The Malt Lounge and Bar in Marylebone: Rare liquid gems that embody the Japanese spirit
The modest yet very elegant atmosphere of the Malt Lounge and Bar is a preliminary statement to the understated yet astounding creations of the new venue at the luxurious Prince Akatoki hotel. Not easy to spot from the main road, the Japanese-inspired bar resembles a little vault, where liquid gems are prepared on the spot and rare collections of liquors are stored. Thanks to the seats at the counter, the bartenders can truly provide an impressive personal experience.
Developed from and around the Godai philosophy of the five elements, the signature cocktails list is divided into five categories. The menu, a beautifully crafted booklet with pages of rice paper, also comprises a long selection of whiskies and gins, among which the Japanese offerings dominate. The rarest bottles are kept on the wall, like in a safe, for the very few clients able to buy them.
Our journey begins with the Ceremonial Spritz. The concoction enables us to immediately understand two important recurring elements: painstaking presentation and specially picked ingredients – chosen either because they are of a lesser-known variety or because they are made in house. For this tipple from the Fu – Wind section, the star components are sparkling sake and homemade lychee liquor, served in sake cups after being slightly cooled with dry ice (to spectacular effect).
The Old Kōdō, from Fire – Ka, is an intoxicating drink, prepared with a bit of theatre to produce the intense smokey flavour. It contains an infused blend of three Italian vermouths and Copper Dog whisky, resulting in a clear drink with character.
Reflecting the spirit of Earth – Chi, Pagoda Sour distinguished itself for its pretty appearance rather than for the taste. Shiso-infused vodka, yuzushu and apricot jam are topped by egg white and flowers, best enjoyed in small, sweet sips.
The attention to detail in the mixing shines through A Reason for Being, belonging to the Sui – Water group. The zesty homemade kumquat wasabi jam is the distinctive mark of this concoction, together with Tequila Ocho blanco. The drink is slightly citrusy but delicate on the tongue, and the exquisite flower-shaped glass in which it is served is a sight that won’t easily be forgotten. Equally eye-catching is the colourful Sunset: roku gin is mixed with homemade physalis and ginger syrup, and finished with flavoured water (also an in-house production) that changes colours while being poured into the glass.
The sparkly option also doesn’t let us down. In Kaihō, the Malt Lounge’s interpretation of the French 75, a pleasing fizz suffuses the vodka-infused eucalyptus. Once again, the bartender is keen on showing us how the small details play a huge part in composing a beautiful design: the glass is decorated then and there, with an artistic touch and pretty blossoms as garnish.
Going back to the session of Wind – Fu, Himiko contrasts with the latter cocktails as a pretty full-bodied concoction. This bar’s twist on the americano is prepared with Rinomato Aperitivo bitter, Mancino Chinato and Mancino Sakura. The combination is powerful.
Very much satisfied with the tasting so far, we are delivered a final surprise. The bartender happens to be specialised in the Old Fashioned and we can’t turn down the opportunity to watch an exclusive masterclass. With a bourbon Woodford Reserve as the base, a meticulous sequence of stirs and a precise orange sprinkle elevate the classic cocktail to excellence.
Whether you are already familiar with Japanese culture and the spirits of the country or you are new to these flavours, The Malt Lounge and Bar amazes. It offers an exploration into varieties and ingredients, taking guests on a journey which is sophisticated, but shining with creativity and passion.
★★★★★Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at The Malt Lounge and Bar, 50 Great Cumberland Place Marble Arch London W1H 7FD, call 0207 725 4825 or visit their website here.