Falling for My Valentine on Pall Mall
With chic Art Deco decoration and some creative chaps behind the bar, you could drink “My Valentines” all evening at the St James’ Bar – or perhaps take yours there for a fun evening
Review by Mike Turner
I’d never been to the Sofitel down on Pall Mall before. To be completely honest, it’s not a part of town I spend a lot of time in. Wine writing wages don’t always seem to add up to rubbing shoulders with the great and the good of London down on the swankiest of swanky streets. However, when the invite to check out the newest range of cocktails at the St James’ Bar at The Balcon restaurant came so hot on the heels of Riddle’s review of the restaurant there, it seemed a bit too much like fate to turn down.
The Set Up
A few years back they took the idea to model the bar on the 1920s chic of Coco Chanel’s Paris apartment, harking back to the golden age of the cocktail bar in Europe. Now normally I’m a white walls and wooden floors kind of guy – I am married to a Scandinavian after all – but there’s something about Art Deco that does it for me. The mix of the clinical lines, the Asian influences, and beautifully designed mirrors (that were struggling to hide my December pounds), were tastefully done. It’s a stylish and relaxing place to sit and have a drink with your missus or your mates.
What To Order
Sure you can come along and order a beer if you like, but when you’ve got a bar stacked full of keen cocktail makers it’s kind of rude to just leave them standing there, right? All the cocktails on the menu have been designed by members of staff. Whilst there I was lucky enough to try the gin-inspired “Coco No. 3”, the Drambuie and whisky inspired “Mardi Noir”, and their special for Valentine’s Day, “My Valentine”, complete with teapot and rose petal.
All three were beautifully presented, which I know is par for the course these days. But what’s not always abundant is balance. I’ve been to places where the extremes of the bitterness/sweetness scale take a daily hammering. Not so here. Everything felt subtle. The acidity and alcohol, normally the killer of a poorly made cocktail, were as smooth as you like. The great upside to that is that it leaves your mouth free to go off and explore all the flavours that you’re meant to.
Why Go There?
The cocktails were great, and I’d feel more than happy taking anyone down there for a drink. But one of the biggest kickers for me was bar manager Enzo Sigaut. Let’s have it right, this is a young kid, but one that has worked his way through the bar scenes of Sydney, Monte Carlo and London, and come out literally smiling at the end of that. I never discount the feeling that one guy’s personality can bring to a place, and this lad has everything it takes to be the real deal.
So next time you’re off to the theatre, and you don’t fancy spending £15 on a Gordon’s and Schweppes, then maybe you fancy wandering the two minutes across from Haymarket and spending that on some of the nicest pre-theatre swifties I could think of. Oh and ask them about the chicken on the ceiling. You’ll see what I mean!
Enquiries: St James’ Bar, The Balcon, 8 Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5NG / 0207 9682900 / www.thebalconlondon.com/