Hamish Smith chats to Ashley Saxton, director of restaurants & bars at Harrods, about the emerging trend of luxury retail bars.
In what way do guests of Harrods' Baccarat Bar differ from a hotel or indie bar and how have you tailored service and drinks to accommodate their needs?
In many ways they are very similar, Baccarat Bar offers a glamorous space where our customers can escape from the bustling streets of London, just as a hotel guest would do. An established luxury hotel bar has high standards and expectations to meet as do we, especially with the two historical and market-leading names above the door, Harrods and Baccarat. Our customers expect the very best from Harrods and our team members take pride in delivering the best service hence the importance that we place on having such a creative team that continues to raise the bar.
Baccarat Bar changes between night and day, as do our customers' desires. Speed is key for daytime shoppers and we have to tailor our service to this, whilst our late afternoon customers reflect that of a late-night bar wanting the full experience Baccarat has to offer which is why we also offer a direct entrance that’s accessible from the street that allows guests to visit the bar beyond regular store opening hours.
Prior to Baccarat Bar did Harrods have a bar? Could you give me a flavour of the history of bars in luxury department stores?
Previously bars in Harrods have gravitated towards champagne bars, much like our recent opening of the Moet and Chandon Champagne bar. Baccarat Bar, however, is an immersive experience where you step out of the retail environment and into a world-class bar that could be located anywhere in London. At Harrods, we want to elevate the usual dining service for shopping customers, and our vision is to be the global authority in hospitality, where we bring the world’s best restaurants and bars into one iconic store. Harrods is setting the benchmark of how a department store’s F&B offering can be represented and positioned, Baccarat is one example of this as well as our Michelin star chefs which we are constantly looking to grow.
How do you attract visitors to the bar who aren't Harrods customers? Is the new cocktail menu aimed at making Baccarat a destination for cocktail drinkers across London?
Our aspirations are no different from any other high-quality bars in London. We want to be known as one of the best drinking spots that the city has to offer and as a destination for cocktail connoisseurs across the city and internationally. The bar is visited by a huge variation of customers from both the store and outside, and we have launched our new menu Metamorphosis which presents the team’s incredible work, all made through the transformation of modern ingredients into cocktail masterpieces. Michal Janusz Maziarz and the team have taken innovative techniques from the world of food, drink and perfume and transformed the ingredients from humble beginnings into accomplished cocktails served in luxurious Baccarat glassware.
A bar partnering with a crystal brand is unusual in the bar industry. What was the thinking behind this and how has the partnership benefited each party?
Fashion and retail luxury brands are used by F&B to connect with customers as part of a new experience through their products. At Harrods we saw this in our first partnership in 2019 with Fendi Café which was a global first, and we have since gone on to partner with Jimmy Choo Cafe, Tiffany Blue Box Cafe and most recently the world’s first Prada Caffè. Baccarat wants to use hospitality to connect and showcase its unique and market-leading glassware to tell its own story of heritage and history in this case through Baccarat Bar’s cocktails. At Harrods, as the global authority in luxury, we wanted to partner with a brand that truly understood our vision and offered a product with unrivalled quality such as Baccarat.