Tucked away behind the Afternoon Tea Foyer in London’s Savoy Hotel is the Beaufort Bar. Slightly less well known than the acclaimed American Bar around the hotel’s corner, the Beaufort is a gem in its own right. I recently visited the cabaret stage-turned bar in search of some new tricks from the Beaufort’s brand new, magic themed menu.
Admittedly, I don’t frequent the Beaufort often, largely because the drinks are pricey, even for London—the cost of a standard cocktail averages about £25. So, I’ve always thought of it as a special place, a rather elegant destination reserved for unique occasions.
And, it’s a shame that I don’t visit the Beaufort more often because it is a place where guests are immediately made to feel comfortable. Although a press junket drew me here, many of my fellow patrons were clearly regulars. They greeted the bartenders as old friends providing additional confirmation of the congenial atmosphere.The emphasis on comfort also means that this bar is not judgmental about their cocktails. We’ve all been to those bars where ordering a glass of wine elicits pained looks of disappointment from the bartender. Not so at The Beaufort Bar.
The staff want you to feel right at home ordering whatever you want—secure in the knowledge that they will not only deliver, but deliver something a bit more elevated than you anticipated. And if you don’t know what you want? Their expert and attentive team can help you navigate the menu to help you find just the right thing.
And the menu is the thing. Just in time for Halloween, the Beaufort launched a new menu titled (and themed) “Interpreted Magic.” The new list is divided into three sections: The Pledge, The Turn and The Prestige (yes…like the movie). Physically, it’s a beautiful book, a pro print job about as big as a diary, with each section distinguishable by colour. The sections reflect different types of spirits, as well as cocktail types, with the more spirit forward and whiskey focused cocktails sitting in the final “Prestige” section.
While I am generally skeptical about over-complex menu descriptions, the Magic menu is pretty easy to navigate. Each page features a simple description of the inspiration for the cocktail—an important event or personality in magic or in some cases, science—as well as the elements of each cocktail.The descriptions paint a broad picture, but—fitting a great illusionist—leave an element of surprise. When executed perfectly, the inspiration detailed in the menu is ingeniously manifest in the cocktail. Words become flavors.
The tale of Snow White’s first bite of a crisp winter apple is evoked in the Allure cocktail (Grey Goose Vodka, Martini Ambrato Vermouth, Apple Blossom, 30&40 Eau de Vie, Apple Cordial, Malic Solution, Saline). Voodoo traditions come to life in a sultry boozy Tennessee Voodoo (Jack Daniels Single Barrel Rye, Martini Rubino Vermouth, H. Theoria Hysterie Liqueur, Banana, Angostura Bitters), a mysterious take on a Manhattan with banana undertones. There’s even a couple of cocktails that evoke that dry British humour while telling a story of magic gone wrong (I’m talking to you Twice Shy).
Occasionally the written inspiration feels like too much of a stretch for the accompanying cocktail, but usually that was a problem for the scribe, not the shaker.
The cocktails are fascinating and served in the Savoy’s elegant stemware. Yet, the drinks remain accessible, always easy to drink and perfectly balanced. The secret ingredient is a creativeness that keeps guests wondering. “What mind could dreamed up the idea to include lettuce cordial or cucumber oleo saccharum in a cocktail…and made it work?”
Apparently, the answer is not just one mind. Under the guidance of Head Bartender, Elon Soddu, every member of the team contributed to the menu. I sampled drinks created by bartenders Jo Last and Victor Maggiolo, and I look forward to seeing what else they’ve got up their sleeves.Although the cocktails take center stage, Beaufort also offers a companion food menu. Sharing plates are thoughtfully designed to pair with the cocktails. For example, the tiger prawn ceviche decorated with apple blossoms, tobiko, yuzu pearls and passionfruit, pairs exceptionally well with the Allure cocktail, and very likely several other cocktails in the “Pledge” section of the menu where it is offered.
And it would be great to see the non-alcoholic offerings that were included more seamlessly integrated into the menu. But the great thing about introducing a menu is it gives the chance for a bar to stretch it wings and explore new creative paths, and this menu soars, but still remembers to take us with them.