Monday, 7 March 2016

Gong Bar @ The Shard: Cocktails with one hell of a view

When "The Shard" was built it is fair to say that it divided opinions. Now that it is built I think most people cannot imagine the London skyline without it. I work in the London Bridge area and even though I see it every day I regularly find myself looking up at it with awe. 

The Shard is known for its opulent splendour as well as its spectacular views over London. You can imagine how excited I was then when I was invited last week to go to the Shangri-La Hotel and visit their Bar Gong on the 52nd floor. 

The view looking north-west from the bar
As you make your way through the various elevators that you need to travel up to the 52 floor, you emerge and greeted by immaculately dressed hostesses, looking glamorous in striking red dresses. We were shown into the bar, which is small but exceedingly elegantly presented. You are then able to take in that view for the first time, which simply takes the breath away. The bar is situated on the northern side of the building so you can take in views of Canary Wharf and Tower Bridge to the East and St Paul's and the London Eye to the North and West. We were blessed to have a relatively clear evening which allowed for great viewing. Throughout the evening I found that my gaze kept being drawn back to the spectacular views across London, it really is captivating. 

Zdenek Kastanek

Action shot!
The reason for the event was that Bar Gong had been taken over for a brief residency by the world-class cocktail maker, Zdenek Kastanek, who has achieved world-wide fame for his work in Singapore.

Kastanek has the look of a rock and roll star about him and he certainly puts on a show as he makes his cocktails - not with the flashy flicks and tricks of some, but in the way that he crafts his drinks with unusual ingredient combinations and interesting presentation.

During the evening it was a pleasure to be able to speak with Kastanek who was very personable and provided some interesting insights into his inspirations and passion for mixology.    

The Cocktails

For his residency at Gong, Kastanek had come up with a special list of five cocktails which really demonstrated his creativity and talent.

The first cocktail that I tried was The Bird Machine which featured Hum Botanical Spirit infused with Oolong Tea, Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, Fresh Pineapple Juice and Fresh Lemon Juice. It had a nice tartness from the pineapple and a smokiness from the Oolong tea and the Whisky. 

Next up was my favourite drink of the evening (so good in fact, I may have ordered another one of these), Poet's Cup made from Bacardi 8, Mancino Amaranto Rosso Vermouth Infused with Coffee Beans, Becherovka and House Bitter. This reminded me of a Negroni, it started with a bitterness from the House Bitters, but then you get a real rich deepness from the coffee flavours. I felt so inspired by this drink that I felt pressed to have this "Mad Men" style picture of me enjoying it taken.

One of the more memorable drinks from an aesthetic perspective was The Merchant which had Yellow Chartreuse, Plantation Jamaica Single Island Rum, Homemade Fresh Walnut Milk Syrup, Fresh Lemon Juice, East Imperial Burma Tonic Water which was served in a wonderful mug that reminded me of an Easter Island head. This is the drink that is in the title picture at the top of the page - coupled with a lit up Tower Bridge I thought it made for a rather smart photgraph!

These drinks were really enjoyable, the crafting of them was very impressive. When you add in the salubrious environment that we were drinking them in and it made for an exceedingly memorable evening.

I would urge everyone to go to Gong to try out these cocktails - there is a no reservation policy, so take a chance and head down to check it out. The bar doesn't sit a great many people (in fact there are strict policies governing how many people can be in there at any time), but if you can get in you will be in for an evening like no other.

Thank you!

I would like to thank the staff at Gong led by the very personable Marta and Fabio who put on an excellent evening and were very friendly (we even got a sneak peak of the swimming pool that is set on the 52nd floor for residents of the hotel - phenomenal!).

I would also like to thank Su-Lin who invited me to the evening.  


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