Only a few years before his rise to Lord Chancellor and his appointment as Cardinal and Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey built a home for King Henry VIII in 1510. The royal palace no doubt played a part in the then-budding friendship between Thomas Wolsey and King Henry VIII. This home, called the Bridewell Palace, was King Henry VIII’s primary residence from 1515 and 1523. Then, in a twist of fate, it also played a part in Cardinal Wolsey’s downfall as the site of papal meetings and the eventual divorce of King Henry VIII from his first wife, Katherine of Aragon.

King Henry VIII’s son gave the palace to the City of London in 1553, and since then it has served as a staple throughout The City’s history.

It served as a prison where, in the late seventeenth century, it was the final “home” to the infamous brothel keeper Elizabeth Cresswell. Then it was scarred by history in the 1666 Great Fire of London, forcing many of the buildings in the palace to be rebuilt.

The entrance to Voltaire is beneath the Crowne Plaza hotel at 19 New Bridge Street, London.

Today, one of the main buildings of the former royal palace is home to the Grade II-listed Voltaire Cocktails & Champagne Bar. Located between the Thames and Fleet Street, Voltaire is steeped in history. Their mixture of food and drinks blends beautifully with a mixture of an updated, modern design with a definite nod to the building’s history.

We had a chat with Tuhina Rahman at Crowne Plaza London – The City, which sits above Voltaire, to peek into some of the amazing ways you can enjoy life at this historic bar.

Drag the slider over the image to see an unconverted vault compared to how one of the vaults looks today.
Q

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Since Voltaire still has many of the vaults from when the building was used as a prison, can you explain the different vaults to someone who hasn’t visited Voltaire?

Voltaire Cocktails & Champagne Bar is named in honor of the French writer and philosopher, who famously spent six years exiled in London. Fast-forward to the present day Voltaire has retained the original cells and latterly vaults are located on the outdoor terrace and have been transformed into heated private VIP zones for couples to groups, with a music system and smoking accessible (London has a smoking ban), complete with personal waiter and available to reserve. The vaults are named after the friends of Voltaire, the true contemporaries in the philosophers close inner circle. There are nine vaults which vary in size from two-seater to ten-seater.

Each Vault has a different name, and is available for reservation. Pictured above is The Host vault.

On the terrace we conduct quarterly cigar masterclasses offering a world renowned range of and rolled Havana’s including a selection of Cohiba, Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta cigars along with many other famous marques.

Just outside The Wit vault is the cigar terrace.

Our custom made Hunters & Frankau humidor ensures cigars are kept in perfect condition whilst our attentive team are on hand to fulfill guests’ every need.

Indulge in a wide selection of hand-rolled cigars to pair with your favorite cocktails or champagne.

You can enjoy a hand-rolled Havana specifically developed with the cigar connoisseur in mind, perfectly paired with a selected brand of spirits. The cigar connoisseur can take a group into the vault and carefully undo the cigar as he talks about the offering you the chance to turn your taste buds the workings of a perfect cocktail and appreciate the makings of flavorful cigars.

A small sampling of Voltaire’s cocktails.
Q

What are some of your most popular cocktails, and can you give our readers a peek into how they’re made?

Voltaire cocktails create reinterpretations of classic cocktails using homemade liqueurs, syrups and infusions. We recommend Voltaire’s Cooler with dark Rum, apricot Brandy, handmade lime and jasmine syrup, lime juice and apple juice.

The Optimistic features Tanqueray gin, lychee, cranberry and lemon juices along with fresh passion fruit. You can learn how to make your own cocktails with the Voltaire masterclasses.

Our monthly cocktail masterclasses involve an interactive cocktail demonstration led by Voltaire’s mixologist. You can enjoy a brief overview of the history of cocktails from contemporary to classic favorites and then be guided in creating a shaken and built cocktail before sampling your very own cocktail creations.

The Camomile & Green Apple Martini is made with camomile-infused Russian Standard Vodka, green apple and lemon juices along with hand-made camomile syrup.
Q

We love that your mixologists are willing to share their knowledge. Can you explain what a student can expect to learn in your cocktail classes?

Voltaire hosts cocktail making with a monthly themed masterclass. The evenings begin with a drinks reception, accompanied by a delicious selection of canapés. This will then be followed by a by an interactive cocktail demonstration led by our mixologist, Franky Rodrigues who has worked in 5* hotels across India and in Dubai where he was shortlisted for Best Bartender of the Year with The Caterer Middle East Awards 2015.

Voltaire’s Burlesque Martini is made with Russian Standard Vodka, crème de mure, pernod, blackberry purée and vanilla syrup.

The cocktail enthusiasts can enjoy a brief overview of the history of cocktails from contemporary to classic favorites and then be guided in creating both a shaken and a stirred cocktail before sampling their very own cocktail creations. We suggest attending in pairs so you can record each other making the cocktails and continue the art of cocktails making at home.

PROGRAM:
6.00pm – A welcome glass of bubbles and canapés
6:30pm – Two interactive cocktail making session led by Voltaire’s mixologist
7:30pm – Recipes of each cocktail to continue the art of cocktail making at home
Stay after class and dine on a burger and fries.

GC Note: You can find the latest dates and themes for the cocktail masterclasses at http://voltairebar.com/masterclass.

Decompress from the stress of everyday life with Afternoon Tea at Voltaire.
Q

You have an exclusive blend for Afternoon Tea. Can you explain the flavors in the blend, and maybe a favorite pairing to accompany it?

The Galadari Special Blend is exclusively created for Crowne Plaza London – The City. This intense blend combines the sharpness of Earl Grey and the smokiness of traditional full-bodied Chinese black tea into one intriguing cup. The Earl Grey’s distinct citrusy flavor is strong enough to cleanse the palate and cut through the sharpness of citrusy cakes, bringing out the sweetness and goes wonderfully with any lemon flavoring, therefore we suggest pairing it with the Lemon Syllabub.

Voltaire has a mouth-watering selection of burgers to pair with your drinks.
Q

Voltaire has more than tea during the day and cocktails in the evening. Can you give us a peek into your food specialties?

We celebrate a lot of calendar dates with a themed Afternoon Tea, such as the popular London Chelsea Flower Show served our popular Afternoon Tea with Cocktails (three mini flights) with flower themed cocktails, for the London Fashion Week we served the cocktails inspired by models e.g. The Gisele cocktail was made of Brazilian Cachaca with coconut syrup, Naomi cocktail was made of German Jagermeister, Jack Daniels,  and pineapple juice with vanilla syrup and Vodka, and the British Naomi cocktail was made of Vodka, lime juice & sugar topped with champagne.

Enjoy cocktails and champagne in Voltaire’s lounge.

In the evening we serve gourmet burgers including our signature Gourmet burger with seared foie gras. If you are serious about your burgers then our gourmet burger is a must try. Made with beef from Glenarm Shorthorn cattle that has been aged and tenderized in Himalayan salt, we season it and serve it in a toasted brioche roll with fried onions and a decadent helping of seared foie gras. Sublime!

During the short British summer, there’s nothing better than a barbecue. We fire up the barbie on the terrace with favorite classics: juicy English beef burgers with lettuce, tomato, melted cheese & BBQ mayo, Cajun spiced chicken fillet with coleslaw, Sirloin steak with portobello mushroom and Bratwurst sausages with sauerkraut.

Q

Thanks for introducing us to Voltaire’s delicious offerings and its rich history, Tuhina!

To learn more about Voltaire Cocktails & Champagne Bar, hop over to their site to book a reservation for your own table, masterclass or vault!