A 3.5million pound face-lift later, Quaglino’s has reinvented itself into the enormous, Fashion Week meets fin de siècle-stage and live music venue it is today.
Compared to the airy, minimalist, marble and mirror affair it was before, the updated Quaglino’s has developed a rather cabaret style vibe with heavy drapes and dark walls – though it could be bit more cosy now, I’d want a table hushed away, since it does risk being slightly on the ‘oppressive side of plush’, if I communicate that idea correctly.
Nonetheless, the bar upstairs is a vantage point over the main arena of the venue, and one way of avoiding the hustle and bustle downstairs. A dimly lit space, where your best bet is sitting up at the bar, where service from the team, Milos and Davide, is en pointe. Conversational, effervescent, and always up to help.
This day, Ambassador of Diplomatico Rum, Jon Lister, introduces three specials (at 7.50 each) added to Quaglino’s already lengthy cocktail menu – all using the rum range from Diplomatico, exhibiting their versatility.
Beginning with a twist on a classic, the Final Word demonstrates that rums can indeed make excellent aperitifs – by substituting rum for gin in a ‘Last Word’. Diplomatico blanco, Green Chartreuse, St. Germain Elderflower and fresh citrus – is almost deceptively similar to a Last Word (going to show you how reliant on Chartreuse the cocktail actually is!). The rum, however, softens and sweetens the edges slightly, making it a fantastic introduction to those afraid of the sour and dry edges of many gin based aperitifs.
The Final Word still keeps a bit of an edge with the peppery notes of the blanco, but its softer vanilla and sugar round out the cocktail for the drinker less accustomed to Last Words.
The Swanky Panky twists the classic Hanky Panky to rum as well. If Swanky Panky sounds oddly familiar, though – you’ve probably been watching too much of Bob’s Burgers.
And it is indeed made with vermouth – Diplomatico Reserva, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, and Fernet Branca. Whereas the Reserva makes an initial sugary appearance, it’s immediately subjugated by the Cocchi – orange peel and menthol suddenly dominate the cocktail, followed by the herbal and bitter flavours of gentian and quinine from the Fernet. This cocktail is nothing like what the Hoodooist expected it to be initially (smoother mouthfeel, slightly sweeter, less herbal), and instead takes a much sharper, minty flavour.
Now this one is a bit more complex, a fantastic digestif, and the ‘hug goodbye’ of cocktails – the Diplomatico Old Fashioned gives us Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva (both natural and infused with ground coffee), sweet sherry (Pedro Ximinez, if I’m correct), and Mozart chocolate bitters.
One could easily replace dessert with this drink. Though sweet (very sweet), not sickly or overbearingly so. Though Mozart has a tendency to be rather pungent, it collaborates well in this drink, helping balance out the sweetness of the sherry and the Exclusiva, as does the bitterness of the Arabica.
The vanilla, figs, and various mince-pie-esque notes of the rum are still very much present – really, this drink is dessert in a glass, covering all bases of the course, coffee and little glass of sherry.
Wonderful, though its powerful flavours means it did take the Hoodooist a good half hour to take this one down.
The regular cocktail menu at Quaglino’s is fairly long, and runs at about 12.50 GBP per drink – themed by the era of the cocktail’s release.
The Fresh As a Daisy tastes exactly how you’d expect it to – Hendrick’s gin. Muddled cucumber, elderflower liqueur and apple juice – long, refreshing, simple, classic.
The RAF got bit of an update here, Botanist gin, Maraschino liqueur, lemon juice, egg white and violette liqueur – personally couldn’t stomach it, simultaneously too sour and too sweet, bit overwhelming. I suppose if you like your drinks very, very sweet, this is it.
However, winner of the evening was easily the Fisherman – competitor in this year’s World Class Diageo cocktail competition. Talisker 10yr whisky, sage infused Cocchi Americano, a splash of Pedro Ximinez and bitters. Brilliant – absolutely wonderfully constructed. The nose is heavily leaning on the Talisker, smoky and thick, with an island beach salty touch. The drink keeps the Talisker’s intense spicy peat, with a long malty finish – smoothed out by the Cocchi Americano and its accompanying bitter quinine kick, all balanced out wonderfully with that touch of sherry for a sweeter overlay toward the end of the sip that coats the tongue.
I suppose what you must keep in mind is that the cocktails on offer at Quaglino’s are massively varied (though they lean towards the sweet and many Sours), and with the wonderful service, will be willing to knock up any classics you need. Thinking of returning for a live band and another Fisherman!
16 Bury Street, Mayfair
London SW1Y 6AJ