In the last issue of LUSSO, we pondered on how Michel Roux Jr was getting on in the weekend wasteland that is Whitehall, following the re-design of the bar at Roux at Parliament Square. Well, own horn a’ tooting, Roux at the Pembury was named after the chef’s birthplace. Left slightly confused by the particular relevance of this to the bar, its menu or us, the punter, I still enjoyed rather a nice tipple there.

Perhaps because it was Friday night in Whitehall (ergo, dead – all politicians at their third homes-with-moats) or because there was no-one to greet me as I entered, it felt a little like I was roaming in off the street straight into someone’s home. But a home welcoming to wandering strangers, greeted as I was in the first-floor bar, with a handshake from Bar Manager, Abdulai Kpekawa. A charming, enthusiastic and understated chap, he sat with me to discuss the important matter of what cocktail I should be drinking, explaining some flavours and combinations that were new to me. The upstairs bar was spacious and comfortable, with a Georgian-grandeur-cum-elegant-pub vibe, with Chesterfield sofas nestling in the corners. It felt as relaxing as one would want their living room to be, and with a well-stocked bar to boot.

So what is Roux’s impact on a bar menu? Abdulai explains the new menus change more often than your average bar, and he seeks Roux’s approval for each new tipple. Not many bar managers in this town have to hold themselves to such high standards. Abdulai’s determination to please his boss manifests itself in an interesting, exciting and complex drink selection.

In my opinion, there’s rarely a bar that will do a sour drink properly, leaving me to stress, and verbally italicise the
‘extra’ in “I’ll have that extra sour please”. Abdulai’s menu not only offered up sour sounding drinks, with Yuzu and Citron Vodka, but delivered the sort of punch I thought I was only destined to get at home by hashing recipes together. I asked very nicely whether they’d consider giving me a recipe – an extra sour cocktail but one of the most exciting drinks I’ve had in a long time. They obliged, though I hope they weren’t expecting me to keep that a secret.

But coming back to my surroundings, the only detail (required payment aside, of course) that reminded me I was reclining in a commercial establishment rather than a private library, was the rather tacky section of the wall that was well-stocked with Roux’s latest book.  Yes yes, I know who you are, yes yes, I know you were on TV.  It doesn’t pay to remind me, in fact, it made me feel rather dirty.

That’s not always a bad thing, mind.