Manetta's Bar, Mayfair: bar review
At the decidedly art deco Manetta’s Bar below Flemings Mayfair, we find a den of interwar opulence, smart-thinking drinks and literary daydreams
Descending the tucked-away stairs to Manetta's Bar on Clarges Street in Mayfair, you'd be forgiven for feeling like you're in a dream, playing out Owen Wilson's role in Midnight in Paris – a weatherbeaten city dweller grabbed by the scruff of the neck and borne back forcibly (albeit willingly) into the past.
Here, art deco tiling, a fluted-glass bar front and a host of waistcoated bartenders – some of whom are pencil-mustachioed like 1930s jazz guitarists – are just the tip of the interwar opulence that murmurs beneath the surface of this, a historic hotel in one of the city's most well-heeled postcodes.
A lot of this stems from the fact that in the real-life 1930s, this was a parlour frequented by people like Agatha Christie: literary types whose names, quotes and book titles now grace the menu, providing the inspiration for the cocktails on offer, both on and off the 'Orient Express' drinks list that we've previewed here.
Start with the signature drink (as it's named on the menu), a concoction of Amaro Montenegro, Cocchi sweet vermouth, Plantation XO rum and cherry bitters, which plump up the bitterness you'd associate with a negroni by adding bold, seductive flavours of cherry and molasses – it's the perfect way to slow to the pace of a bar that feels private and intimate, despite being packed with an after-work crowd every night.
Next, try The Little Cloud, a pillowy, sumptuous, coconut cream-topped piña colada spin inspired by a melancholic daydream from James Joyce's Dubliners that avoids cloying sweetness by subbing out rum for sharper, smokier mezcal.
Oh, and when you're done, leave through the decadent hotel lobby, rather than the secretive entrance around the back – it'll keep the dream alive just a little longer.
Flemings Mayfair, 7-12 Half Moon Street, W1J 7BH; flemings-mayfair.co.uk