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May 2016 / Food & Drink / by Ann Hall

Let’s Go Al Fresco!

Summer in the city. We love London at any time of year, but when the sun shines, it really is the best place in the world. We’ve discovered a hidden gem where Londoners can feel like an integral part of the city and enjoy al fresco cocktails in an elegant yet spacious setting: Pennethorne’s at Somerset House. A cobbled courtyard set just off the bustling Strand and Waterloo Bridge, secluded from the main tourist trails, Pennethorne’s Bar is named after the 19th Century architect who designed the West Wing of this iconic building, where the bar is nestled. Inside, a rich, dark and elegant space with high ceilings, arched windows, inky blue walls and velvet banquettes. Dramatic lighting, antique mirrors give subtle nods to the year-long Grand Tour of Spain, France and Italy conducted by Sir James in 1864, a journey where he acquired inspiration for his many architectural feats around London.

Outside, the courtyard too serves eponymous cocktails and an artisan tapas-style menu also inspired by Pennethorne’s travels. We can toast his genius by sampling the gordal olives, frittata, ham and cheese croquettas, and soft boiled eggs with Iberico ham, or feel as though we are in Europe with platters of cheeses and meats and the mushroom toast – back on the menu after patrons demanded its return.

Wine flights and craft beers will complement the sunshine perfectly, but the real stars of Pennethorne’s Bar are the signature cocktails. The Somerset blends vanilla Galliano, Passoa, lemon, passionfruit and pineapple, and is served in a coupe with an edible flower. The Herbalist is coriander-infused gin with strawberry liqueur and cracked black pepper – it works, believe us! Lavender Fields and The Royale are classics cocktails with a modern English twist and are refreshing and sophisticated. New to the terrace are the Primrose Daiquiri (rum, honey and sparkling wine) and the Prumus Spinosa (sloe gin, cranberry, honey and basil with lemon). For dessert, forgo any solid sweetness for an El Patron – coffee patron, coconut rum, amaretto, pineapple and chocolate bitters – it looks like a Guinness in a martini glass, and tastes like tiramisu. The Strand – whiskey, cassis, honey syrup, walnut bitters and ginger ale – is the Pennethorne’s nightcap, save it ‘til the end and you’ll feel warm inside and out.

Monday to Friday, 8am to late, Saturday 10am to late (closed Sundays)

The New Wing, Somerset House, Strand, WC2