Tuesday, 9 August 2011

New in town: Basil's Beach Bar, Galoupet, VOC

Perched on stilts over ice blue Caribbean shallows and overseen by the infectiously charming Basil Charles, Basil’s Beach bar in Mustique – island of choice for royals and reprobates, alongside Harry’s Bar in Venice, is arguably one of the most famous bars in the world. On inviting Basil’s legendary founder to London, Goring Hotel head honcho Jeremy Goring got his hammer out and built Basil a beach bar in the hotel’s garden to honour the visit.

The dinky shack comes complete with golden sand, fishing boats, a palm-thatched roof, polished driftwood counter and an abundance of cocktails, including the signature Mustique Mule, the Hurricane David and Basil’s Rum Punch. Built by Blue Forest, who specialise in luxurious tree houses, the Basil’s-inspired interior has quirky touches of its own courtesy of The Goring’s interior designer, Russell Sage.

Having weathered many an unseasonal storm, Basil’s Bar has sadly popped down for what remains of the summer. But fear not – head barman Brian is still serving up many a Mustique Mule in the main bar, which can be enjoyed in a plethora of pods dotted around the garden.

After a long wait, Galoupet has finally opened its pristine white doors in Knightsbridge’s über cool Beauchamp Place. Set over two storeys of a handsome Georgian terrace, wishbone chairs by Danish designer Hans J Wegner grace the swan white space, where angled mirrors perch poised for customer preening. The sleek new venture from the owners of Château du Galoupet in Côtes de Provence is the first venue in London to trial The Flute – an Enomatic machine designed specifically for Champagne. The restaurant-cum-wine shop offers an impressive 36 wines by the glass, which change frequently according to the menu.

“We chose to take on The Flute because it fits with what we’re all about – seasonal produce, and fresh, clean, ingredients,” Shaan Mahrotri, Galoupet’s operations director tells me over a glass of pink fizz, his brown eyes glinting through neon orange specs. “Most places offer average Champagne by the glass – the Flûte gives us more scope. People are adventurous now, and they want to try new things, especially in London. Ten days preservation gives us the chance to experiment.”

Mahroti plans to offer more than just Champagne on the Flûte. We’ll have a well-known vintage Champagne, our own Château du Galoupet sparkler, a quaffable non-vintage like Ayala, and perhaps a Prosecco. We’ll pull things in and out and see what works,” he says. “Others will follow suit. I’ve heard that most people who have taken on Enomatics will be taking the Flûte too – we just got there first.”

On my visit, the much-hyped Flute had yet to be delivered from Italy, so I didn’t get to sample its liquid pleasure by the measure, but Mahroti plans to send out tweets to all his followers when he puts a special bottle on, so it sells itself. “It’s a good way to create a buzz,” he says, excitedly. Food meanwhile, draws on Mediterranean and Asian influences, with Chris Golding of Zuma, Nobu Berkeley and The Square fame behind the chopping board.

A quirky addition to London’s already throbbing bar scene is VOC in King’s Cross, a stone’s throw away from adorable Sherry bar Pepito in Varnishers Yard. Billed as London’s first 17th century cocktail bar, VOC is the brainchild of Fluid Movement – the mixologists behind Marylebone’s Purl and the Whistling Shop in Shoreditch. Taking its name from the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) – the world’s first multinational corporation capitalising on Asian trade goods in the 17th century, VOC specialises in house-blended spiced rum and bespoke, barrel-aged cocktails matured in wax-sealed apothecary bottles, each individually labelled with the date of creation and priced accordingly.

Decked out like Phileas Fogg's drawing room, complete with swashbuckling Moorish busts, telescopes and humidors, shelves are stacked with Dutch genevers, arracks, bourbons and rums from the Americas. The exposed brickwork walls are adorned with apothecary bottles and barrels suspended precariously from the ceiling. At night, flickering light from giant church candles casts atmospheric shadows. In the seventeenth century, punches were one of the earliest examples of a mixed drink, and were traditionally made with five ingredients including a spirit – either Dutch gin or arrack made with coconut palm.

VOC’s punches run a gamut of styles. The Dog's Nose unites Tanqueray Rangpur with fresh horseradish, Meantime porter, fresh citrus, spices and honey. For a theatrical serve, try one of the flips, which are warmed with an old poker heated by a flame on the bar. Outside, a covered courtyard offers an al fresco space to indulge in the bar’s cigar selection, which has been dutifully matched to the cocktail list. Dust off your hiking boots, locate your walking stick and make the pilgrimage to VOC – the Zoltar-like bust in the entrance merits the exploration alone.

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