Hide Below in Mayfair: Understated yet complex cocktails in a swanky space
Like a pearl hidden inside a shellfish, Hide Below is a gem concealed from the eyes of passers-by, despite being situated on the corner of one of the busiest areas in central London. As we descend the Instagram-famous staircase of this majestic project from Ollie Dabbous and Hedonism Wines, the lights go dramatically down, and we step into an elegant atmosphere invigorated by a playlist with good beats. The interior is tastefully designed to follow the natural chic wood and stone theme of the floors above, giving the impression of being inside an extension of Green Park.
As we perch on our stools, a small yet refreshing welcome tipple is offered, prepping the mouth with cucumber and gin. The creations by mixologist Oskar Kinberg sweep away many of our expectations. With the precision of an alchemist, he carefully blends each concoction bringing together both known and less familiar flavours with subtlety. Quite a few comprise syrups that take a good 24 hours to make. One of the finest illustrations of this is the Cross-Eyed Mary – it’s no coincidence that it’s a bestseller. A piece of dried tomato floating on the top is a hint of the rarified essence with which the vodka and fino are mixed. The solution used is an extract from the vegetable, squeezed and freed from the pulp to release pure flavour. A powder of dried capers around the rim awaken the taste buds by stark contrast: this is an incredible feast for the whole mouth.
Panacea is a slightly less dazzling option, with H by Hine cognac and pear soda. However, Kinberg’s intention of playing with less common ingredients is evident again through the addition of sage.
The grazing menu, crafted by Hide Ground, offers plenty of choices for small but intense accompanying bites. The Soft-Shell Crab Tempura is the most satisfying of Dabbous’s snacks. The deep-fried crustacean smoothly melts without ever being heavy, still maintaining its crunchiness. A freshly toasted brioche made in-house perfectly matches the creamy chicken liver parfait. The soft flatbread gets a summery makeover with the topping of carrot, coconut oil hummus and Graceburn.
Dangerously easy to drink and deceptively clear as water, Adam & Eve is a concoction that intrigues at the very least: how that “simple” clarified milk could create such a velvety feeling on the palate is an alluring riddle. The Diplomatico Mantuano rum and spices gift a nice kick – and keep you sipping, spellbound.
If there were a competition for the most befitting name for a cocktail, Holy Water would win effortlessly. A twist on the Old Fashioned characterised by nutty and woody tones, the glass is a blessed companion at the bar counter.
Equally strong, but marked by more fruity notes, is the Original Sin. Calvados and Fernet Branca are combined for a refreshing and full-bodied drink. To further enjoy Kinberg’s accomplished mastery of stirring particular spirits and natural essences in perfect harmony, a must-try is the Pineapple Express. Once again, being a cocktail devoid of flashy presentation, its Martini-like appearance may trick the eye and the brain into a heady sip, but the slightly sweet liquid tickles the tastebuds thanks to the balanced blending of spices with the fortified muscat.
While showmanship may often represent a critical feature for praise, Hide Below reminds us how elementary ingredients mixed with distinct liquors can astound just the same – if not more. The complex textures and aromas in every glass intensely seduce. Pair these with the swanky basement space and the exquisite snacks, and this bar naturally turns into the treasure island we’ve been looking for.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Hide Below, 85 Piccadilly London W1J 7NB, call 020 3146 8666 or visit their website here.