BYLINE: Rachel Mulrenan
Royal Festival Hall
(www.skylon-restaurant.co.uk/ 020 7654 7800)
With its panoramic views of the Thames and top-quality cocktails, this destination bar, located in on the third floor of the Royal Festival Hall, is the perfect spot for a special occasion.
While the Skylon bar offers a large selection of wines, liqueurs and tea and coffee, the cocktails are the real star of the show. It’s fair to say we felt a little overwhelmed by the extensive cocktail list, but the attentive bar staff were happy to help us out and make suggestions.
I started with a Davy Jones, a rum-based cocktail served with St Teresa orange, freshly squeezed lime and sugar. It was knock-your-socks-off strong but surprisingly refreshing. My friend tried the Meltdown, an unusual mix of vodka, Japanese Matcha tea, lemon juice and basil leaves, poured over a lemon ice ball- sounds strange but it tasted delicious.
For our second drink, we tried a passion fruit Bellini with Passoa liqueur, and a Raspberry Zeal, made with fresh raspberries, ginger and mint, vodka, lychee liqueur and pomegranate juice. The Raspberry Zeal was tasty but perhaps lacked the originality of the other drinks. At £12 each, the cocktails are pricey, even by Central London standards, so it makes sense to choose a drink that you couldn’t get elsewhere. Luckily with so many inventive cocktails on offer at Skylon, that’s not too difficult.
Forget bowls of old peanuts or bags of crisps- Skylon’s bar menu features decidedly upmarket bar snacks, including tiger prawn tempura, salt and pepper squid and a tasty-sounding charcuterie board. Complimentary Japanese rice crackers were provided for us to nibble on with our drinks, along a glass of ice cold water that was frequently refilled.
We had tender Asian-inspired scallops flavoured with ginger and soy sauce and served with crunchy asparagus, and a smooth duck pate with black pepper onion chutney and sourdough bread. Both were artistically presented and a great accompaniment to the drinks, but at £15 for three scallops and four stalks of asparagus, and £12 for the pate, the snacks here don’t come cheap.
Even at 6.30 on a mid-week evening, Skylon was packed- as with many Central London venues, there’s no sign of the recession here. The crowd was mainly suited and booted, along with well to-do groups of friends and the odd couple on a date.
The raised bar takes pride of place in the centre of the airy space, dividing the restaurant from the more casual bistro grill. Floor to ceiling windows run the length of the restaurant and bar, revealing an impressive panoramic view of the Southbank and the River Thames.
Seasonal pale pink cherry blossom and bright pink lilies dotted about the place soften the modernist interior, designed by Conran. Bespoke bronze chandeliers and hanging lanterns provide low level lighting, enhancing the dramatic view of the river and London skyline after dark. With these spectacular views and inventive cocktails, you could do a lot worse than Skylon for an evening to remember.