This winter The Goring hotel’s host to a small, London homage to the Kulm Hotel’s Sunny Bar in St. Moritz.
The Sunny Bar, at the top of the notorious Cresta Run, is the unofficial meeting place for the Cresta riders. And the Cresta Run itself’s a thing to strike fear – or a powerful need for a bar – into the hearts of all but the boldest. A 1.2 km natural ice skeleton toboggan racing track, any riders drinking in the Sunny Bar are either gearing up to take sharp turns at devastatingly high speeds, or celebrating surviving them.
The Cresta Bar, on the other hand, is a winter pop-up on the veranda of The Goring hotel, with their sleek SW1 frontage and the highest concentration of top hats you’ll ever see outside of a wedding. So there’s an argument for this not being as perilous a thing to do as the St. Moritz version, but I had to get the Northern line and the District line in rush hour to get here, so I know a thing or two about senseless dare devilling.
The Goring itself’s a piece of history, the only five star hotel in London to still be owned and run by the family that built it. This winter pop-up on the veranda is like a play within a play, a Wes Anderson-ish display of helmets, handguards and pullovers from the St. Moritz Toboggan Club in pride of place. Light comes from candles, seriously efficient heatlamps and the enormous, lit-up Christmas tree in the garden beyond the terrace. The menu runs to Cresta Bar-crafted cocktails, along with anything you could order in the main hotel bar, and bar snacks with overtures of mountain holidays like rillettes, tartiflette, and things so dense with cheese and fat they make you forget about the cold.
I’ve seen the Bullshot cocktail on the Cresta Bar site in a clear, double-walled glass, looking all rich and and brown. The wish being the father of the thought, I was pretty sure it was hot chocolate with a shot of alcohol. It’s actually not hot chocolate, or any sort of chocolate – it’s beef consomme. And vodka, Tabasco, Worcestershire Sauce, lemon, and a lot of pepper, a Bloody Mary with less tomato and more beef. Like having your starter and your drink in one, says Emily, in love with the efficiency of it. If there’s any drink on a cold winter evening that could make you happy it’s not alcohol-laced hot chocolate, it’s this.
Emily’s Lemon Fizz is an innocent name for a lot of alcohol – gin, an elderflower spirit, crème de cassi, crème de fraise, lemon and prosecco. The Cresta Bar’s gone for pulling-no-punches levels of spice in the Bullshot and sourness in the Lemon Fizz over softer crowd-pleasers. The tartiflette’s the opposite, a gentler version of the rich with cheese, heavy with potato dish. This one’ s creamier than reblechon-dense, I guess in deference to the fact we haven’t been skiing all day, this isn’t an Alpine winter and we don’t technically need a restorative kilo of cheese.
The Goring’s version might not be bracketed with the extreme sports options of the St. Moritz original, but it’s a lovely refuge from the winter. And you can see where the Cresta riders get the willpower to keep hurling themselves at high speeds down icy runs. By the time we head back out into the night we’re so fired up on Tabasco and gin and beef broth and tartiflette we feel invulnerable to the December cold, and even the Northern line holds no fear.
The Cresta Bar at The Goring is open now till February, 2017. To find the beef consomme cocktails and the St. Moritz Toboggan Club helmets and hand guards, follow the signs for the veranda at The Goring, Beeston Place, SW1W 0JW. 0207 3969000. Website.