The next stop for Qin and I on our tour of hotel bars is Bar Boulud at The Mandarin Oriental, Knightsbridge. Originally a disused basement of the hotel, designer Adam D. Tihany has, with clever lighting, a relaxed warm colour scheme and an organic use of the room, turned this space in to a lively, buzzing social location where people meet for cocktails or to sample the wonderful cuisine designed by Daniel Boulud. The bar is a sweeping structure of zinc, it greets you as you walk in from the street entrance, the design has overtones of New York, a nod to Daniel Boulud and the American fare the restaurant offers.
The cocktail menu was originally designed by Xavier Herit of Daniel, New York, but in June 2010 Bar Boulud saw the arrival of Gavin McGowan Madoo; with his love of twists on original mixes and use of craft spirits the menu was redesigned, keeping the signature drinks, but offering new and unique cocktail experiences. Gavin also introduced seasonal cocktails, or “Cocktail of the Week”, which is created by the resident bar staff, choosing new and interesting tastes to intrigue and delight guests.
Qin and I took our seat in the Bar. Somewhat flustered by having rushed across town – bribing my cabbie with a cash incentive to get me there on time – I was filled with anticipation about the cocktail journey that lay ahead. Gavin explained we would be starting with the signature cocktail to Bar Boulud, designed by Xavier Herit, and been on the menu since day one, the White Cosmopolitan. Similar to a traditional Cosmo but made with St Germain Elderflower Liquor and white cranberry juice, the outcome is a far more delicate taste and the ice ball encasing an edible flower is great feature.
The ice balls/cubes are boiled filtered water that is chilled and boiled twice before freezing, this results in crystal clear ice. Next up was the “Cocktail of the Week”, a twist on a Lychee Martini but this time with Rose Nectar. The perfume of the cocktail is feminine, presented beautifully with a lychee garnish and, despite not being a great fan of sweet cocktails, I really enjoyed this martini, very light and elegant.
Now it was time to woman up and move on to the more robust short drinks, stirred, not shaken. First, a previous seasonal cocktail not on the menu, was the Maupassant, inspired by the Manhattan but with a French influence using Woodford Reserve, Peychaud Bitters, Calvados, Picon Club and a twist of orange. The result is something very surprising, Qin and I agreed that were you not to know what was in the Maupassant, you would assume it was rum based; the taste is warm and buttery and despite this drink being a short it is not overpowering, a great cocktail with or without food.
Following this was the Venezuelan Old Fashioned, made with Santa Teresa 1796, Averna Amaro and chocolate and orange bitters, this drink is definitely an after dinner drink with deep flavours reminiscent of a rich dessert. Qin was not so enamoured, being more of a fruity cocktail kind of girl, but I really enjoyed this cocktail; classic, cultured, the kind of drink one would linger over in one’s library whilst writing (like I am now). To sate Qin’s need for fruit, Gavin made her a Strawberry Sling, a Sling with a twist using Sloe Gin, making this a quintessentially English drink. The smell was like that of a punnet of freshly picked strawberries and Qin smiled with glee upon drinking .
We continued to savour our cocktails and take in the ambience of Bar Boulud. This bar is truly a melting pot of society, with young and old, local and foreign, trendy and traditional clientele, a great place to meet friends and family. With Gavin and his dedicated team behind the bar, nobody leaves unsatisfied – so much so that even when cocktails leave the menu, people come back to ask for them specifically, a true reflection of a great mixologist. It is clear to see why Bar Boulud is a favourite hotel bar for many people in London. It has the perfect combination of location, talented staff, great atmosphere and, most importantly, expertly crafted cocktails that taste as good as they look.
London, SW1X 7LA