Someone I know has a date tonight, and was planning to head out in Mayfair, seeking out a bar that was nice but nothing too fancy schmansy, something quirky too. Different. Of course, they asked me for recommendations (who wouldn’t?) and in a heartbeat, I had just the place.
Bruton Lane is probably the grimmest part of Mayfair, winding its way off the South-Eastern corner of Berkeley Square. If you head down there, you’ll come across Mr. Fogg’s, but keep your eyes peeled because the place is missable, with only a couple of windows, invitingly glowing away, and an immaculately tailored doorman to give you clues that something special may be here. Hell, the place isn’t even on Streetview yet.
I was out the other night, and was practically ordered to go here by someone who knows their shit when it comes to exotic locales. As soon as I walked in through the door (bookings recommended, though not essential, as Mr. Fogg’s remains, as of October 2013, largely undiscovered), I knew I wouldn’t regret it. The doormen takes your umbrella. You’re introduced to the host. They take you to your table, or quiet corner with stools, and leave you with a pot of nuts and a cocktail list. The menu is as thick as Jules Verne’s 1873 novel Around the World in Eighty Days which, if you hadn’t guessed by now, is the inspiration behind Inception Group’s latest baroque bar (they also own Maggie’s, where Baroness Thatcher’s speeches play in the bog).
It’s a good job that they do leave you for a while because a) the menu takes a fair amount of perusal and b) Mr. Fogg’s is simply a stunning place to be. You’re likely to either be sat in something plush, on something leather, or near a Union Jack or other assorted Victorian curios, which relentlessly nods to our eponymous hero (if you believe the blurb, this the actual building where Phileas Fogg called home). From where we were sat, I was able to clearly see an alligator on the wall, an old globe, an oversized birdcage or four, I could go on. An audiobook of Verne’s novel plays in the toilets.
But what of the drinks? Well, they’re not cheap for a start. A fair few are made with ‘premium’ sprits, which for a bar in Mayfair, seemingly reliant on the Hedge Fund after-parties, means that certain drinks can reach up to thirty quid a pop, (maybe more as the menu is so large I skipped a few pages). Expect to pay £fifteen per drink for most of the menu, but the composition of the the drinks is exceptional, as is the choice and range of ingredients and brands (where else uses Old Tom gin anymore?!) and whereas most cocktails have a distinctly Olde Worlde or Victorian twist, the flavours are right on the money and you’re going to be sorted whether you like sweet or sharp, long or short. I had one which seemed to be a mixture of everything, a touch of gin, a smash of berry and a dribble of Absinthe. Cannot remember what it was called – I was too busy gazing at a model hot air balloon hanging rom the ceiling.
Mr. Fogg’s is one of the most unusual and incredible bars I have seen in ages, bursting to the seams with that whimsical and romantic vision of Victorian eccentricity, right down the faultless staff who remain in character throughout your visit, though being personable and welcoming enough to recommend drinks and assist your own epic voyage through the cocktail list. The servers are numerous and therefore move beyond mere attentiveness, inching into the echelons of good old fashioned chivalry, doing things like keeping your co-drinker company if you feel like listening to some more book in the lavatory.
I reckon this place will make a great evening for my mate. She’ll either leave arm-in-arm with her date, giddy with Victorian romanticism, or at the very least, pissed and a bit more cultured.