At first glance, the Corinthia Hotel's Bassoon Bar doesn't look very chaotic. In fact, the neat, ordered lines of its recently converted bar – a beautiful polished black counter that extends all the way from an actual, playable piano to the side of it – its loungey booths and its immaculately stocked back bar give the sense of order, consideration and great taste.
But "to bring a bit of chaos" to this historic Westminster hotel is exactly what incoming bar manager Marcis Dzelzainis (formerly of Dandelyan, Satan's Whiskers and a whole host of acclaimed London drinking dens and World's 50 Best mainstays) wants to do. Alongside restaurateur and natural wine supremo Michael Sager, he's trying to bring a big hit of the wine and cocktail culture that's blossomed in East London to SW1A.
The menu he and head bartender Joshua Joyce have created isn't full of 'cheffy' drinks – at least not overtly so. The list is heavily inspired by the bar scene of New Orleans, a city that knows its way around a cocktail better than most, but doesn't take itself too seriously. There's plenty of cognac in there – Dzelzainis wants to build on the revived interest in this classic spirit – and drinks are made to be complex but absolutely drinkable. Take the Champagne Julep, a drink that sings with lively peach flavours, with an underlying note of anethole (the naturally occurring chemical that flavours liquorice, fennel and other ingredients) from a deft touch of basil.
Elsewhere, there's a bergamot negroni, all face-smacking citrus with a lighter mouthfeel from a squeeze of lemon juice. Or the Cedar + Oak, at once woody, nutty and bitter, brought together on the palate with a buttery note that comes in just after on the finish.
There's a lot to like here – which, given the pedigree of the incumbent management, isn't exactly a surprise. A slice of the East End a stone's throw from Parliament. Who knew?
Corinthia Hotel London, Whitehall Place, SW1A 2BD; corinthia.com/london