A Cubist Masterpiece at The Connaught Bar
Sweeping grandly around Mount Street and Carlos Place the Connaught Hotel occupies arguably the best corner in London. Winston Churchill, himself a former Mount Street resident, once said “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”. Short but to the point Churchill echoes a whole branch of phenomenological philosophy put forward in piercingly astute, yet deeply profound, works by exponents such as Gaston Bachelard, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki and Juhani Pallasmaa. Each noted how seemingly small elements of architectural and interior design connect with our dreams, internal thoughts and feelings about our environment to further enrich certain buildings with meaning. Any designer of public spaces—and hoteliers especially—would do well to take note. With such writing in mind it is perhaps testament then to the skill of David Collins Studio that the Connaught Bar is the perfect embodiment of the Martini for which it has become so famed. If indeed someone should ask what a Martini tastes like, and you find yourself in the unthinkable position of not having the necessary ingredients to hand or suitably chilled, then I recommend you reach for a photo of the Connaught Bar itself: The faceted, mirrored, silvered-leaf surfaces, and the angular cubist Pierre Bonnefille murals all combine in a subconscious evocation of that perfect, cool, cutting, liquid concoction. If you’ve been lucky enough to taste even one sip of a Martini whilst ensconced in that elegant enclave, then a mere glance at those interiors should have you in Proustian-esque revelry—for at the Connaught the Martini becomes more cooler, cleaner and refined than ever. A Connaught Martini enjoyed in its home becomes forever etched into your memory and bound in association with the taste and sensation of the venue itself. The cool, crocodile-hide embossed seats echoing the texture of lemon peel in your glass; the striation of the marble floor reminiscent of blocks of frozen ice; the sleek angle of the glass perfectly at one with the room itself.
If Collins’ design pre-conceived the idea of the perfect Martini it is Head-bartender Agostino Perrone who has brought that Martini into being. Ago is at one with his surroundings—the sharp angles of his collar, tie and suiting finding perfect parallels with the lines on the walls to further the pure singular aesthetic. Beyond this however, with Ago as showman and ringmaster, the Bonnefille mural is given life as set design for a unique Cubist masterpiece of performance art not seen since Picasso collaborated with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. The Connaught Bar menu becomes playbill, the arches across the room a proscenium, and the stars enter one-by-one in perfect costume from stage left. Under Agostino’s direction the trolley and table-side serving of the Martini into a frozen glass is elevated to high theatre—literally. Poured from aloft, the Martini pierces through clouds of squeezed lemon zest as it streams with the acuity of an icicle into the waiting glass below. Martini making at the Connaught offers the surgical precision of a knife-thrower, the tension of the high-wire, and the awe of magic—skilled artistry combining into a single spectacular performance, undertaken nightly on the best stage in London.
Any successful long running production is a result of an entire corps working as one and Ago is supported by a wonderful cast. Giorgio, Head Mixologist, is the rich vermouth to Ago’s pure spirit. Each member of the team adding further colour to the evening like the Tonka Bean, Cardamom, Lavender, Ginseng and Bergamot, and Coriander bitters that grace the Martini trolley during the main act.
In an age where home drinking and cocktail-making is on the rise places like the Connaught give us reason to leave the warmth and soft comfort of our homes and seek out the perfect cocktails of our dreams and fantasy worlds.
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David Collins Studio