There’s something about the Connaught. When I first moved to London, I stumbled across the legendary hotel in Mayfair while exploring the neighborhood. Maybe it was the elegant curve of the street or the beautiful architecture of the building, but either way, I was smitten. I wouldn’t have turned down the opportunity to sip cocktails at the Connaught Hotel bar in London for anything.
It was nice, then, that I received an invitation from Travel Onion to do just that. Last night I arrived at the Connaught at 6pm and was taken through the lobby into the Connaught Bar.
The hotel underwent a multi-million pound renovation a few years back, and the bar was reconceptualized by designer David Collins. His 21st century interpretation of its Edwardian interior architecture was personified by the metals, mirrors, leathers, and lighting that gave the gray-hued bar a hip feel without betraying its history.
I sat down on one of the comfy leather banquettes that lined the front area of the bar, and met my cocktail companions for the evening. I was promptly offered a signature welcome drink to start. Soon the Connaught Bar’s martini trolley rolled up, and Head Mixologist Agostino Perrone appeared at our small circular table.
Agostino proffered a tray lined with small black vials, each labeled with a different scent. From lavender to licorice, grapefruit to ginger, the bottles contained flavors with which he could make personalized martinis.
After offering us a smell of each one, Agostino suggested flavors for each of us. He then stepped behind the black lacquer martini trolley and started mixing. A few minutes later, I was sipping a lavender martini with two plump olives. It was as good as it looked, and as strong as it smelled.
Thankfully several trays of canapes arrived at the table to save me from sipping cocktails at the Connaught Hotel bar in London on an empty stomach. These weren’t just any canapes, though. They were designed by Helene Darroze, the French chef behind the hotel’s two Michelin starred restaurant.
Small parcels of sea bream tartare with avocado were deliciously light in their crunchy pastry shells. Langoustines with lemon mousseline were equally good. The crab cakes with citrus mayonnaise were a bit too fried for my taste, but the foie gras cones with cherry were divinely rich and smooth, as was the Wagyu beef with foie gras.
The canapes disappeared as quickly as my martini, and I was ready to try another of the Connaught Bar’s drinks. This time I was enticed not by a personalized cocktail, but by a glass.
Several of the others at the event were sipping Champagne from the most beautiful coupes I had ever seen. These wide, shallow cups came complete with hand-etched details, and I wanted one. In fact, I wanted six (the bar sells them), but I was willing to start with just one.
I never knew it could be such fun to sip a drink I’m used to sipping from a glass from which I’m not used to sipping. But it was, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Champagne for the remainder of the event. Our second round of canapes had unfortunately been delivered to the wrong table, but the bar snacks and olives were so addictive that I single-handedly consumed about five bowls.
When the event was over, I reluctantly relinquished my new favorite glass and headed outside. In front of me was the Connaught Hotel’s new water feature, which had just been unveiled that afternoon. Designed by Tadao Ando, it was a flat, curvaceous pond that encircled two trees. Mist sprayed up from the fixture several times an hour and hung over the water in an ethereal scene.
It was still light outside when I left, but I had heard that the water fixture lit up at night. I will just have to return to the Connaught Hotel bar in London to see it. I can’t wait.