10 Questions with Benoit Provost, Bar Director at The American Bar at The Stafford London
1.) Good afternoon Benoit, welcome to Ellustria.com! To those who have not yet visited, can you tell us a little about The American Bar at The Stafford?
The American Bar at The Stafford belongs to the great tradition of the American cocktail bars that became renowned in London and Paris during the 1920s and 30s, and remains one of only two of the original American Bars left in London. It’s intimate, informal and the perfect place to relax with one of our classic or signature cocktails.
2.) What first enticed you to The American Bar?
The American Bar was the first place I worked when I came to the UK. Originally I was only due to stay for one year, to help improve my English, but I fell in love with everything about it. I love the clubby feel and atmosphere and how it feels so cosy, friendly and relaxing, something most people wouldn’t necessarily associate with a hotel bar.
3.) Have you always worked in the hospitality industry?
Yes. I went to catering school for 5 years and then worked in various bars and restaurants in France and Switzerland, before coming to the UK and The American Bar.
4.) What are some important life lessons you’ve learnt whilst working in hospitality?
Hospitality for me is a school of life, you learn so much about yourself and other people. It prepares you to adapt, share, learn new skill and most importantly work hard! I recently met with some school friends from catering school, all of whom have left the industry, and they all agreed that the skills they learned during their time in hospitality have been invaluable to prepare them for their future careers.
5.) Can you talk us through your inspiration for the cocktail menu at The American Bar?
Of course! The theme of our current cocktail list is ‘The American Dream’. Over 60% of our guests at The Stafford London are visiting from the USA and given the The American Bar’s history too, we thought it would be a lovely story to delve in to America’s past and celebrate all the wonderful things to have come from the country. Our signature cocktail list is a celebration of The American Dream, and the individuals who pursued and achieved their own particular dreams in politics, exploration, events, music, sport and literature.
6.) If the walls of The Stafford Hotel could talk, we know there would be many exciting stories to be told. Can you tell us any interesting facts about The Stafford?
Where to start, there are so many! I’ll keep to The American Bar stories for now…
There have only been three Bar managers at The American Bar since it opened; Louis Croset, Charles Guano and myself, and we all just happen to have been French!
We have also been lucky enough to have been visited by some of the world’s most famous faces – Paul Newman, Bing Crosby, Lady Margaret Thatcher and The Queen to name just a few, but certainly our most memorable guest is Nancy Wake, a leading figure in the French Resistance and highly decorated war heroine. Nancy lived at The Stafford for a time and always enjoyed a daily gin (or two) with us in The American Bar. When she sadly passed away, we created ‘The White Mouse’ cocktail in her honour, after the nickname given to her by the Nazis in WWII.
The vast amount of memorabilia that can be seen on the walls and ceilings of The American Bar has all been donated to us by guests over the past 70 years.
7.) Which cocktails should Snow Queen Vodka lovers order at The American Bar?
Certainly, Tin Pan Alley from our cocktail list The American Dream. It’s a twist on the classic vodka gimlet. For something a little more traditional, you really can’t go wrong with a vodka Martini.
8.) Can you think of a cigar that would be well paired with Cognac Prunier V.S.O.P?
I would suggest a Romeo and Juliet Short Churchill. It’s easy drawing, medium flavour and light in strength that is sweet in taste from first to last puff. It perfectly complements the bright aroma of honey and peach that Cognac Prunier VSOP delivers.
9.) Can you share one of your favourite cocktail-fuelled memories with us?
Probably one of my most fun-filled cocktail-fuelled memories was during a visit to a distillery in Scotland with a group of bartenders. We finished the evening with a cocktail session that lasted longer than planned…it’s always dangerous to leave bartenders together with a wide array of spirits to play with. Needless to say, the bus journey to the distillery the following morning was very quiet!
10.) On a well-deserved day off, what is your tipple of choice and where can you be found?
My tastes are very versatile, and my choice of drink depends on the time of the day, my mood and the season. I could go for a vintage run, malt whisky, cognac or switch between a vodka or gin and tonic. Where you will find me?…I can’t tell you where to find my secret garden!
Visit: The Stafford London 16-18 St James’s Place London SW1A 1NJ, https://thestaffordlondon.com
To book: Tel +44 207 493 0111 | Email [email protected]