The City has long been seen as something of a desert when it comes to finding a decent martini in an establishment where you can also have a civilised conversation. However, following the roaring success of his soigné members’ club 5 Hertford Street, Robin Birley this week opens a similar-style bar, Bar20, located above his new Birley sandwich shop opposite Rafael Viñoly’s Walkie-Talkie building. Birley’s trademark keen eye for art and talent for creating a cosy atmosphere is much in evidence in the open-to-all space. Vintage posters for Davos tourism and Swissair adorn the walls, alongside antique Indian textiles. The single room – which can accommodate around 60 seated, 100 standing – is warmly lit, with vintage rugs and graphic floral-print sofas.
Mariusz Szymecki, previously barman at Sky Garden, mixes up classics such as Manhattans and a mean Negroni. The menu is geared more towards the keen appetites of the City gent than ladies who lunch – pappardelle comes with a punchy braised beef and fresh herb sauce, or for the more weight-conscious, the Autumn salad combines wild watercress with baby beetroot, walnuts and crumbled feta. Hearty breakfast fare includes scrambled eggs with pancetta and sunblush tomatoes, or porridge with toasted coconut and blueberries. During the day, Bar20 cultivates an atmosphere suitable for business, while a grazing bar menu keeps the post-work crowd sated with grilled salmon skewers with citrus sauce or hot marmalade-glazed chipolatas. The space is also available to hire for functions – for this there is also a Christmas menu kicking off this week, with offerings such as beetroot and sloe gin gravlax, pumpkin and sage tortellini and bittersweet chocolate and espresso mousse.
Birley, son of Mark, founder of the clubs Annabel’s, Mark’s Club, George and Harry’s Bar, says he “wanted to bring the sensibilities and service that my father originally created in Mayfair – and that I hope I have continued and developed – to the City. I hope and think that this supplies a new dimension to life in the City.”