Have you ever been intrigued to sample the Green Fairy but been hesitant about the repercussions? Fear not, the new cocktail menu at Hotel Cafe Royal’s sumptuous Green Bar has been designed to ease you into the joys of absinthe with different levels of strength, intensity and sweetness to cater to each desire.
First built in 1865 in the heart of Mayfair, the hotel has been restored to an impeccable standard mixing both grand historic areas with a touch of the contemporary, housing the restaurant by Alex Dilling which holds two Michelin stars. On entering the sumptuous green bar, hence its name, one begins another worldly experience. With its soft lighting, unctuous velvet seating and the masterpiece that is the fairytale-like winding tree that sprouts from the centre of the bar, you are already ready for a cocktail journey.
There has long been a myth that absinthe is somewhat a dangerous spirit to imbibe due to its hallucinogenic virtues; however, the modern liquid does no such thing. Our wonderful waiter Roberto, informed us that once diluted in a cocktail, the ABV is a mere 12% — and as strong as a glass of wine — thus you are safe. The new menu is there to gently instruct people that absinthe shouldn’t ever be lit on fire or thrown back as a shot. There is no better place to delve into the delights of absinthe than at the Green Bar. The cocktails are made from rare and exclusive liquids, such as La Fée X•S Suisse, which is distilled in small quantities in Val-de-Travers in Switzerland, the birthplace of absinthe, as well as La Fée X•S Française, which is made using the highest quality, locally grown herbs in stills dating back to 1870.
My companion and I began our liquid expedition with the ‘O.W. Punch’, a sharing cocktail which is available for either two or four guests. The perfect introduction of theatrical joviality arrived as a beautiful cut glass absinthe fountain with two silver taps was brought to our table. Together, we enjoyed the unique ceremony of pouring ourselves petite glasses of this perfectly balanced cocktail, similar to those typical of an 1800s tavern. La Fee Parisienne absinthe is expertly mixed with white apricot tea, bergamot liqueur and cardamom, the result is exceedingly refreshing, with fruity high notes and the absinthe gently coming through, a delight.
Although oysters have traditionally been paired with champagne due to its delicate umami taste and its sense of occasion, oysters with absinthe are the combination you didn’t know you needed. The Green Bar’s perfectly curated caviar and oyster menu allows you to go on a gastronomic tour of the jewel of seafood and the mystery of the Green Fairy. We opted for classic rock, Cafe Royal and tempura oysters.
Once again guided through the menu by our attentive waiter we paired these with the ‘White Fairy’ — mixed with champagne sherbet, liquorice bitters and a spray of absinthe at our table by Roberto.
The ‘La Parisienne’ was a taste explosion of coconut, spiced orgeat and soda. I urge you to be brave — try something new and sample this combination, which is a form of delicate luxury — dancing on your tongue and transporting you back to 19th-century Paris.
No evening is perfect without dessert. To end our night, we sampled the ‘Femme au Cafe’ and ‘The Forager’. The first uses the Devil’s Botany absinthe (no need to be alarmed), both tobacco chocolate liqueur and coffee, a frothy and balanced twist on an espresso martini if you will. The latter was the perfect evening drink of absinthe, Glenmorangie Tale of the Forest and Hennessy VS.
If you truly feel you have succumbed to the virtues of absinthe you can indulge in one of the hotel’s 159 guest rooms and suites for the night which continues the theme of excellence of the bar. I can, however, assure you that this won’t be necessary. Our evening saw an eclectic mix of clientele, from romantic twosomes to groups of friends wanting to try something new. Not only is this luxurious, it’s fun.
A big part of the innovation of the bar is its recapturing of historic drinks and framing them in a new, different way which is both decadent and accessible. The combination of theatricality, excellent service and attention to detail that recreate history is unprecedented. Go and savour a new and unique experience at the Green Bar.
To discover more, visit: hotelcaferoyal.com
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All imagery courtesy of The Green Bar/ The Set Collection.