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Sunday, 28 February 2010

Bentley, South Kensington: Barts, Chelsea 

The bijou bar at The Bentley was once an occasional late-night Negroni stop, before the hotel somehow fell off my Gin-dar. Invited to celebrate its acquisition by the Waldorf Astoria Collection, I’m anticipating the five star sensory massage synonymous with that brand. Alas, no makeover to report: in the same old, pre-takeover, garish surroundings - think Imelda Marcos - we discuss sparrow-like society dame Liz Brewer’s curious wardrobe choices and nibble pedestrian canapés to a naff soundtrack by a DJ from Boujis (we’re told): in which parallel universe does anyone want to ever again be subjected to The Gypsy Kings’ Bamboleo, especially at bonce-bothering volume? Great Tanqueray 10 martinis though! The evening is salvaged by my introduction to Barts (pictured), a riotous speakeasy secreted behind a discreet black sliding-door, deep in Chelsea Cloisters, a raffish appartment block in er, Chelsea. New - from the well-connected chaps behind Kitts nightclub - it’s rammed to the gunwales with faces you’ll recognise from après-ski in Val D’(Sloane Square) Isère and Caribbean house parties. Toffy totty is an acquired taste, but Old Fashioned and Daiquiri at £6.95 and Perrier-Jouët at £45 will be right up most folk’s street. Nursery food (macaroni cheese/ shepherd’s pie) comes at retro prices, while the decor is similarly nostalgic: Mickey Mouse wallpaper, cuckoo clocks and ancient trannies - as in radios; but if you’re drawn to drag, there’s a dressing-up trunk filled with wacky gear. The party spirit even gets to charming staff, tonight, got up as The Waltons.

The Bentley, 27 - 33 Harrington Gardens, SW7 7244 5555

Barts, Chelsea Cloisters, Sloane Avenue SW3 7581 3355