Head here if… you want to hang with a well-heeled clientele sipping sublime cocktails.
Small, intimate and very buzzy The Coburg is a sleek spot for a chic crowd to enjoy (expensive) after work drinks or celebratory cocktails.
First Things First
They’re a clever lot at The Connaught Hotel. In fact, we hope they’re high-fiving each on the way they’ve pulled off not one but two of the finest bars in London. There’s The Connaught, all David Collins Art Deco allure tinged with Edwardian elegance, and The Coburg, its more youthful looking but no less stylish sister. While they couldn’t be more different in terms of looks and personality, there’s no denying that these bars belong to the same family. It’s all down to good breeding.
India Mahdivi is responsible for the design in this deeply sophisticated bar which looks out on to the quietly opulent streets of Mayfair. She’s gone for a classic look although the overall feel and mood is delightfully fresh and modern. So while the Connaught customers of old will welcome the gracious fireplaces, dark wood-panelling and original cornicing, young blades around town will love the quirky additions such as the Julian Opie prints cheekily sitting in cameo frames, jewel-toned wing-backed chairs and the barely there, cool-as-you-like soundtrack.
All of this provides the perfect setting from which to experience bar manager Mark Jenner’s exceptional talents. He really is the star of the show. From the way he works the room to the expertise and passion behind his carefully devised cocktail menu, it’s clear that Jenner knows his stuff. If he wasn’t so endearing, you might call him precocious. He’s like a walking, talking encyclopedia on all things cocktail. There aren’t many 25 year-olds we can think of who possess the know-how to manage a bar of this scale. Even less with his confidence and skill. Not only does he engage with each customer like the most congenial host, he could write a book or two on the history of drinks.
The extensive, cleverly devised menu is Jenner’s baby. It starts with The Sours from the 1800s and strides purposefully on to modern classics. Each drink comes with an introduction on its origins as well as a description on its taste but Jenner’s big thing is his ability to whip up any drink matched to your mood. It’s his take on the bespoke tradition employed by modern tailors like Richard James and the folk at Kilgour on Savile Row. We urge you to put his talent to the test.
Ms S has had her fair share of White Ladies, so much so, she’d probably say it was one of her favourite drinks. However, The Coburg took the White Lady experience to a whole new level… How could any drink served on a silver tray and accompanied with a single blueberry, grape, raspberry and kumquat pierced oh-so carefully on a cocktail stick balancing precariously on a glass of ice fail to attract anyone’s attention? Luckily, it wasn’t a case of style over substance, the drink more than matched its lavish presentation. For the most part, a White Lady is, well, white but here it took on a new dimension bearing an almost yellowish tinge. Intriguing and extremely delicious. The flavour was delicately sour – just as it should be but perfectly tempered with just the right amount of Cointreau. Absolutely delish.
Mark Jenner soon had the measure of Mr G’s taste and felt free to try a little creative variation. What arrived some five minutes later was a most happy expression of the bespoke philosophy. In one sense it was very much a classic but with an interesting little but significant twist, much like some of the newer boys on Savile Row know how to take an English three-piece and subtly put their mark on it. Certainly it looked every inch a classic – traditional glass, clearly well chilled and sporting a perfectly cut rectangle of peel. The aroma was deliciously citrusy. But the first sip was a revelation with a beautifully refreshing lime taste up front, very reminiscent of a Gimlet. The finish was long, strong and kaleidoscopic-like with myriad subtle flavours slipping by.
The reason for this most welcome experience was the gin at the heart of the mix. Tanqueray Rangpur Lime is, as you would obviously guess from the name, an interesting variation on one of our favourite gins. Along with the lime lead there are a host of undisclosed botanicals. (Sadly, the Tanq Rangpur doesn’t seem to be available anywhere else in the UK at the moment. More of a reason to pop into The Coburg.)
Contrary to popular belief, The Cocktail Lovers don’t always need alcohol to get their kicks. To prove the point, Ms S decided to skip the many classic concoctions on Mark Jenner’s carefully constructed list, opting instead for a mocktail. Don’t laugh, this is serious stuff… No luck on the menu, but when asked, her super-slick barman didn’t bat an eyelid at her request. The only question asked was how fruity she was feeling before he got down to the business in hand. When it appeared, her aptly titled Strawberry Delight (Fresh strawberries, apple juice, limes) looked as pretty as a proverbial picture served on a silver platter with fresh fruit skewers on the side. She knew it would taste good even before taking a sip – the big strawberry chunks floating in the long, cool glass were visual proof of that. But the taste exceeded her expectations with the refreshing, almost childlike sweetness being balanced with the grown-up tang of lime. An excellent choice, confirming Ms S’s belief that if a drink is carefully and confidently constructed, it doesn’t matter whether it contains alcohol or not.
Still in a gin frame of mind but also in need of a little refreshment ahead of dinner Mr G was directed to the Fizz Family section of the menu for a Gin Fizz (Beefeater Crown Jewel, lemon juice, castor sugar, Fever Tree soda). It looked good: tall glass stacked with ice, two straws and a lemon slice to garnish; the frosted glass and slightly cloudy liquid promised a refreshing drink. And it was. Beautifully dry on the first taste, with the gin just sitting neatly in the background to provide a nice long finish. The balance was spot on between sweet and citrus – clearly the sign of someone who knew what they were doing. And a lovely thirst-quenching aftertaste made for a very welcome palate-cleansing sensation. It followed the Martini well and set up dinner nicely. Great recommendation. Great delivery.
And To Eat?
Helene Darroze adds further excitement to The Coburg offering with her posh bar snacks. Ms. S’s sophisticated tapas includes foie gras Landes crème brulee, green apple sorbet and peanut cappuccino (£9); haas avocado mousseline, caviar from Aquitane and cold shellfish consommé (£18), rising to caviar for up to £440 a go.
Look Out For
The drinks menu is in itself an experience. Neatly working its way through about two hundred years of cocktails it shows knowledge, passion and fun.
What’s The Damage?
At around £12 it certainly ain’t cheap but for the all-round experience and opulent surroundings, we think it’s good value for money.
Ms S says:
The carefully considered lighting, opulent living room vibe and expertly presented cocktails makes this an ideal spot for serious dates. Failing that, pitch up with a girlfriend and just enjoy the delightful setting.
Mr G says:
I really like the way that it manages to have an informative and educational drinks menu, but at the same time still be light-hearted, delivering exceptionally good drinks in very relaxed surroundings.
Carlos Place, W1K 2AL. T: 020-7499 7070. Find it here