Around the world in 80 cocktails with Mr Fogg's
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Immersive bar experiences are everywhere in London today. It is almost impossible to scroll through Facebook or Instagram without seeing a photo of cocktails in an outlandish vessel or staff dressed to the nines as anything from 1920's high society to Game of Thrones-esque lords and ladies.
Don't get me wrong, I love a good themed night out experience as much as anyone, but I have one big gripe with these sort of places - often the themed experience takes over from the bar experience. This generally happens in one of two ways, either there is such a focus on getting involved with the experiential aspect that it is impossible to enjoy your drink, or the experience has been tacked on and not fully incorporated, so it becomes a nuisance rather than an enjoyable asset.
Fortunately, neither of these is the case with Mr Fogg's.
The Mr Fogg's group actually includes six different locations: Mr Fogg's Residence in Mayfair, Mr Fogg's House of Botanicals in Fitzrovia, Mr Fogg's Gin Parlour and Mr Fogg's Tavern in Covent Garden, Mr Fogg's Maritime Club & Distillery in Liverpool Street and Mr Fogg's Society of Exploration, just off The Strand.
It was to this last one that a group and I headed for a friend's birthday drinks at the weekend. We had been enticed intially by the photos of the Victorian train carriage, which forms part of the bar, since our birthday boy is something of a train fan.
As you might expect, the bars are inspired by Phileas Fogg, of Around the World in 80 Days fame, and carry the spirit of Victorian-era adventure with them.
Arriving at the Society of Exploration, your entrance is announced by means of a wooden ball bearing a number, which is dropped to run through an intricate pathway down the stairs and into the bar below. It is the perfect example of service and experience blending - it means that by the time you have descended the staircase yourself, the host is ready to greet you and usher you straight to your table.
Do book a table. We arrived at 7.45 and within about 15 minutes the place was almost full. The staff do a great job of keeping people moving and there was never a sense that it is overcrowded or unmanageable, but I don't imagine turning up unannounced and hoping to sit down would work very well.
The interior is brilliantly decorated, with the main room resembling a Victorian member's club and two side rooms set up as a cosy sitting room and a train carriage. We set about the cocktail menu with enthusiasm, kicking off with a sharing teapot filled with a vodka and absinthe cocktail. As you do.
The cocktails are a real showstopper. They are themed around Mr Fogg's travels and come in an assortment of weird and wonderful presentations. But the key thing is, they all taste amazing.
While the theme blends perfectly with the experience (though the audiobook reading in the loo did take me by surprise) and the cocktails alone are worth the trip, the true stars of the evening were the staff.
The service was among the best I've ever enjoyed at a bar - speedy, unobtrusive and always in the spirit of fun. When our table booking was over - you get two hours - we were helpfully moved to a makeshift spot around a stack of cases which formed our new table.
We tackled the cocktail menu with gusto, among the standouts for me were The Inca Trail (a blend of tequila and cold brew coffee) and Native Lands, featuring Hendrick’s Orbium gin and Essentiae Pruni liqueur. The rest of the party recommended the Sacred Valley and Below The Horizon. The full menu is here.
We were having such a good time that not only did S and I miss our last train home, but we were still enjoying another round of cocktails at our suitcase table when our original seats became free again. We were offered the option to return to our table, which we happily accepted, and I guarantee we'll return to Mr Fogg's.
Photos (with the exception of the tea pot) courtesy of Johnny Stephens Photography and Mr Fogg's