LPM has devised a cocktail menu dedicated to legendary French artist, writer, and bon-vivant Jean Cocteau, complete with a ‘levitating’ Old Fashioned and a love letter to Coco Chanel. Olivia Palamountain reports
Niçoise restaurant group LPM is paying homage to the life and work of Jean Cocteau via an immersive cocktail experience available at each of its six venues around the world.
In London’s Mayfair outpost, this boozy thematic journey takes place in LPM’s new bar, the Riviera Room, a fabulous addition to the adjacent restaurant. Chic, petite and perfectly lit, it’s the kind of room that makes you feel a million dollars, the perfect retreat for an atumnal evening in town.
The bespoke menu is beautifully illustrated with original Cocteau designs and consists of four chapters, each of which offers a choice of three multi-sensory drinks (non-alcoholic options are available).Every cocktail has been designed to reference La Belle Epoque via key moments in Cocteau’s life, drawing on his history, beloved hideaways, friendships and iconic works of art.
We kick off with a tribute to Cocteau’s mentor and grandfather with the “Eugène”, a blend of Remy Martin VSOP, Mancino Rosso, Mandarin Napoleon, sandalwood and salted prunes. It’s my kind of drink and makes for the perfect aperitif: warm, bitter, sweet and aromatic. It’s served without fuss in a simple coupe, with a clever rice paper invite as the garnish.You can’t have Cocteau without Coco Chanel. These two legendary figures shared both a personal and professional passion: Chanel designed costumes for Cocteau plays and in turn she was one of his greatest patrons, commissioning works of art (and even allowing him to live in her home while he recovered from his opium addiction).
Lifelong allies, this relationship is brought to life in the ultra-feminine Lettre à Coco, a vodka-based cocktail made with Ketel One, Champagne cordial, jasmine, bergamot and rose, delivered with a blush pink envelope and served with a spritz of Chanel No5 perfume.Inside the envelope is a copy of an original note from Cocteau to Chanel, which reads: “Don’t ever change.” If there’s anything more romantic for a friend to say, I’d like to hear it.
At first sip I’m transported to a world of silk negligées, pressed powder and marabou mules. It’s heady, floral, elegant and downright delicious – like drinking a very glamorous granny. In a good way.
While every drink has its own beauty, there are two clear showstoppers: Trinity and Room 22.The latter, sadly out of action on Globetrender’s visit, consists of a glass Art Deco fountain that serves up an absinthe-based cocktail meant to bring out both the spirit of debauchery and perhaps the green fairy too (if you’re lucky).
Absinthe was the drink du choix of Cocteau and his renegade mates – think Charlie Chaplin, Kiki de Montparnasse and Louis-François Cartier – and this drink is named after one of his favourite places to imbibe with his crew: Room 22 at France’s legendary Hotel Welcome.
You cannot fail to be impressed by both the engineering and the flavours of “Trinity”. Inspired by Louis Cartier’s iconic ring (which was influenced by one of Cocteau’s dreams about space and the galaxy), Trinity appears to levitate above a platform designed especially for LPM.A mix of Bacardi Ocho Rum, cacao, strawberry, Islay honey water and bitters, I’m told these ingredients embody the three pillars of a relationship: love, fidelity and friendship. Tenuous, but it tastes ambrosial, not dissimilar to an Old Fashioned. I’m sold.
The weightlessness of the cocktail is a nod to the space element and the drink is served in a simple tumbler to highlight its mind-boggling presentation. I don’t want to give too much away: this is a drink that has to be seen to be believed.
I wasn’t expecting much in the way of sustainability here, however, good practice is spotlit throughout; leftover champagne from the restaurant has been distilled into a cordial, for example, and the menu is made from pineapple fibres (it’s actually edible but please don’t eat it).This choice of material is actually a playful wink to the pineapple’s as a symbol of “hospitality”, if you know what I mean.
No? In kink circles, this fruit is often placed outside homes by the resident couples to show that they are up for swapping partners, chosen to echo Jean’s predilection for swinging.
It’s almost too easy to get carried away here – and you should. Not only is the new Cocteau menu a total treat, in a world where bars and restaurants hang on passing fads and hipster whims, LPM is something of a classic gem. French food isn’t exactly en vogue right now, which might be why it tastes all the more delicious here.The main menu is available to be eaten in the Riviera Room; arancini, tapenade, London’s finest burrata (I challenge you to taste a better one in the capital), and Chef Patron Raphael Duntoye’s signature dish of warm prawns in olive oil are just some of the delights that swing our way.
However, the unusual, triangular dining room is so pretty, it’s worth elongating the experience with drinks and canapés at the bar, followed by dinner in the restaurant.
Back to the cocktails, LPM’s award-winning global bar manager Tibor Krascsenics, says: “We thought it would be an incredible project, to create a bar menu inspired by Jean Cocteau’s life and to pay homage on the day of his death.
“The year-long project has been a labour of love, with the end result being a testament to one of the greatest figures of the 20th century – and one of its most versatile artists. Jean loved the French Riviera; it influenced his life, and this is visible through his work. But he too greatly influenced the French Riviera, with his lifestyle and art – several Cocteau treasures can be found on the French Riviera.”