Elegance and Charm at the Polo Bar, Westbury Hotel:
Guest review by Natalie York.
Every element at Polo Bar in the Westbury Mayfair Hotel feels highly polished. From the service to the menu to the decor the investment of time, care and undoubtedly a great deal of money that has gone into this place is evident from the moment you walk in. The atmosphere is formal without feeling too serious with clientele and staff presented in equally immaculate fashion. Indeed as I scurried in from the street a little windblown I got the instant urge to pat down my hair and check my lipstick after spotting a partial reflection in one of the monolithic black marble columns.
The service is utterly impeccable, the waiters seem to glide from table to table and offer friendly and accessible advice on the menu.
We started with sparkling water and some of those little snacks that bars like this always tend to have, a tarted up version of pub nuts they may be but kalamata olives, smoked almonds and Arborio rice cakes seemed to me to be a pretty good substitute for peanuts. Over the course of the evening we later enjoyed a generously portioned dish of smoked salmon and caviar served on blini as well as meaty prawn lollipops, deep-fried and covered in panko breadcrumbs and little squares of foie gras which melted away beautifully in the mouth. Now from the food available I am sure it is quite clear that Polo is a luxury option. Even for London the cocktails were at the top end of the market, hovering between £14 and £20, and they were pretty moreish . They did however, have an excellent wine list with glasses available at considerably more affordable prices so it is possible to pop in for a few drinks without taking out a new mortgage!
Of course instead of going for the sensible wine list we kicked off with Martinis. One Aviation for me and a Pomegranate for my friend Olivia. I can tell you with confidence that both were delicious as Polo have come up with the rather brilliant idea of serving you a full glass of your own choice and a shot glass of your friend’s. I don’t know if this is done anywhere else but it certainly prevented my usual bout of cocktail envy and left us instead to argue over which one was nicer. My bet is on the Aviation, a recipe dating back to 1916 featuring Tanqueray gin, Maraschino, lemon juice and violet liquor. The slight smell of grandmotherly perfume from the violets takes a little getting over but the complex, faintly bitter taste really grew on me. One of the best things about cocktails at the Polo Bar was the feeling that, unlike so many other, similar places, the drinks were not swimming in sugar. This was a particular surprise when it came to the Pomegranate Martini which was light and refreshing and hardly sweet at all with the natural, almost vegetable flavours of the fruit coming out instead.
For round two, feeling emboldened, we went for a couple of champagne cocktails. I had a Metropolitan Bellini, a mix of Grand Marnier, lime, red berries and vodka topped off with a generous glug of bubbly. This was light, fragrant and very drinkable but the real excitement was in Olivia’s Tommie Margarita Deluxe. My normal experience of Margaritas is confined to the salty, sugary, wicked indulgence you get in most Mexican restaurants. This on the other hand, mixing Don Julio reposado tequila with lime, agave syrup and Moet and Chandon, was refreshing and, with the addition of the champagne, surprisingly delicate as it lost the heaviness of a Margarita but not the flavour
For our final batch we tried some further variations on old classics. For me the Calvados Sour with rum and a rich apple mousse which gave the drink a warming, apple crumble-like fragrance and would probably have worked even better served as a hot toddy on a cold night. For Olivia an Old Fashioned infused with chocolate and slightly sweetened with dark Muscovado sugar. This managed, miraculously, to not taste of a choc ice but was in fact a rich and complicated cocktail tasting more like a black slab of very dark chocolate.
I would happily recommend Polo Bar and will probably go again. The cocktails are not too flashy or gimmicky but inventive nevertheless and brave enough to let ingredients speak for themselves without piling on the sugar. More food is available for those looking for more sustenance on a special night out.
The Polo Bar
London w1S 2YR