Today we address a time-worn problem: where to go drinking when you want the illicit romance of a Prohibition era drinking den, but the tongue-in-cheek fun of a 70s tiki bar. With an acclaimed North African-inspired restaurant above it all, for good measure.
The solution: Kwānt (which is pronounced quaint, and is not, in fact, an aggressive new word for somebody who’s pranged the side of your car).
Befezzed waiters will knowingly guide you downstairs as you arrive at Momo, furtively tucked away on Heddon Street. In the belly of the building, you’ll find a souk-like corridor lined with old, aged wooden doors.
Push one, tentatively, and you’ll immediately know you’re in the right place.
That’s because the other two lead to (what you’ll very quickly recognise to be) bathrooms, so by process of elimination – or pure luck – you’ll soon enter the glamorous underground watering hole that is Kwānt.
The first thing that’ll strike you is the glitzy interiors – light filtering through 1920s-inspired bamboo tile ceilings and wood-panelled walls commingle with mirrored palm-printed alcoves and 70s-meets-Moroccan painted walls, fringed pendant lighting and rattan chairs. The second thing is that the neat white dinner jackets of the barkeeps puts you in mind of the smart ‘tenders over at The American Bar at The Savoy. No coincidence, mon ami, because the brains behind the whole operation here is Erik Lorincz, who headed up the bar there for eight years.
He took the bar straight to #1 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, and has landed Kwānt a breakthrough ranking within five months of opening (no mean feat, when the top 50 tend to just be shuffled around in a different order each year). And for his first solo adventure, he’s serving up drinks with just the right level of pizzazz – fun, without distracting from the devoted craftsmanship that goes into their contents.
There’s the Ox & Hound, a glorified G&T with elderflower and shiso (and a little edible Victorian shopping list garnish); Sunflower Martinis with Jerusalem artichoke and nasturtium; the Zebra (a kind of rum negroni with porcini mushroom-infused Campari); and the Heads and Tails, with mezcal, Genmaicha (Japanese toasted rice) cream soda, and beermouth (which sounds like a hangover symptom, but is an Italian vermouth made from… beer).
If you really want to push the boat out, there’s a grand, illuminated cabinet of rare and vintage spirits (that’ll set you back a neat £475). Some of the bottles in there date back to the 60s, and make a mean classic cocktail.
Though some might find that a little Kwānt.
NOTE: Kwānt is open daily from 5pm – late (2am Fri/Sat) and does not currently take bookings – just turn up. You can see more on their instagram here.
Kwānt | 25 Heddon Street, London W1B 4BH
Like drinking in W1? Take a peek at our guide to the Best Bars in Mayfair