Zoe Fryday visits Nolita Social, the new bar making waves in Knightsbridge, London
One of the most well-heeled locations in central London, Knightsbridge is teeming with designer shops, high-end restaurants and luxury five-star hotels. A place for the elite, rich and glamorous, you can’t help but feel important as you walk the well-paved streets. There are already an array of dazzling bars and cocktail lounges in this part of the city, however a new premium hang-out has recently arrived on the scene, and its offering something a little different.
Located beneath Sette restaurant at the Bulgaria Hotel on Knightsbridge Green, Nolita Social brings the energy of the New York night to London, providing stunning interiors, signature cocktails, first-rate service and a vibrant live music programme. It’s the new London haunt everyone’s talking about. Already famous for its exclusive gatherings and events, since opening in June, the bar has welcomed a host of celebrity A-listers such as Kate Moss and Mick Jagger. As well as being a chic party hotspot, Nolita Social is a space where hotel and restaurant guests can enjoy pre and post-dinner drinks, helping them make a seamless transition from aperitivo to spaghetti to Negronis and dancing. “Nolita Social is seductive and surprising,” says Martin Henstock, manager of Nolita Social. “Our aim is to offer the perfect mix of relaxed fun with a touch of hedonism. It’s the ultimate elegant house party with the best people, without the hard work of having to host yourself!”
The intimate basement lounge encompasses different zones and unique focal points. Customers can perch at the bar and take in the glamorous surroundings or unwind in a booth with friends. The entire space is furnished with opulent, jewel-toned seating in plush velvet and sleek leather, offset with glowing pink neon signage, eclectic artwork by contemporary artist Domingo Zapata and other quirky, decorative trinkets. Nolita Social’s showstopping feature is the elongated, illuminated bar, which houses all kinds of tempting treasures to taste and explore.
An extensive, diverse music programme lies at the heart of Nolita Social. Curated by Sauce DJs founder and music enthusiast Stuart Bevan, it has been designed to offer something to fit every mood. From Wednesday through to Saturday, live musicians play until 10.30pm, followed by house DJs mixing crowd-pleasing beats into the early hours. To get customers in the ultimate party spirit, the bar also organises a roster of special events, with guest performers. The feel-good tunes, stylish design and friendly, relaxed service together create an unpretentious and inclusive atmosphere.
Guests are encouraged into the New York state of mind through a menu of quality cocktails, all named after famous songs from the 60s and 70s – a cheeky nod to Nolita Social’s live music programming. The 12-strong selection offers twists on well-loved classics, as well as brand new concoctions, underpinning interesting ingredients and flavours. Martin explains: “The menu has been designed to satisfy every guest’s needs, encompassing refreshing and light drinks like Tiny Dancer, a sparkling cocktail with vodka, grapefruit liqueur and lemongrass, as well as stronger, full-bodied tipples such as the Bittersweet Symphony, a twist on the classic Boulevardier.”
Bestsellers come in the form of Good Vibration, a lighter version of a classic Margarita, which combines Tequila Casamigos Blanco, white vermouth infused with Thai basil, cucumber-bell pepper water, fresh lime juice, sugar and a few drops of absinth, and Sympathy for the Devil, a smoky twist on an Old Fashioned, crafted with Buffalo Trace Whisky, sugar and a house bitter made with a mix of spices, chocolate chips and rye whisky. The glass is expertly smoked over wood from a Jack Daniels’ whisky barrel.
Another popular choice from the menu is Stairway to Heaven, a mix of Bombay Sapphire gin, Italian grappa, lemon juice, passion fruit puree, vanilla, rosemary syrup and lager, presenting an unusual twist on the famous Gin Fizz. Alternatively, coffee lovers can indulge in Stayin Alive, a tropical version of an Espresso Martini, made with coconut oil-infused vodka, banana liqueur, fresh espresso coffee and a touch of sugar, served in a coconut powder-rimmed coupette glass. There is also a strong collection of wine and champagne by the glass, bottled beers and alcohol-free serves crafted with Seedlip.
Nolita Social also provides a selection of appetizing light bites, available for pre or post-dining, such as tuna cones with avocado and marinated red onion, and samosas with smoked mozzarella and sun- dried tomatoes. “The light bites are made for sharing, like good times had at Nolita Social,” says Martin. “They are inspired by traditional Italian cicchetti with a New York twist, and they all complement the drinks as they are big on flavour yet light and fun to eat.”
The new Knightsbridge venue has been well received by cocktail and music lovers, fashionistas and hotel residents alike. Although Nolita Social presents the pinnacle of exclusivity, the bar has something for everyone, and the team welcome guests from all different walks of life. “Everybody feels comfortable and welcome which is what we want,” adds Martin. “We aim to continue creating the perfect opportunities for the best unplanned nights out with friends that everyone enjoys the most, and create a real base of Amici for our music and our parties.”
Behind the scenes
Interior design: Thomas Juul-Hansen
Main contractor: WFC Contractors Limited, Thomas Juul-Hansen, Jestico & Whiles
Project manager: KeyTask
Loose FF&E: Waring Furniture
Bespoke lighting: Northern Lights
Nolita Social, 4 Knightsbridge Green, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7QA
Originally published in the October 2019 print edition of Bar magazine.