One of London’s most cherished hotels has a new place to drink, snack and people watch following the debut of The Berkeley Bar & Terrace
T here are many reasons to head to leafy Knightsbridge: a stroll around Hyde Park, perhaps, or a leisurely browse in Harrods, Harvey Nichols or one of the neighbourhood’s two Prada stores. The opening of the Berkeley Bar & Terrace inside the Berkeley Hotel provides another reason to head over to one of London’s most wellheeled hangouts.
The sister hotel to Claridge’s and The Connaught already has a prime drinking spot in place with The Blue Bar, which is popular with celebs and renowned for its beautifully presented, vividly coloured cocktails like Kryptonite, a heady mix of Bourbon, mint liqueur, cacao and chocolate absinthe. Situated on the ground floor, the Bar & Terrace has a more a discreet, secluded feel, which is further accentuated when we step out onto the terrace on a sunny August evening and gaze out at neighbouring St Paul’s Church and pull up a chair at one of four tables. The hourly chiming of the church clock delivers a genteel touch, and the adjacent street is comfortingly quiet.
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys being steered gently through the cocktail menu as staff ponder which mix will best suit your taste preferences, then you’ll adore the Berkeley Bar’s considered, leisurely approach, where nothing is too much trouble and every drink order is thoughtfully appraised. The emphasis here is very much on rediscovering forgotten cocktails, and due to my penchant for gin, staff recommend the Last Word (Bombay Sapphire, Chartreuse Green, maraschino and lime juice), a prohibition-era cocktail
with floral notes. My husband opts for a Vieux Carre (Woodford Reserve, Hennessy VSOP, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura bitters & Peychaud bitters), first popularised in 1930s New Orleans and a mix that’s not dissimilar to his favourite tipple, an Old Fashioned. Wine lovers will find many vintages not available by the glass elsewhere in London (I opt for a Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch post-cocktail, which has layers of candied lemon, apricot and vanilla) while the spirits range includes selections from under the radar producers such as Japanese whisky maker Ichiro, tequila producer Fortaleza and rum maker Trois Rivières.
Following the staff’s thoughtful recommendations, we order up the wild seabass ceviche with coconut, yuzu, sesame and dashi, which is enlivened by a slight hint of chilli, and the camembert chicken tulips (pictured), which are stylishly presented on a “tree” for you to graze on once they’ve been liberally smothered in Gochujang emulsion. Other small plates include Cornish crab and lobster beignets, and, if you’re feeling extravagant, Petrossian caviar with buckwheat blinis, sour cream, grated hen’s egg, onions & parsley. With a well-stocked humidor on the terrace, cigar smokers are well catered for here, and you can happily puff away without
feeling you’re offending anyone. If alfresco dining isn’t your thing and you prefer a secluded space just for you and your pals, it’s also worth checking into The Snug. Set away from the main bar and seating up to nine guests, its centrepiece is a cool mural depicting gazing female faces with mysterious expressions painted by New York-based artist TM Davy, who was inspired by the original snug spaces in pubs, usually reserved for women, when men and women did not mixsocially. With its own sound system and call-for-service button, The Snug is sure to prove popular with Chinese guests, many of whom are used to commandeering their own private rooms in restaurants and bars.
After several happy hours spent enjoying the evening sun on the terrace, and watching our cocktails being meticulously mixed, we’re already planning another visit. Spilling out onto the street on a busy Thursday night, we immediately miss the bar’s refined ambience and the contrast underlines the fact that the Berkeley
has created something special, an intimate urban retreat in the heart of London. The Berkeley Bar & Terrace has 40 covers. Opening hours are 4pm-1am, Monday to Saturday; the-berkeley.co.uk Chicken