The other night I did one helluva bar crawl. I started with a Daiquiri in London. Then I had a Dirty Martini in Singapore. I drank a whisky cocktail in Tokyo, and chamomile-scented vermouth in Rome. I swung by the Public Bar in Moscow, sipped some gin way down in Dallas, and rounded the night off with a nightcap in Cognac. And I didn’t reach for my passport once.
All the cocktail action at Pilgrm takes place in the parquet-floored Lounge on the first floor. It serves 11 cocktails in all – as well as a range of beers, wines and juices – but there’s no sign of a traditional bar here. Instead, cocktails are prepped in a green marble-clad open kitchen at one end of the room, where head chef Sara Lewis (formerly of Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store) also serves little plates of noodles and falafel to fashionable-smelling guests sitting on velvet stools and banquettes.
Highlights on my visit included the Two Gun North Side from Tokyo’s Bar Trench, a twist on a Whisky Mac made with peated Japanese whisky and ginger liqueur, and the sweet-and-savoury Dirty Martini from Operation Dagger in Singapore, served with a green olive and a drop of caramel. The list also features the Terroir cocktail from London’s 69 Colebrooke Row, an understated Martini-style distillate of clay, flint and moss that is far more delicious than it sounds. These drinks sound fussy on paper, but their presentation was very simple – which is just the way I like it.
“The inspiration for the list came from our travels around the world, and observing how obsessed bartenders would get over a particular flavour or smell and how that obsession would result in a drink,” says Pilgrm’s CEO and founding partner Jason Catifeoglou, a former partner and general manager of the Zetter Hotel Group.
Catifeoglou and his team might not be able to spell “pilgrim” properly, but in every other respect they’ve been obsessive about details. Every floorboard, Edison lightbulb, banister and artwork in this compact, 73-room hotel is seemingly reclaimed, repurposed or specially commissioned. And their quest to optimise space and reduce waste has made them rather ingenious too. I love the fact that Pilgrm jettisons fresh flowers in favour of walls full of living plants. And I’d far rather check in at a cheerful ground-floor coffee shop than some identikit hotel reception chugging out miles of unnecessary paperwork.
I never previously thought of Paddington as a cocktail destination, but this hotel – which is literally within sight of the train station – has changed my mind. Even if you don’t check in, I’d recommend you check it out