Simon Wittenberg checks into the St. James’s Hotel & Club to enjoy London’s very first Port destination at 1857 The Bar.
Up until the launch of 1857 The Bar last year, there was unsurprisingly no Port destination in London. For what is effectively a simple concept, you would have thought that this space would have already been occupied by other five-star hotels in the capital, but it wasn’t.
The opportunity to fill this void was left to St. James’s Hotel & Club, which is tucked away in a cul de sac off of the bustling Piccadilly thoroughfare. This means that your view out the window, or your visit for that matter, is not disturbed by hoards of passing crowds or the sound of traffic.
Launched last year in the company of the esteemed Symington family, 1857 The Bar is a quiet, cosy and discrete area to relax and enjoy a fine beverage in good company.
There’s a small choice of tables or high bar stools, where you can watch a bartender in action, in our case, Duarte from the island of Madeira.
When perusing the menu and the small display to the left-hand side of the bar, there is an impressive line-up of different types of Port available, including bottles that are more widely available and those which are limited and exclusive, which includes the 1940 Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny at £115 per 75ml glass.
Spearheading the Port offering at 1857 The Bar is Graham’s 1882 Ne Oublie, which we attended the launch of at the Christie’s auction house back in 2014.
Only 656 bottles were made, carrying a retail price of just over £4,500.
At 1857 The Bar, it sells for £220 for a small 25ml glass, highlighting its extreme rarity. Surprisingly, Ne Oublie has been selling even at this price point because it offers Port lovers and enthusiasts a truly unique experience that you don’t come across very often.
We started our Port experience at 1857 The Bar with a White Port Sour from the four-strong selection of Vinous Cocktails priced at £18 each.
Served in an elegant glass, this beverage combines white Port (made from white wine grape varieties), a touch of lemon juice, and egg white – to create a top foamy layer on which some mint garnish sat. The result is a refreshing taste with a nice tang to it, providing the perfect balance to the Port used in this recipe.
Switching our allegiances from white Port to red, we then headed for a glass of 2008 Warre’s Late Bottled Vintage Port (costing around £10), which offered a light and aromatic composition and was pleasing on the palate.
Our next stop was the Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port from 1984 (priced at £29 per glass), one of Duarte’s favourites. Boasting a brownish hue, it was almost akin to sampling a pungent cheese, and when put side-by-side with the aforementioned glass of Warre’s, you could really see a distinct difference in the shade of the Port.
For Port lovers, connoisseurs, and for those who simply want to pop into somewhere tucked away, and tranquil to enjoy some of the finest Port available in London, 1857 The Bar at St. James’s Hotel & Club is undoubtedly the perfect destination.
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