Every day is the 4th of July at the newly relaunched American Bar within The Stafford, London, so it seems, so imagine when it actually is. Akin to VE Day in 1945, you were lucky indeed if you managed to find a space inside the new-look bar or out in their sunny courtyard…
The American Bar at The Stafford is one of London’s most legendary watering holes and one of the few that kept its name and identity following the many bars so named during WWII in tribute to our allies. After recently closing for a full refurbishment, the bar has reopened its doors with beautiful new interiors which transform it into a sophisticated and glamorous cocktail venue, whilst retaining the essence of what has made the venue a destination for so many years.
A clubby retreat, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of St James, the striking mahogany wood-panelled bar remains filled to the rafters with American memorabilia, a collection of artefacts donated by patrons and guests over the years and signed photographs of British and American celebrities who have frequented this unique outpost over the years, while a striking marble bar takes pride of place, complemented by emerald green upholstery, vintage glassware and brass fittings.
Currently buzzing due to a new Mediterranean-inspired small plates bar menu created by culinary director Ben Tish (previously Salt Yard Group), ideal for an al fresco lunch or dinner in the private cobbled courtyard, a taste of Italy and Spain, alongside British charcuterie from Cannon & Cannon is served in addition to their freshly made sandwiches such as The American Bar Club and an 8oz beef burger. The tapas-style dishes are perfect with a drink, however, from spring pea croquettes with truffle aioli; crab and chilli stuffed doughnuts with a brown crab mayonnaise; slow-cooked octopus with chickpeas, fennel and cumin, or the chorizo and piquillo skewers.
There is also an exciting new cocktail list featuring 12 specially-curated cocktails designed by designed by Bar Manager Benoit Provost, who has been a prominent member of The Stafford for 25 years. Taking their discerning clientele on a intoxicating journey around the secluded streets and hidden secrets of St James’s, each signature cocktail from the ‘Journey Through St James’s’ menu references new and old creations or spirits prized by the likes of Winston Churchill.
Containing Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask, Plantation Trinidad, Roasted Coffee Bean Syrup, ‘Three Dots and a Dash’ is meanwhile a rather potent short glass homage to The Stafford’s rich history during WWII, when US and Canadian Officers were stationed in the hotel and used the 380-year-old wine cellar as an air raid shelter. In 1941, with the threat of invasion at its height, Winston Churchill urged thenation to adopt the V sign for ‘Victory’ – three dots and a dash in Morse Code – to rally the Allies and show the unconquerable will of the people, telling listeners to tap it, whistle it and hum it to show solidarity.
Inspired by the nobleman, courtier and philanthropist Francis Godolphin, 2nd Earl of Godolphin, who supported the Royal Hospital Chelsea and had the distinction of owning one of the founding thoroughbred sires, The Godolphin Arabian. He died at his house in the Stable Yard, St James’s on 17th January 1766 which is currently the site of The Stafford’s historic Carriage House, ‘The Godolphin’ is an intriguing mix of Woodford Reserve, red wine infused with berries and cinnamon, lemon juice and egg white.
Finally I sampled the more ladylike ‘Moonraker’, served in a vintage champagne coupe and featuring Sipsmith Gin, Rhubarb Liqueur, Framboise Liqueur, Champagne, Elderflower Cordial, and inspired by the hush hush world of St James gentlemen’s clubs, popular meeting points and the favourite haunts of many famous MI6 and MI5 officers. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond and an MI6 man, was a frequent visitor to Boodles, White’s and Pratt’s. It is said that the fictional gentleman’s club Blades, which is referenced in several of his Bond novels, most notably Moonraker, as M’s club of choice. The only question remaining is ‘Who needs a club when you know about The American Bar?’
The American Bar at The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place, London SW1A 1NJ. Food is served daily until 11pm. Tables can be reserved from 8am – 3pm daily. For more information please visit www.thestaffordlondon.com or call 020 8493 0111 for reservations.