When the owners of the Zetter hotel lassoed ace chef Bruno Loubet in 2010, they were setting the bar high for themselves. Then they joined forces with Tony Conigliaro, the dapper drinks master and founder of 69 Colebrooke Row, to create a cocktail lounge for their new townhouse hotel.
The Russell Sage interiors, which raid the annals of architectural and decorative history, are a hoot – both elegant and cosy. Tony’s drinks, he explains, are pared-back in comparison, and a simpler offering than his thrilling list at 69 Colebrooke Row. A dozen seasonal house cocktails, might include the Fig Leaf Collins, made with fig-leaf tincture, lemon, soda and Beefeater gin; the Somerset Sour, with cider brandy, lemon and Breton cider; and the Master at Arms, with Myers rum, port reduction and home-made grenadine.
Home-made ingredients are one of the things that give Tony’s drinks their edge: bitters made with Seville orange peel from the Beefeater distillery in south London; pomegranate syrup; horseradish vodka; the pine cordial with which one of the Zetter Townhouse bar guys (all trained by Tony) knocks me up a Pine Gimlet.
Our drink is awfully good. Perfect, actually – clean, yet warming. Pine, of course, is a natural partner for the juniper in the gin. It’s this sort of precise thinking that makes Tony such a star. That, his energy and hard work, and an unflappable suavity. He does look slightly surprised at one of our questions: when we ask him if he enjoys his work, he tells us he loves it, as though we’d be nuts to imagine it might be otherwise.