Saturday, 4 September 2010

The Lonsdale

48 Lonsdale Road
Notting Hill
W11 2DE

I knew
The Lonsdale would become one of my favourite cocktail bars within 20 seconds of walking through the door. It was the giant, leather-bound drinks menu that did it. Containing more than 80 drinks recipes, described in detail, it was like a bible of booze (read it online here). This place cares about cocktails, I thought. I sympathized with our waitress who continued to hover as I set about absorbing the entire menu before making my choice. "Can I help you choose?" she begged. "Do you want something fruity?" she tried. In the end, I went for The Vesper, James Bond's twist on the martini, for which I later discovered The Lonsdale utilises Martin Miller's Gin from just down the road.

The menu, quoting directly from Ian Fleming's 1937 Bond adventure Casino Royale, described the recipe thus:

'A dry martini,' Bond said. 'One. In a deep champagne goblet.' 
'Oui, monsieur.' 
'Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it is ice cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon - peel. Got it?'
'Certainly, monsieur.' The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

The cocktail, it added, was "invented by Gilberto Preti for the author, at Duke's Hotel, London". It barely needs to be noted that such gems, such joyful pedantry, is to a drinks geek what a warm gun is to Mr Bond. The drink itself - my first conventional Vesper, as it happens (check out less ordinary Amsterdam Vespa here), was surprisingly smooth, with the gin preventing things from becoming vapid and the vodka keeping the drink from getting too botanical.

M went for a Rose Petal Martini, which was rather more prosaically described as Bombay Sapphire stirred with Lanique rose liqueur, lychee juice and Peychaud Bitters. "Beautiful and refined", said she, sounding increasingly like a drinks geek herself.

To finish, we shared a Fuego Manzana: Havana three year-old rum shaken with fresh Granny Smith apple, homemade chilli syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice (as designed by 
Danny Smith at Che, 2000). This was a moreish cocktail that refused to be branded "fruity" or "citrussy" or "sweet" or "fiery" but instead combined them all rather skilfully.

The Lonsdale is also a restaurant, apparently, but cocktail fans are welcome to come in for "just" a drink, with prices around the £8 mark. It's t
he best thing about west London by a long way.

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