In recent months a new bar has opened in Newcastle upon Tyne called Harry’s Bar. My heart sank. Another nail in the coffin of the brand.
You see there are lots of Harry’s Bars in the world, many of them as unoriginal and unremarkable as their Novocastrian namesake, but there are two that are more notable. Independent of one another, yet each with their moment in history.
The first that I visited was the smoke-stained Parisian version, more correctly called Harry’s New York Bar. Here the Bloody Mary, The Side Car and The Monkey Gland were first concocted, and in the downstairs Piano Bar George Gershwin wrote An American in Paris. James Bond lost his virginity at age 16 after a night in Harry McElhone’s establishment.
The Harry’s Bar in Venice is a very different animal. From the moment you squeeze through its narrow doorway into a world of highly polished table tops and white-jacketed waiting staff who will steer you to a table, rearrange the furniture to your comfort and present you with the drinks menu, you know that things are a little different here (and yes that includes the price!). Owned by the Cipriani group, and named after an American to whom Giuseppe Cipriani leant money, this is where the Bellini came into being, and one of my favourite dishes; carpaccio. Ernest Hemingway, who was also a patron of Harry’s in Paris, ordered the first Montgomery Martini here, a martini so dry it features 15 parts gin to 1 of vermouth. I suspect he came back for more.