Never, never, never have such scenes been witnessed in high society, that uneasy alliance between Bright Young Things and old survivors. That was until my night with Qin, two bright young things out on the town in the newly renovated Galvin at Windows Bar. Galvin at Windows Bar has now reopened its doors, following an extensive £500,000 development. Famed for its peerless 360-degree views across London, complete with iconic landmarks, Galvin at Windows Bar has always been an incredibly impressive setting, but now it seems it is the place to be seen.
Qin and I meet at Galvin at Windows Bar on a hot, balmy evening looking to savor the new surroundings and bar menu, something we have become quite good at after Amaranto, Artesian and Bar Boulud. One for the record books, I get there first, where I am greeted by the debonair Fred Sirieix, General Manager and Marco Ercolano, the cocktail maestro and Bar Manager who show me to my reserved seat overlooking the London skyline. Whilst I chat to this lovely pair, Qin makes her entrance and so the night of scandalous debauchery begins.
The bar’s new identity is a 1930’s prohibition type affair, dark green leather with low glass tables and gold gilded bar and decorations, the new cocktail menu also mirrors this new direction. We start the night at sunset, the bar is full of pre-dinner guests, savoring an aperitif before adjourning to the restaurant next door, there is electric chatter of days spent in the park and plans for the weekend. Qin and I, both somewhat flustered by the heat, decide to start with some flirty fruity little numbers, the Red Passion for Qin and the West Indies for me.
The Red Passion is a blend of Campari, Passoa, Guava Juice and a dash Strawberry Puree, light and fruity, and it has strawberries in it so Qin is content. My West Indies is similar to a punch or Mai Tai, this drink benefits from a blend of Green Island and Havana Especial Rum, together with a drop of Graham’s Port and Orange Curacao topped up with apple and pineapple Juice. A very tropical drink but not too sweet, there is a bitter overtone, which takes the edge off what could have been a very sweet drink. Sipping it I feel like I could be on a beach, waves lapping at my feet, listening to the steel drums of the West Indies. Thirst quenching drinks out of the way it was time to put Marco and the staff of Galvin at Windows Bar to the test; despite the prohibition, we were there to drink!
Next up we went for drinks of the short variety, Qin with a White Pearl, served in a coupe glass and for me the Sweet Chestnut served in a tumbler. The White Pearl came from the “Tea Time” section and consisting of Earl Grey Tea and Havana Especial rum with a mellow blend of Butterscotch, Chestnut Liqueur and Maple Syrup, while the top was made of a sour egg emulsion. A pretty yellow cocktail with an edible pansy floating on the froth, light, airy a great twist on an earl grey martini. My Sweet Chestnut is one for the whisky lovers. Based on Johnny Walker Black label whisky, this drink is rounded off with Chestnut Liqueur and a flash of Fresh Passion Fruit; it is then finished with a dash of Laphroaig 10yrs floating on the top that gives it a real smokey kick upon drinking.
No more warming up, it was time to hit the prohibition speciality cocktails. This bright young thing had gin on the mind so I ordered the No News while Qin fancied indulging in an Indulgence. No News is a Beefeater Gin based cocktail, sweetened with a dash of Grand Marnier and Benedictine, whilst Orange Juice and Apricot Brandy add a little fruitiness to an otherwise powerful drink. This drink is sharp, citrusy and classy, served in a coupe topped with an orange peel sliver for garnish. The Indulgence is a simple combination of ingredients, Yamazaki whisky, Mandarin Napoleon and Cacao liqueur. Looks wise it resembles a Sweet Manhattan, served elegantly in a martini glass, but this is a drink not for the weak willed – a powerful and heady drink that somewhat undoes Qin, she would be dancing on the tables before we knew it!
On the same prohibition path for me, next was the Amy Johnson, Qin opting for a lighter option in Galvin’s Garden. The Amy Johnson is a Cognac based cocktail, sweetened with Maraschino, Orange Curacao and Pineapple Juice. It is then topped up with Henriot Champagne (as you know, my evenings are incomplete without bubbles) and finished with a spoonful of homemade Vanilla Ice Cream. A truly exceptional cocktail and probably my favourite of the night, one could indeed drink a few too many of these before the alcohol hit you.
Qin’s Galvin’s Garden, from the “Light and Easy” section was simple and refreshing, Bloom Gin-based with cucumber and Apple juice. St. Germain liqueur brings in a floral note with the Peach Bitter remaining as an after taste. Another pretty drink and very similar in looks to the White Pearl but in taste far more distinct thanks to the St. Germain liqueur. By this time of night the atmosphere of the bar had changed from casual drinkers to hardened nightlife aficionados, leggy lovelies in cocktail dresses and dapper gents in pressed suits with pocket squares drinking the night away. After all, this bar is open till 2am so why leave? For us it was almost time to hit the illegal and downright scandalous underground ball by one of society’s elite but, before Qin and I put on our dancing shoes, there was time for one more cocktail.
In honour of the smooth operator that is Fred, I opt for the French Lover, while Qin, one cool cucumber herself, orders the Cool Berry. The French Lover is Galvin at Windows version of the popular Cosmopolitan, with Grey Goose, fresh Grapefruit Juice, Grand Marnier and Sweet and Sour. Much like a French lover, this drink is elegant, flirty and tempting, but unfortunately the call of champagne soaked self-indulgence meant it was time for Qin and I to make our exit. Bidding farewell to the professional yet adorable pair of Marco and Fred, Qin and I make our way to the Rolls and into the night. Lucky for us James had put a bottle on chill, for these bright young things were out to party, prohibition or not.
Photographs of cocktails by Qin Xie
Galvin at Windows Bar
22 Park Lane
London, W1K 1BE