Resident hedonist, Lucy Shaw, heads to Below, the subterranean bar beneath Hide in Mayfair, for clarified milk cocktails and a sublime acorn cake.
The concept: One of the most hotly anticipated restaurants of the year, Hide in Green Park is the fruit of a collaboration between talented young chef Ollie Dabbous and Russian telecoms billionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin, owner of candy store for wine lovers Hedonism in Mayfair.
Chichvarkin has been open about the fact that he has three Michelin star ambitions for Hide, and the potent combination of an ambitious chef at the top of his game and a wine list that will delight even the finickiest of oenophiles makes Hide an incredibly compelling proposition.
Split into three different areas, in the basement you’ll find Below, a contemporary cocktail bar run by Dabbous’ business partner and master mixologist, Oskar Kinberg.
At street level is Ground, an all-day casual dining restaurant serving the likes of burrata with ripe apricot and chamomile; and barbecued octopus with lovage and white miso.
At the top of the tree is Above, Dabbous’ tasting menu driven fine dining restaurant with pretty views across Green Park.
The décor: Connecting Hide’s three acts is a whimsical spiral staircase straight out of a Guillermo del Toro film that twists up through the building like an ancient oak.
Inspired by its setting next to the park, the colour palate at Below is earthy and minimal, and the space has a distinctly Scandinavian feel.
Taking centre stage at Below is the bar, crafted from wood, which curls around the room like a crescent moon. Behind it fine and rare spirits glint like jewels.
Ryan Reynolds hosted the launch of his Oregon gin Aviation here shortly after Hide opened in April, and the celebrity seal of approval has helped to attract savvy cocktails lovers keen to taste Kinberg’s quirky creations.
The drinks: The flavours at Below are fresh and clean, exemplified in the Fallen Madonna, which blends gin with pea shoots, aloe vera and lemon.
Among the ingredients to weave their way into the current cocktail list are sage, sorrel, Sauvignon Blanc, lemongrass and cloudberries.
Kinberg is a master at his craft but remains refreshingly humble. Rather than launching with a wacky bells and whistles concept, he’s confident the cocktails will speak for themselves, and is as keen on creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere as he is about whipping up killer cocktails for the cognoscenti.
Working with seasonal ingredients, Kinberg favours freshness over forceful flavours, making many of his creations dangerously drinkable due to their lightness of touch.
The Creamed Corn Soda, blending Bourbon, sweetcorn, Angostura bitters and soda, had all the hazy nostalgia of cream soda and an earthy thread of corn running though it that balanced out the sweetness of the Bourbon.
Another sip that slipped down easily was the Beatles-inspired Strawberry Fields Forever, which tasted like summertime in a glass, the sweet, juicy strawberries made more grown up by the presence of Tapatio Blanco Tequila and Cocchi Americano Rosa.
Signature sips: Our star sip was the Adam & Eve, a wickedly clever concoction as clear as spring water with the creamy texture of milk.
Blending Somerset cider brandy with Diplomatico rum, fino Sherry, fig, spices, lime and clarified milk, the diverse flavours blended seamlessly into a smooth, creamy, sweet-savoury symphony.
The food: A number of the grazing plates served at Ground are available to order down Below. The home-cured charcuterie, including silky goose with sage and fenugreek, and salty saddleback pork jowl with caraway and juniper, offered a tantalising glimpse of the delights being served at Above.
The fried quisquilla prawns had such delicate shells they could be eaten fully clothed (save for their heads) and rewarded with sweet, smoky flavour. Tiny parcels of flower-flecked salmon tartare were almost too pretty to eat.
The flatbreads are also a must – our courgette, pistachio, mint and marjoram number was wonderfully earthy and fresh.
Who to know: It’s worth seeking out Swedish-born Oskar Kinberg if he’s behind the bar. His approach to cocktails chimes with Ollie Dabbous’ food philosophy, which gives fresh seasonal flavours pride of place.
Don’t leave without: Ordering dessert. It might sound odd to do so at a bar, but you be richly rewarded if you go for the acorn cake.
Served in a black cast iron pot, the cake is brought to the table then theatrically doused in a decadent smoked caramel sauce. This innocent activity releases such a sensational smell, it takes super human willpower not to tuck in right away.
As the sweet smoky smell of caramel wafts through the air, it’s time for the final flourish – a shot of your chosen spirit to christen the pud. We went for aged rum, which harmonised perfectly with the buttery pastry flavours in the cake – a boozy, caramel-soaked, croissant-textured creation that is the stuff of dreams.
Last word: There is no getting around the fact that Hide is expensive, so for those wanting a taste of the Above experience without having to take out a second mortgage should head to Below for clever cocktails and sensational snacks.
Kingberg is delighted that the bar is becoming a destination venue, rather than simply a holding pen for diners awaiting their coveted tables at the top of the spiral staircase.
Below at Hide, 85 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NB: Tel: +44 (0)20 3146 866