15 Eccleston Street, London, SW1W 9LX
An old-fashioned, clubby sort of space, full of tartan, antlers and a head- spinning array of Scotch whisky (including some arcane three-figure drams), the bar at Boisdale is normally a prelude to eating in the restaurant – although it doesn’t have to be that way. Done out in vintage style, the long area at the end of the dining room is probably the most atmospheric, with the added advantage of live jazz. Otherwise, escape the noise by heading to the back bar or sneak up to the cigar terrace (the list of prime puffs is really impressive). If Scottish spirits aren’t your thing, there’s also an extensive selection of Champagnes, epic Bordeaux and more on the weighty wine list, while sustenance comes from the likes of mini haggis with mash and neeps, oysters, steaks and Aberdeen Angus burgers – plus sandwiches and savouries.
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The Goring, Beeston Place, London, SW1W 0JW
It’s almost inconceivable that there should be a grand private country house within a stone’s throw of Victoria station, but The Goring has all the necessary attributes, from a warm cosy drawing room and terraces for balmier weather to a garden with ducks waddling across the lawn. The bar’s line-up of Champagne is astounding and the barmen are adept at mixing and shaking anything that takes your fancy. Ultra-traditional, but also super-friendly, this gorgeous bolthole is equally appealing for a quiet business drink or a jolly get-together with a (smart-ish) bunch of friends. The simple bar menu has something for all comers (from caviar to soup of the day), all beautifully done in an understated way – they only boast about their connection with their royal neighbours when it comes to the “fabulous” afternoon tea.
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The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London, SW1X 7TA
There’s only one bar at the preposterously plush Lanesborough, so it has to be all things to all guests – unless you're a puffer, in which case a word in the right ear will transport you to the astonishing cigar lounge. Elderly couples, businessmen, wealthy tourists and drop-ins alike feel right at home here. The drinks list is jaw-dropping – a simple selection of wines and plenty of Champagnes give way to a blinding list of whiskies and Cognacs reaching back to pre-French Revolution stock. It’s also worth seeking out the canapé cocktails – mini versions of very grown-up libations, which allow customers to have more than one before they’re over the limit. The food is (inevitably) posh, but diners can eschew the caviar and oysters for cauliflower and Cheddar cheese soup, steak and chips or slow-cooked chicken wings with crispy onions.
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26 Motcomb Street, London, SW1X 8JU
An ideal spot for watching the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Grand National or the Six Nations on TV, Motcombs’ street-level bar is a favourite with old-school locals – though the art-adorned room is equally appealing even when there’s no sport to grab your attention. Plenty of inexpensive wines and beers keep everyone lubricated, not forgetting celebratory fizz for those who’ve backed a winner; the place also does a good line in Irish coffees (a nod to the owner’s roots). If you’re feeling peckish, you can bag a table in the adjoining all-day brasserie for a plate of, say, Caesar salad, eggs florentine, Parmesan-crusted lemon sole or veal milanese with linguine. A similar menu is served with a touch more formality in the main restaurant downstairs. Either way, genial host Philip Lawless is generous towards his regulars and welcoming when it comes to newcomers.
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COMO The Halkin hotel, Halkin street, London, SW1X 7DJ
This quiet, grown-up space in the sleek, chic Halkin Hotel is ideal for informal business chats and relaxed dates, particularly as the staff don’t bat an eyelid when multi-million pound deals or collections of Ferraris are discussed. There are wines, spirits and cocktails aplenty, but given that it's next to the extraordinary Ametsa with Arzak Instruction, it’s hardly surprising the predominant oeophile accent is Spanish – the pouring white is an Albariño, and the bar specialises in flights of sherries and brandies. And if you’ve missed out on a reservation in the restaurant, you can now nibble on high-class tapas like jamón ibérico, gildas (Basque skewers), ham croquetas, txipirones en su tinta (black ink squid) and merluza con patatas (fish and chips), all courtesy of Ametsa’s Michelin-starred kitchen. The bar is also great for afternoon tea, served with a dash of contemporary elegance.
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