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

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - MARTINIS LONDON -

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.’’

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