Hidden in plain sight along Kensington High Street lies Amaro. A cocktail bar that is relatively new to the scene but boy, they’ve definitely got some pedigree behind them. So, on a chilly Thursday night, we went to find out more.
Opening in December and with The Savoy’s Elon Soddu taking the reins, Amaro boasts a legendary line-up of bartenders, with previous positions at 69 Colebrooke Row, Kwant and Homeboy under their belts. So needless to say, the team know a thing or two about cocktails. As you walk in, the lush green tropical walls beautifully contrast the cool granite bar, which is nestled near the far end. Everything oozed glamour and chic; it had a speakeasy kinda vibe, and the atmosphere was buzzy without being boisterous. The music zig-zagged from Spanish guitar to funky jazz, and as my date and I sat back to relax, we admired the stunning, absolutely stacked selection of spirits behind the bar. There are hundreds to choose from.
We were introduced to our wonderful bartender for the night, Alessandro, who walked us through the menu; his incredible knowledge of the drinks available was quite something. There are 12 cocktails to choose from, plus two alcohol-free, but if you prefer to stick to wine there’s an extensive offering here too.
After recommendations from Alessandro, I started the evening with a mango bellini (£14) a snazzy little number that’s distilled in house and made to look exactly like Champagne. Unlike your standard bellini, Amaro’s version was filtered so it’s translucent and has just the right amount of sweetness and fizz. The concoction is carbonated in a bottle, so it’s fresh and easily poured right at your table. My date opted for the verdant (£14), a revitalising and slightly sparkling long drink bitter with lemon, sake and celery, decorated with a bay leaf.
As we nursed our drinks, food was brought to the table. The dishes reflect the chef’s Sicilian heritage, with small plates including pasta of the day (£10) and seabass ceviche (£14) on the menu. However, after careful consideration, we chose the bufala panzanella (£12) and cheese selection (£12), plus the hugely popular tuna tartare (£14). The quality is something Amaro take seriously, and this is evident in the sourcing of the fish from a local South Kensington fishmonger every two days.
Being a vegetarian, I quickly made a beeline for the brie, pecorino and scamorza, the latter being a smoky, silky smooth cheese from Sardinia that I haven’t tried before. And believe me, you’re going to be hunting down this stuff after you taste it for the first time. Carrying on the Italian theme, it was served with Sardinian crackers to really mix up the textures. My date and I basically fought after every last bite of the bufala too, especially when combined with the fresh pesto-topped heritage tomatoes. Although I can’t comment on the tuna tartare, I hear the crunchiness of the seeds, the butteriness of the avocado and the kick from the wasabi mayo made it his standout dish of the night.
Back onto the cocktails. Next up was the caramel punch (£14) a drink that we expected to be similar to Baileys but surprised both of us by being translucent. How they made it creamy but clear, we have no idea, but we loved the hint of brandy. We also enjoyed a sweet hit from the cocada, a sugary slice from Brazil that wasn’t too dissimilar to coconut in taste and texture. We also chose the mandarin garibaldi (£14), an orange-coloured drink so summery we almost forgot it was mid-February.
To close the evening, and after chatting to the team for their tips, we went for a Saltana Sour (£14), a tangy, lip-smacking drink that is infused with sultana syrup that they make in-house. It’s a daiquiri style cocktail featuring white rum, cognac, lime juice and chocolate bitters. My final choice? I have to admit I was slightly hesitant about ordering their flagship tipple, the pomegranate negroni (£16). I initially thought that it would blow your brains out, mainly down to the tequila, mezcal, campari and dry vermouth, but honestly, it was perfectly blended and went down so smoothly that I picked it as my favourite drink of the night. A unique reinterpretation of the famous tipple, this drink was fruity and refreshing and the twist of orange was a nice touch.
The DesignMyNight Digest
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we couldn’t have timed this evening out better. Amaro really set the bar high when it comes to clever concoctions, bringing a contemporary twist to classic mixology. They have an eye for high-quality ingredients, and they also make most of the bitters, mixers and syrups themselves in-house too. The setting is gorge and luxurious without being pretentious, plus the fact we saw many regulars propping up the bar shows this newcomer is here to stay.
💰 The damage: £126 for two (excluding service).
📍 The location: 15 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5NP.
👌 Perfect for: Intimate drinks for the most deluxe of date nights, following a romantic stroll around Hyde Park.
⭐ Need to know: There’s an ever-changing specials menu that runs from 5pm until 8pm. So there are always new mixes just waiting to be discovered.
Has all this talk of mixology got you in the mood for more? We’ve rounded up London’s best cocktail bars here.