The Courtyard at The Stafford London is back! When you think of an American Bar, your mind wanders off to a faraway time where people used to while away their evenings over many a short drink, with cigars, perfumed smoke and hedonism aplenty. But what makes a bar American? In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many American Bars opened throughout London as travel opened up between us and our transatlantic comrades. Wanting something more than just the ales supplied at our many pubs, American Bars served mixed or ‘American’ style drinks, cocktails as we call them today.
Everything that is happening in The Courtyard is proudly delivered by The American Bar at The Stafford London. I was overjoyed that 2021 finally gave me the chance to try the food and drink in the beautiful private courtyard at The Stafford. Run by the hotel’s culinary director, Ben Tish, the hotel’s American Bar serves an all-day menu with classics including their beer-battered fish and chips and an eponymous club sandwich.
On a mild May evening, we bounced along St James, walked down a hidden side street and found ourselves in a beautifully cobbled courtyard, surrounded by fresh white paint and mahogany wood-panelled windows. Swiftly introduced to the wonderfully jovial Frankie, he takes us to a lovely table by the American Bar entrance to the courtyard, with a view spanning the whole space.
A superb cocktail experience
The cocktail list is impressive and includes such delights as the Tucan, a vodka-based harmony of citrus and tarragon, and the One For All, with The One whisky from the Lake District, salted caramel and orange bitters. A visit to The Stafford London wouldn’t be complete without one of their Negronis. Our personal favourite was one sprayed with a delectable mandarino verde essence, balancing the bitter flavours of the cocktail and taking it to new, dizzying heights. A must try.
I notice part of the drinks menu stamped with the Russian Beluga vodka logo, and my eyes are immediately drawn to something called “The Tini Flight”, a beautiful miniature arrangement of three of their signature Beluga’s martinis, each complemented by sides of a green olive, pickled onion and dried herbs and spices. It’s truly as phenomenal as it sounds.
What about the food?
Often bars that serve food alongside their drinks consider the food to be second fiddle to the booze. You will not get that here. It’s high-end, traditional and elegant Mayfair service combined with a brilliant a la carte menu where you can’t really go wrong regardless of what you decide to order. I will say though that you’ll be missing a trick if you don’t order the grilled hand-dived scallops for a starter (see photo at the bottom of this feature). We try it with a velvety seaweed butter, and I really love that the roe was kept on the white glistening flesh.
We continue the fishy theme with H Forman salmon with horseradish crème, and need a bit of vegetable to balance it all out, so order the English burrata with datterini tomatoes. The intense sweetness of the datterini complement the rich mildness of the cheese, and a vibrant green pesto flecked across the dish gives it depth. For mains, we elect for the Spring Lamb Pithivier with mint jus, no doubt inspired from the renowned Game Bird restaurant just next door. We also order a Dover Sole meuniere as I have a weird thing where I just have to order it whenever I see it on a menu. This novel approach has served me well so far, and luckily this version was no exception. Dover sole is a meaty yet delicate fish, and this one was soft and yielding yet still kept its trademark texture. The meuniere sauce was refined and didn’t skimp on the capers, a surprisingly frequent omission – the chefs here clearly have a deft but subtle hand.
This skill transferred over to the expertly made Pithivier too, which actually looked too perfect to eat. Circular and domed in shape, the glistening burnished bronze top of the pastry almost glows on the plate, and that JUS! It justifies the capital letters because it was more like a meatless stew, with all the intensity of slow cooked lamb concentrated with just a hint of fresh mint. As well as being a piece of art, the lamb inside the gilded pastry cage is rosy pink and covered in mushrooms and large leaves of cabbage. For those naysayers that suggest English food is non-existent and bland, tell them to come to The Stafford London and have this. It’s bloody brilliant.
Desserts are a bitter chocolate tart with raspberry sorbet, and a Lyle’s golden syrup sponge pudding with warm vanilla custard. The latter takes me back to my school days: a plump bit of cake subtly flavoured with that lovely Lyle’s syrup and swimming in a silky sea of custard.
I leave this place wondering how I have only just discovered its many delights, already planning my next visit as I heard they do barbecues in The Courtyard over the summer months. The Stafford London is a place chock-full of regulars who appreciate the sheer consistency and high calibre 5* service, food, drinks and ambience (not to mention the cigars). The English have definitely done the Americans proud with this one. Long may the reign of the American Bar at The Stafford continue!
To discover more, visit: thestaffordlondon.com
All imagery courtesy of The Stafford London.
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