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Friday, 27 September 2013

The Punch Room and The Bar at Berners Tavern , Fitzrovia

'We have a nightclub too,' says a chap who introduces himself as the Edition London's 'human traffic manager,' conjuring up all sorts of disturbing images. He promptly sets about trafficking us to the basement of Ian Schrager's new project, a reboot of the old Berners Street Hotel. There was a time when any mention of  Schrager would have had me peeing my pants - assuming I'd been wearing any under vintage 501s, which nobody did, back in my youth. Call me blasé, but no nightclub will ever compare to Schrager's right-place-right-people-right-decade temple to hedonism, Studio 54. The Box? Cirque le Soir? Not.Even.Close. Nowadays, sadly, I'm less interested in what the DJ is playing (funky soul I actually recognise, since you ask), more intrigued by the club's acoustic glass; a product so effective, it totally isolates all bump and thump. In any other area of Edition London, no one can hear you scream "Le Freak, c'est Chic!" Trafficked back upstairs, we investigate the hotel's buzzy lobby bar and the bar at Berners Tavern (pictured). A handsome beast set in a vast baroque ballroom, it suggests a grand brasserie on les grands boulevards de Paree. Well-meaning but sluggish service allows us time to contemplate walls hung with acres of artworks that are, by turns, cool and edgy, or so howlingly naff they might be a job lot liberated from the railings of Kensington Gardens last Sunday. Drinks - similar to what you'll find at Berners Tavern's executive chef Jason Atherton's Blind Pig bar in Soho - get equally mixed reviews. Absolutely smashing (a cider brandy and peach liqueur cup) absolutely is but, served in a metal julep cup, corn on the cobbler (whiskey, orange Curacao, Oloroso sherry and sweetcorn syrup) could be iced Lemsip. When I discover there's a Vogue party going on in a more intimate bar off the lobby (VIP room whore, moi?), I abandon plans to sample Tanqueray-based Dill or No Dill and a fix called Mead Myself and Aye - ludicrously noncey libations no bloke who is serious about his image should be caught dead with. By the time we locate The Punch Room, the Vogue birds have flown the coop. The connoisseur’s choice, this chic, fumed oak-panelled hush bar is almost Calvinist in its simplicity (that's Calvin as in 16th century Proddy, but it could equally be as in Schrager's old pal, Mr Klein). The vibe reminds me of an airport VIP lounge (And no, I haven't always flown scum class, you cheeky git!) 
Killer cups to share include Oxford sherbet punch laced with autumnal dark spirits; and a silky, clear milk number that borrows from American barkeep legend Jerry Thomas’s original 19th century recipe (combining arrack, Somerset cider, cognac, rum, green tea, lemon, pineapple and spices). Service is seamless as you'd expect of any gaff run by Davide Segat, formerly at The Bulgari. Embarrasingly, at first, I do not recognise him despite having met him several times. No offence signor; I'm notoriously rubbish when it comes to faces. I'm the numpty, after all, who, as a precocious child at Schrager's 54, asked someone vaguely familiar if she was the hat check girl at a West Village bar I had been to a couple of nights previously. 'No, honey' said Miss Donna Summer, smiling sweetly. London Edition? Oo--oooo-oooh, I Feel Love!
London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, W1T 3LF 7781 0000