Mark Ludmon explores London’s new rooftop bar, Savage Garden. Photography by Jodi Hinds
While 90s Australian pop duo Savage Garden may have queried the name of the new rooftop bar at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel by the Tower of London, its inspiration goes back further. At its simplest, the hotel is next to Savage Gardens, a street honouring a 17th-century viscount who reportedly did not live up to his evocative surname. But primarily, it comes from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles where the “savage garden” is a recurrent metaphor for the decadent, darkly beautiful lives of blood-sucking immortals. For André Cavalheiro, Savage Garden’s head of mixology, it reflects how the drinks, food and ambience are a balance between wild hedonism and zen-like calm. “Our guests can enjoy a savage night with us or a relaxed garden moment.”
While the floor-to-ceiling windows and outside terraces make the most of the 12th-storey views of the City and Tower Bridge, the interior by Grapes Design matches the overall concept with vibrant colours and rich textures. Designer Darren Grapes describes it as “an untamed gothic décor, offering guests an unexplained twisted vibe to the popular horticultural and floral trend spreading across bars and restaurants”. Aiming to shock and entice, it is for people looking for “something a little unorthodox”, he adds. “It represents nature’s tempestuous colour palette by capturing a unique concept that unites the wildness of organic elements with London’s urban architecture.”
From the lounge area through to the bar, it is furnished with plush velvet seating and banquettes in burnt orange and yellow, offset by cooling blue and lavender. The sense of “uncontrolled nature” can be seen in the bespoke shattered slate floor, the organic patterns on the bar frontage and back bar and the upholstery, reflected back by scorched mirrored panels in the ceiling. Set on bronze and glass, bespoke artwork is inspired by the urban setting, including striking designs by German artist Stefan Gunnesch, commissioned by consultancy Gorgeous Group, carried through to the menus.
As well as a small outside space opposite the bar, the venue has two large terraces, both with their own bars. One has opened in partnership with Pernod Ricard UK as the Beefeater Pink South Terrace, with a bright pink décor and planting and a list of refreshing drinks made with Beefeater’s pink gin as well as Plymouth and Monkey 47 gins along with Franklin & Sons tonics.
The other is Wildside, sponsored by Jägermeister, with a retractable roof making it a year-round space. For this partnership, André has created cocktails including one combining Jägermeister with Chivas Regal 12 scotch and another using Absolut Lime vodka and a Red Bull reduction as a twist on a JägerBomb.
Like the bar’s name, the main cocktail list takes inspiration from the area’s history, developed by André – formerly at Daphne’s and The Ritz in London – with Gorgeous Group. The Flambard Colada is name after Ranulf Flambard who was not only the first prisoner in the Tower of London but the first to escape, using rope hidden in a bottle of wine. It is made with Havana Club 3 Year Old rum, fresh pineapple juice, cucumber syrup and an absinthe reduction, with an intricate garnish made of thin pineapple strips soaked in red wine and a tiny knotted hemp rope.
Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days in 1553 before being beheaded at the Tower, inspires the Lady Grey (pictured above), combining Freya birch spirit with Bernard Loiseau Apple & Earl Grey Tea Liqueur and non-alcoholic Seedlip Spice 94 which brings oaky and aromatic notes, topped with Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic. Like many of the drinks, it comes in a striking bespoke vessel: a ceramic cup inspired by the work of artist Patrick Colhoun, with five spikes evoking the Tower’s torturers.
The Warehouse Mojito takes its cues from the nearby Butler’s Wharf, once a 19th-century warehouse for storing imported goods including green bananas. Apart from a palm leaf-shaped mint sprig garnish, the only mint comes from the Seedlip Garden 108 spirit along with notes of pea and hay. But it does contain Havana Club 3 Year Old, lime juice and soda plus green banana syrup, limoncello and cypress and oak syrup, over crushed ice, with salted fried banana slices alongside a biodegradable straw.
Little Red Riding Hood inspires the Horny Beast (pictured above), made with ingredients including Beefeater Pink Gin, Aluna Coconut Rum and green strawberry, served in a large horn with a strawberry, lime and black pepper cracker, while the Kick-Ass Martini is a punchy mix of Absolut Elyx vodka, Regal Rogue’s Lively White and Daring Dry vermouths, black Hawaiian lava salt solution and pineapple and star anise bitters for a bubblegum flavour.
Twisted classics include the Evil Eye (pictured below) – a clear Negroni with tequila and a glittering green rock of ice – and the Punk Rock Old Fashioned with Jameson whiskey, Lanique rose liqueur, Mozart white chocolate liqueur and peppermint and cherry bitters over a big “bollock” of ice.
After four years of development, André also presents his clear Lespresso Martini (pictured bottom), made with Clear Coffee, Konik’s Tail vodka, Briottet white chocolate liqueur and Monin sugar-free vanilla syrup, topped by foam thanks to Ms Better’s Bitters’ egg-free Miraculous Foamer.
Bar food is designed to be just as stunning, with a menu strong on “Palaeolithic” carnivorous ingredients alongside vegetarian options, ranging from coconut beef short ribs and sliders (pictured below) through to crispy squid sticks and tempura oysters. Presentation matters as much as flavour and ingredients, André points out. “Social media is so important. Every single cocktail needs to be a picture. We want our drinks to be memorable and to tell an ever-lasting story.”
Savage Garden, DoubleTree by Hilton – Tower of London, 7 Pepys Street, London EC3N 4AF
Behind the scenes
Design: Grapes Design
Consultancy: Gorgeous Group
Main contractor: WFC Contractors
Bar system: ServaClean
Furniture: PS Interiors, Craftwood Furniture
Lighting: Northern Lights, Charles Lethaby Lighting, Into Lighting
Bespoke tiling: Domus Tiles
Originally published in the August 2018 print edition of Bar magazine.