Take a hotel named after a hallucinogenic flower, add into that hotel a bar named after the powerful entheogenic plant ayahuasca, and you might think you’re in for a treat.
You are, but not that kind of treat, as the newly-opened Waeska bar is filled to the brim with creepy taxidermy, eccentric art, sensual interiors and one mind-bending stuffed half-gazelle, half-peacock-creature.
Heading up Waeska is Walter Pintus. Landing in London 10 years ago from his native Italy, Pintus has enviable credentials including the Lobby Bar at One Aldwych, the Connaught Bar and the Ritz’s Rivoli Bar under his belt.
Hotel bars are strongly rivalling the stand-alone cocktail bar, with the American Bar at the Savoy taking the number one spot in the recent 50 World's Best Bar awards, and the top four spots occupied by other bars residing in hotels.
With an established career in these bars, Pintus knows the added pressures. 'The expectation for hotel bars is always a little bit higher,' he begins. 'We have to cater for our guests as well as just customers, and we have the hotel's reputation to uphold.'
'We try to get this concept into the cocktails; we create a little bit of excitement, and bring a mystical element to the cocktails,' reveals Pintus. 'We were inspired by the mandrake, of course, a mystical and medicinal plant seen in magical potions, and the menu is based on the legends surrounding the plant.
'Unfortunately they’re not hallucinogenic. Guests would be in for a shock if they were. They just channel the mystical magical potion element,' he jokes.
Ten cocktails grace the menu, with serves such as Pintus’ favourite, the White Witch – a white Negroni twist with truffle-washed vodka, bitter bianco, Ambrato vermouth and wattleseed tincture – and the She Devil, a mix of Somerset brandy, homemade rhubarb cordial, Campari, sea buckthorn tincture and champagne.
The bar champions the use of homemade syrups, tinctures and ingredients for its cocktail menu. To create these in-house is a luxury, according to Pintus. 'We work closely with the chef,' he reveals. 'We have a deep understanding of ingredients and flavours, and take inspiration from the kitchen when creating our recipes. Waeska has all the aspects of innovation to become one of the best bars in London, but only time will tell.'
So what's in store for the slightly surreal Waeska bar? The team is busy working on a new menu that will debut in January. The new menu promises to embody the mythical theme of the hotel even more than the current iteration.
'For our success, we're counting on our team of people who work with us,' concludes Pintus. 'The most important key to success is your bar team. A bar is made by people, not necessarily drinks.'