Secret Service

Dinner jackets, vintage Bollinger, perfectly mixed Martinis- 007 would feel right at home in the discreet new art-deco cocktail lounge at Claridge's
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"Where is the new Claridge's bar?" first-time visitors to the exquisitely rendered art deco room in this magical, grand Mayfair hotel may want to know. "This is the new bar," a bartender in a striped waistcoat and black suit will reply gravely. Designer David Collins, who has woven enchanting spells for some of the finest restaurants, hotels and bars in London, has done it again for Claridge's. The hotel did not have a separate bar until last year, but a restaurant with a door on to the street has been transformed to look as if cocktails have been shaken and champagne poured here since the Twenties. The hands of the numberless clock on the original art deco mirror above the fireplace turn sedately; deeply padded, circular red-leather stools line up against the curving marble bar. There is a velvety red rose on each table; a green Venetian glass chandelier and bevelled mirrors; even original art by Edward Wadsworth and Duncan Grant in mirrored frames. But the room is not oppressive with spurious history. There is no dress code, although they would draw the line at shorts. Wheeler-dealers in suits use it during the day, when the light filters in over flowery window boxes; tourists love it, but so do stars, who sometimes appreciate classic understatement. Mick Hucknall was there with Catherine Zeta-Jones; Pierce Brosnan, current incumbent of James Bond's tuxedo, wanted his Martini stirred, not shaken. In the early evening the person behind the bar ceaselessly mixes drinks to keep pace, as trays move to and fro between the tables. Later, customers settle down to Armagnac and cigars. The magnificent list has 24 cocktails, 19 malt whiskies, half-a-dozen bottled beers, wines and champagnes by the glass, and a collection of vintage champagnes, some in Jeroboams and Methuselahs. Although elegantly restrained, extravagance is not unknown here. In one evening, a couple celebrating a deal spent pounds 1,200 on three bottles: a Krug 61, a Krug 89 and a Dom Perignon 75. Some deal.

Claridge's bar drinks

The Mayfair Classic Like a Martini, and made with Bombay Sapphire premium gin, this is one of the bar's four signature cocktails. A Martini should be cold and not shaken unless requested, because the ice dilutes the drink. Martini glasses are kept in the freezer, and so should the gin be. Fill the mixing glass with ice, add 50cl Bombay Sapphire and a minuscule drop of vermouth. Stir these together for 5 or 6 seconds, then strain into a Martini glass. Serve it the way the guest wants: up (without ice), on the rocks, dirty (with 2 teaspoons of olive juice), or with a twist of lemon.

The Flapper A popular summer drink, "especially with the ladies", says bar manager Paolo Loureiro. In a blender, reduce 5 strawberries, 5 ice cubes and 2 or 3 dashes of [itals]creme de cassis to a thick puree. Half fill a champagne flute with the mixture and top up with champagne. Garnish with a strawberry. Variations on this fruity, refreshing fizzy drink could be pureed raspberries or blueberries with another liqueur, such as [itals]creme de framboise.

A glass of champagne Six champagnes: Laurent-Perrier, Laurent-Perrier rose, Louis Roederer, Taittinger, Bollinger 90 and half-bottles of Krug, are kept on crushed ice for serving by the glass. The open champagne bottle (the cork having been removed as noiselessly as possible) is wrapped in a cloth and taken to the table. The glass is placed on a coaster. "It's not right to hold a Champagne glass when pouring, and if you tilt the glass you will serve it too quickly," cautions Paolo. Hold the champagne bottle in one hand, with the thumb in the punt (the deep indentation at the base), fingers spread out round the bottom of the bottle and the label facing up. Tilt and pour very gently, very slowly, "the wrist will do the work for you". When it stops bubbling, fill the glass up again, "it gives you time to talk to the guest while you do it". Claridge's Bar, Davies Street, London W1 (0171-629 8860). Open Mon-Sat 11am-11pm, Sun noon-10.30pm.

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