A winner of the World’s Best Bar accolade, Artesian at The Langham is a true London drinks institution. We’ve caught up with Anna Sebastian & Remy Savage – Bar Manager & Head Bartender respectively to hear about their experience working in this iconic bar. Read on for more.
The Artesian bar is housed in the storied Langham hotel. Situated on Regent Street, just north of Oxford Circus, it was built on a well which was 365 feet deep in 1865. Back then, this meant that the hotel had a never-ending supply of fresh water, which made it even more of a luxury destination. More than 25,000 gallons were pumped up through two 14-horsepower pumping engines in the middle of the building.
Today, the renowned Artesian bar, run by bar manager Anna Sebastian and head bartender Remy Savage, welcomes a stream of both hotel guests and curious passers-by who appreciate the quirky drinks menu, knowledgeable service and beautiful architecture. We sat down with Remy and Anna to find out how they both ended up at Artesian and how Remy’s background as a Philosophy student has influenced the cocktails on offer…
Let’s start with what you do here: what’s your Artesian job role?
Remy: I’ve been here for almost a year and my role encompasses absolutely anything that has to do with the content of what we are drinking right now.
Anna: As the bar manager I’m mainly responsible for the team and the operational side of what we do and the projects, the financial bit, stock, liaising with our wonderful the guests, and so on.
So, it’s safe to say that your domain is inside the bar area, Remy, and Anna is in charge everything outside of it?
Remy: Yeah, even though Anna is very involved with the drinks as well, it’s all very collaborative. Anna is much better at finessing the details that makes the Artesian run smoothly!
What would you say makes the Artesian bar, and The Langham stand out from the crowd?
Remy: There’s an array of reasons to come here but The Langham has an incredible history. And with Artesian there’s quite a lot of thought and process going into making the drinks, using laboratory equipment, for example, to develop them.
And for you, Anna?
Anna: I agree. The Langham has a very interesting past with lots of journalists frequenting the hotel as we have the BBC around the corner. We’ve had lots of writers coming and going. Both J.B. Priestley and Mark Twain stayed here and that was during the ‘three martini lunch’ era, so the hotel and bar has a fascinating history.
The Regent Street location, what does that mean for you? Who comes here?
Remy: We get a good mixture: people who’ve known it for years and pop in for a quiet moment and the ones just walking past and coming in to discover something new. The fact that it’s always busy means the bar is constantly buzzing. It’s got a heart and soul, but also a beating pulse!
Let’s talk about you and your personal journey…
Anna: Have you heard the expression that you have three different types of careers in your life? Well, I’m currently on my third. When I left school I was going to join the army and I got into the Sandhurst academy, but 10 months in they changed the medical rules and we all had to take a medical test again, which I ended up failing. But everything happens for a reason!
What did you move on to?
I started a promoting job for nightclubs and events in Leicester Square, which I did before getting offered a job working in PR for a food and beverage brand. It wasn’t really for me so when I saw a job ad for a host at the Savoy I jumped at that. That was in 2010, just when they reopened it and that was the job that made me fall in love with hospitality. I started as a host and left as a manager. I was there for seven years and then I came here.
And you, Remy?
Remy: I was in Paris before this, at a bar called Little Red Door, but my background is in Philosophy. I studied in Lyon, which is where I’m from originally. Then I moved to Oxford where I was working in pubs and when I finished my studies I realised that this is what I wanted to do, to work in a bar. I’m still truly interested in Philosophy and I’m constantly asking questions about why and how we choose the drinks we do.
How does your Philosophy education influence the cocktail menu?
Remy: I think it’s the permanent state of questioning. I have a three-year-old daughter and she asks ‘why’ all the time. There are so many details that make up what’s happening right now, whatever it is you’re doing, and if we try and think of the ‘why’ then we’ll make them better.
You have done some research on the relationship between flavours and memory - what did you find?
Anna: We sent out a survey to people in our professional and private networks and we found there was a lot of crossover in terms of what flavours associated with certain memories than we expected. Even if you think of a really obscure emotion - like the first time you rode a bike, the first time you went to school, the first time you fell in love or got your heart broken - all of these things were described in a similar way.
What is your favourite drink on the menu?
Remy: It’s really hard, for me they all have their moments. We have one drink called ‘That moment you finally retire’ that I quite like!
Anna: I really like ‘Turning 30’. It’s an ongoing joke between us. It’s a whiskey and wine cocktail. For me, turning 30 was all about being able to afford nicer things in life. When you’re 30 you can afford a £20 bottle and actually really enjoy the taste of it. I love whiskey as well, so it’s a nice combination for me.
Anna, the idea of equality in the bar environment is an important issue for you, right?
Anna: Yes, I often get asked ‘how does it feel to be a woman in this industry?’ and the fact that people have to ask that question makes me feel it still needs to be discussed. There is still work to be done and our team is very equal on the male to female split, although we of course hire based on skills.
Yes, it seems most restaurant chefs are male, at least the high-profile names…
Anna: As time goes on things change. In the hospitality industry we have some amazing females across various job roles. In the American Bar they just hired their first senior female bartender in something like 125 years. I would love there to be more women in the bar business.
Remy: In this industry, traditionally you have female floor staff and males behind the bar but here we only have one job: a bar person and everyone does the same job. It’s small things like adapting the language we use that can make impact equality in all industries.
If you want to sample delicious cocktails in a vibrant and historic setting then look no further than Artesian at The Langham, and join Anna and Remy at 1c Portland Place, London, W1B 1JA.