db heads to the four times World’s Best Bar, Artesian at The Langham, to see if it has retained its magic following the departure of dynamic duo Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale.
The concept: Nestled within the plush bosom of The Langham hotel in Marylebone, the Artesian was voted the World’s Best Bar for an unprecedented four years in a row from 2012-2014.
The decadent cocktail den rose to prominence under the dream team of Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale, whose daring drinks changed London’s cocktail landscape, pushing rival bartenders to up their game in order to compete on the creativity front.
Thinking beyond the confines of the glass, the pair spent months, sometimes years developing dynamic menus of multi-sensory cocktails that not only told stories but made you rethink preconceived ideas about taste and perception.
Mind Your Step
Among their quirky concoctions were the Unfinished Business, a Manhattan aged in a leather wine skin; the Tanqueray 10 laced Camouflage served in a golden pineapple; Join the Colony – a vodka-based sip served in a giant ant; and the whisky fuelled Your Room or Mine that came in a fur-wrapped cup scented with Hermès.
The bar’s new head mixologist, Gabor Fodor, has big shoes to fill following the departure of Alex and Simone. His debut menu explores the idea of perception and how things aren’t always as they seem.
It challenges the idea of judging a book by its cover and asks us to rethink our ideas about drinks and how they should be served. The Creative Maths (1+1=3) for example, is served in a pair of copper vessels with spouts. One contains a gin cocktail, the other rye.
Each can be enjoyed in their own right, but the cocktail comes into its own when you move the spouts together and drink both at the same time, each becoming more than the sum of their parts.
The décor: In keeping with The Langham’s opulent interiors, the Artesian is all Art Deco elegance, with its purple, silver and white colour scheme. Its regal purple leather seats, high ceilings and gorgeous silver detailing on the wall panels creates the feeling of drinking in the drawing room of a rich great aunt with exquisite taste in soft furnishings and chinoiserie.
Signature sips: The Mind Your Step is fast becoming Fodor’s signature sip. Blending Zacapa 23 rum, aged Pisco and soursop (a tangy South American fruit that tastes like the lovechild of a strawberry, lemon and pineapple), the thirst quenching drink is served in a smashed glass with a chipped rim alongside edible shards of glass crafted from orange blossom-scented sugar.
The more sedate Papo Lucca meanwhile, is a twist on tiki classic the Piña Colada made with Bacardi 8 rum, coconut, papaya, peppercorn and nutmeg.
Back in the quirky sphere, the Two Memories, a refreshing blend of Star of Bombay gin, Champagne, yuzu, sakura and sloe berries, arrives in a roughly textured vessel that feels like a tree trunk and glows electric blue.
Bar bites: Nibbles are naughty by nature, the best being a savoury twist on donut-like Spanish dessert churros where hot chocolate is replaced with lashings of Parmesan, black truffle and truffle mayo.
Also on point are the umami-rich chicken gyoza dumplings and the crispy calamari with squid ink-laced aioli.
Who to know: When you arrive see if Gabor’s behind the bar. He comes from good stock, having joined Artesian by way of Gordon Ramsay’s Maze.
Don’t leave without: Ordering the Mind Your Step – the perfect Instagram update for your tube journey home.
Last word: Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale made history at this beautiful bar, leaving a legacy that lives on. It was a moment in time that can never be recaptured and future bartenders will find it hard to match their creative flair and boundary-pushing creations.
Nevertheless, their creative spirit lives on in the bar’s new Perception menu, and all signs point to equally intriguing cocktail concepts being championed in the future, so it’s business as usual at the Artesian. Kratena and Caporale may have taken a little of the magic with them when they left, but the bar continues to charm, delight and excite.
Artesian at The Langham, 1C Portland Place, London W1B 1JA; Tel: +44 (0)20 7636 1000.