‘Unabashed, well groomed with a lustful attraction for the finer things in life’ – if Mayfair happened to find itself on a dating app, this opening line would pretty much sum it up.
The flashy neighbourhood holds true to its classic Monopoly board depiction as one of the Capital’s most extravagantly fetching, billionaires playgrounds, discernible from the uber luxe boutiques and unprecedented five-star hotels, to the top drawer Michelin retreats and of course, palatial cocktail sanctums for those polished cocktailites to indulge in an edible, gold dusted martini or three.
Quenching the thirst of the W1 postcodes café society is The Donovan Bar. This crisp and dapper aperitif habitat lays snugly on a gold threaded bed of velvet, inside the iconic Rocco Forte Brown’s hotel, whose arresting grandeur has welcomed a sacred guest-list of graceful royalty, Pulitzer Prize victors and politicians since 1837.
Based within the art adorned avenue of Albemarle Street and boasting its own dashingly suave doorman, the treasured settings that played host to the historic wonders of Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill underwent a reincarnation revealing bewitching glamour and visual temptation in 2018. The indomitable design collaboration of Inge Moore and the Rocco Forte’s Olga Polizzi, has seen the Donovan Bar serve as a bow to its namesake and celebrated fashion photographer, Terence Donovan. His evocative, black and white 1960s photographs laced and adorned the spotless glossy walls which included the Lady Forte herself, cementing the rock solid friendship bond between Donavan and the Forte family.
Basking in the limelight was the leather fronted under lit bar, glowing with hues of golden yellow and aquamarine blue, finished off with a splendacious display of ultra premium beverages. The palette of vintage green and gold swirled with grey and white aroused vibes of understated yet arresting charisma, finished off with velvet armchairs and gleaming glass cast tables with matt bronze finishings, which appeared to evoke images of a vintage camera lens.
When the cocktail magician, Salvatore Calabrese, is at the helm of the menu, it’s a sure fire warrant that you’re in for something remarkable. A former president of The UK Bartender’s Guild, his gifted passion saw him whip up his first sublime cocktail in Italy’s Amalfi Coast at the tender age of 12, and at 21 become the youngest Maitre d’ in the glittering Salerno Province. It was only a matter of time when Salvatore’s vivacious flair and immaculate mixology skills captured the limelight with London’s well-heeled clientele.
His creations included a shaken not stirred, crisp dry or a bittersweet, fruit filled breakfast martini in St James’s majestic confinements of The Dukes hotel, and his own silver spooned establishment Fifty St James Club, not neglecting the world’s most expensive cocktail medley at a heart stopping £5,500 in Mayfair’s Playboy Club.
Now affectionately dubbed as The Maestro, Salvatore’s impeccably honed mixology skills and fresh exotic flavours are seeing him woo and captivate the Donovan and Brown’s star studded guest list, and continues to earn accolades with a global golden book of presidents, royals and blue blooded patrician.
The menu selection plays on marrying original classic potions with a eccentric sassiness, evident in my first concoction of the evening of the Flower Power which got me intrigued by the promise to ‘spark your senses and ignite your imagination’.
Inspired by the 1970s and served in a dainty, martini coupe glass, the Flower Power aroused the cocktail theatrics of the evening. The earthy, wood flavours of the butterfly pea flower tea mingled beautifully with the added union of ripe lychee juice, and sweet velvet honey syrup infused with aromas of lavender. This created a head turning rainbow spectacle with its psychedelic façade, as the cocktail transformed from a striking, deep sapphire blue, to a ravishing magenta pink. The splash of Hendrick’s Gin cut through sweet fruit flavours with its dry, yet delicately silk smoothness with botanical and cucumber notes, whilst the twist of lemon served as the cherry on top with a sharp citrus kick.
With the tone of the evening and my expectations sky high, the fabulous hosts insisted on keeping the sparkle shimmering with their famed Sparkling Side Of The Moon, a homage to Pink Floyd’s first arrival on the swinging Sixties scene.
A gold punch blend of fresh fruits, spices and exclusive tipples had been painstakingly brewed in meticulously militant stages. The sweet tangy bursts of passion fruit juice and berries kicked into the heady warming notes of chamomile and cloves. Elevating the flavour sensations were the fruity spices of Cognac, twirled with the smoky oak vanilla hints of a 10 year Bulleit Bourbon, and a touch of toffee from the Grand Marnier liqueur.
The deal was sealed with the coupe glass painted with five intricate stripes from the colours of the rainbow, left to set in the fridge for at-least 24 hours. The golden nectar flowed onto a smooth, large ice cube set centred in the glass, with the final touch of a dash of ice chilled champagne bursting with bubbles for that tantalising sparkle finale.
In a nutshell
The stunning amalgamation of delectable aperitif concoctions, whilst basking amongst a sensuously decadent ambience has garnered The Donavan Bar over two glorious centuries of discerning prestige, and still continues to bedazzle the capital’s little black book of elite cocktail connoisseurs.
Whether indulging in a swift pre-dinner aperitif or basking in the bar’s ‘Naughty Corner’ with an after-dark tipple, The Donovan Bar holds an lionised legacy and a stellar hosting team, inside one of Mayfair’s most esteemed five star hotels that is truly something quite breath-taking.