Erik Lorincz on Mayfair bar Kwānt: “I want you to forget about time and be taken away from London”
Kwānt, the Mayfair basement bar from Erik Lorincz, was voted amongst the top ten in the world by the 50 Best Bars academy this year. The Slovakian mixologist – formerly of the Savoy’s American Bar – set up his first venture underneath restaurant Momo in Heddon Street. We spoke with him about how he shaped his cocktail menu and the challenges that the pandemic has imposed on his team and the industry as a whole.
Kwānt is very new and very different from the American Bar [where he was previously head bartender]: what was your philosophy when you set out to create that bar? What did you really want to get across to make it so special?
The concept was to create a bar that was really, really different. And I felt that when I was collecting all the experiences for that, travelling around the world and seeing other bars, I was really really waiting for the moment where I can really explore it and show it to the world, like this is me, this is what I want to be and this is the direction I want to go. And I was always waiting for the right location, for the right size, and when I walked into this place for the first time, I said: “This is the place.” And the whole idea was to create, almost to take you away from London and give you a completely unique experience, to forget about the time of the moment and forget about the place where you are and bring to the table something very unique, very creative, something that took a modern approach. We were using all the modern ingredients. But also bringing a touch of my old place, which is the Savoy, and the cocktails. I still have a passion for that classic hotel, but I really wanted to do it in a different way. So there was a nice blend between classic cocktails and something very innovative, slightly minimalistic but focusing on what is going into the glass rather than what is around the glass and really getting involved in the research on everything like ingredients, how we can import the products and how we can put them in a cocktail.
You got straight to the top ten; I think that’s amazing. Is it a bit weird to be celebrating on the first day of the lockdown in London?
Totally – I was just saying that to the team. Like when we sat down it was six of us in the room and I looked around and said: “Last year we would’ve been celebrating at the same location; it was 700 in the room, and now it’s only six of us – how weird is it?” And I really hope that this is the last time we’ll be doing it because I have been in so many group chats around the world for the bartenders and we did several phone calls. I was on the call with guys from all around the world and we missed each other so much because 50 Best really brings the very unique opportunity to all meet together – which is quite a dangerous place, because you have all the best bars in the world under one roof. But it’s such a unique moment for us, where everyone forgets about the hassle, the long hard hours, and we celebrate what we love to do most. So I really, really hope this is the very unique moment that we will remember as 2020, and next year will be something as we used to remember what it was all about. So, very special feelings.
What do you think of London as a place for cocktails now?
London, for me, it’s always almost like a capital [for cocktails] – a destination. But, right now, it’s very difficult. It’s one of the most difficult periods in my career; we are entering into something very unknown, something very dark, but hopefully at the end of the tunnel is a light and we can carry on and show the world why we are number six, rather than just having a dance and celebrating it behind closed doors, which would be a very sad moment to have.
Did this international community of bars help with the challenges posed by the pandemic?
Absolutely. I think we’re all in the same boat no matter where we are; whether it’s in London, New York or Singapore we are all in the same position and what I really love about that is that we don’t stop. We’re not giving up, we’re not saying that this is the end of it and this is the beauty of the industry: that we’re such hard workers and when we’re in such a difficult situation or position we always try to find out a way to swim through this. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why it keeps driving me even more, to be more eager, to spend longer working on what I’m doing, what I really love, because we never stop. Nothing will stop us and this will just be a little period which has a little bump.
A London bar went number one this year [the Connaught]. Are you in touch with Agostino Perrone?
Oh, I messaged him already. Initially I was planning to do it here and invite a few friends and watch it in the bar, but unfortunately the restriction came in and I said, the last thing I want is someone chasing me and finding out that there are 30 people in the bar [laughs]. So first thing, what I messaged him was I really, really wished that we could watch this [ceremony] together and that I’m very, very happy for him, because obviously we have a long history, a very good history, and I’m very, very happy that the world’s best bar is just eight minutes walk from my bar.
For someone coming to Kwānt for the first time, what should they order and why?
This a good one because our list is quite extensive; we have about 24 signature cocktails and we never just put a drink in front of you, because it kind of could be hit or miss, because if you don’t like mezcal why should I serve you a mezcal drink? We always question and analyse what your favourites are, the direction of your taste, and then we kind of perfectly tailor the drink that will be suited to your palate. We’re covering every spirit category which we love to work with, so the range of cocktails is quite extensive. So you can have almost like a tasting menu of cocktails. You can start from the very light drinks, a nice aperitif style – we’ve got a coffee negroni, we’ve got a sunflower martini. And then, as the drink menu progresses, you’re going down, on each page there are six drinks, and as you’re going down you’ll find the drinks are much more robust, more complex or even umami flavour. We’ve got the drinks with miso, champagne, vinegar and a little bit of garlic. That’s something very very unique. So the drink style varies.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
To book a table at Kwānt, 23-25 Heddon Street London W1B 4BH, contact them via their Facebook page here.