Something rather fabulous has been taking place at the iconic Blue Bar at the Berkeley Hotel, and it started with the arrival of Bar Manager Marcello Cauda. Since taking on the top spot in August last year, he and the team have been busily making changes that befit a bar with 23 years of fabulousness under its belt – a bar that has entertained all manner of guests, ranging from entertainment royalty such as Madonna to cocktail lovers like, well, us.
But back to the transformation bit. When we say ‘change’, we don’t mean anything that messes with the signature Lutyens’s blue walls and legendary vision lovingly dreamed up and brought to life by David Collins Studio when it first opened in 2000. Sacré bleu! The tweaks have mostly been focused on the new menu.
Called ‘Blue Move’, the handsome, cleverly conceived edition dropped earlier this month and after a recent visit to find out more about it (and taste the results, natch) we can say, hand on heart that team Blue Bar have done themselves and the legacy proud.
Comprising of 12 signatures, the list takes in an array of flavours and styles, running from fruity and fabulous to dry and delicious, and showcased on the menu from the lightest to the heaviest drinks. “The original idea came to me after a visit to a museum shop. I saw a book called Moirémotion by Takahiro Kurashima, and I knew that it was a base that I needed to build a concept around,” Marcello explains.
You’ll see that part reflected in the visual narrative of the menu but aside from the striking optical illusion cover, the look and feel takes its cues from an old-fashioned vinyl sleeve. “It’s a nod to the music that plays an integral part in the room,” Marcello continues. There’s another important element to the design. “The overall look is based on the mirrors in the bar”, he says proudly. “They’ve witnessed every moment that’s occurred here for the past 23 years.”
No doubt those mirrors will continue to be privy to many a happy scene as guests get acquainted with the stunning selection of drinks. “We start by identifying the 12 most known cocktails – the drinks that people recognise,” Marcello tells us when asked how the team went about curating the menu. “Every guest is different of course, and they all have different tastes but as a rule they want to see something recognisable to guide them into making a choice. Once we had our 12 classics, we looked at how we could create different taste profiles as well as finding a connection of community and the inspiration behind the drink.”
A case in point is the signature Mirror Martini: “Here we have two collaborations, the first is with John Jenkins glassware where we took one of their existing designs then painted it so it looks like a mirror and you can see a reflection of yourself. The other is a collaboration with Barney Wilczak at Capreolus Distillery.” With that he pulls out a slim bottle of The Blue Bar Orchard Eau de Vie, which stars in the cocktail and is also available to buy in the bar.
“We visited Barney’s distillery and sampled some of his amazing eau de vies, we then blended perry pear, apple, apple, raspberry, damson and Bacchus to create our own Orchard – it’s like a Martinez or Gin & It, because it’s pink-tinged.”
Another John Jenkins glass collab appears in the Nitromisu, “This is our Espresso Martini-style drink where we’ve worked with The Odd Coffee Company, a super-sustainable coffee company that grew during COVID. We infuse the coffee for 24 hours with Macallan 12 Double Oak and Bacardi blend, carob, vanilla, Marsala, hazelnut and Cadello 88 then put it through the nitro and serve it in a shorter Highball glass.”
Those are just two examples of some very impressive drinks, including Roadrunner (Patrón Reposado tequila, Montelobos Espadin mezcal, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, lacto mango & orange, corn, tajin, Mole bitters); Pop Connection (Toffee popcorn Appleton 12 year old rum, cassis, cherry, poached pear, Lauren-Perrier Brut Champagne), and Bees & Love (Aberfeldy 12 whisky, Avallen Calvados, Beesou aperitif, distilled almond, turmeric, pineapple, honey, clarified lactose-free milk).
To keep them company, there’s an equally delicious selection of bar food. We’re still salivating over the destined-to-be-best-selling beef tartare crumpets: supermodel-sized bites of juicy Angus steak, topped with confit egg yolk and pickled shallots. Warning: they’re verging on dangerous, they’re sooooo good. There are plenty more must-tastes where they came from, including the likes of churros with shaved Manchego cheese and truffle, a sumptuous five-star take on the humble hot dog and Dorset crab tacos, pickled cucumber and lemon drizzle. If you’re feeling extra boujie, there’s caviar (Beluga at an extra cost) served with blinis, sour cream and all the trimmings. And, get this: at the stroke of 11pm, out come silver trays, piled high with crisp-as-you-like French fries served from tongs to guests, completely free of charge.
But it’s not just about the food and drinks. The Blue Bar’s glass pavilion has been given a fabulous rejig and is now a platform for DJs to perform exclusive vinyl-only sets, complete with new state-of-the-art decks and dramatic statement floor-to-ceiling blue tassel backdrop. Now if that doesn’t seal the deal for reasons to visit the Blue Bar, we don’t know what does. See you all there.