blue, blue decor.
The Blue Bar at The Berkeley is located at Wilton Place, Knightsbridge. Open 4pm to 1am Monday – Thursday. 2pm to 2am Friday – Saturday. 3pm to 12am Sundays.
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7235 6000
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