When The Principal London flung open its doors for the first time earlier in the spring, there were some who asked, ‘does London really need another luxury hotel? Another one, really?’ I may even have been among them myself.
But, following in the footsteps of other luxury openings like The Ned and Ten Trinity Square, we doubting Thomas’s have been proved wrong. Since April, The Principal has brought a welcome touch of glamour to leafy Bloomsbury, lending night owls another set of chic hangouts to occupy after hours. The hotel itself boasts 334 bedrooms, 29 suites, Neptune (a restaurant and oyster bar overseen by chef Brett Redman) and a coffee house to enjoy – all of which are inspired by the bygone, bohemian character of the Bloomsbury Set.
It’s the same story with the hotel’s swanky cocktail bar, Fitz’s. Overseen by Sean Fennelly, Head of Bars at The Principal (formerly of Soho institution Milk & Honey) the bar itself is eccentric, plush and suitably ritzy, with lots of velvet and dark leather, plus the building’s original stained glass windows. The name comes care of Charles Fitzroy Doll, the architect of the hotel. It’s a fun place to be, and Fennelly’s cocktail list is lick-smackingly good.
Moreover, should you wish to sup your own little piece of The Principal at home, Fennelly has lent The Jackal his coveted Four Queens recipe – a contemporary take on the classic mint julep. ‘We replace the traditional recipe’s bourbon with a style of whiskey unique to Ireland: single pot still,’ Fennelly explains. ‘These whiskies are made from a mixture of malted and un-malted barley – a clever work-around from a time when British excisemen extracted tax from Irish distillers based on the amount of malt they used.
‘This unusual grain recipe gives the whiskey a fresh, herbal profile that pairs brilliantly not only with mint, but nearly any sweet or savoury herb. We keep it simple in Four Queens, amping up citric freshness with lemon balm, and anise notes with chervil and fennel flower, sweetening with a touch of local honey. It’s brilliant introduction to the wild side of Irish whiskey.’
Cool, crisp, herbaceous and a touch sweet, we think Four Queens is a smooth choice next time you want to mix something to sip on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
60ml Redbreast 12yr single pot still Irish whiskey
10ml Honey Syrup*
5ml Sugar Syrup**
10 mint leaves
2 sprigs chervil
2 lemon balm leaves
1 fennel flower
Add the ingredients to julep cup (or failing that, a cut-glass tumbler) and gently press the herbs with a muddler or the back of spoon to release their natural oils. Fill with finely crushed ice, churn to chill and dilute, then top with further crushed ice. Finish with a straw and garnish of fresh herbs.
*Three parts of any honey (the team at Fitz’s use a blend of wildflower and heather) to one part warm water, stirred until mixed thoroughly.
** One part white sugar to one part warm water, stirred until the sugar has dissolved.