Wherever you find yourself in London there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see The Shard. You can’t escape the fella, it’s been creeping up on the London horizon for ages. At first, we found it a little too overpowering, like a gigantic Big Brother watching over the entire capital. But in the end we had to concede: hell, it’s got a bar with fantastic views.
Approaching it feels like an event in itself. It’s not every day we Londoners come face-to-face with a 310 metre-high building (that’s 1,016 feet in old money) – you can’t help but be the teensiest bit in awe. Thankfully, the lift doesn’t offer any IQ challenges: there’s just one floor selection, No 32 and you’re up there before you can even consider whether or not your ears have popped (which of course they do by the way).
As you head through reception take a moment to clock the scale of the place. The bars and restaurants are generously spread over three consecutive floors and thanks to some nifty design work they open out into one huge combined space looking over what seems like the whole of London.
With such an amazing vista and streamlined interior it would be easy for the drinks to be an afterthought, majoring in fine wines and blingy champagnes. Not a bit of it. Bars Manager Manuel Soro took two months to devise his clever list, divided into three sections; Classic Inspirations, Gin Inspirations and Tea Inspirations, all with a British influence but not in quite the way you might expect.
For instance, the seven drinks that make up the Classic Inspirations are all based on originals from The Savoy Cocktail Book of the 1930s, chosen to celebrate the British origins of its author and one time Head Bartender of The Savoy Mr Harry Craddock. There are another seven drinks making up the Gin section but only one is actually made with gin. Yup, you read right. Only one cocktail in the gin section contains gin. Again nodding towards Britishness with his choice of spirit our man Manuel acknowledges it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so instead focuses on recipes containing various botanicals found in gin. Sounds a little crazy but it works. And that talk of tea brings us to the last seven selections in Tea Inspirations. (Soro clearly has a thing for seven). Here the cocktails take tea as their lead, featuring infusions, bitters and cordials made from various teas as well as a Battenberg Martini to go with.
We tried one from each section (it would have been rude not to), including the Harry’s Cocktail from Classic Inspirations (Monkey 47 gin, Antica Formula, absinthe, fresh mint, olive); Old Times Revival (Tanqueray No. Ten gin, olive grappa, Nocino, Benedictine, Kümmel, Tio Pepe, artichokes) and The Camomile Lawn from Tea Inspirations (Sauternes and camomile tea reduction, Xante, quince liqueur, lemon thyme, Champagne, blue cheese-stuffed grapes), and enjoyed the lot. We advise tearing your eyes away from the stunning views for a bit and giving the drinks menu the attention it deserves.
Ms S Says
A little part of me dies when confronted with a menu bearing cocktails with more than four, five at a push, ingredients. Not only because by the time it takes me to get to the end of summary of the drink, I’ve forgotten what I’ve previously read, but also because I wonder if it’s creator just doesn’t trust him/herself with just a few ingredients. Still, I was already more than a little smitten with the views and Soro was rather charming, so I went along with it. And I’m glad I did, my drinks proved that every one of the ingredients more than earned its place in my glass. My favourite was the Stinging Tommy’s from the Gin Inspiration section (Don Julio Blanco Tequila, lemon verbena infused St. Germain, stinging nettle agave nectar, Citronge, lime juice and coriander seed nectar), really, anyone who can get that little lot working gets my respect.
Mr G Says
Aquashard is one of those places I want to go back to again and again so I can work my way through every offering on the menu. For now though my stand out drink was the Old Times Revival. It looks good in an extremely tall Martini glass which echoes the elegance of The Shard, it’s beautifully dark, has a nicely unusual artichoke garnish and is packed with rich, deep herbaceous flavour. Whatever time of year you visit try to get there early enough to watch the sun going down. The interior lighting is cleverly in sync with the ambient lighting and dims down subtlety as night comes on. It all feels very glamorous indeed.
What’s the damage?
£11.50 – £15.
Level 31 The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, London SE1 9RY. Tel: 020 7478 0540.
Photography Paul Winch-Furness