Bar Tab: Scales, Mayfair

Picture the scene. You near-tumble down a tight staircase to a dark basement bar. Black panelling, black counter, black-uniformed staff. So far, quite Mayfair. But from the end of the counter, just as it curves away from an antique diamond scale, an American voice intones, with a balance of solemnity and enthusiasm: “We gotta taste the goat.” A beat. The response from his date: “But it’s gonna taste like ass”. It’s just another Tuesday night in Scales, Mayfair, and frankly, you have no idea what you’ve walked into. Fortunately, the man who took your bag and directed you towards two of the vacant stools at the bar does. Even more fortunately you will be safe in his hands. That man is Engji Shala, once head bartender at the Marylebone Hotel, once head of R&D for the restaurant group behind Farzi and now co-owner (along with Din Jusufi, his long-term partner in mixing) of Scales. The name is more than a nod to the musty piece of kit in the corner – a gift from long-time collaborator and million-pound jewellers Boodles – it is also a commitment to precision, consistency and – yes, eye-roll incoming – balance. Each drink on the menu starts with a base – one of each of the eight major global spirit styles – and is built with a combination of seasonal ingredients. Most, like the Fig, are blended backstage in a Thermomix, balanced and clarified before being served – at an exact weight – from the scales on the bar. The result is a tart, green apple drink in a brandy snifter. It evolves through older apple notes to raisin and finishes on chocolate and Brazil nuts. Elsewhere, the Tangerine (tequila, lemongrass, tangerine and grapefruit) is like the bright orange sodas of Eastern Europe with a little vanillin depth from the tequila, while the Tomato (pisco, tomato, basil, strawberry and olive) is a slightly sweet, slightly boozy clear gazpacho. And what about the goat I hear you bleat? Well, the final say from that end of the room is that it is “subtle” and “interesting”. “I didn’t expect the goat to work that waycloses out the American guest. Now that’s a balanced view. (25 Duke St., @scaleslondon). Read more Bar Tabs here.