Lentil Cocktails And Mushroom Creations: Ethnobotany At London’s Leafiest Hotel

The study of regional plants and the effect on local culture, ethnobotany explores the practical use of flora throughout life. And in 2019? Waeska is diving deep into the world of natural produce for a cocktail list that utilises ingredients from around the world. Located just off Oxford Street, this low-key hotel bar was next on my alcohol-fuelled hit-list.

Waeska at The Mandrake Bar Review

Thought the menu was interesting? Just wait until you see the interior. 

Hidden within The Mandrake, Waeska is a slinky affair. Need the toilet? You'll need an elevator to get to those. Staying the night? That could cost you up to £3k. Even entering the hotel is an experience in itself, with a tunnel of light and floating stars leading us inside. Sat in a cosy floral armchair that promised prime position of the decadent bar, we were ready for a boozy ride ahead.

Quite often, when a bartender recommends a cocktail, I wince. I’ve been told “girls will like this” and “this one’s my favourite,” with little regard for flavour. But not here. Our attentive bartender knew exactly how to appeal to our taste buds; with my drinking date’s whisky, amaro, mushroom, balsamic and coffee Enokitake (£15) sitting pretty against my Sarsaparilla (£15) which united rum, pineapple, coconut sherbet and South American Sarsaparilla root for a grown-up piña colada-style sip.

Waeska at The Mandrake Bar Review

From the mushroom-infused Enikotake to Marigold's twist on the bloody mary, Waeska is shaking things up.

Elevated bar snacks from restaurant Yopo next door swiftly followed suit, with bubbly, yet crisp parmesan and tapioca squares (£5) alongside juicy octopus empanadas (£9). I paired my delicious bites with a Devil’s Claw (£15) which matched gin and sake with pandan, Champagne and a tincture made from the Devil's Claw plant. Earthy and fizzy, it was just as good as the clarified bloody mary-style Marigold (£15).

As we stared at the bar – adorned with tribal masks, skulls and a trippy gazelle-peacock (which we were told was from the owner’s private collection… what a guy) – our final tasters arrived. Skipping the padron peppers (£5) for moreish chickpea empanadas with sweet potato purée (£5), I moved onto the Cactus Blossom (£15); a creamy blend of tequila, sherry and umeshu with an injection of – you guessed it – cactus blossom.

Waeska at The Mandrake Bar Review

Lush greenery, hanging flowers and romantic lighting make The Mandrake an Insta-worthy pick.

My date wasn’t so keen on the sweeter Rosemary (£15) which combined cognac with coconut, pomegranate, lentils and the titular herb… but I really think I’ve found a winner here. Finishing our impressive evening with a trip up to the top floor, we were met with a leafy, enclosed rooftop space. Think candlelit tables, walls of herbs and Bond villain-esque gargoyles above. Looks like a summer return to Waeska is on the cards.

The DesignMyNight Digest

Sure, Waeska might be a little on the pricey side – but for a hotel bar in the middle of Fitzrovia, every single drop is absolutely worth it. This is probably the first time that a bartender has suggested drinks and actually been spot on, with each of mine being more delicious than the last. Whether you come for the unusual menu or the stunning scenery, you’re in for a good time.