Ah! the 1870s – when recession gripped the country, respiratory illnesses stalked the streets, and politicians had more money than sense. No wonder, then, that Mr Phileas J Fogg Esq, finding himself with 80 days or so to kill, decided he could do with a holiday. Luckily for us, he returned with souvenirs.
We know the story: In Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days Phileas Fogg makes a bet and goes … around the world in 80 days. He brings back a wife, a £200 million prize, and some bloody good cocktails (more on those later). But what did Mr Fogg do next? Well, if you ask Charlie Gilkes and Duncan Stirling – founders of Inception Group and the minds behind Bunga Bunga and Cahoots – he opened the doors of his Mayfair house to the good people of London.
Enter Mr Fogg’s Residence. Modelled on Jules Verne’s own descriptions of Fogg’s house, the Residence is a celebration of turn-of-the-century Victorian decadence. Knock on the oak-panelled front door, nestled just off Berkeley Square, and you’ll be ushered into the kind of house that could only be owned by a man who decided to travel the world and be back in time for something considerably stronger than tea.
What’s the vibe?
The press release promises guests that they’ll be welcomed by Passepartout, Mr Fogg’s actual valet. Considering the poor bloke would now be somewhere around 150 years old, it seems more likely that it’ll be the (somewhat younger) maître d’ who takes you to your seats – tufted leather, arsenic green – and politely informs you that “the bathroom is behind the red curtain”.
Sit down, look up, and you’ll find yourself making direct eye contact with Queen Victoria. Phileas Fogg is not the kind of man to let something as trivial as being a fictional character get in the way of patriotism, so the walls are throbbing with Victorian memorabilia: portraits of the Fogg family (monkey included), taxidermy finches, gramophones, grandfather clocks, taxidermy swans, penny-farthings hung from the ceiling, taxidermy goats, gilded budgie cages, taxidermy budgies… Midway through the evening, I find myself in a staring contest with the stuffed head of what I’m reliably informed was a South African impala – no prizes there.
The Residence’s decor, like the adventure stories that inspire it, is eclectic, maximalist, and endlessly unpredictable. You’re so transported by the excitement that any plot holes are left behind in your swashbuckling wake. Would Phileas Fogg have heard a 1920s-style jazz cover of the Tequila song on his travels round Brindisi? I’m not sure, but it’s so much fun I don’t mind. Opus Victoriana, reads the menu. (“The work of the Victorians,” my friend informs me, “the declension is wrong.” Spoilsport.) So immersive is that Victorian sense of exploration, innovation, and melodrama that I was almost unsurprised when the magician showed up.
But how could there not be a magician? This was the age of clairvoyants, of seances and stage magic, Dorian Grey and Harry Houdini. As we sip our drinks, crystal balls levitate, ink pens disappear, and ghostly apparitions of the Queen of Spades appear on our phones (yes, that was my card). Such feats of legerdemain aren’t for everyone: the gentleman on the table next to us is too busy regaling his date with the provenance of his chinos (Australian) and his loafers (Italian) to roll up and be bewildered. Did Phileas Fogg know Australia existed? Either way, I’m sure he’d be proud.
What’s the order?
These are not drinks, the menu tells us. These are libations. They are not to be sipped, they are to be imbibed. The selection is divided into three categories: Literatura, Myth, and Artefact and Heritage. Have you ever wondered what the Royal Albert Hall tastes like? Chambord Black Raspberry liqueur and pineapple juice, old chap.
The dri– sorry, the libations – are as eclectic as the decor. You may not have 80 days immediately to hand, but you can drink your way around the world in just under 2 hours. Each tipple takes its name and flavour profile from a city visited by Mr Fogg on his grand tour. Order a ‘Capital Calling’ and you’ll be transported to Allahabad (Prayagraj, to you or me), complete with tequila, mango lassi, banana liqueur, and pandan leaf syrup. This is all served in a ceramic elephant’s head in commemoration of Kiouni, Fogg’s only means of transport through the Indian jungle. “That’s brilliant,” quoth my friend, “it even has flowers!” Fogg you old dog, you’ve won him over!
The nibbles are slightly less cosmopolitan. Balsamic onions, anchovies in oil, and cheddar cheese all suggest Phileas J might have stopped off at a West End deli on his way home, but they taste great all the same. I couldn’t help but feel for the Australian-chinos-clad bachelor, who might struggle to make Borettane onions and mature cheddar seductive. Godspeed.
What’s the damage?
Not bad, considering we’re chez Fogg, a man who got bored one day and wagered 200mill on an 80-day Gap Year. Cocktails average out at around £18, and small plates will set you back £7. If, say, you’ve recently succeeded in a feat of global circumnavigation and have £95 to spare, there’s a vintage cocktails menu to celebrate your homecoming. And if, for reasons that may be personal to you, you want to spend £3,500 on a jeroboam of Krug Grande Cuveé, then by Jove, Fogg’s your man!
An evening at Mr Fogg’s Residence is intimate and decidedly on-theme, one that whisks you around the world and back to Mayfair. Granted, it’s a little twee, but then so was Oscar Wilde. As Mr. Verne himself said of Phileas’s homestead: “If to live in this style is to be eccentric, it must be confessed that there is something good in eccentricity.”
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15 Bruton Ln, London W1J 6JD; Mr Fogg's Residence