Zoe Fryday catches up with Erik Lorincz at his new London cocktail bar, Kwãnt
It’s not just cocktail-loving consumers that are flocking to West London’s hottest lounge bar, Kwãnt, but bartenders too. Nestled beneath critically acclaimed Moroccan gastro brasserie Momo, on Heddon Street in Mayfair, this stylish drinking den is the pride and joy of industry aficionado Erik Lorincz. Kwãnt is on everyone’s lips at the moment, and there’s no wonder why. Since Erik left the American Bar at The Savoy, where he enjoyed eight years as head bartender, bringing it to the number one spot at The World’s 50 Best Bar Awards in 2017, people have been pondering what he will do next.
With over a decade of experience working in some of the most distinguished hotel bars, Erik knows a thing or two about top-quality service. At Kwãnt – the phonetic spelling of ‘quaint’, meaning old-fashioned, unusual or wise – guests are treated to a five-star experience and beyond. The multi award-winning bartender has partnered with pioneering restauranteur Morad Mazouz, also the driving force behind two-Michelin-starred Sketch, to create a refined yet tantalisingly exotic space to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Walking down the long, darkened staircase, anticipation grows. On the other side of the door, there’s a heavenly surprise waiting.
The nineteenth-century-style bar boasts a subtly tropical décor, reminiscent of an eccentric gentleman’s drawing room. Dark wooden panelling and sumptuous tan Chesterfield sofas contrast with intricate bamboo ceilings and lush draping greenery. “When I first imagined the space, I pictured the Casablanca movie,” says Erik. “A sophisticated, elegant, hidden spot to escape and forget about the madness of the real world. I used this as inspiration.” First and foremost, Erik and Morad wanted the interior to be interesting – to take guests on a journey. Both had their own ideas and their own styles, so decided to combine the best aspects. The outcome
is exceptionally unique; contrasting yet complementary, with different zones to cater to a mixed clientele. There’s the option to sit at the glossy black bar and chat with Kwãnt’s bartenders or unwind in a plush leather armchair while taking in the interior splendour. For a taste of “private dining in the jungle”, customers can enter a secluded area, decked out with dazzling mirrored walls festooned with unique hand- painted exotic foliage.
It’s all about attention to detail. A team of eight bartenders, all hand-selected by Erik for their individual merits, smartly dressed in crisp white coats, guide customers to their perfect cocktail, offering expertise, advice and most importantly, charm. “We want to make sure it’s an engaging service while at the same time very relaxing. We want to bring something new to the scene,” explains the owner. “All of our bartenders are servers, and all of our servers are bartenders. Everyone has a united role. One day they are behind the bar. One day they are working the floor.”
The cocktail menu itself, which features 24 alcoholic and five non-alcoholic serves, is inspired by Erik’s last year of travelling around the world. Along the way, he collected information and ideas, taking various ingredients and flavours, and putting them together in liquid form. Reading the list from top to bottom, at first, the drinks are light and delicate, but further down become bold, rich and complex. Popular choices come in the form of Hacienda, a tequila-based cocktail with lacto fermented purple carrots, mezcal and citrus, which came to Erik in a moment of inspiration, and the Sunflower Martini, uniting Hendrick’s Gin, Cocchi Americano, Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth and Jerusalem artichokes.
When asked what his favourite serve is, Erik just can’t pick. He describes the menu as his collection of pretty handbags, and jests: “You know. You love them all, but can’t single out the best!” However, he does pinpoint Bellshot, which stands out as the most technically unique. The foundation of this savoury cocktail is a mushroom consommé, a clarified soup made from richly flavoured stock, is mixed with vinegar, Absolut Elyx Vodka and champagne. A consommé is typically made with a classic beef stock, but Erik wanted to make it accessible to everyone, including vegetarians and vegans. This kind of in-depth preparation is at the heart of the drinks offering. To ensure a smooth running service, each concoction is prepped during the day in Kwãnt’s hidden kitchen or “cocktail laboratory”.
Guests can also indulge in neat tipples and vintage cocktails, created using Erik’s personal collection of rare and vintage champagne and spirits. From Beefeater gin from the 1950s to a bottle of Bacardí Anejo 6 yo from the 80s, all of the precious alcoholic gems are housed within a striking glass drinks cabinet, giving customers insight into the yonder years at a surprisingly reasonable price. There’s even a bottle of Bisquit Dobouche & Co cognac from 1904.
Every drink is served in an elegant bespoke vessel, designed by Erik in collaboration with high-end Slovakian glass company Rona. Most of the cocktails also have a fresh herb garnish, which comes from Kwãnt’s high-tech indoor plant growing system, Evogro. The hydroponic appliance, which looks like a fridge and sits behind the bar, allows the team to cultivate plants without soil or natural light. Instead, the organisms are fed by liquid nutrients, with each shelf providing a separate climate. Controlled through Wifi, Evogro sends out email notifications with updates and tasks, such as when to add or change the water. It’s truly revolutionary!
Kwãnt, Momo, 25 Heddon St, Mayfair, London, W1B 4BJ
Behind the scenes
Interior design: Bambi Sloan
Hand painted wall and ceiling designs:
Plant growing system: Evogro