★★★★★ K Bar At The Kensington Hotel
South Kensington is home to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Imperial College and the Cine Lumiere – the French cinema at the Institute of France.
While meandering around garden squares and streets such as Thurloe Square, Exhibition Road and the Old Brompton Road you’ll have a sense you’ve just turned off from the Champs-Élysées. One’s nostrils are aroused by buttery baguettes and onion-laden soup odours, as well as the remnants of extinguished Gauloises cigarettes. Oxford shirts, loafers and scarves decorate the alfresco diners and espresso-slurpers.
The Old Smoke’s French quarter is lined with classic Victorian townhouses, and amongst the Regency architecture on former Albert’s Road – officially renamed Queen’s Gate in 1859 – is The Kensington Hotel, home of their newly refurbished bar, K Bar.
As we entered the bar, familiarity washed over us like a white Burgundy at a wine tasting in Saône-et-Loire. Cosy with plush upholstery and boiserie dark wood panelling: practically a petite Cinnamon Club, but not so heavy on the literature, and with a slight touch of the Titanic’s/The Mall private men’s club. Royal blue sofas and bar stools and contemporary bulbous chandeliers. Snug and inviting – magnifique.
King of Queen’s Gate: Jameson select reserve whisky, King’s ginger liqueur, lemon, rose syrup, orange homemade marmalade. If Paddington Bear had a penchant for single malt, this would be the cocktail for him. An acute creaminess, as well as vanilla and nutty notes from the whisky, merge beautifully with the sweet fruit preserve, elevated with a zesty ginger zing. Un bon départ.
Final Letter: No.3 Gin, Green Chartreuse, St Germain elderflower and lime. Mouthwash-fresh, with earthy cardamom and strong juniper tones. Herby, flowery and punchy.
Niblettes arrived at our cosy leather arm-chaired-corner to fuel the testing experience.
Welsh rarebit: a hint of mustard, crispy – bien. Red pepper hummus feta and grilled flatbread: smooth with a smoky sweetness. Fried golden Cenarth brie cranberry sauce: quality cheese – lifted by the tart berry condiment. Iberico ham croquettes, crispy squid with Romesco sauce – missing something memorable. All better value than a couple of garlic-buttered snails in view of the Eiffel Tower – under £7 each.
Spiced Honey Mule: Maker’s Mark bourbon, honey, red chilli, lime and ginger beer. Presented in a brass cup brimmed with crushed ice and garnished with mint and lime, you’ll feel as though you’ve won a prize. Energetic pep aromas hit you first – like a Christmas candle. Woody and aromatic with a pungent spirited punch. Boudoir antics in a beverage – a thrilling imbibe.
Aviation: No.3 Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur, lime and sugar. Sharp with a violet and fruity bouquet. Powerful enough to unblock a drain. Not everyone’s cup of chamomile and manuka-honey cha.
We weren’t just feeling the love and passion from the well-constructed alcoholic concoctions; the crew are sharply dressed, warm, and know the menu down to the last cumquat. Claridge’s and the Savoy have a new rival. Bring ya Otis Batterbee slip-ons, you won’t want to leave rapidement, if at all.
We rounded the evening off with a couple of Crème Brûlée Martinis: Vanilla rum, cream caramel syrup and amour. It was like sipping liquidised tiramisu. Gloopy and rich – so naughty – lush.
Whether you’re a bon viveur, you’re wishing bon anniversaire, or you simply need to re-bond with a chum, colleague or amoureux, head to South Ken’s K Bar for un petit peu of luxury, without denting ya blue-thalassa-lined calfskin Hermès wallet with cocktails at only £10 a pop.
Reviewed by Thabian Sutherland
Address: 109-113 Queen’s Gate, London SW7 5LR
Telephone: 020 7589 6300
Price: ££££ (explained)
Rating: ★★★★★ (explained)