You take a seat at the bar, watching in awe as rays of sunshine hit against the breathtaking stainless steel glass window. Little did you know that this immaculately colored architectural design has remained in the same position behind the bar since the 1830’s. Then it hits you; you’ve just walked through the doors of the oldest hotel in London, and you are sitting in one of the most treasured and historic bars in the world, The Donovan. That’s a pretty damn cool situation to be in, I mean, think of the stories you can tell. Your rear end is parked in the same seat as iconic wonders such as Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill and Alexander Graham Bell, the creator of the world’s first telephone. Pretty cool dinner conversation, right? Now… just wait until you see the cocktail menu.
The bar team are educated to perfection, and not in a stuffy or patronizing way either. We’re talking about a cocktail list of over 40 combinations, so this is an absolute godsend for those who would like a recommendation for their personal taste. Riccardo, the Head Bartender is frequently seen chatting amongst his patrons, who are full of bedazzlement and wonder as they witness him creating his wondrous concoctions and potions behind the bar. See, everyone has an art, and this is Riccardo’s art.
The bar management are equally as friendly. Get lost in their stories of travelling the globe, the rare and divine whiskies they’ve had the fortune to taste alongside their passion for and impressive collection of art (ask Damian about the William Turner story).
So let’s talk about the cocktail menu for a second, shall we? This is no run of the mill list, nearly every cocktail has it’s own little Donovan twist, from the home made syrups and bitters sitting behind the bar, to the carefully picked garnishes decorating the glasses. Nearly every cocktail also tells a story, which can be read right there in the menu, so you get the full thinking which led to its creation. The general theme follows the unquestionably historic setting to in which this hotel and bar reside within. What’s more is that the team collectively come together to decide what cocktails will frequent the new menu’s, there’s no single hierarchy here, this team works as a team and wouldn’t have it any other way. Most recently, the menu has featured an assortment of cocktails based on hotels from across Europe. Unraveling the story behind their creation, this cocktail menu is more like a mini-novel, full of excitement and bewilderment. This seems to play homage to the fact that some of the greatest books of our time were written just feet away by Charles Dickens.
Other famous faces have graced this room over the years, each adding their own little piece of history. Take Alexander Graham Bell, who made the first ever phone call inside this very hotel, or Winston Churchill who would sit at the same table near the restaurants impressive fireplace. There was also Terence Donovan of whom the bar is named after, a local artist who knew London like this back of his hand. Look around and you will see a variety of Donovan’s pieces spread neatly throughout the room, or take a look at the ‘naughty corner’ and gaze with a naked smile.
In sum, Donovan’s bar is a sleek and sophisticated reminder of the wonderfully historic city within which it sits, sprinkled with an essence of modern and creative thinking across what could arguably be called one of the best cocktail menu’s in England.
Special thanks goes to Riccardo, Damian & Sarah.