The bar bringing indy mixology back to Mayfair
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Mayfair isn’t generally a hotspot for mixological innovation – its stratospheric rents and draconian licensing laws don’t favour mavericks. So the Green Park debut of Kwānt, a venture from former Savoy head bartender Erik Lorincz, is as surprising as it is exciting.
The name – pronounced “quaint” – derives from a Middle English word for ingenious or strange. And the interiors, designed by Lorincz in collaboration with Co:de Studios, create a shifting sense of place. There are nods to art deco-era Havana and upscale Japanese. Turmeric bouclé banquettes nestle under arching palms; huge windows afford glimpses of the street; at one end a softly lit island of polished oak and stainless steel serves as a chef’s table bar with six further seats. On three sides of this counter, bartenders in collarless white jackets, navy ties and jeans prep superlative drinks (£16-18).
Lorincz’s recipes dazzle with refreshing savoury notes – tomato water, cucumber, verjus, basil. There are also nods to Asia: miso, sake, koji. A Martini twist, Sea the Sea, is infused with ozone-y seaweed; the Cosmo is reinvented as a pale-pink highball, scented with cardamom and timur berry. His answer to the Gimlet is laced with tangy hops and coriander seeds; Wallet, an Old Fashioned-style blend of bourbon, red miso, salted maple and chestnut, is a pitch-perfect meeting of savoury and sweet. I usually can’t stand foams, but the pugnacious Bloody Mary with marmite-vodka and a mustard “air” is the best Bloody I’ve ever had. Served alongside are exquisite bar snacks by chef Joni Ketonen, formerly of The Fat Duck and St John.
Off to one side, in a glass-fronted cabinet, is Lorincz’s collection of old and rare spirits: turn-of-the-century cognacs; the last batch of Bacardi made in Cuba; Kina Lillet, the extinct aperitif used to make James Bond’s signature Martini Vesper – which can be sampled as part of a special vintage cocktail list.
This singular vision is a joint venture with financier and fellow Slovakian Peter Stadler, who Lorincz got to know during his time at The Savoy. “He was a regular guest at the American Bar and even flew in for my final shift – when the opportunity arose to do this place I said: ‘Would you be interested?’” As Lorincz points out, it was a similar guest/host alliance that produced the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice. Whether Kwānt becomes an icon remains to be seen – but with that Bloody Mary, it’s in with a shout.
Kwānt, 52 Stratton Street, London W1 (no bookings); @kwantmayfair