Last Saturday I waded my way through Leicester Square crowds in the pouring rain. There are very few places in London I loathe more than Leicester Square underground station and its direct surroundings. That matched with streaming rain and no umbrella, is my idea of complete and utter hell.
And then we arrived – drenched – at Mr Fogg’s Tavern. A surprisingly short soggy walk from Leicester Square. It’s so close we nearly walked past it. Perhaps because it also looks far more like a pub than I had expected (and very different to the original Mayfair Mr Fogg’s of Mayfair – the ‘residence’). It truly is a tavern. And it was heaving. And while I loved the – Fogg style – interiors, and the boat and birdcages hanging off the ceiling, I was ready to walk out immediately when I saw how full it was.
But I decided to give the Gin Parlour and Salon upstairs a chance, which are thankfully not advertised downstairs. Clever. Keep the tourists downstairs, while those in the know can retreat to a peaceful and beautiful oasis in the form of a cocktail lounge.
We were lucky. We spent a few minutes hanging out in the Gin Parlour (a little like a chic waiting room, with a lot of beautiful bottles of gin to keep your attention), where we browsed the very elaborate and – of course – gin dominated menu in delight. If you like G&Ts, this is your place. From the classic to the unusual, if you want it with peppercorns, or lemongrass, or basil – or all together for that matter, there is a G&T for everyone. And then a table (or half a table to be exact, we shared it with an adorable elderly couple) became available and we were whisked into the Salon.
If gin isn’t your thing then Mr Fogg’s Salon has a menu with other spiritual delights. But do be sure to check out the Gin Parlour (no seats here) and watch the clever cocktail maker slice ice off a ginormous slab of ice and concoct some delicious drinks.
Walking into the Salon is like walking straight into the Victorian times. From the waitresses all in special dress, to so much chintz you don’t know where to look, all sorts of hats hanging from the wall/ceiling and the sorts of ornamental lamps Mary Poppins might pull out of her bag. It was busy here too, but in a pleasant, bustling type of way. They monitor the numbers here (you must be seated), under 21s are not allowed, and it has the sophisticated edge that downstairs lacks (which is fine, because it’s a tavern – and the pies are meant to be amazing).
So we very much enjoyed our experience, and felt smug that we had found a table in a beautiful bar, a stone’s throw from horrific Leicester Square, on a Saturday evening. And the nibbles are good too. The only downside of course is that one cocktail each and some bar snacks will set you back what an all out feast at BAO will. But it’s worth it.
58 St Martin’s Lane