bars � drink
76 | squaremeal.co.uk
There's a lot of discussion about
'theatre' in bartending circles
these days. This doesn't mean
your local mixologist is likely
to launch into a passionate
Shakespearean monologue while
stirring up a mean Negroni (although, come
to think of it, that might be fun). What we're
talking about here is the whole experience
of buying a particular drink in a particular
bar: the service, the ambience, the way in
which that drink is prepared and presented.
Let's be blunt about the economics here.
If you're getting barely any change out of
a £20 note for one cocktail, then you want
that cocktail to be pretty special. Not just
plonked in a fancy glass and adorned with
a wedge of exotic fruit.
Sure, you can belly up to the bar (if it's
not rammed) and watch as your Manhattan
is painstakingly pieced together but, to be
frank, sometimes that's just too much like
hard work. You've just got comfy and it's
been a long day - so what you'd really like
is for the whole thing to come to you.
Trolleys are nothing new in hospitality.
They've been faithfully ferrying desserts,
cheeses and after-dinner drinks around
restaurants for decades. Mentally thumbing
through rows of dusty Cognacs, Armagnacs
and single malts is all very well, but having
your very own cocktail measured, mixed,
shaken, stirred and poured at your table
while you look on? Now that sounds like fun.
In London, Dukes claims to have been
the rst to oer a drinks-on-wheels option,
although it lapsed for a while when the
original martini trolley had its wheels cruelly
amputated, instantly transforming it into
something known as a 'table' (it still sits,
rather forlornly covered in newspapers,
next to the till, remembering former glory).
Dukes head barman Alessandro Palazzi,
a veteran of countless martinis, resurrected
the idea with a custom-built version in 2008
- and so popular has it proved that a second
trolley has been pressed into service.
In recent times, these mobile mixology
stations have been popping up all over
London, including a vehicle for DIY bloody
Marys, an alcohol-free version, an art deco
masterpiece and, at the Ritz, the last word in
luxury, which costs as much as a Mercedes.
Let's take ve of them for a spin…
MARTINI TROLLEY AT DUKES BAR,
St James's Place, SW1A 1NY
Who's in charge? Martini master
Alessandro Palazzi, who is assisted by a
gaggle of Italian acolytes. White jackets,
eortlessly ecient service, plus a warmth
and unteachable charisma that puts you
immediately at ease. Nobody
knowingly leaves Dukes
without a smile on their face.
What's the deal? The
Dukes martini trolley is
the original, a model of
styling constructed to
Palazzi's precise specications. With more
miles on the clock than an overworked
family hatchback, an eight-strong menu
of trademark martinis are on oer from
a range of frozen gins and vodkas.
Delivery at the table is calm, unfussy
and satisfyingly stylish.
What should I order? For all his white hair,
Palazzi is not a gin reactionary. A bone-dry
martini (with surplus vermouth icked on
to the long-suering Dukes carpet) using
No 3 Gin, or perhaps an earthier concoction
incorporating Highgate's Sacred Gin.
Cost: From £17.
TROLLEYEDCan't face the long walk to the bar to order your next cocktail? Square Meal goes in
search of the best places to get your libations mixed right by your table WORDS RICHARD WOODARD
ILLUSTRATION: BORIL BOSHNAKOV
You can belly up to the bar, but
what you'd really like is for the
whole thing to come to you