Why Antonio’s is forever
There is only one place in the English capital to get a cocktail that would satisfy James Bond, writes Peter Rolfe
ANTONIO has a simple but wise piece of advice as you take a seat at his bar. Well, three pieces of advice, to be precise. First: ‘‘ One is not enough.’’ Second: ‘‘ Two is about right.’’ Third: ‘‘ Three is too much.’’ He is referring, of course, to the cocktail he helped put on the map – the ‘‘ shaken not stirred’’ martini he first served to James Bond creator Ian Fleming at a London bar before it became the tipple of choice for the world’s most famous spy.
His advice is well heeded. It is little wonder you never saw Mr Bond knock back more than a couple of his signature cocktails.
For as delicious as they may be, and as delightful a host as Antonio Pizutto is, his martini packs as big a punch as any Bond villain.
Fifty years after Bond first hit the silver screen, Antonio’s martini is as popular as ever.
In the same way there is only one Madonna in the music industry, there is only one Antonio in London’s cocktail world. To most he is simply known as ‘‘ Mr Martini’’.
From the opulent front bar of the intimate and stylish Egerton House Hotel, Antonio pours more than 40 years of bar experience and charm into every glass.
And they come from near and far to taste not just the drink he has mastered but the knockout service and charm that go with it.
On any given night at the cosy bar, which endearingly feels more like a private residence than a public house, a short stroll from Harrods in swanky Knightsbridge, crowds of regulars and eager first-timers line up to taste the famous drink.
Antonio’s creation is held in such high regard it is considered one of the best in London, quite possibly the whole UK.
To him it’s about the whole experience, not just the drink. And his customers are much more than clients.
‘‘ I’m very lucky. I’ve got good friends,’’ he says. ‘‘ There is no bar like this. I always make sure they get home safely.’’ It’s a good thing. Given the choice of vodka or gin, I select the former and shift nervously
And before I know it the first glass is down and Antonio is working on my second.
It’s refreshing to find a bar with genuine old-school charm and outstanding service rather than toocool-for-school attitude and pretension.
Antonio is still at the top of his game and has all the wit, charm and anecdotes of someone who has made a grand career out of pouring you a drink.
He has been a barman to the stars, calls several of them his friend and seems to know everyone in the room when he is working.
I’ve never had a nasty customer,’’ he says.
They, in return, have rarely had a better barman.
As my second empty vodka martini glass rests on the bar, everything seems right with the world.
What would James Bond do? Surely he would try the gin martini, right? Wrong. But I did. It was great. I think. Heed Antonio’s advice. Two is perfect. Three is too much.’’