It’s December 7th, 1941 and the Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbour. For Franklin D Roosevelt, American President, it’s been a bad day at the office. He needs a stiff drink. What’s it likely to be?
Such questions run through your mind as you look at the cocktail menu at POTUS Bar. It’s a menu inspired by a remarkable book, Mint Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: A Complete History of Presidential Drinking.
The FDR cocktail includes infused rum, rose liquor, hints of sour with orange and lime. Having tried it I can see how it helped FDR make it through the Great Depression and nearly through the Second World War. And now I understand how a Bloody Mary took JFK’s mind off the prospect of mutually assured destruction during the Cuba Missile Crisis.
With a central oval island of a cocktail bar, a soulful jazz soundtrack plus black-and-white photos of presidents making history you feel that you are just down the road from the White House. Those pics include Clinton on sax, Obama singing, Nixon and Truman on piano. If only they had performed together … what would that band have been called?
The POTUS abbreviation for President of the United States was coined by a smart telegraph operator back in the 1890s. Meanwhile, the legion of FLOTUS is not forgotten. A light and fruity Nancy Reagan Spritz pays tribute to the great women who, to quote Dolly Parton, have stood by their men.
POTUS – paying homage to all 45 presidents – is almost the 53rd State of the USA, strategically positioned just a stroll away from the new American Embassy at Nine Elms. Convenient for home-sick yanks but also great for Brits who fancy a taste of America without enduring an eight-hour flight and suffering an ever deteriorating pound/dollar exchange rate.
In an echo of the Statue of Liberty, POTUS should have its own welcoming poem:
“Give me your thirsty yearning for a JFK style Bloody Mary,
Give me your hungry yearning for a steak with the POTUS herb and spice rub.”
If every menu tells a story then the POTUS menu is an epic tale of immigrants’ food assimilated into America’s mainstream cuisine. From Atlantic coast New England Chowder through to Italian fishermen on San Francisco’s Fishermen’s Wharf chopping lobster, sea bream, scallops and clams to create a Cioppino broth.
The Cowboy Steak guaranteed to weigh in at not less than at 30 ounces is undeniable evidence for that old saying, “Everything’s bigger in America.” The concepts are American whilst the majority of the sourcing is local. So the astoundingly tender octopus, for the West Coast Octopus Salad, originates from Orkney. But there are practical limits to food mile concerns: as you can’t grow avocado on the shores of Loch Ness the mashed base of the salad makes a one-way commute from Mexico.
Maybe Macaroni Cheese was once a humble TV supper, something you grabbed before watching the Giants battle the Bears. For Pablo Peñalosa Najera, POTUS’ Executive Chef, tubes of pasta stand upright, like infantry circling the wagons, but they are filled with three great Italian cheeses. And then comes the succulent hit of a whole lobster. The crispy-topped creation luxuriantly paddles in a lobster bisque.
Returning to politics, history tends to forget that the Californian vineyards suffered a massive blow from Prohibition. Fortunately, FDR repealed Prohibition and a Nielson Chardonnay, recommended by our waiter/sommelier, worked well with my Mac and Cheese. No American isolationism or Trade Wars impact on the POTUS globetrotting wine list. Previously the waiter had recommended a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to match with the starters.
There’s far more to American desserts than Mom’s homemade Apple Pie. Najera cast his eye over the Land of the Free and reinvented some classics. Baked New York Cheesecake cosies up with eggnog ice-Cream. Then heading south, in a tribute to Najera’s Mexican heritage, there is Down Mexican Way with hazelnut, spiced chocolate tart and lemon sorbet. Another grand Southern Belle is Banana Foster – banana sponge caramelised in rum and soft sugar topped with a crumble and served with coconut ice-cream.
Surrounded by a black-and-white picture history of America’s Presidents, you cannot help but wonder what those Presidents would have made of this chic restaurant with its elegant grey and taupe decor, it’s a trough of living flame fire and spectacular shards of the central silver light fitting.
Without doubt, the superlative service is fit for a President and his First Lady. The menu covers the breadth of the continent and that extensive cocktail menu should keep everyone content. Mocktails are on offer too, so even teetotal Donald Trump could experiment beyond his usual Diet Coke.
Tell Me More About Potus At Crowne Plaza London Albert Embankment
10-11 Albert Embankment, Lambeth, London, SE1 7SP
Cocktails average around £14 with non-alcoholic cocktails coming in at £6.
Starters currently range from £8 to £18.
Main meals begin with the Cioppino at £16. Not surprisingly the 30 oz steak at £90 is a real outlier.
Desserts are priced at £9.