The St James Bar at The Sofitel London St James is a chic, elegant and inviting meeting place with its upmarket ambience and rich textures and colours, and where you will find an eclectic mix of locals, businesspeople, as well as hotel guests. The service is warm and friendly, and the background music unobtrusive.
This intimate and dare I say, somewhat decadent cocktail bar has a twist of French and British influences with its rich mohair velvet banquettes, opulent jewel shades complementing brass accents, warm lighting and antique mirror tables and a striking marble topped bar. This can also clearly be seen in the creation of their fun cocktail menus that tend to change on a seasonal basis.
The current ‘Imagination’ cocktail menu is what can best be described as a playful exploration of the experimental, the imaginative and the fantastical. Creative it most certainly is, with the award-winning St James Bar team using unique flavours, molecular techniques and sustainable processes to create a collection of cocktails that is sure to challenge all of your senses.
The Imagination cocktail menu, which was launched as we finally came out of lockdown, is a follow up to their award-winning ‘Passport’ cocktail menu and is a truly innovative exploration of the concept of the imagination through drinks.
In creating the menu, the bar team has used not only multiple scientific techniques, styles and ideas to create one overarching concept, but also molecular techniques such as spherification along with carbonation and foaming that allows the drinks to take new forms. They have also changed the characteristics of ice and garnishes using visual cues to trick the palate, and very successful it is too. Flavour have been experimented with by introducing fire, air and earth elements and sustainability has also been an important part of the process, using lemon husk in creative ways and producing honey from the hotel’s own beehives.
And so it was a recent early evening that I popped into the St James Bar to put their hard work to the test along with a friend of mine, who was keen to try their non-alcoholic cocktails, of which they offer two, and both I’m reliably told, did not disappoint, proving that you don’t necessarily need to add alcohol to make a great tasting drink, InTHEense being particularly refreshing. And a nice touch are the Rice Crispy crackers and vegetable crisps that accompany the drinks.
The menu itself has far too many cocktails to list, so I will simply highlight a few, including what is perhaps my favourite, Divination, which is made with vodka, premium fruit and Champagne. And if you like gin, then Van Gogh is worth trying, made with Tanqueray 10 gin, yuzu butter, Italicus, unicorn cordial, white port, effervescence and husk ash.
What Could Be is a mix of Beluga Noble vodka, mezcal, crème de cacao blanc, cacao husk, citrus, pistachio and almond milk, while Dreaming Mexico is made with Casamigos Blanco Tequila, agave & aloe syrup, pear cordial, fortified wine, yuzu and Peychaud’s bitters.
Sweet Child on the other hand, is a mix of Michter’s US*1 Rye, donut cordial, crème de peach, tobacco liqueur and candy floss.
And finally, a cocktail that’s a bit or a mouthful to say, E=m(t+6.712), which is mix of Lakes Orange Wine Cask Whisky, verjus, osmanthus tea, pistachio, peach liquor, citrus stock and fino sherry.
This really is a fun menu, more theatrical really and while using a minimal approach, the menu has a playful feel to it, with emojis and symbols instead of letters, edible photographs and liquid shapes that you can hold in your hand. The menu is a focal point, taking the form of a two-sided molecular structure where each ‘atom’ features a cocktail listing, rather than being a traditional paper or card menu, with one side of the structure offering ‘Light and Delicate’ cocktails, while the other side offers ‘Dark and Intense’ cocktails. And to round off I will leave you with this parting quote:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
St James Bar, Sofitel London St James, 6 Waterloo Place, London, SW1Y 4AN, England.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7747 2238
The St James Bar is located to the right of the lobby as you walk into the Sofitel London St James, which is on the corner of Waterloo Place and Pall Mall very close to Piccadilly Circus Tube station (Piccadilly and Bakerloo Lines). The bar is open on Sunday and Monday from 11:00am to midnight, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and open Thursday to Saturday from 5:00pm to midnight.
Type of Bar: Chic Cocktail Bar
Price Band: High, with the cocktails on the ‘Imagination’ menu ranging from £17 to £22.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of Sofitel London St James