Opulent decadence shining in gold, sleek and regal: William’s Bar at St James Hotel and Club, the perfect setting for Rachel and I for a cocktail or two after the Ambassador spoilt us at Seven Park Place. A beautiful bar with exemplary staff is the heart of any hotel, whether for regulars, who find it a welcome home-from-home or visitors looking for somewhere to unwind after a busy day in the capital – St James Hotel excels with the sumptuous offerings of William’s Bar.
Zdenek Zemen, Bar Manager, whisks us from the cozy surroundings of the restaurant to the high chairs at the bar where Rachel and I survey the menu, a mix of classic cocktailsand specialties concocted by the talented staff at the bar headed up by Bartender Marby. Being consummate rum drinkers, we start with the classic Mai Tai, crafted using Black Seal rum, Goslings and Elements 8 rum, the result is a tangy fresh cocktail, sweet and sour at the same time with citrus overtones which transports you to sun beaten tropical beach, no small feat when in a bar in central London!
Next up, and choosing from the house specialties Rachel opts for the Eastern Promise, made using Russian Standard Vodka, pomegranate and lychee, and I, being the champagne connoisseur I am, order the Rose Royal, also made with Russian Standard Vodka which in this instance is infused in house with rose petals, topped up with champagne. Rachel’s Eastern Temptation is a very pretty drink, in hews of amber to pink, to taste it is slightly bitter but in a refreshing way with a hint of almond. My Rose Royal is evidentially pink in colour, to taste this cocktail is elegant, smooth and not too sweet despite the rose infusion.
Continuing with the in-house designed cocktails and sticking with the champagne theme I next choose the Vanity Fair while Rachel orders the Bambi Fizz. The Bambi Fizz is another elegant drink, champagne with Vodka and mandarin, tart to the taste but also refreshing.
The Vanity Fair however is a cocktail in a whole other league, made with Vodka, passion fruit and chilli syrup made in house, fresh lime and then topped up with champagne. The chilli syrup is boiled down sugar and water that is then infused with fresh chillis; the result is sweet and fiery. The cocktail is deceiving, delicate to look at but packing a punch on consumption, much like its name sake Becky Sharp would be proud of such a wolf in lambs clothing contained in a glass. It tingles on the tongue but does not burn, a very pleasant experience indeed.
As the evening draws to an end it seems only right to order the epitome of classic after dinner cocktails, the Espresso Martini, Rachel’s and my all time favourite. Traditionally, Espresso Martinis are made using the base spirit of vodka, I usually ask for this to be modified to be made with rum, being that rum and coffee are a match made in heaven, but here at Williams Bar they have a new twist on this all time classic.
Intrigued by what lies before us on the menu we are unable to say ‘No’ to trying this variation, which Marby assures us will indeed blow our minds and set us on track to only ever drink our Espresso Martinis at Williams Bar. Well . . . he is right. Made with in-house vanilla infused vodka but also, and this is what sets it apart, Patron XO Cafe Tequila shaken over ice with espresso, the result is a rich, full bodied, heady martini that feels like silk and tastes like heaven. Both Rachel and I sit dumbstruck at what we experience; we have indeed found our new Espresso Martini of choice.
William’s Bar is a not only a great addition to Seven Point Place and St James Hotel and Club but also a destination in itself, offering classic cocktails to something with a little more flair, be prepared to be amazed for things are not always what they seem.
Williams Bar and Bistro
St James Hotel and Club
7-8 Park Place
London, SW1A 1LS