Donovan Bar in Mayfair: Ingeniously crafted cocktails and sophistication that leaves you speechless
The Donovan Bar exudes charm and splendour. From the classy interior to the sublime cocktails, it’s one of those few destinations able to leave you speechless in the face of its sophistication whilst remaining comfortably accessible. The place pays tribute to British photographer Terrance Donovan, a 20th-century icon who took pictures of his fellow iconic contemporaries. Large prints of his fashion portraits grace the walls and are interposed within the menu. The drinks list is an elegant book cataloguing the precious creations of Salvatore Calabrese – already a guarantee of finesse and mastery – which explore themes representing that era, as well as a special selection of vintages. This collection, entitled Our Generation, comprises fashion, movies, music, big personalities and big trends that defined a period and that continue to inspire.
As soon as we sit on the stalls at the back-lit blue bar, the well-versed bartender displays for us the colourful and beautifully decorated array of glasses in which the concoctions are served. Hand-painted, finished with edible details that look like little jewels, they are a spectacle in themselves. However, the real theatre starts when they are filled. Beginning with the Portrait section, we are drawn to the suggested Men About Town, intrigued by the mixing of the Tapatio tequila reposado and the mezcal Marca negra, which indeed gives an intense kick to the drink, already refreshing thanks to the dill and rocket sherbet.
A more nuanced choice is one from the Fashion area, where the Swinging Sixties embodies one of the most daring products of the titular decade: a checked pattern – recalling Mary Quant’s miniskirt – embellishes half of the foamy top layer. The rose champagne is softly combined with the Hoxton pink gin, the flavours intensified by the addition of guarana reduction.
In the meantime, a pleasing selection of snacks arrives. One of our favourites is the minute tartlets, disclosing a soft core of white mushrooms and spring onions. The crispy squid gets a bit lost in the salad and almonds, whereas the horseradish mayonnaise delicately tops the earthy salt beef bites. A lighter nibble is the tacos, with a creamy guacamole base and loaded with tomatoes.
Things start becoming spectacular with our third pick, from the Music section. The stylish glasses of Sparkling Side of the Moon and Paint It Black prove quite magnetic, but we opt for the more unfamiliar Voodoo Chile. Served on the rocks, this is a heady drink smoothly blending Tio Pepe sherry, Italicus and Campari, all finished with a spray of cedarwood aroma.
Another great act comes with the preparation of the signature cocktail, Flower Power. The mellow fusion of Hendrick’s gin and lavender honey syrup has a bluish tint, which turns purple when the butterfly pea tea is added. The result tastes as spectacular as the making.
Named after some of the most symbolic titles in the film industry, the Screen chapter continues to surprise and challenge. Psycho is, without doubt, a must. The silky tipple brings together calvados, verjus, and apple vermouth, served in a jarring, faux-blood-splattered glass. For the more traditional, Not Shaken, Not Stirred makes a statement: the fair coffee caviar finely adorns the straight Tanqueray mix – not shaken – with ginseng and dandelion bitters.
The stylish and convivial room makes a fitting setting for the superbly presented and exquisitely tasty drinks of Donovan Bar. The creative craftsmanship behind each concoction gifts a unique experience.
★★★★★Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Donovan Bar, 33 Albemarle Street W1S 4BP London, call 020 7493 6020 or visit their website here.