Overlooking the Tower of London and the gorgeous Trinity House, the Sky Lounge of the Doubletree Hilton has been revamped into the wildly beautiful Savage Garden.
From the sweeping view of old London to the stunningly modern decor, the bar evokes a sense of expanse and clashing beauties that gives clout to the bar’s name.
From the dining room, to the hall and main bar, to the two terraces hosting carnivorous counters for seafood and meats, to the Beefeater (We’re next to the Tower, so) gin terrace and Jägermeister bar, the enormous venue attempts to cater to all eagerly making the most of the sun by sunset – which is met with a live band in the main bar area overlooking Tower Bridge.
We were immediately welcomed with citrus buttermilk chicken sliders, crisp and brought to life with kimchi slaw and Korean gochujang-inspired ketchup, and soon after moreish beef sliders served in threes on a bone. Our time on the sunset terrace was accompanied by crispy prawn toast with a delightfully smokey bacon jam. The venue wants to make something very clear: they know their proteins.
Worry not for vegetarian options! Not far away we found the honey miso aubergine burgers served with fried green tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in their glorious red brioche.
Not that we’ve forgotten about the cocktails!
Opening we have the Devil’s Advocate: Olmeca Blanco tequila meets pink grapefruit and lemon, blackcurrant and sage. Outside the deceptive name and the threatening chilli garnish, this drink is incredibly tame for the light drinker – though I suspect it might sneak up on you.
This vegetal tequila mingles smoothly with the sage, that adds a pleasant contrast to the sweet blackcurrant and bright grapefruit.
Now if you’re looking for something slightly punchier, you wanna check out the Flambard Colada, inspired by the infamous Ranulf Flambard – first prisoner in the Tower of London, and the first to escape it – Havana Club 3YO rum mixes with pineapple, cucumber, topped up with Ayala champagne and a hint of absinthe. I found toning down the cucumber and upping the absinthe did wonders for this cocktail as a less creamy alternative to the tiki classic.
The marzipan of the rum stands out on the nose, and the cocktail itself packs a punch though it might seem innocent at first glance. The initial cucumber fades to a subtler pineapple that accompanies the champagne, waiting for the absinthe to cut through. Should probably relax on the garnish though, visually speaking.
The Wild Poison makes a great long drink to relax with. Wild Turkey 101 bourbon, Merlet apricot brandy, cloudy apple juice, smoked pine syrup, Campari, with the garnish of ‘poison apple’.
The simplicity of the visuals is refreshing, while maintaining a solid theme, which I like. And though it is one of the sweeter drinks tried that evening, it isn’t offensively so (we are all aware by now of my struggle with sweet cocktails). You might take your time with the heaviness of this cocktail, but the mix is wonderful.
The USA has seen several renditions of the Apple Bourbon with a hint of sweet, so here Savage Garden takes a well-loved homemade goodie and give it a London up-do. This summery take on an Autumn cocktail uses Merlet apricot brandy in place of the oft-used honey or maple, while balancing out some of the excess sweetness with smoked pine and bitter Campari – making it accessible to a wide range of palates.
Our last two cocktails were possibly our favourites of the evening, and two very different cocktails indeed.
One certainly counts as dessert: the Horny Beast comes inspired from the savage gardens of the Red Riding Hood tale in a mix of Beefeater pink gin, Aluna coconut rum, almond, lime, green strawberry, smoke and oak bitters, apple, rhubarb, and cinnamon soda, served with a strawberry, lime, and black pepper cracker.
Okay. So. Let’s discuss that cracker.
This cocktail is worth getting for that cracker.
The cocktail is a swirl of flavours that settles on ‘grown up cotton candy bubblegum’ which is bizarre, and yet… works. Well. I never thought I’d find myself saying that about something I’d describe as cotton candy bubblegum, yet here we are. A surprisingly fun drink that embraces itself.
Also that cracker.
Finally, probably my favourite drink of the evening shouldn’t have surprised me from the moment I read the first ingredient.
Hey, we all have favourites.
The Lady Grey mixes Freya birch spirit, Seedlip Spice 94, apple and Earl Grey liqueur, oak and aromatic spices, topped up with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic.
Clear, composed, with a certain nobility in flavour, the Lady Grey has a running undernote of the earthy birch spirit all the way through the cocktail, as the woody and spicy Seedlip’s cardamom finds itself comfortable in the spice mix. The Earl Grey liqueur soon comes to the fore as the cocktail soon settles on the floral tonic.
If there was one thing I would add to this cocktail menu, it would be short cocktails. A lot of what we had seen was primarily topped up with juices, sodas, champagnes and tonics – and though each drink was carefully designed with a distinct personality that worked well with their length, those of us who enjoy our short drinks will have a smaller choice.
Savage Garden is a strange beast. With its sprawling square footage and variety of bars and food counters and terraces it feels like more of a touring experience than a singular bar.
One thing is for certain, with the retractable ceilings and immense view, it will always be a summer draw, so expect late night parties under this wild city’s sky.
Savage Garden LDN @ The Doubletree Hilton,
7 Pepys St,
London EC3N 4AF