Monday, 30 May 2016

Pennethorne's Cocktail Bar at Somerset House - Review

I seem to be going cocktail-crazy lately. From New York SATC tours and Soho basement bars to homemade attempts, it's been fun experimenting. Now, I believe I have found my newest favourite cocktail bar here in London town: Pennethorne's at Somerset House. Not only are the cocktails absolutely delicious, but they also serve tapas dishes, and you can enjoy it all on an alfresco terrace. The cobbled courtyard is nestled in the grounds of the new West Wing of Somerset House, between the Strand and Waterloo Bridge. With the Thames just over your shoulder, this little Victorian haven is one for Londoners in the know.

The terrace at Pennethorne's
Photo courtesy of Crisp Media

I was invited along to sample the new Spring menu and the eponymous cocktails. A beautiful Thursday evening in London, the iconic Somerset House set the scene for this elegant bar in the West Wing. Named for the architect whose Victorian designs can be found all over our city, Pennethorne's interior has high ceilings, inky dark walls, arched windows and décor inspired by Pennethorne's Grand Tour of Europe. Outside on the cobbled courtyard, the bustling West End not a stone's throw away, the secluded setting has a cosy Victorian vibe where you can enjoy alfresco cocktails away from the usual tourist trails and the river breeze.

Greeted by Mercedes, a name in keeping with the opulence of the bar, we walked through several champagne-swilling parties to our leather and velvet banquette. Mercedes, and the bar manager, Jo, treated us like VIPs all evening, recommending cocktail after cocktail and presenting us with a tapas-style feast representing their artisan menu inspired by Pennethorne's travels to Spain, Italy and France. Not usually a huge fan of olives or mushrooms, I'm now converted. The gordal olives were soft and flavourful while the mushroom toast had recently been taken off the menu, but so many regulars demanded it back it's now featured again. And it's easy to see why, all the food is simply cooked with seasonal ingredients and presented beautifully, tasting delicious.
Ham and cheese croquettes melt in the mouth, while the soft centred eggs are complemented beautifully by Spanish bacon. The frittata, though slim, is packed with flavour and more than filling.
One of the cheeses has a red wine skin. Need I say anymore?

Cheese platter, Meat platter with chutney, eggs with Iberico ham, bruschetta, mushroom toast, ham and cheese croquettes, frittata, and gordal olives - just some of the delicious menu on offer at Pennethorne's for Spring.
Bacon and Egg, Pennethorne's style
Photo courtesy of Crisp Media

The real reason we were here, of course, was for the cocktails. There were many post-work people supping champagne, there was a couple enjoying a wine flight and there was craft beer on tap. But we were here for some classic elegant drinks. First up was the Somerset and The Royale. Vanilla Galliano, Lemon, Passoa, Passionfruit and Pineapple served in a coupe glass and garnished with an edible flower was the Somerset - sweet, fruity and slightly fizzy. The Royale was a twist on the classic, with Martini Bianco, Peach Vodka, Strawberry Liqueur, Chocolate Bitters and Prosecco, again with an edible flower to give it a real sophistication. Both delicious.
The ever-attentive Mercedes took the liberty of bringing us the second round, this time The Herbalist and Lavender Fields. The Herbalist was fruity but with a kick of cracked black pepper and garnished with fresh coriander - made with in-house infused coriander gin and strawberry liqueur. Lavender Fields was fresh and fizzy, with Bombay Sapphire gin, green tea, fresh apple juice, ginger syrup, and lavender bitters. On top, of course, a purple flower.

Somerset, The Royale; The Herbalist, Lavender Fields;
The Herbalist, Lavender Fields; The Strand, El Patron

The Somerset
Photo courtesy of Crisp Media
For dessert, Pennethorne's just serve cocktails. My kind of dessert! Instead of calorific stodgy sweet pudding, we were treated to two more cocktails, as recommended by Mercedes, and once we tasted them, we could see why they were the perfect end to a meal, and no better substitute for dessert. El Patron was made with Coffee Patron, coconut rum, Amaretto, pineapple and chocolate bitters. All the elements you need in a dessert, creamy and sweet, looking like a cute Guinness in a martini glass, tasting like chocolate pudding in liquid form. The final cocktail, The Strand, finished the evening off perfectly, a blend of whiskey, cassis, homemade honey syrup, walnut bitters and ginger ale. A nightcap before heading back out to a bustling Thursday evening in Covent Garden.

Without a doubt I will be returning to Pennethorne's, both for the food and for the cocktails. The exclusivity of the bar and the Victorian vibe of the courtyard in the sunshine makes it one of those hidden gems that we who live in London love to about, but can't keep it a secret.

Huge thanks to Mercedes and the rest of the staff for having us.

Pennethorne’s, The New Wing, Somerset House, London WC2R 1LA

Monday to Friday, 8am to late, Saturday 10am to late (closed Sundays)
Food served from 5.30pm

Cocktails £8.50-11
Tapas Dishes £5-7
Meat or Cheese Platters £12.50

Read my review for Fabric Magazine here.

Pennethorne's Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Square Meal

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