Review: The Churchill Bar & Terrace

Review: The Churchill Bar & Terrace

“I am easily satisfied with the very best” – Winston Churchill

When stepping into the modern, expansive atrium at Hyatt’s central London property, the first things you notice are the shining bust and portraiture of Sir Winston Churchill.

The eponymous hotel, just a bowler hat’s throw away from Marble Arch, is a homage to the historic British icon. And while he never visited the hotel, the group has done well to create a narrative in which Churchill could be placed. And this is with heavy thanks to the F&B.

The newly-opened Montagu Kitchen (see page 140) sees executive chef Mark Sainsbury create dishes inspired by and featuring ingredients grown in Churchill’s former Kentish home Chartwell House. The restaurant’s menu has a thread of Winston running through it but it is the hotel’s destination bar that takes theming to a whole new level.

As the hotel explains, The Churchill Bar & Terrace has been designed with a young Winston Churchill and his beloved wife Clementine in mind. The design is of an art deco bar, combined with a modern drawing room. Golden fixtures and squared lamps highlight dark, velvet seats and a marble bar.

Artwork references Churchill’s life in photography, love, lifestyle and travel, while a fireplace surrounded by armchairs and books makes for the perfect Churchillian impression.

But the bar is not a re-creation of his residence, more an atmosphere and space that Churchill and Baroness Spencer-Churchill would use if they were alive today.

“We know him as a political figure, as the prime minister, but we want to see him as a lover and as a writer, too,” says Eve Vasileiadou, bar manager, The Churchill Bar & Terrace. For example, one piece of artwork features paper roses, in tribute to Clementine, who cut and lay a single rose on Winston’s desk each day he was away from Chartwell.

While some of Churchill’s well-documented ideals are outdated, there is no doubt he remains an intriguing character.
A bar library, curated by local specialist bookseller Daunt Books, includes a range of literature on subjects that a young Churchill and Clementine would have found fascinating.

Look out for Jock, Rufus and Pig – the locally-knitted animals that can be found on the bookshelves and are used to emulate Churchill’s use of his children’s toys as bookmarkers in his library at Chartwell. The animals reflect the signature pictures Sir Winston and Clementine used when writing love letters – Sir Winston was a dog (or often a pig) and Clementine.

“There are so many interesting things to learn,” says Vasileiadou. “He was very romantic, something that people don’t associate with him. It is great to see a different side of him.
“And, of course, he was a massive fan of cigars and drinking. Our aim was that, if Winston Churchill lived in 2018, this is a bar he would visit. If he wanted a cigar he would head outside on to the terrace, and if he wanted a drink he would sit here in front of the fire.”

The seasonally-themed terrace features a specially commissioned life-size bronze of a young Sir Winston Churchill entitled In Conversation, cast by renowned sculptor Lawrence Holofcener who also created “Allies”, the much-loved statue of Sir Winston and Franklin D Roosevelt on a bench on Bond Street.

This summer guests were invited to sail away with Churchill with the nautical-themed summer terrace; inspired by Winston’s travels with the Admiralty yacht HMS Enchantress during his appointment as First Lord of the Admiralty from 1911 to 1915.

“We wanted to link the concept,” says Vasileiadou. “It is all about the history, so when you drink or eat something you are always creating a memory or the guest is learning something.
“There are thousands of hotels with bigger bars and more staff, but here it is all about the experience.”

The maritime oasis featuring vintage nautical compasses, anchors, boat oars and seashells brings you a step closer to the shores of Malta, Gibraltar and Capri, while the cocktails offer the experience modern bars strive for.

COCKTAILS THAT CAPTURE
The bar team are led by head bartender Daniele Bresciani and they have created a range of new cocktails to accompany the nautical feel.

Seasonal specials include Churchill’s Tot – a whisky and sweet vermouth concoction aged in a wooden barrel; Lord Nelson – created in honour of Admiral Nelson, who led his fleet into victory at the battle of Trafalgar; Jennies’ Bevvy – a gin-based drink inspired by the courage of all women in the Royal Navy; and The Winkle, especially designed to honour the Winkle Club formed in 1900 by Hastings fishermen to provide help to the underprivileged. For every Winkle cocktail served, £1 will be donated to the Winkle Club.

While the names are self-explanatory in their links to seafaring, the reasoning and effort behind them is both impressive and enterprising.

“Every six months we will change the cocktail menu,” says Bresciani. “Right now, we are sitting down and trying to develop the menu for the winter Scottish Highlands Hideaway theme while also trying to follow the trends of the industry.”

But while the team have looked to develop trend threads like ‘wastage-free cocktails’, it is actually the creative little touches that make the menu stand out. For example, the fig liqueur found and brought back by Bresciani from his native Italy and incorporated into the Gilbraltar Strait cocktail – Bacardi Superior, Hine VSOP, Figaro Liquor, orange shrub, lemon juice – a modern remake of the classic Between the Sheets cocktail that aims to commemorate the Gibraltar Strait and its strategic location for the Royal British Navy.

“We have themes and play around with things,” says Vasileiadou. “It is all connected. Down to the uniforms (Ted Baker) of the staff with bow ties, pin stripes and the right waistcoat for the men, while the ladies wear something different each season
connected to Clementine in 40s, 50s and 60s style.”

The bar logo features Churchill’s signature while the menus feature silhouettes of Winston, Clementine and their favourite cat, Jock VI.

Short drinks include more than 50 styles of whiskies from Scotland and all over the world, more than 40 styles of rum and brandy and more than 40 styles of gin, vodka and tequila.

But arguably it is The Compass Cocktail that steals the show. A shining, hand-crafted wooden box featuring a compass and four spinners is designed to help guests choose a bespoke cocktail.

“It’s a creation for the Churchill Bar & Terrace only; Diageo loved it and wanted to sponsor it,” says
Vasileiadou. “It is quite playful and a real experience and about interacting with our guests.

“You flick each of the spinners to decide which spirit – Johnny Walker Gold, Tanqueray No.10, Zacapa rum, Don Julio tequila or Ciroc vodka. You need to try your luck and see if it is going to come out sour and crispy, sweet and sexy, spicy and delightful, or bitter and charming.”

There is even a spinner to decide how it is served; in a sling glass, on the rocks, highball, or straight up.
“The waiter will take it away and make something,” says Vasileiadou. “Each creation is from our bartenders, and it never comes out as exactly the same cocktail.”

Each of the cocktails on show varies in style and taste, but each is thoughtfully created and executed. The only problem is, you will want to try them all; so you may need more than a compass to help you back to your room.

SAMPLE COCKTAIL MENU

ENCHANTRESS
This aperitif-style drink mirrors that of the welcome drinks Churchill served to his guests aboard when welcoming them aboard the HMS Enchantress.
(Italicus, Cocchi Americano, grape syrup, citrus mix, dash of absinthe)

OCEAN BOTTLE
In the 16th century, the Royal Navy used classified messages in bottles to communicate the whereabouts of the enemy. This secrecy was so important that in 1590 a law saw the unauthorised opening of a message as punishable by death.
(Oxley gin, Gunpowder syrup, lemon juice)

LEATHERNECK
Leatherneck is a military slang term, referring to the wearing of a stiff leather collar by the Royal Marines protecting their necks from pirates’ swords or knives during the Barbary wars in the 1800s. This rum-based drink honours this leather stock, issued to each Marine.
(Santa Teresa Rum 1796, homemade orange liquor, pomegranate cordial, lemon juice)

WINSTON’S BREAKFAST
Churchill’s breakfast on the HMS Enchantress was a unique experience and a mix of flavours from the across the world. He could not miss his orange marmalade and British oats.
(Grey Goose vodka, oat syrup, homemade orange marmalade, Mate tea, lime juice)

TRUE GENTLEMAN
Churchill is remembered as a great leader of the UK, with a significant contribution to the Royal Navy as well as the whole nation. For the people close to him, he was also known to be a real gentleman who enjoyed the finest things in life.
(Beluga Nobble infused with fennel, saffron syrup, 3 Cents Gentlemen’s Tonic)

BLENHEIM FIZZ
To celebrate Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s family home and now a World Heritage Site surrounded by enchanting green gardens and flowers.
(Beluga vodka, grape syrup, lemon juice, Pol Roger Champagne, limoncello foam)