Style and substance
Housed within five former townhouses in the heart of Fitzrovia, the London Edition is introduced with a fabulous expansive lobby bar that takes in plush sofas and an assortment of beautiful people including families, couples and groups of friends. There are also businessmen, hard at work and making use of the handsome, Donald Judd-inspired black walnut communal worktable. Above my head, an enormous Faberge-style egg gives a nod to the London Edition’s former occupation as the residence of Carl Fabergé himself.
The London Edition’s restaurant – the Berners Tavern – branches off the lobby to my right. Decorated with 211 pieces of modern artwork by London artists, it is a dazzling sight. The huge space is framed by a bar at the rear and an open kitchen to the side, where you can catch a glimpse of the staff hard at work under the guidance of Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton. Back at the lobby bar, the barmen are putting on their daily show where they take a huge block of ice and chop it up to be used as part of their intricate cocktail making. Ice plays a large role in the Punch Room, a fumed oak-panelled bar tucked away at the far end of the reception area. But we’ll come back to that…
Up on the first floor, a maze of luxury carpeted corridors lead to my guest room – a bright space with oak flooring, an oatmeal coloured lounge chair, expansive work desk and king-sized bed. I will later find out that it is one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in and I am informed the next morning that many guests ask to purchase their mattresses after enjoying a blissful night’s sleep. Each room at the London Edition is designed in a unique style to resemble a ski chalet or private yacht, with cool colours, polished woods and low lighting.
Sweet and sour
As I am here for the cocktail experimentation, I head back down to the Punch Room. A den-style bar designed to emulate a nineteenth-century private London club; it features two adjoining rooms, chocolate brown and deep emerald furnishings and an elegant atmosphere. The bar has been created to raise the profile of punch and honour its position as the original cocktail. Only the highest quality spirits and ingredients are used with the aim to create classy and stylish drinks. Five of the cocktail mixes have been designed to mimic original and classic cocktails while the others have come about as a result of the extensive experimentation by the skilled barmen. The Jamaica Flower Punch falls into the latter category; made up of Altos Blanco tequila, lime juice, hibiscus tea and blackberry foam; it is absolutely delectable with a sweet, fruity taste.
We then sample one of the classic cocktails, the Milk Punch. The mix of cognac, rum, brandy, green tea, lemon juice, pineapple muddled with spice syrups and clarified milk is extremely fragrant and I feel like I am practically drinking it before I have even had a sip. I am initially apprehensive as I am not a fan of milky cocktails but I am surprised to find it is delicious, like an alcoholic Chai tea. The nutmeg flavour is fairly intense and I learn that in the 19th century, very wealthy men used to wear a nutmeg grater around their neck. Worn as a sign of affluence, they would then use it to grate their own spices into their punch cocktail.
As the barman explains, the Punch Room aims not just to create top quality cocktails but also to provide guests with an entire experience. Drinking punch was traditionally a very social event and in honour of this, the drinks are served in punch bowls for two, four, six or eight people. The cocktails are ladled into short glasses with a large block of handcut ice in each. At this point, we ask to sample a more sour drink and the classic Edition Punch is placed in front of us. Consisting of gin, lemon juice, oak moss syrup, orange blossom water and jasmine tea, the flavours fuse beautifully. The talent of the barmen at the London Edition and the quality of the ingredients is evident as the flavours mingle to just the right level. Between the two of us, we ladle out around four glasses each from our punchbowl making this a splendid value experience. The music has been carefully chosen and the soft sounds of vintage soul, Ragtime and Blues provide the ideal complement to the entire, very enjoyable, experience.