Beautiful books, snaffable cocktails and fine fodder aren’t a common combination but if you head down to Maison Assouline you’ll find all three luring you into a dreamy haze.
The unassuming bookstore is located on Piccadilly and if you haven’t been in, I highly encourage you to.
The store-cum-bar is housed within an old bank – designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1922 – and it boasts an array of period features, from dark wood panelled walls to sky-high ceilings and intricate cornicing work.
The place is stacked with the dreamiest of books from Maison Assouline with subject categories to suite all tastes… think wine, watches, super cars, St Tropez and even Barbie!
But nestled among the shelves of books and luxury knickknacks for sale, is the elegant Swans Bar.
The place has an old-school, decadent feel about it and the servers are all smartly dressed.
We were swiftly ushered to a table against the wall, where I took the couch and my friend Greg took to a chair.
It was a Thursday night and the place had a good buzz.
I have to say the place was packed out with quite an eclectic spread of people. There was one lady writing diary entries in a smart leather journal across our way and a couple conducting a business meeting in another nook.
Meanwhile, a mother and father sat with their daughter on another table before a group of young women in glitzy outfits turned up apparently warming up for the night ahead.
But the oddest pairing was a model and a man old enough to be her father. The duo sat alongside me at one point smooching and laughing before I had to politely tell them to shuffle over slightly.
Anyhow, back to the food and drink… the Swans Bar definitely hits the spot if you’re looking for something simple yet sophisticated.
The bar menu features an array of snazzy cocktails and my friend Greg and I plumped for an ‘Ibiza’ and ‘Rat Pack Manhattan’ to start.
The Ibiza was a little on the piquant side for my liking, with a punchy blend of Belvedere vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, fresh raspberries and bitter lemon, so I traded placeS and delighted in the perfectly poured Manhattan.
Much to my delight the food menu was nice and concise and required little deliberation.
We shared a little dish of buttery green olives to start before tucking into a main each.
The kitchen had run out of the Fillet Tolstoy Smoked Salmon, so Greg opted for the heavier portion of L’Ami Louis Foie Gras instead.
Meanwhile, I went for a fresh plate of avocado, marinated artichokes and sundried tomatoes, which came served with rustic wedges of toasted bread.
Both plates were perfectly sized and we slowly gorged on the goodies while soaking up the surroundings, and another drink. This time we both went for dry martinis, with the Stolichnaya proving to be the winner on the vodka front!
We weren’t sure whether to take dessert but our lovey waitress persuaded us into taking a little selection.
I hadn’t spotted it on the menu, but we were delivered a quartet of sweet treats presented on a slab of polished slate.
The sugary tapas rounded things out delightfully and we had a delicate fight over the cube of chocolate and raspberry cake, with Greg artfully winning.
With the place gradually emptying out – it closes at 8pm – Greg and I left Maison Assouline in high spirits.
This central bookstore is the perfect place to indulge in a start, middle and end.
I will definitely return for another chapter or two…
Maison Assouline is located at 196A Piccadilly, St. James’s, London W1J 9EY
To book a table call 020 3034 3092 or visit www.opentable.co.uk