Il Bar at the Bulgari Hotel

Words by Ian Cameron on 13-Jun-2012

Address: 171 Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1DW , United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)207 151 1010
Style: Hotel bar
Food: Bar Snacks


We spied predictably well-dressed gents, beautiful girls, glamorous ladies - and Nancy Dell'olio - at Italian fashion house Bulgari's new London hotel in Knightsbridge. Think understated sophistication and restrained luxury, rather than out-and-out bling - after all, this is classic couture, not Juicy Couture.

A striking oval-shaped island bar that looks like it has been hewn from a single piece of beaten metal, with a thick, glass top, provides the focal point for the space. Well-spaced tables and chairs mean you are unlikely to feel overcrowded. Standing is only allowed by the bar itself - and by the way, there are no reservations. To one side, there's a small private space called the Library, which has a display of vintage spirits dating back to 1840 and a photographic display of old-school Italian film stars; to the other, there's a side door that leads to a small terrace. On a mezzanine floor is one of the few places in London that you can smoke indoors by virtue of the fact they sell cigars there (technically speaking you are 'sampling' the cigars).

What's on the cocktail menu? A Bergamot Sgroppino (gin, Prosecco, maraschino and homemade bergamot sorbet) heads a list of riffs on Italian classics that, strangely, also includes some French flavour combinations, such as carrot juice and lavender hydrosol with Prosecco in a twist on a Bellini. Butter fat-washed rum, oakmoss syrup, sparkling coconut water and jasmine tea are some of the other homemade ingredients on show. The emphasis in this section is on light and refreshing, delicately flavoured drinks, though is well-balanced across spirit categories. Classics are also listed with interesting tweaks that make much use of herbs - marjoram in a Mary Pickford, smoked rosemary in the house Martini, and drinks inspired by Bulgari perfume range. In all, these are accomplished, well-thought out flavour combinations, benefiting from simple and classic presentation. Rather unimaginative bar-name though, right?