Polished presentation, genius serves and seamless service: the new bar at Claridge’s, from the team at NYC’s Make it Nice, starts 2020 off with a bang
When Claridge’s’ new restaurant and bar Davies & Brook opened to the sound of industry fanfare at the end of last year, Imbibe was intrigued to see how the American team from Make it Nice (the NYC-based restaurant group) would settle into one of London’s most iconic hospitality giants. ‘With serious class’ it turns out.
Daniel Humm (responsible for three Michelin stars at Eleven Madison Park in NYC) is back rattling the pans in the kitchen, having started his career here over 25 years ago. And he’s already winning over restaurant critics. Meanwhile, bartender Pietro Collina has taken the mantle of bar director (in place of his esteemed predecessor Leo Robitschek, who has since left Make it Nice to join Sydell Group) to create a cocktail list that sings.
Drinks take advantage of having that hallowed kitchen and its produce on-hand to create some of their ingredients
Imbibe took a seat in the elegant dining room, in front of the pristine and paired back bar, to try the debut serves. Split into three sections (seasonal, classic and soft cocktails) the menu features 19 drinks which take advantage of having that hallowed kitchen and its produce on-hand to create some of their ingredients. As such, the bar will not be treading the well-worn path of releasing seasonal menus as we know them (spring, summer, autumn, winter), Collina explains, instead changing it up depending on what is going on in the kitchen. Zero-waste credentials are, unsurprisingly, a focus here.
We kick things off aperitif-style. First, from the classics menu, is the Dirty Martini – this imbiber’s pre-prandial drink of choice. Its vodka is butter-washed in house, resulting in a smoothness on the palate, and complemented by meatiness of the Castelvetrano olive’s brine. The star ingredient however is the boquerones (anchovy to you and me) oil which brings an added hit of umami savouriness to this serve – add a side garnish of an anchovy cracker and this might just be this year’s Martini to beat.
Next, we visit the seasonal side of the menu to try the Pear Shandy. ‘I really wanted to champion local craft brewers,’ Collina explains of the serve combining Brew By Numbers Saison, lemon, cinnamon and sherry. Served long and garnished with a full slice of pear, it’s a clever and sophisticated play on the traditional lemonade-mixed drink, but less sweet and more spicy – thanks to the genius addition of cinnamon which accentuates the spiciness of the Saison.
The softs section isn’t substantial (three in total), but it features one of our favourite drinks of the evening. The Horseradish Sour combines green apple, Seedlip Garden and verjus to create a delicate cocktail that both refreshes and invigorates the palate. A delicate grating of horseradish atop its ice cubes means each sip is accompanied by a hit of the hot stuff. The Beetroot Lassi is the looker of the trio with its layers of beet red and white yoghurt, and stays the right side of sweet thanks to its main ingredient and the addition of grapefruit.
It’d be remiss not to mention the Nori Milk Punch (now a Rhubarb Milk Punch since our visit): partly due to it being delicious, but also due to its alignment with the concept of the restaurant as a whole. ‘It ties us to our roots in NYC and is dynamic enough to explore various flavours while seeming aesthetically simple – very reminiscent of our food,’ explains Collina (a quick look on Instagram will show Humm’s food presentation style). Unlike many milk punches on bar menus, this milk punch uses green apple juice as opposed to the more conventional ingredients (lemon, pineapple) to clarify the milk. This results in a seriously smooth liquid – and the nori impressively holds its own. The addition of a D-stamped ice cube seals the deal.
And all of that served with the slickness and charm of an NYC-honed service style. The Americans, we’re very happy to say, have landed.