Archive for December, 2009

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I know Notting Hill fairly well.

Well enough to have a favourite seat at the Electric Cinema (D7; first row with foot rests, in the middle), well enough to have a favourite place to watch sport (the little room in the Walmer Castle; sofa, private bar hatch, your own 40” telly and a cracking Thai green curry) and as you’d expect, well enough to have a favourite bar. Unsurprisingly, it’s that last one we’re going to get amongst for the next couple of minutes or so.

For a really long time Notting Hill was The Westbourne (the more eagle-eyed amongst you will not be surprised to hear this). Many days and nights had been spent in it’s front yard long before celebrity became as tacky as it is these days, but that’s the main reason a lot of people seem to go there now (still a great bar though). The Electric Brasserie became the next default (after discovering the afore-mentioned cinema) and then Beach Blanket Babylon held the title for a bit. I also remember flirting very heavily with The Lonsdale when it opened but since then when anyone asked what my favourite bar in Notting Hill was I’d reel off a few of the old favourites without really committing to any one of them in particular.

That was until Montgomery Place.

Ok, hands in the air, this visit wasn’t the point at which this epiphany occurred, truth be told it was about 3 years ago, but what I discovered then still holds true to this day, perhaps even more so.

We were actually heading to a different bar, The Lonsdale, for no other reason than it was closer to The Churchill Arms, where we’d been back in the Forties for a few hours thanks to their annual celebration of the big man’s birthday, but The Lonsdale was closed down for a re-fit (watch this space) so we kept walking.

Make no mistake, if you appreciate the business of drinking, even in the bigger picture, ‘Monty’ is a serious place. Alcohol here is treated with a reverence that you will only find in a handful of bars across the city and be hard pushed to find outside of a few dozen on the planet. Not only is the business of making fine drinks exercised perfectly but the history, culture and provenance of of alcohol is celebrated in equal measure.

The venue is small and slinky, lots of black leather and glass, with little corners and intimate tables. The bar is as well stocked as you’d imagine and the drinks list reads like an abridged almanac of all the greatest cocktails made since anyone started writing them down. Alex, the un-photogenic but talented resident cocktail Czar, was at Paparazzi in Bratislava before this and has been mixing here for years so after settling into stools in front of the zinc we got straight into it.

A classic Martini with a twist is a great place to start for any occasion, plus if they cock that up you’ll know to stick to beer but clearly that wasn’t going to be the case here. I knew I wanted to end with an Old Fashioned (same old, same old) but I wasn’t sure how I was going to get there so I left it up to Alex. After the Martini, I was handed a Martinez, the original Martini, basically with the vermouth/gin ratio reversed;  then I had two more drinks that for the life of me I can’t remember, purely because I’m rubbish and nothing at all to do with the quality of the cocktails, but I’ll find out what they were and update this very soon. Next a Manhattan, served perfect, with Blanton’s Gold, and finally the Old Fashioned, slightly sweet, and again made with Blanton’s. Every single drink a definition of what it should be and each sip a glowing, darkening amber step towards my personal Bourbon nirvana.

While I’d been busy gliding backwards and forwards over the Atlantic, J had been matching me drink-for-drink through South America and the Caribbean on a rum and cachaça adventure, screwing up his face and nodding enthusiastically in equal measure. I particularly remember a very broad smile produced off the back of an excellent Mojito and a belly-laugh moment when he went all involuntary, like a kid biting into a grapefruit, after gulping an admittedly very sharp Caipirinha.

Needless to say with this and the previous festivities, come closing time the boys were at a bit of a kilter, putting far too much effort into staying on their stools than any Monday night should reasonably require, but when we finally decided to dismount it was fully of our own accord and off we trod, wrapped up and merry, into the brisk, familiar London streets.

We’d completely forgotten to eat so a hasty stroll up to the Gate and two Zinger Tower Burgers with Crispy Strips later (sometimes there’s one one thing you want), the evening was complete. I’d had a big day so the fairies came for me in the back of the taxi and, not for the first time, the driver had to poke me with his newspaper to get the fare.

A great place to go drinking, Notting Hill and one I know fairly well, so from now on when someone asks me what my favourite bar is, I’m going to be a lot more specific.




5 Stars

Where: Montgomery Place, 31 Kensington Park Road, London W11 2EU

When: 9.30pm Mon 30th Nov, 2009

Unpublicised: Sit at the bar, give them a rough idea of what kind of drink you’re in the mood for and take whatever they give you.

Closes: Mon-Thurs 5pm – Midnight, Sat 2pm – 1am, Sun 5pm – 11.30pm

Tel: 020 7792 3921

Website: http://www.montgomeryplace.co.uk/ 

Menus: On the tables

Interest: Opened solely to indulge the owners passion for world-class drinks, so no pressure to cut corners for the sake of increased margins. If only all bars were operated this way…


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