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To date you could be forgiven for stereotyping the cigar smoker as a 50-something plutocrat or third-world despot. That church, it would seem, is broadening, with a number of cigar-specific venues popping up across town, ready for group bookings. And it’s not just COSAs (comfortable outdoor smoking areas) either, you’ll find them indoors too. Always keen to keep you abreast of the trends, V&E put D&D’s bar and cigar lounge La Casa del Habano to the test, to see what all the fuss is about.
Next door to Floridita on Wardour Street, this venue is split into two distinct areas. First there’s the bar, which can be hired exclusively for up to 60 guests. The vintage-Cuban theme makes a great space to hold a suave private drinks reception, with an impressive cocktail menu. Smoking is not allowed in here.
However, walk through a set of doors at the back of the room and you’re in the ventilated cigar lounge. All dark-wood and leather, the decor swerves innovation in favour of a classic, masculine feel. In the corner, there’s a walk-in humidor packed with Cuba’s finest. All the big brands are present – Cohiba, Montecristo, Romeo y Juileta – with a selection to satisfy novices and Fidel Castro alike.
Our cigar sommelier, Alberto, guided us through the basics, while simultaneously attending to Jerry Springer – yes, him off the tele – and we settled on a Ramon Allones Small Club Corona. For groups, this is a good stick – easy to smoke, reasonably priced (£8.95) and it only takes 30 minutes to work through. Some can take hours.
If you’re holding an event that doesn’t exclusively involve a cigar tasting or masterclass, you can flick between the two rooms, taking time out from toking to sip a matching cocktail. And that’s exactly what we did, along with gorging on a selection of platters from Floridita’s kitchen.
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The no-expenses-spared opening from the Italian jeweller is home to the indoor Edward Sahakian Cigar Shop and Sampling Lounge. There’s an extensive collection of the best cigars money can buy and the hotel offers masterclasses for up to 20 guests.
The newly opened casino on Leicester Square will leave bookers spoilt for choice. Hire one of a choice of private gaming rooms for up to 50 guests (standing) and they can spill out onto a two-tier, alfresco cigar terrace, tucked away in the middle of the venue.
Garden Room at The Lanesborough
Leather sofas, exotic plants and even a ceiling over part of it – on this terrace you can pretend that the smoking ban never happened. Its collection of exclusive cigars is matched by its spirits, which includes a vintage cognac from 1770. Book one of the hotel’s PDRs, then take the party for a smoke.
The new outdoor heated space has been designed to offer a more inclusive environment and staff are on hand to help the newly initiated navigate the selection. Although the venue can’t be hired exclusively, groups can book tables. The martini trolley is a fun addition the experience.
Another opening for 2012, Mark’s Bar at Belgraves hotel offers a sizeable smoking terrace with an extensive cigar menu. The space can be booked for a reception and there’s space for up 25 guests. Combine your Cohiba with cocktails from renowned mixologist Nick Strangeway’s menu.
For more outdoor venue options in London, check this out.