Old Bengal Bar, London

The East India Company’s 18th-century warehouse in the City of London once stored spices, tea, cigars and port and, over 250 years later, it is once again a place for exotic flavours and luxurious drinks. Restaurant operator D&D London has transformed the Grade II listed building, covering over 10,000 square feet, into a range of places to eat and drink, including The Old Bengal Bar. Over the road from the bustling Liverpool Street station, the bar is a new oasis for enjoying superb cocktails in a relaxed, stylish setting.

Designer Tina Norden of Conran & Partners was inspired by the building’s history and the items once stored there. She worked on all four of the new spaces in the former warehouse – the bar, the Fish Market and New Street Grill restaurants and the New Street Wine Shop (see panel). “Each of the four spaces has a very distinct character, both due to the architecture and due to its function, which we emphasised by analogies with storage items and historic elements of the East India Company history,” she says. “Each offers a completely different atmosphere, but they share a sensibility of being raw yet refined in a subtle way and aim to be welcoming with a feel as if they have always been there.”

In The Old Bengal Bar, the design pays homage to the building’s past with timber flooring, exposed brickwork, circular pendant lighting, etched mirror panelling and columns of old ships masts. Tables are made from distressed metal and complemented by chic, plush lounge seating. Behind the impressive white marble bar are classic-looking cabinets illuminating the impressive spirits collection. At the entrance is a luxurious all-weather outside terrace with lounge seating, heaters and canopies.

The bar team, recruited from leading bars, hotels and restaurants, is led by Serbian-born bar manager Milos Popovic who worked at Claridge’s Bar and, most recently, D&D London’s Le Pont de la Tour. Others include head bartender Paresh Vadher, formerly at Devonshire Square, and bartenders László Nyiri, previously of Bár-ka in Karcag in Hungary, and Luca Esposito from London’s Riding House Café.

Milos has put together what he calls a “simple” list of about 70 original and twisted classic cocktails, divided into categories such as Martinis, Bubbles, Bloody Marys and different base spirits. While most cocktails are priced at £9.50, stand-out drinks include the Royal Daiquiri – costing £195 – made with Bacardi Gold 1930 rum.

Signature cocktails include Milos’s own Fleur De Lis, created while at Claridge’s, made with Rémy Martin XO cognac stirred with French sweet vermouth, a dash of sugar syrup and a drop of Angostura Aromatic Bitters. Some of the cocktails also use infused spirits, such as vodka infused with nutmeg, cinnamon and clove for a Bengal Spiced Bloody Mary.

Being in the City, rare spirits are in demand so there are bottles of Darroze Une Larme d’Armagnac, 60-year-old Lemorton Rareté calvados and Louis XIII de Rémy Martin cognac. There is also a fine selection of champagnes, led by a Krug, with its Clos d’Ambonnay 1998 and Grande Cuvée available by the glass. Linked to the New Street Grill next door, the bar also offers food such as the Bengal Burger made of Black Angus steak and served with dopiaza onion sauce, raita and tamarind chutney

Milos is also passionate about the use of ice so they carve their own ice behind the bar. “This is a theatre where we are making drinks and educating people,” Milos adds, “but what is really important to me is customer service.”

16 New Street, London EC2M 4TR Tel: 020 3503 0780 www.oldbengalbar.com

Note: The Old Bengal Warehouse site also includes the New Street Wine Shop (pictured) which not only stocks 600 varied bins for take-out, including rare and fine wines, but also has tables and chairs for drinking on site. With a capacity of 25, it charges £8 corkage. Three Enomatic dispensers allow people to sample a selection of wines and there are snacks including charcuterie, cheese and olives.

Originally published in the November 2012 edition of Bar magazine.

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