The Aviator Bar at Hush in Mayfair
Themed bars are, by and large, terrible. The endless, tasteless wave of gimmicky decors and drinks make you wonder how on earth those places stay in business; surely there can’t be that much demand to drink in a prohibition-styled speakeasy, where a rye whisky will set you back double figures and staff look as if they’ve been asked to assemble a uniform from an especially dilapidated fancy dress. Yet, somehow, they endure.
In theory at least, the cocktail bar at Hush is themed: principally around the concern of flight and aviation, of the glamorous days where air travel was the sole preserve of those with especially overzealous spending habits. Much like the American Bar at the Savoy, its motif is not rammed down your throat but sufficiently diffused in the atmosphere, lurking in the air itself. A menu full of themed drinks, formatted as plane tickets, is just about the right amount of pageantry and spectacle, as are the drinks themselves.
We start with Head in the Game, a tribute to Canada that’s surprisingly tame for one inspired by the raw power of ice-hockey. It’s a nice enough jumble of fruit and vodka, very clean, very elegant, eminently “grammable” but lacking a certain spark. Down the Bayou is better, its rye whisky, orange curacao and chocolate liqueur flavoursome without being too punchy – too often these heavy-hitting flavours are put together into a glass and left to punch things out until the last man stands.
Chase the Dragon follows, and is an intoxicatingly spiky mixture of Mekhong Thai Spirit, Plantation 5 YO, ginger syrup, coconut water and lemon juice. It hits with power and precision, starting sharp and fading into warming overtones of ginger with just the slightest hint of coconut. It was a great accompaniment for the snacks we ordered: chicken skewers with satay and salt and pepper crispy squid. Both were well-cooked, relatively standard bar fare, though the satay itself was both generous and remarkably good: silky and indulgent, cut through with wispy ribbons of chilli.
The punderful Whisky Business – Bowmore 12yr infused with a raspberry and chocolate tea, Staritsky Levitsky vodka infused with chocolate caramel, Kukulka candies, chocolate bitters and caramel syrup – does not taste how it reads. It was a marvellously complex chocolate drink, highlighting the ingredients’ exceptional flavour profile and at times almost savoury twang, but there was little hint of caramel or raspberry there. A smoking Spanish Senorita might sound like something you’d expect to see on a good night out in Barcelona, but Nomad Outland whisky, cream sherry and Oloroso sherry instead made for a drink that reminded us more of an alcoholic Lapsang Souchong, in all the best ways.
X Marks the Spot was the best drink of the evening – Bumbu rum infused with cacao nibs and rose bud tea, Fair coffee liqueur, crème de cassis, Leonor Palo Cortado sherry-topped passion fruit and mango mousse. It looked more like a trifle than a cocktail, but worked beautifully. Waves of tropical fruit flooded our tastebuds, an early morning sunrise leading into the dusky twilight of cacao and coffee. Foams and mousses are so often misused in drinks, so we were delighted to see one used with genuine purpose here.
Sitting back in the plush armchairs, shielded from the bustle of Mayfair in quiet surroundings, it was more than possible to close our eyes and imagine we were somewhere far, far away. Sometimes, when you live in a city as noisy as London, the greatest sound is the sound of silence.
★★★★★Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Matthew Pull (except bar images)
To book a table at Hush, Lancashire Court 8 Brook St, Mayfair London W1S 1EY, call 020 7659 1500 or visit the Hush website here.