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1C Portland Place, Regent Street, London
By Hamish Smith
“THE ELEPHANTS ARE REALLY WILD TODAY – look where they have got to,” head bartender Alex Kratena is known to whisper to customers trying to steal the bar’s Lego elephants. He and Simone Caporale spent days designing the Dali-esque cocktail mounts that have become the signature of their new menu. Like the brass pineapples before them, Artesian elephants are the must-have plunder of the World’s Best Bar.
This is hospitality at its best; discretion and humour deployed at all times. Artesian’s drinks get the column inches but hospitality is why the trade vote in hoards for this bar as the world’s best. No matter who you are, or what you’re trying to squeeze into your handbag, you are made to feel special at Artesian.
Amid the 5-star luxury of the Langham Hotel, just off Regent Street, Artesian could have easily been a parlour of insipid comfort, where moneyed types gather to drink pricey drinks and talk down to those serving them. It is not. Indeed, as the world’s best bar, it is now a place of pilgrimage – not just for the trade but for travellers of all ilk.
Pressure is the curse of any champion and you get the feeling Artesian’s wins now engender relief, not elation. Creativity is not a process at ease with expectation. “Stress-wise I haven’t been too good – I’m always thinking about what can we do that’s new,” says Caporale. But somehow they do. Reinvention is Artesian’s burden and remedy.
This summer Artesian’s Unfolding and Exploring menu made way for Surrealism. When designing menus, concept comes first; techniques are borrowed from the top kitchens in the world and ingredients, though wildly exotic, are a matter of adding colour to the sketch. Vessels are all custom made and this year inspired by the 20th-century art movement.
Chameleon Crystals, which uses an ultra-sonic homogeniser (don’t ask) to infuse ingredients in a matter of seconds, is popular, while You’re so Gangster is a slushy, pink drink in a dainty glass which, because of its name, attracts macho drinkers. This is typical of Artesian high jinks.
The Artesian team have an unresting drive towards betterment. Not just for themselves but for the industry. Next summer’s menu is based on the theme of Futurism, which is apt as they firmly believe their work is just the beginning of what the industry can achieve in
Kratena and Caporale’s eyes tell of a thousand sleepness nights but their fun, imagination and drive never turn in.