Fancy a little socialising after work but don’t want to commit to a lengthy dinner or, worse, get dragged along to the pub and find yourself still there hours later having drunk more than was strictly sensible on a packet of peanuts?
Aperitivo Hour at the Massimo Bar at London’s five-star Corinthia Hotel promises the perfect compromise. The bar sits at one end of the hotel’s Massimo restaurant and shares its opulent Art Deco styling, all gleaming striped Corinthian columns and candlelight bouncing off intricately tiled floors and acres of polished metal.
Andrea Cirino, Massimo’s head chef, recently decided to take the bar’s post-work offering up a notch. Between 5.30pm and 7pm each evening Cirino and his all-Italian kitchen team set out a smartly arranged selection of aperitivo; perch at the marble bar counter or take a seat on soft leather at one of the bar’s booth-style tables and, as long as you’re buying a drink, you’re welcome to help yourself to this sophisticated bar-snack buffet.
From stuffed Ascoli olives to crisp arancini, grissini wrapped with bresaola, mini salami sandwiches, black truffle bruschetta topped with shaved white truffle and prosciutto-wrapped cod, each of the day’s choices is put together with as much precision as the main restaurant’s dishes (if you’re hungry you can order many of them in larger portions from a separate bar menu). Drinks are equally carefully crafted, whether you prefer an Aperol spritz or Franciacorta by the glass.
The result is an appropriately glamorous and decadent experience for a hotel with high-society history; built in 1885, it hosted many a debutante’s ball in its time as the iconic Hotel Métropole before, later, seeing service as office space for the Ministry of Defence. Indeed, while the building was renovated and re-opened as a hotel in 2011, its two restaurants, three bars and lobby lounge come with much more atmosphere than you might expect of a recently modernised building. The Massimo Bar and Restaurant are particularly glamorous and romantic spaces, brought up to date by the David Collins Studio team, stalwarts of many a celebrated restaurant makeover.
Of course, such finery – and such a central London location (the Corinthia is about 60 seconds’ walk from Embankment tube station) – means fine London prices. That Aperol spritz will set you back £16 and a glass of Franciacorta £22, though Proseccos start at £10 a glass, Nero d’Avola at £6 and Peroni at £7. But with a choice of aperitivo to feast on – and slow the drinking down – and a subtle time limit on proceedings it’s a great way to get a flavour of the hotel and its kitchens without blowing the budget.
Massimo Bar, Corinthia Hotel, Whitehall Place, London, SW1A 2BD
Written by: Rhiannon Batten
First published: February 2016
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