Arjun Waney is a serial restaurateur and club owner operating at the top end of the market whose portfolio includes Zuma, Roka, La Petite Maison and the Dover St Arts Club. His operations are stylish and sophisticated and the food is very good. Banca is his Italian restaurant. It’s the sort of place you would hope to find in Milan and it sits perfectly in Mayfair.
Banca is situated in a converted NatWest bank. The security boxes are still situated downstairs in the private dining room which overlooks the kitchen.
But at Banca it’s not the bank you need to rob but the bar which has a great selection of grappas, vermouth, and particularly vintage amari , those deliciously bitter drinks such as Cynar and Campari that the Italians (and The Hedonist) love so much.
In Milan if you go into a bar or restaurant between about 5 and 7 p.m. there is a magical two hour period known as the ‘Aperitivo’. Order a drink and you will be presented with a choice of delicious savoury snacks. Incredibly wisely those lovely people at Banca have decided to bring this estimable tradition to our grey and fractious Isle.
Bellinis were delicious and made with properly fresh peach juice, a ‘secret ingredient’ and excellent Prosecco.
THE EGERTON HOUSE BAR Knightsbridge
17-19 Egerton Terrace, London, SW3 2BX
Telephone: 020 7589 2412
Let’s face it, the world is a cruel and hard place-The Harrod’s sale is sheer hell, going to Harvey Nicks can make you feel as if you have landed on an alien planet ,and a visit to Emporio Armani, where nothing is even close to fitting you, can lead straight to the therapist’s couch. At moments such as these only the tender ministrations of a Italian bartender will do. A comfy chair, a warm glowing fire, the murmuring of polite conversation, some olives and nuts and of course a drink, expertly mixed, will lead you out of your retail angst and restore a sense of order to the world.
Antonio, the venerable cocktail sage who runs the bar at The Egerton, has the look of a man who looks deep into your soul and not only knows what you want to drink before you do, but can also read all your secrets, foibles and weaknesses whilst remaining the soul of discretion. Let him decide what’s best for you, maybe a gin martini with Tanqueray and a lemon twist, or a warming glass of chianti? Sink into the well-upholstered chairs, enjoy the artwork and let nature take its course. The Egerton is located just behind Knightsbridge and if you want edgy, loud or trendy then go elsewhere, but for the rest of us The Egerton will do very nicely.
DUKE’S BAR Mayfair
35 Saint James’s Place, London, SW1A 1NY
Telephone: 020 7491 4840
There are times when nothing else will do than a perfectly constructed dry vodka martini and at those moments there is only man to go and see-the legendary Alessandro Palazzi. Alessandro has been managing the discrete and intimate bar at Dukes for a few years now and is the supplier of the most profound and exciting alcohol hit to be had in London. At this point The Hedonist has to offer you a health warning-one of these synapse-numbing alcoholic clusterbombs is a fantastic experience, two is great-you will probably be able to walk away in one piece, three……it’s game over-don’t go there.
The process begins with Alessandro bringing over the Martini trolley laden with a bottle of the holiest and purest of spirits-Plotocki vodka. At this point The Hedonist is already starting to feel slightly wobbly with anticipation as Alessandro tells the now familiar tale of the Plotocki family history, his comforting tones lulling you into a sense of security as the chilled rye-flavoured liquid gently caresses the glass. A few drops of vermouth are casually sprinkled in depending on the level of dryness and an Amalfi lemon twist is rubbed onto the rim of the glass and inserted. And then you take your first sip…and I challenge anyone to a duel with sharpened cocktail sticks who says that it isn’t an alcoholic epiphany. The vodka is delicious and then comes the rush of the alcohol which takes you to a better place-a place where tax bills morph into delicious edible flower-scented sugar paper and domestic problems fade away to nothingness. Your resistance will be so lowered by the first martini that you probably won’t be able to leave without trying a second one just to confirm the experience and of course all this pleasure comes at a price, but if you are worried about the price you probably shouldn’t be at Dukes in the first place.
BASSOON BAR Whitehall
Corinthia Hotel London, Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2BD.
Telephone: 020 7231 3000
If you are tired of the queues to get into the bars at The Savoy you should try the glamorous and sexy Bassoon Bar at the recently opened Corinthia Hotel. Design is by David Collins who also oversaw the interior work at the hotel’s visually stunning Italian seafood restaurant Massimo, as well as at favourites such as The Wolseley, Bob Bob Ricard and The Connaught. The style is Art Deco with music-themed fittings and artwork-evocative paintings depicting jazz musicians were sourced from New Orleans especially for the bar, the beautifully crafted door handle plays with the bassoon motif and the bar counter itself seems to extend forever as a louche extension to the piano. The bar pays homage to the past not only through its look, but also by showcasing live jazz and a drinks menu with classic Martinis dating back to 1887 at its heart. You can also sample an array of delicious homemade sodas such as Lavender and Lemon with Gin carbonated to order in the tumbler, an exciting selection of Mules including the original Moscow Mule (Vodka, Lime Juice, Lengthened with Ginger Beer) and a Champagne Cocktail list that will add fizz to any celebration. Prices are reasonable for this end of the market with most drinks at £11-£13, and bar manager Domenico exudes Italian warmth and for a grown-up drink in the West End right now this is the place to be seen.
THE LUCKY PIG Fitzrovia
5 Clipstone St., London, W1W 6BB
Telephone: 020 7436 0035
With the atmosphere of an antique speakeasy and suitably hidden away in an anonymous looking Fitzrovia basement The Lucky Pig is the perfect destination if you are looking for a fun and decadent evening out that won’t break the bank. The bar staff headed by mixologist Olly Hornby Smith (Soho House Group) are approachable and were happy to mix The Hedonist a couple of perfect off-menu Negronis that helped the evening along remarkably well. Featured drinks include the enlivening Southside Royal – Bombay Sapphire Gin, mint & cucumber, topped with Champagne – £8.50 and the fruity Very Berry Julep – Finlandia Vodka, Hennessey V.S, chambord, berries & homemade jam – £8. There is a decent selection of bar snacks and if you are feeling musical, a piano that is open to all-comers for impromptu jamming.