The hotel bar will always have a place in our hearts at Hot Dinners - and it is with nothing but pure delight that we have witnessed a complete renaissance of hotel bars in London over the past few years.
Whilst we will always have soft spot for a martini stirred table side at The Connaught or a whopping 6oz Martini at Dukes (see a trend emerging here?), the hotel bar is now a point of pride for any serious hotel operator. It’s cheering, then, to see not only those in and around central London upping their game, but also new hotel bars in east London working to raise the bar.
The American Bar at The Beaumont
8 Balderton St, Brown Hart Gardens, Mayfair, London W1K 6TF
Tucked away inside this beautiful bar, you'd hardly credit you were barely two minutes from Oxford Street. Designed with superb attention to detail by the Corbin & King team, the Beaumont is now under the ownership of the Barclay Brothers, but most of the staff have stayed since the recent sale. It looks like it's been here for ages, but actually only opened in 2014.
Why is it special? This is where the Beckhams go on a date night and no wonder - it's a perfect snug of a room. We love all the old pictures of celebrs on the walls.
What to drink?This is not a place for a crazy conconction - here you want to enjoy a classic cocktail. The martinis are always good - and pretty good value at £12. And they pride themselves on their whisky and brandy selection, so maybe a Manhattan?
The American Bar at The Savoy
The Savoy Hotel, 100 Strand, London WC2R 0EZ
It’s all change at The Savoy. A few short months after head bartender Erik Lorintz guided the team to secure the enviable title of Worlds Best Bar 2017, Lorintz announced he would be moving on to pastures anew. Maxim Schulte was recently appointed to fill Lorintzs’ shoes and our eyes are also on Philippa Guy, a talented young bartender who joined last September as the venue’s first female bartender in its 125-year history.
Why is it special? The current menu is entitled ‘Every Moment Tells a Story’, and is inspired by the works of British photographer Terry O’Neill - whose portraits of stars from the 60s and 70s adorn the bar’s walls.
Each drink on the new menu has been created around some of these famous faces, all of whom have a connection to The Savoy. The final selection features 20 signature drinks, carefully constructed with bold and complex flavour profiles - to reflect the characters they represent.
What to drink? A standout drink from the current menus is 'First Impressions' - A retelling of David Bowie an Elizabeth Taylor’s first meeting – this aperitif-style drink combines Bombay Sapphire, yuzu wine, white pepper, St-Germain elderflower, Champagne cordial, jasmine oil.
The American Bar at The Stafford
16-18 St James's Pl, St. James's, London SW1A 1NJ
One of a handful of American bars left in the city which were devised to make American tourists feel at home in the 20s and 30s, the American Bar at The Stafford has recently had a makeover which kept all of the original charm whilst giving it a much-needed sprucing up.
Why is it special? We love the hanging artefacts donated by visitors all over the ceiling. But our favourite thing is the plaque at the bar honouring World War II resistance fighter Nancy Wake, who popped in every day at 11am for over 50 years for a G&T. It's that kind of place.
What to drink?As long as you're not embarassed by a seriously bling cocktail arriving at the table, you need to order The Oppenheimer (Beluga Vodka, Italicus, St. Germain, Lemongrass Syrup - £20) - a luminous blue drink named after the biggest blue diamond ever sold and served in a diamond-shaped glass that slowly rotates on a jeweller's display setting.
Artesian Bar at The Langham London
The Langham, 1c Portland Place, London W1B 1JA
Now under the guidance of Remi Savage and Anna Sebastian, the former ‘World’s Best Bar’ is taking the right steps towards rebuilding their impressive reputation as one of London’s top hotel bars. The current team have now been in place for a year and, judging from the impressive level of knowledge and hospitality received over a recent visit, their efforts seem to be paying off.
Why is it special? We’ve long been fans of Artesian – usually as a first or final stop on a night out. Following their tradition of conceptual drinks menus - their latest offering, Artesian Moments is a further step in that direction.If you haven’t been in a while, this is the moment to plan a return visit.
What to drink? The new menu of 17 signature drinks starts from £17 and uses pivotal moments throughout life (such as Falling in love, First day at school), as a lens to explore a variety of flavours and aromas. Their cocktail ‘When you turned 30’ is one for wine lovers, bringing together Glenfiddich whisky, Sauternes, Orange wine and tannins – isolated by some back room wizardry.
Bassoon Bar at The Corinthia
10 Whitehall Place, Westminster, London SW1A 2BD
The Corinthia in Westminster is experiencing something of a second coming this year with chef Tom Kerridge’s Bar and Grill continuing to put the 5-star hotel back on the map. It was with some surprise then that MarcisDzelzainis and Michael Sager were recently announced as the collaborators of choice for the storied Bassoon Bar.
Why is it special? The arrival of Marcis has come with a complete revamp of the cocktail menu - devising 19 new creations. On the wine front, Michael has taken to the project with gusto - introducing a selection of Champagne’s from small-scale producers for the bar’s champagne trolley
What to drink? The drinks here are broadly inspired by the classic cocktails of New Orleans. Hotel bar standards such as the Sazerac, Julep, Kir Royale and even the Ramos Gin Fizz have been reworked with great appeal. Our picks include the Champagne on Toast - a twist on a Kir Royale which employs cognac and brioche liqueur.
The Connaught Bar
The bar at The Connaught is the very definition of destination drinking. A wonderfully decorated room, packed with an equally decorated clientele. If there’s one bar which holds a very special place in our hearts, this would be it. Sentimentality aside, The Connaught has consistently been recognised in the highest levels of the bar industry - maintaining its placing in The World’s 50 Bar’s ranking for the past nine years.
Why is it special? Under the stewardship of bartender Ago Perrone, the bar has maintained impressive standards - we’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve found ourselves perched at a table for a quick pre or post-dinner drink.
What to drink? Given the amount of care and attention given to the classics here, it would be remiss to not sample one of their famous martinis. This is more than just ordering a drink, it comes with a strong dose of theatre and ceremony served on the side.
The Coral Room
16-22 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3NN
The Insta crowd may all head directly to The Dalloway Terrace here at The Bloomsbury Hotel, but head up the front steps and into this beautiful bar for a more relaxed drink. Designed by the ubiquitous Martin Brudnizki team, they place particular emphasis on a large English sparkling wine list.
Why is it special? Any bar that manages to lure Giovanni Spezziga to run it, has something very special going for it. Hands-down one of our favourite folk in London, Giovanni manages to make any time you pop into his bar a special occasion.
What to drink? The drinks list has plenty of innovative choices on it - the Green Fingers with Stolichnaya, kale, pineapple and lime juices springs to mind, but we had a particularly good Old Fashioned here a week or so ago, made with Eagle Rare 10 Yr Bourbon which was marvellous.
Dandelyan at Mondrian London
Dandelyan at Mondrian London, 20 Upper Ground, London, SE1 9PD
Ryan Chetiyawardana’s ground-floor cocktail bar at the Mondrian hotel on London’s South Bank is now officially ‘The World’s Best Bar’. It’s also closing. When? We’re not sure, however, if you’re keen to find out what all of the fuss is about, then we’d recommend popping by quite soon.
Why is it special? Over its four year history, Dandelyan has remained a hotbed of creativity and delicious drinks. The bar takes inspiration from the world of botany and plants and the team have had plenty of fun over the course of their five cocktail menus, setting the standard for sustainable and seasonal cocktails along the way.
What to drink? The Dandelyan team pride themselves on creating drinks with are adventurous but always delicious. From their current menu, we’d suggest the Settling Stones – Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Sealand bitter aperitif, Moss Vermouth.
Those looking for something a little more conventional, rest assured - a section of ‘Dandelyan Classics’ are also available featuring the most popular serves from previous lists including the much loved Koji Hardshake and their Concrete Sazerac.
The Donovan Bar
33 Albemarle St, Mayfair, London W1S 4BP
Another hotel which has been making hospitality headlines this year is Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. The relaunch of The Donovan Bar coincided with the launch of the (rather smart and definitely not cheap) restaurant Beck at Brown's. Taking its name after British photographer Terence Donovan, the bar was given a full refurb, doubling in size with space for over 100.
Why is it special? Speaking of big names, cocktail legend Salvatore Calabrese has overseen the new menu, which includes a selection of Calabrese's ‘Liquid History' vintage cocktails, shaken tableside (for those in the restaurant).
What to drink? It will take more than one visit to fully appreciate the breadth of the new offering here, over multiple visits we’ve sampled a range of drinks which are helpfully divided into categories such as ‘Bright and Refreshing’ and ‘Dark and mellow’ - useful both for the time-poor and indecisive. If we had to order just one drink again it would be the Concerto - Mount Gay rum, sloe vodka, Italian vermouth, apple and lime juice and quince air - sounds mad, but it just works…
Dukes Bar at Dukes Hotel
35 St James's Pl, St. James's, London SW1A 1NY
If there’s one hotel bar which we would recommend that every Londoner should visit at least once, it’s Dukes - a classic cocktail bar situated in the heart of St James which has built its reputation around a single drink.
Why is it special? For the past 35 years, Dukes has become the home of the Martini and it's unique method of service, perfected by head bartender Alessandro Palazzi. The well-told story goes that Dukes was a famous haunt of James Bond author, Ian Flemming, whose iconic ‘shaken, not stirred’ line was penned here.
What to drink? When ordering a martini at Dukes, there’s neither shaking nor stirring to be seen. The experience begins with Alessandro wheeling over the Dukes Martini trolley, laden with frozen bottles of gin and vodka. Once you’ve chosen your spirit of choice, he adds a few drops of vermouth into a chilled glass and a twist of Amalfi lemon twist kisses the rim before being plunged into the drink. The Martinis aren’t cheap - £19.50 for a single drink, but with an estimated six ounces of spirit in each, Palazzi has instituted a sensible two-drink maximum.
Fitz’s Bar at The Principal London
Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BE
Named after Charles Fitzroy-Doll, the architect of The Principal London, Fitz’s has quickly marked itself out as one of the best places to drink in Bloomsbury. The disco-meets-salon space, designed by Russel Sage Studios will see you cosied up on a leather barstool, sipping a strong drink whilst gazing at their radiant glitter ball.
Why is it special? Under the stewardship of head of bars Sean Fenelly (ex-Milk & Honey), Fitz’s has found its stride with their menu of 16 signature drinks, which pay homage to personalities from throughout Bloomsbury’s history. Fenelly is flanked by a talented and passionate team, each of whom could talk for hours on end about their favourite spirits.
What to drink? While the team pride themselves on being able to fix some of the best classic drinks, you’ be remiss not to sample one of their signatures. Their most popular drink the VescaNegroni combines Ford’s Gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco and Dolin Blanc with an additional concoction of Woodland Strawberry, Rosehip, Aloe and Coconut served as a frozen cube. As the ice melts it blends with the spiritous base, creating an all-new drink in the process.
Green Room at The Curtain
Green Room at The Curtain, 45 Curtain Road, EC2A 4PT
The Curtain hotel, home to the London outpost of Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster has recently launched Green Room - a striking and sharply designed cocktail bar based on the ground floor of the east London.
Why is it special? Taking the space previously occupied by The Curtain’s taqueria, the emerald tiled interiors and velvet banquettes are juxtaposed with the industrial concrete, neon and graffiti which personifies the rest of the hotel.
Under the guidance of Jenny Willing, director of beverage, the new drinks menu has a local bent - with many of the ingredients and spirits sourced from nearby companies such as East London Liquor Company, E5 Bakery, Land Chocolate and London Honey.
What to drink? In the interest of keeping things local, we’d look to try the Baby Grand - East London Liquor Company Rum, London Tumeric Honey, champagne, bitters, honeycomb
Polo Bar at The Westbury
Polo Bar at The Westbury, 37 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2YF
Hidden on the quieter end of Conduit Street, a visit to Polo Bar at The Westbury hotel is like stepping into the past (in a good way, we promise) - the plush furnishings and deep blue velvet armchairs are a welcome escape from the hectic world of Mayfair and Regent St, just a few short steps away.
What’s special? Newly appointed bar manager Fabio Pezzini has recently introduced a ‘nightcap menu’, a selection of four distinctive after-dinner drinks served as digestifs with mignardises (mini-desserts) on the side. The menu is available from 9pm through to 1am throughout the week -making Polo Bar also one of the last places to get a decent drink in Central London.
What to drink? Forego the after dinner espresso and have ‘One for the Road’ a mix of Remy 1738 cognac with amaroMontenegro tobacco liquor and homemade decaf coffee syrup. Each of the drinks is served with handmade chocolate truffles and other sweet morsels, made in-house and designed to complement the drinks. The Remy Martin XO is a heavy pour of the premium cognac - one of which sure to put you to sleep - good night.
ZTH Cocktail Lounge
49-50 St John's Square, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4JJ
Back in 2010, long before hotel bars were what they are today, we wrote about a colourful new hotel bar opening in Clerkenwell. The owners of the Zetter Town House (ZTH) had recruited the zealous and creative Tony Conigliaro to develop and design a menu and identity for this unique space designed by Russel Sage which has stood the test of time.
Why is it special? Eight years later, Clerkenwell has run through many guises from wasteland to dining hotspot, however, our hearts remain at ZTH. This is thanks to the focus on hospitality and getting the basics right – even when the bar is inevitably packed to the rafters, the bar team and friendly staff go out of their way to squeeze us in. It’s the perfect place to settle in for the evening, sinking into one of their uniquely upholstered chairs and appreciate some of the quirks of this Georgian treasure.
What to drink? The menus here have evolved slowly over the years. The Flintlock - a powerful mixture of Beefeater 24 gin, gunpowder tea tincture, sugar, dandelion & burdock bitters & Fernet Branca remains a firm favourite. The non-alcoholic selection is also worth noting, their Nettle Fizz features homemade nettle cordial, something a little out of the ordinary from a bar which is anything but...
Other Hotel bars always at the top of our list:
- Blue Bar at The Berkeley - Their ‘Out Of The Blue’ cocktail experience is a multi-sensory extravaganza
- The Ladder Shed at Chiltern Firehouse - A well-kept secret and one of the best bar’s in Marylebone
- Punch room at the Edition – The only bar where the punch is worth drinking
- Library Bar and Vault Bars at The Ned – Akin to having a drink on the set of Ocean’s 11, if you can find a way to break in..
- Scarfe's Bar at The Rosewood – A lively spot with excellent drinks and some of the best live entertainment out of any hotel bar in London
- Churchill Bar – Recently relaunched, this Marylebone bar pays homage to Sir Winston’s travels
- The Devil's Darling – A Japanese-styled drinking den in Moorgate, complete with sharp service, plush interiors and vinyl aplenty
- Rivoli bar at the Ritz – White-jacketed staff, Lalique glassware, whisky trolley – what more do you need?
- George's Bar at The Gilbert Scott – First opened in the 1870’s this impressive space relaunched earlier this year featuring an impressive Champagne menu
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