Get ready for your new social spot in London because our Fifth Floor bar in Knightsbridge has received a fantastic makeover that is all too inviting. We’re talking a Knightsbridge skyline, velvet sofas, bright glamorous colours and a completely revamped drinks list (how about a “99 problems and this solved 1” cocktail?). We headed straight to the store to check out the fabulous new surroundings and personally speak to Bar Manager Sophie Bratt about what it’s like to head up this fearlessly stylish gem in the heart of London.
Tell us about the Fifth Floor bar refurbishment in Knightsbridge?
The bar has received a beautiful makeover with a warm and comfortable feeling that oozes our brand values more than ever. It all feels very inviting and warm. The customer feedback so far has been great. With this new interior, a new menu and a fabulous team, the Fifth Floor Bar is THE destination for London and I couldn’t be more excited!
Tell us about the new menu? (We’ve heard that Daniela and Manju are big fans!)
People don’t want black and white on paper nowadays, but they want an experience. We are an iconic London bar and we wanted to reflect that in our menu. The menu therefore represents a journey around London. It is divided into four sections that each highlight a different region of London: North, East, South and West. Each section has its own cocktails influenced by the area in question. The North London drinks have been influenced by refreshing parks, intellectual art and punk; the East London drinks by edgy, hipster, success, the city and movement; the South London drinks by diversity, Docklands, time and community; and the West London drinks by markets, culture, royalty and unity.
What’s your role all about?
I look after all three bars in Knightsbridge: the bar downstairs in Menswear, the espresso bar on the 5th floor and this beautiful new bar. I head up the teams of each one. The glamorous side of it is that I get to write menus, have tasting experiences, try different cocktails and choose my favourite, and be a judge in cocktail competitions. Today, I’m working with the Head Chef and Ketel One vodka on a new Bloody Mary menu, for example. However, I also do less glamorous things such as sitting behind a computer, where I try to make things work for me as a non-digitally savvy person.
Tell us about your background?
I started in the industry 18 years ago during university, originally as a way to get pocket money. I began working as a bar tender in a bar in Leeds, but it was dreadful because I was really bad at it and I just wanted to be a party animal. After four years I joined Harvey Nichols at their Leeds store and I fell in love with the profession. I’ve been with the business for 9 years now – moving from Leeds, to OXO, to Knightsbridge and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I always say that you learn something new in bars every day. I recently made my own Harvey Nichols whiskey and tested different flavours. The Whiskey will be launched across the business for Christmas and it’s exciting to have played a part in that. There’s never a dull moment, really.
How do you stay inspired for new drinks and recipes?
I take inspiration from everything and anything. It’s all about being proactive and being an independent learner. I pick up books and go to other places to try out drinks (perhaps too often!). I also make notes on my phone and notebook. More often than not I wake up in the middle of the night and have a drink in my head, which I then have to write down. That’s why I always have a pen and notebook next to my bed!
How do you know if something tastes good?
When I do tastings and come up with new tastes for cocktails, I taste from memory. I don’t have the best tasting palette, but for me it’s more about what things remind me off and the association with memories. If you just wanted a refreshing drink or taste you could have a glass of water, but cocktails are experiences and they should be memorable. That’s why us bar tenders draw from our memories so that customers can create their own memories with them.
What’s your favourite cocktail on the menu?
My current favourite is the English Garden Margarita from South London because it took me on a great journey across the globe. It was a cocktail with which I successfully entered a global cocktail competition, and I ended up representing England and Europe on my own. I had to make and present my cocktail during heats in Mexico, LA, Edinburgh and Berlin. That’s how far bar tending can take you!
What’s the most outrageous drink on the menu according to you?
The Salmanazar 9 litre bottle – this Champagne costs £40,000. If you fancy?
What do you like about working for HN in particular?
I like that we have so many different regions, who each have their own unique still. I find it interesting what the other regions and their bar tenders are doing. Each store is unique. I love the fact that we can play around with our menus and have so much variety!