When I learned that the last menu at London’s Quaglino’s was inspired by their strong commitment to sustainability, I was not entirely surprised. After all, we live in a post-Greta Thunberg kind of world. Even the poshest of establishments have done away with single use straws. But what makes the latest menu from Quaglino’s unique is the list gives voice to dreams.
And, the St. James establishment is not bashful about including dreams that may be more political than one would typically find in a luxe British establishment. Maybe, that speaks to our times. The contemporary world is plagued with far too many important crises for us to stick to simple pleasantries. But we may as well discuss these big issues over a fine cocktail.
Dream Dream Dream
Quaglino’s new menu is organized into three—not always evenly blended—themes. “I Wish”, “Wine my Way” and “What would this Season Taste Like” comprise the sections.
I had the opportunity to explore some of the newest elements on their “I Wish Menu” via a recent press junket. This menu, available all year round, was conceived by Quaglino’s bar team, led by Bar Manager Marco Sangion and Head Mixologist Federico Pasian.
Said wishes span from the prosaic “(I Wish) It Was Always my Day Off” to the expressly political “(I Wish) There Were No Borders”. The cocktails have a dreamy quality as well, imagining different flavor combinations and defying expectations.
Lightness and Play
The “(I Wish) It Could be Spring Forever” (Hendricks Gin, Mancino Sakura, Cherry-Lychee Kombucha, Ginger bitters) is evocative of the season, complete with a simple Baby’s Breath garnish. Mancino Sakura, a cherry blossom and violet infused vermouth, offers up bright floral notes to this delicate cocktail. Leaving no detail neglected, the choice of glass allows you to breath in the umami aromas of the homemade kombucha without overpowering your palate.The “(I wish) I could fly” (Butter Washed Sauvelle Vodka, Tanqueray No. 10, Saffron, Dry Mead, Chinotto, Bee Pollen Garum), tastes like a martini concocted for a queen bee. Smooth, like liquid air, with a perfect mouthfeel that remains light and airy with a hint of sweetness.
Frequently mezcal can overpower a cocktail. However, “I Wish it was Always my Day Off” (Montelobos Mezcal, Don Julio Tequila Blanco, Wray ‘n Nephew Falernum, Macadamia Orgeat, Cardamom, Lime, Matcha Tea) cleverly utilizes a peppery, not overly smoky, Montelobos expression. The mezcal adds just the right contrast to the falernum and macadamia orgeat. Why mezcal and tequila are associated with days off is beyond me, but the cocktail is a harmonious and luxurious balance that is perfect for all occasions.
“I Wish I could Live Forever” (Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Copperhead Gin, Mancino Dry Vermouth, Hazelnut, Coconut Butter, Porcini Mushroom, Rinomato Aperitivo)is a holdover from the previous menu. Reminiscent of a Boulevardier, with a buttery warm mouthfeel, this offering is less successful. The drink tries to do too much. The prominent nose of hazelnut and porcini seem to compete rather than harmonize.
Overall, the ambience of Quaglino’s is one of style and sophistication, and its cocktails reflect that. But Sangion and Pasian also consider the textural, aromatic and visual components of each cocktail in a way that makes each experience very special. Their frequent use of homemade kombuchas and fermented wines provide a foundation for the team to continue their explorations. One wonders what they will dream up next.