The bar at Simon Rogan’s restaurant Fera at Claridge’s is so tiny I suspect most people don’t even know it’s there. And to be honest, I’d prefer to keep it that way, were it not for the fact that this five-seat nook deserves to be better known for a drinks programme that is surely one of the most interesting, creative and expertly served in the capital.
“Simon Rogan’s ethos of using seasonal ingredients and supporting small-scale, sustainable artisans is very important to us,” says restaurant director and wine buyer Raphaël Rodriguez. “And Claridge’s gave us the freedom to push that to the limit. But I’d like to think we’ve done it in a way that’s grown-up, rather than hipster.”
Flavours from the kitchen find their way into cocktails such as Fera’s take on a French 75, a flute of gin, English sparkling wine, lemon, lovage and sea salt as fresh as the first day of spring. The gin itself is distilled on-site and flavoured with sprigs of apple marigold from Rogan’s own farm.
You can fill your boots with top-flight DRC here (the burgundy section of the 1,000-bin wine list is particularly spectacular), but the real joy comes from letting the nine sommeliers take you off‑piste, from the spine-tingling grower champagnes of Jacques Lassaigne and the reds of Barossa’s natural wine pioneer Tom Shobbrook, to the aromatic, coastal whites of Sicily’s Nino Barraco.
It makes you see London through new eyes too. A cleverly curated choice of aperitifs, including Highgate’s Sacred Vermouth and Kamm & Sons’ ginseng spirit, as well as a selection of locally brewed beers, such as Beavertown (which comes to the table in a decidedly un-Michelin-starred can), highlights how the capital’s craft scene is now about so much more than gin.
But a taste for the hard stuff isn’t necessary to enjoy a drink at Fera. Its dedication to the sourcing and preparation of tea – mostly supplied by single-estate specialist Postcard Teas – is second to none. Once you’ve drunk a glass of sparkling Darjeeling with a canapé of lemon sole and sea herbs, or finished off a meal with a bitter-chocolate black tea from Japan paired with stout ice cream, you might be prepared to forgo alcohol entirely. This quiet rebellion even extends to the glassware, which is by MarkThomas, an Austrian craft duo, one of whom worked at sommelier favourite Zalto before going it alone.
“Most of these people we know – we’ve visited them,” says Rodriguez. “That human connection is really important.” If you’ve not been yet, I’d suggest you make that connection too. Just remember, though, one of those five stools has my name on it.