Zoe Fryday checks in to The Berkeley, London to discover the hotel’s new luxury cocktail bar
If you’re familiar with The Berkeley, you’ll know of the Blue Bar. This legendary hotel cocktail den has a new sister venue, and its offering a fresh kind of drinking experience for residents and walk-in visitors alike. The Berkeley Bar & Terrace is the juxtaposition of its energetic neighbour, offering a calm, intimate and glamorous spot to indulge in classic cocktails, decadent light bites and even a cigar or two.
The bar’s rich interior, headed up by the award-winning design team at Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, is sumptuous to say the least, and tells a captivating story. Guests are greeted by a striking, illuminated half-moon marble bar stocked with a signature collection of premium spirits, including rare single malts and fascinating Japanese whiskies. Moving through to the central seating area, plush upholstery, a modern fireplace and various artisanal touches create a warm, inviting and tranquil ambience. The star of the show is the Snug, a chic, separate room festooned with pink velvet, Murano glass lights and a stunning mural by New York artist TM Davy. “The whole space is refined with an air of old school glamour,” says Knut Wylde, general manager of The Berkeley. “The combination of the service and interiors immediately provides a sense of knowledge, calm and real luxury.”
The dominant material in the design story is an exquisite walnut wood, taken from a 300-year-old tree felled from the Fulbeck Estate in Lincolnshire in the great storm of 2007. The delicate finish of the timber brings out the depth and intricacy of the figuring, the panels of which are used throughout the bar to cocoon the whole space. Taking things a step further, the unique narrative of the tree has been romantically depicted in a plasterwork frieze which runs above the wood panels, while the repeat Brutalist- inspired arch forms reference the home of the Grenadiers, an infantry regiment of the British Army whose stables were originally located on the Wilton Place grounds where the hotel is built.
Let’s not forget about the gorgeous terrace which overlooks St Paul’s Church. Here, imbibers can unwind in a quiet, residential outdoor drinking area, decked out with comfy seating and luscious greenery. “It feels very Belgravia,” remarks Knut. “Our neighbourhood is very important to us.”
Cigar in hand, customers can peruse the comprehensive drinks menu, which offers a fine curation of wine, champagne and spirits, spanning whisky, cognac, rum, brandy and more. “We have big names on the menu, but they’re mixed with brands that are more under the radar. We want people to make new discoveries.” An exclusively bottled Linkwood 1972, which pays homage to the year the hotel opened, takes pride of place. There are only two bottles in the world and The Berkeley has both of them.
In keeping with the bar’s tone, the cocktail list features a refined selection of Old and New World classics. Popular choices come in the form of Penicillin, a mix of blended scotch, Laphroaig, ginger syrup, honey and lemon juice, served on the rocks with hand-cut ice and a lemon twist, and El Presidente, with Bacardí 8, sweet vermouth, Marachino and orange bitters. Another favourite is Corpse Reviver #2, combining Bombay Sapphire gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, absinthe and lemon juice. There are also two non-alcoholic options: the zesty Pink Pearl and the refreshing Wilton Collins, pairing Seedlip Grove 42 with aromatic tonic water.
Guests in search of something off the menu can chat to the knowledgeable team of bartenders, who will mix up your favourite tipple with expert precision and flair. A tempting array of bar snacks are available to complement the drinks, ranging from oysters and caviar through to Cornish crab and lobster beignets. The succulent camembert chicken tulips taste sensational and are uniquely presented on an imaginative tree-like platter.
Since its launch in July, The Berkeley Bar & Terrace has received a wealth of praise from hotel guests, the general public and drinks industry professionals. In essence, it is classic and polished, but with all the innovative twists needed to appeal to today’s contemporary consumers.
The new addition offers a softer alternative – the perfect setting to unwind in the evening after dinner to enjoy anything from classy cocktails to a glass of fizz. “Our Blue Bar is much loved and has mixology and that London bar buzz firmly in its DNA. Our guests adore it, but we also wanted to offer another kind of drinking experience for those looking for an excellent glass of wine or whisky in a calmer space,” says Knut. “It is fantastic that we can now satisfy guests, no matter what mood they’re in, with both options. We think we have added an extra special experience to the hotel.”
Behind the scenes
Interior design: Bryan O’Sullivan Studio
Furniture: BOS Bespoke, produced by FRD and Ben Whistlers
Lighting: Francis Russel Design
Snug lighting: Bespoke Murano by Fiona McDonald
Snug mural: TM Davy
Back bar layered glass: Eoin Turner Glassware
Plasterwork: Fine Art Moulding
Stone Masonry: Trademark Masons
Metal Work: Fabbri Ceolin, Rathbanma
The Berkeley Bar & Terrace, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Belgravia, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL
Originally published in the September 2019 print edition of Bar magazine.