What: As much I love summer, nothing beats a crisp, cold London winter day which you spend, after a brief walk along the Thames, setting the world to rights, cocktail in hand, cosied up in a bar decked out with books. It’s not all glamourous though, afterwards I’ll have to return to my house which is still like a student digs (someone stole our bathroom plug the other day). The other night there was a slight chill in the air and so I headed straight to Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London to start setting the world to rights. Named after and described by renowned British artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe as his ‘personal art gallery’ it’s just the sort of bar to go to, when you want fine cocktails, grand but snug surroundings and live jazz.
New? Whilst the bar isn’t new they did launch a new cocktail menu earlier this year, it’s a playful look back at key characters from the last eighteen years including The Queen, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and JK Rowling.
The Look: Scarfes Bar has that old school charm to it, with rich woods, low velvet arm chairs and little nooks and corners to hide away in. At one end, a fire is flanked by a wall covered in book shelves and a long bar with high stools lining it looks like just the sort of place you’d order a stiff drink before bed. You’ll also find Scarfe’s own paintings on the marble walls, stopping the bar from being stuffy and creating excellent talking points.
On the Menu: The current cocktail menu has seen created by the expert mixologists and designed by Gerald Scarfe. Each cocktail is based on a different political, social or cultural event from each year, starting in 2001 and finishing with the Prince Harry’s wedding this year with the rather apt ‘Off the Market’ and so the menu isn’t just a cocktail list, but a look back at the last eighteen years, with each drink accompanied by Gerald’s sketches and a passing commentary on each event. I read the thing cover to cover, I also wonder how many unscrupulous drinkers try to pocket one.
What We Ate: There’s a decadent menu of snacks to accompany the cocktails, make sure you order the Hampshire brie croquettes. If you don’t like sharing then I recommend getting two portions, yes, it’ll probably be too much but it’s also even harder to give up the last gooey, melting cheese bite. Make sure you order the chunky masala chips too and the bone marrow flat bread too.
What We Drank: We started with the Off the Market, a toast to Prince Harry and Megan Markle. Served in a hip flask it’s made from Royal Salute 21yo, saffron, Algarve figs and ginger effect, if you like stronger, shorter drinks then try this. Look out for Prince Harry’s “receipt” from Gingas complete with list of actresses he can marry. For a fragrant, creamier drink then head back to 2009, the year that Derren Brown guessed the Lottery numbers and Danny Boyle swept up at the Oscars with Slumdog Millionaire. The sunny yellow drink topped with dried flowers is made up of Ketel One, Greek yoghurt, Indian spiced and R de Ruinart Brut.
Like a kick to your drinks? Then the Booyakasha! is what you need (this is why I like Scarfes Bar, it has a mischievous side to it). Habanero is matched with sweet dried mango and tart pink grapefruit, Guzano, Verjus, Martini Rubino and Patrón Silver. It’s got a fiery tang to it.
To celebrate the Queen turning 90 they could have gone with the classic gin and Dubonnet but instead they created the Little Cabbage made from Enigma, jackfruit, Coronation scent and Perrier Jouët Grand Brut.
Go With: For me, Scarfes Bar is either the place I’d go to when I want to have a good discussion, a couple of us would occupy a table and really get stuck into something we’ve all been talking about whilst the cocktails flow; or it’s the place I’d go a little later in the evening, for a nightcap with my date, somewhere to listen to the live jazz and not think about returning home to my plug-less bath.
Where: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EN, www.scarfesbar.com
Final Word: I don’t know Gerald Scarfe so don’t want to pass comment on whether he is like this or not, but if I was to personify Scarfes Bar, it would be a slightly eccentric, charming, quintessentially old school Englishmen, who likes to get a bargain in Asda but most probably went to somewhere like Harrow.