The London Bar at Gatwick Airport

I had to fly last minute from London to Glasgow.

I was in Gatwick South terminal on a Saturday night. I had come through security but I hadn’t had dinner or a much needed martini. So off I went in search of something to quench my thirst.

The expensive caviar bar downstairs in the south terminal sadly doesn’t do martinis, although it has some exquisite vodkas and accompanying nibbles. 

Instead, I wandered upstairs and came across what looked to be my oasis in the desert: The London Bar.


Martinis were on the menu for £10, with the seeming ability to choose which gin or vodka you would like it made from.

I was quickly served by a friendly member of staff who asked if I wanted gin or vodka, but this seemed to be the extent of my choice. I was served Bombay Saphire without being asked if I would prefer an alternative. I was disappointed, given that they had an impressive selection including Martin Miller’s, the Botanist and Jensens gin, although Bombay is a suitable choice. 

Nonetheless, my server earned back points by using Noilly Prat as the vermouth and the drink was stirred, not shaken, which is to my preference, although a choice should be offered to the customer.

They offered me an olive in the martini as a garnish or lemon peel if I preferred which was another point earner. I chose lemon as per usual. Anyone can drop an olive in a glass but in handling a lemon a server reveals their skill and consideration. 

My server also peeled an exceptionally generous ribbon of lemon peel and wrapped it around a straw over the glass to impart a significant amount of lemon oil into the drink.


Again, this is to my preference as I like my lemon oil, although it is customary to use a smaller length of peel. Some drinkers prefer only a finger-nail-sized piece to flavour the drink. 

Furthermore, the garnish was so large that towards the end of the drink it kept falling from the glass onto my face like an unwarranted kiss from an unwanted lover.


Personally, even though I am a lemon fan, I would usually cut and shape the garnish after squeezing its oil into the glass.

This means that it looks nicer and you don’t have to wrestle the garnish with your face every time you drink. 

The size of the glass is also worth pointing out.

It is the correct size for a larger cocktail with several ingredients, but for a dry martini it was very disproportionate.


The setting was relatively cool, but as an airport lounge it’s always going to have a natural air of excitement. I liked the lighting around the bottles. It was what caught my eye in the first place. I found the seats slightly uncomfortable after 20 minutes, but luckily “the martini had landed” by this point. Otherwise, some of the seats had plug sockets to charge your devices, which was handy.

The only other thing I would recommend for a good martini would be to at least have the house gin and glasses kept in the freezer. Of course, space is at a premium in a small bar but I would pay premium for a good martini. Otherwise, at £10 per drink I would say that it’s not the best martini you’re ever going to have, but it’s good value for your money in an airport lounge.

If you go, specify which gin or vodka you would like in advance. And don’t miss your flight. 

Advertisements

A Bombay Martini


I was picking up some supplies in the supermarket when this gin caught my eye. Bombay London Dry Gin: more muted in appearance than its bright blue Sapphire  sister, it has a simple, almost stringently-coloured branding.

I am not a fan of floral or overly botanical gins in my martini so I though that this one with only 8 botanicals (to Sapphire’s 10) might provide a basic, clean, high street option so I took it home and chucked it in the freezer to find out.


A day later when the gin was thoroughly chilled, I made a simple martini, garnished with lemon peel and accompanied by the obvious snack of Bombay Mix.


The gin was less citrusy and floral than Bombay Sapphire. I love citrus notes, but I prefer them firstly in the aroma of the drink, ideally from the lemon peel I’ve just squeezed into it, then finally as a slow melting aftertaste which follows what I prefer to be a strong, leading juniper flavour. The Bombay Dry leads with juniper which was a nice surprise. It was overall less citrusy than I like, but this gives you the option of squeezing extra lemon peel into the drink if you want it, or leaving it out if you don’t. I know several martini fans who prefer less lemon in their martini so this one would make a good option. Otherwise, the botanicals were understated, much like the branding of the bottle.


There was a heat in the aftertaste of the gin which I don’t particularly welcome, especially in a martini which should be ice cold and ideally smooth. It reminded me somewhat of the warmth of the Botanist gin, a sensation which I think is more suited to a whisky than a gin. Nonetheless, for a high street brand I thought it was good value for money with a suitable clean and juniper taste.


As chance would have it my flatmate brought back a bottle of Bombay Sapphire the very next day. Absolutely perfect for a bare-faced comparison test. As you can see, the branding is far more exuberant. The blue-coloured glass is iconic, while the black and gold detail is positively regal, enhanced not least by the image of HM Queen Victoria.


I threw it in the freezer next to the Bombay Dry and whipped up another quick classic the next day.


Bombay Sapphire is lovely for a gin and tonic, especially for people who are otherwise put off by the strong juniper taste of standard gins. It has a smooth taste with complex spicy notes that dominate, followed by an almost sweet citrus aftertaste.


As expected, for me, Bombay Sapphire is not my gin of choice because I expect a strong, leading juniper flavour in my martini. It bolsters the almost surgical cleanliness of the drink while adding a sharp freshness evocative of a cold, winter pine forest.


However, the bold and admirable botanicals of the Bombay Sapphire were nonetheless pleasant and interesting. I love coriander and cardamom and while they might dominate my coveted martinis they were more like a temporary house guest. It’s a slight inconvenience and not as quiet as normal but it’s interesting to catch up. Furthermore, if gin isn’t normally your thing, or if you’re not especially keen on juniper, give this one a try in a gin and tonic or a martini. It has been described as a ‘gateway gin’ luring innocents into the sophisticated but Hogarthian danger of the gin world so for that I must salute it!


In summary, Bombay Dry is largely juniper, with a slight heat in the aftertaste, but good value for money. Bombay Sapphire is sweet and spicy and a good choice if you’re new to gin or not overly keen on juniper.

The Raitini (cucumber raita martini)

What kind of martini should you serve before a curry? This one.

IMG_7250-0.PNG
Indian summer? No, just a British one.

As much as I love a classic gin martini, sometimes it can leave your mouth just a little too raw before you eat a fiery dish, so I started to contemplate an alternative, something with less alcohol but more flavour to compliment the curry.

Of course, South Asia presents us with a wonderful array of flavours to play with, but at risk of creating something some people in the region might consider ‘insipid’ I choose fairly mild flavours to create a cooling and refreshing martini, based on mint and cucumber yoghurt raita, but without the yoghurt. Imagine a salt lassi with alcohol instead of dairy products.

IMG_7207.JPG
The Raitini is born.

To serve two of these, take half a cucumber and grate it. I use a plastic Japanese grater I found on the internet. I have seen people use it for grating daikon/mooli but it’s perfect for this task as well.

IMG_7166.PNG

Separate the juice from the pulp. Pour the juice into a glass and put the pulp into a bowl.

Next, peel a knob of ginger.

IMG_7167.PNG

I was taught this peeling technique by a Sri Lankan friend. Use a teaspoon to scrape off the skin. It’s really fast and easy and you barely lose any of the juicy flesh underneath.

Next, grate the ginger in the same way as the cucumber. Really squeeze the ginger pulp to get as much juice out as possible, then discard the pulp. Pour the juice into the same glass as the cucumber juice. This adds a little bit of fire to the martini. If you really want to give it some kick you could grate in some chilli as well but personally I would save your spice for the meal itself. The drink should be cooling so as to contrast it.

Take a handful of mint leaves and chop then finely then add them to the cucumber and ginger juice. If you don’t have mint leaves you can substitute this with a teaspoon of mint sauce.

With the cucumber pulp that you separated earlier, you can now make an actual raita to serve with your curry.

IMG_7168.PNG

Mix it with a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt and add a generous handful of chopped mint leaves (or a teaspoon or two or mint sauce) and you’re good to go.

Back to the martini, take a martini glass, add 1 – 1.5 parts vermouth, then 2 parts of the cucumber juice and stir. Top up with gin (about 2 parts), stir again and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

IMG_7170.PNG

Fit for Aishwarya ‘Raitini’ Rai perhaps?

You can also use vodka for this recipe but I would recommend gin for those sentimental over the days of the British Raj. Bombay Sapphire would be a good choice for obvious reasons. Hendricks gin also goes very well with cucumber.

IMG_7200.JPG

I predictably served these latest martinis with Bombay mix and pistachio nuts but there is an array of bites that could accompany these drinks: bhajis, samosa and poppadoms are easy to get hold of but there are loads of possibilities. I would be interested to hear other people’s suggestions.

IMG_7213.JPG

And here’s the curry I served afterwards: marinated tandoori chicken with salad and grilled broccoli and a generous side helping of cooling raita made with the pulp of the grated cucumber.