Mimi’s Hotel is a bit of a bizarre venue, in the sense that it somehow manages to remain somewhat hidden, whilst being located on the bustling Frith Street in the heart of Soho. We’re not entirely sure how it manages such a feat, however it is therefore no wonder that Henson’s Bar – found on the ground floor of the hotel – is even more of a hidden gem.
Design – Size isn’t everything
The street level bar is pretty compact – more of a collection of small tables and chairs scattered around an entrance door, serviced by a bar counter just about big enough to be staffed by two bartenders and have seating for four to rub shoulders with one another over drinks. Whilst the seating arrangements are not the most congruent – with some relegated to the doorway by the hotel reception and sectioned off from the main space by a divider wall – Henson’s Bar does maintain a sort of charm.
Old fashioned in aesthetic with a few contemporary tweaks, the walls are lined with dark wood panelling and filled with smartly upholstered seats. Heavy red velvet curtains and a warming fireplace add a laidback opulence, whilst a mirror wall does its part to elongate the space. The artwork is the main sign of modernity in this throwback design and stops the decor from feeling too ‘old school’.
What’s impressive about Henson’s is that, as soon as we walk in, the chaos of the Soho outside is immediately forgotten. It’s almost like we’ve been portalled to another space and time where life moves with an unhurried gait and sybaritic demeanour. No small achievement and a wonderful way to settle into an evening of relaxed indulgence.
The Menu – Quality Spirits, Forgotten Classics, and Reinvented Icons
We take our seat and leaf through the handsome menu. What strikes us first is the quality and breadth of the spirits on offer. An unsurprisingly good whisky selection sits alongside a strong rum list and a curated collection of high-end gins. This is an incredibly well-crafted spirits menu that doesn’t merely pander to the portfolios of the bigger distributors and producers, instead appearing to be thoroughly deliberated and crafted with care.
The cocktails are broken down into five distinct chapters: Signature, Aperitivo, Classic, Vintage, and Mocktails. The ‘Signatures’ (all £12) are imaginative reinventions of iconic classics, whilst the ‘Forgotten Classics’ (all £12) section lists some of our favourite staples as well as one or two enticing sounding drinks that we’ve never heard of before.
Bar Manager Francesco Delfino notes:
“We can’t wait to re-introduce a selection of classic cocktails to our customers old and new. We have always prided ourselves on serving the heroes of modern cocktail culture, with a strong focus on Italian serves and feel this is one of our strongest menus to date.”
After some deliberation, we elect to start with Truffle in Paradise and Milk Punch. Both take a little while to arrive but when they do, they are just what is needed. Truffle in Paradise is a luxurious, Old-Fashioned-style serve with truffle oil fat-washed Maker’s Mark 46 combined with rich Cacao Tempus Fugit, and finished with Angostura Bitters and orange peel. The aromas from the peel are immediate and mouthwatering. The unctuous texture of the washed bourbon robes the palate with the cacao adding depth. Truffle’s earthiness works beautifully with the whiskey’s barrel spice, whilst orange adds a lovely top note that sings above it all.
Milk Punch is a classic style of cocktail that was revived in a big way by bartenders around five years ago. Milk is added to spirit and left to curdle (sometimes with the help of an acid such as citric acid); the liquid is then separated from the curds and runs off as a clear ingredient that has some of the body and smoothness of milk. Henson’s Milk Punch is a sugarcane-forward delight featuring Clairin Sajou, Smith & Cross rum, Fair Rum, Brandy Torres 15, cinnamon, and almond milk. The Clairin and Smith & Cross are unmistakable on the nose, throwing out rich vegetal notes, tropical fruit, baking spice, and a fair share of funk. These translate perfectly onto the palate, with pineapple taking centre stage with the brandy’s dried fruit and rich toffee sweetness. Cinnamon helps marry the elements with almond nuttiness from the milk working away in the background.
For a small space, the service is pretty slow, however there are only two bartenders making and delivering all the drinks. That fact, along with the mellow atmosphere, make this a non-issue for us as we languish on our seats.
After a leisurely wait, our next drinks of Blue Blazer and Knickerbocker are brought to our table. We’re surprised to find that the Blue Blazer is a hot drink and can’t help but feel disappointed that this wasn’t brought to our attention when ordering. Afterrall, surely the fact that it is from the ‘Forgotten Classics’ chapter means that the staff are aware it’s one of the more unusual serves. A heady combo of various whiskies as well as a rum, sugar, and bitters, it’s a boozy concoction that sadly doesn’t quite hit the mark. Once cooled down a bit, the various flavours find their voice with Starward Fortis’ juicy red wine character heard the loudest.
Knickerbocker (Equiano Rum, orange curacao, raspberry syrup, lemon) proves itself to be a tasty beverage with sweet-tart raspberry, bright orange, and fresh lemon dancing to Equiano’s rounding tune. It’s a fruity and refreshing, Summer-y drink that is well-balanced with a delightful tartness preventing over-sweetness.
Henson’ s Bar is a charming find and much-needed oasis of calm in the centre of Soho. Its smart, cosy decor combined with its laidback atmosphere makes it a wonderful venue to wind down in after a long day at work, or to have a semi-informal meeting in. Whilst service was a touch lacking, the cocktails were well-executed and the spirits selection laudable.
For those who can’t quite commit to one cocktail, Henson’s Bar offers triptychs; three mini cocktails for only £15. The Martini flight takes drinkers on a journey from the first documented ‘Marguerite’ (an early days Martini) in 1888, through to the first ‘two parts London Dry to one part Dry Vermouth’ created in 1906. A triptych devoted to Scotch, features three serves made with Macallan 12, Compass Box Great King St. and Monkey Shoulder. These are certainly flights we’d like to try if we find ourselves in need of a reprieve from Soho’s more frenzied offerings.
Henson’s Bar, Mimi’s Hotel, 56/57 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 3JG