“THE LOBBY BAR IS CLOSED DURING THE REFURBISHMENT OF ONE ALDWYCH HOTEL. IT WILL REOPEN ON 9 APRIL 2019. ”
This luxury lounge boasts all the trappings of a smart hotel bar, so expect silky service, a stylish ambience and classy cocktails with a high price tag. Expensively put together with dramatic floral displays and objets d'art, the airy room has sleek polished stone floors and large double-height windows to create a sense of occasion, while dramatic drinks live up to the decor. Two can share the show-stopping Bewitched Passion: Babicka vodka mixed with homemade fennel syrup, pomegranate shrub and peppermint bitters, topped with Champagne and served in an absinthe fountain. If that's too OTT, go for a demure Peach Bellini or classic Sidecar. An approachable international wine list is safer still, while bar snacks are pitched firmly at the hotel's well-heeled international clientele – think club sandwiches, mini burgers with truffle mayo and platters of smoked salmon, crab and prawns.
The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych
The greige and soft-gold space-age interior of this suave sky lounge screams Swinging Sixties, the thrusting decade when hemlines and hotels went high-rise. It was here that The Beatles first encountered the Maharishi, the yogi seer who guided their Magical Mystery Tour. Spiritual enlightenment of another sort can be found in cocktail recipes that fuse eastern and western philosophies: reach Nirvana with A Thousand Buddhas (Beefeater gin, hibiscus and spiced eucalyptus), make Sunset Blues (Mortlach Rare single malt, Pedro Ximénez and poppy flower) your new mantra or bliss out with Zen Fizz – a Perrier Jouët sparkler prepared with aged rum and a sorbet of bittersweet matcha tea. Bar food includes Korean fried chicken, 'dog deluxe' and 'something for the ladies' (tenderstem broccoli in romesco sauce, perhaps). The views from the 28th floor are heavenly – and prices aren’t exactly earth-bound, either.
Galvin at Windows (bar)
As a pukka, postmodern murgh-and-masala celeb magnet, Mint Leaf is also manna from heaven for jobbing paparazzi – so play ‘spot the star' in its low-lit slate and leather bar. Starry cocktails
don't necessarily come at red-carpet prices: around a tenner scores a vanilla and fig sour, Singapore sling, basil and chilli martini or Mint Leaf garden – a muddle of apple juice, cucumber, mint,
elderflower cordial and Bombay Sapphire gin. Alternatively, stay sober by picking from the selection of lassis and mocktails. Tiffin bites such as duck kebabs with chilli jam, crab and mackerel
cakes with masala mayo, Goan stir-fried shrimps or chicken tikka rolls give a taste of what to expect should you decide to join famous faces such as Mickey Rourke or Matthew Perry for dinner in the
Mint Leaf (bar)
Smooth and dependable with a tasteful and nicely upholstered interior, the Donovan Bar is quietly stylish – if not the most exciting ride in town. However, at £15 per cocktail, this self-appointed
‘legendary drinking establishment' is possibly not for your average runaround tippler. Fans of sidecar and classics of similar vintage will find them among a list of contemporary ideas such as the
rock (Glenmorangie 18-year-old whisky, fresh pineapple, black pepper and lemon juice spritzed with smoky Scotch), while gin lovers might fancy a Sipsmith and Aperol old fashioned, sipped to the
sounds of live jazz most evenings. There's also a good range of grape and grain to go with proper English snacks – think devils on horseback, fishfingers with mushy peas and chips, Portland crab on
toast or pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce
Donovan Bar at Brown's Hotel
Wondrously exotic lounges such as The Blue Bar and Artesian are the late David Collins’ legacy to London's cocktail scene, but at his creative peak, the Irish designer came up with this fabulously ethereal bar at Nobu Berkeley St – the Tardis as imagined for a Japanese remake of Doctor Who, perhaps. Once inside, you can pair Eurasian tapas and sushi platters with silkily superior saké, pedigree French fizz or a selection of top-notch Tokyopolitans. Nifty ideas include Nashi Bottle (a pear, rosemary, orgéat and Russian vodka sour, served in a milk bottle) and Silk Road (a Manhattan based on Nikka whisky, dates and Grand Marnier). Otherwise, One Shade of Grey (a blue Curaçao-laced twist on a Negroni, ‘served sadistically short’) is a cheapish thrill, while Japanese Painkiller (Nobu's take on New York's modern whisky classic, Penicillin) reportedly cures all ills.
Nobu Berkeley St (bar)
It's worth remembering that, before it turns into a full-on party, this doolally 1950s-style Polynesian cabana is a civilised spot for a sundowner. Mayfair legend Mahiki is not the place for an Aperol Spritz, but they'll make one if you really must. The big attraction here is a line-up of rum punches, grogs and slings with names like Bikini Blast, Krakatoa, Bajan Whirlpool and ‘vicious’ absinthe-spiked Baron Samedi's Brew – all served in assorted tiki vessels. Otherwise, Armada Treasure Chest and Queen Ann's Revenge (a magnum of Cîroc, two bottles of Cristal and 20 shots) are the sort of fishbowls that would feature large on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents were the grown-ups snooping on their misbehaving progeny in Antigua rather than Ayia Napa. Asian snacks act as damage limitation as the action heats up in the downstairs club.
2010 felt like the year of the Italian restaurant in London, with more openings than you could shake a grissini stick at. As a result, it has been hard for old-stagers such as No 5 to keep the
punters interested – although this ‘one-stop shop for a night out’ does have the virtue of an elegant, members’ club location, an outdoor terrace with views of Cavendish Square & free entry to
the nightspot downstairs. The decor may once have been modish, but a visual assault of red leather chairs & felt banquettes now seems OTT & far too glamorous for the neighbourhood trattoria
food on offer. Dishes such as gnocchi with tomato & ricotta, calf’s liver with grilled polenta or duck breast with grilled vegetables & balsamic vinegar are hardly likely to get the pulse
racing. The cocktail bar downstairs is a hotter ticket, with its smart looks & matching mixology.
More than a warm-up act for the excellent Roka restaurant upstairs, Shochu Lounge is a destination in its own right – a snazzy and ‘sexy' subterranean space dedicated to the eponymous Japanese
spirit (similar to vodka, but usually weaker). Take a perch at the rough-hewn wooden counter and ponder the intricacies of the beverage – different flavours and varieties can be savoured on their
own, over ice (carved from a huge block at the bar) or in various cocktails: try a Noshino martini (shochu, saké and cucumber) or the vertigo (Tequila, vanilla shochu and pineapple juice). The good
news is that bar food comes straight from Roka's kitchen (think sushi, sashimi, tuna tataki or spinach leaves with sesame dressing); the bad news is that staff can occasionally be too snotty for
their own good.
Shochu Lounge at Roka Charlotte Street
Under Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale, Artesian was repeatedly voted The World’s Best Bar. Can successors Dino Koletsas and Gabor Fodor now reclaim the crown? They’ve certainly produced some quaffable, high-end drinks on their 17-strong ‘Artesian Moments’ menu.
The collection was realised through a survey of the general public, which asked them to submit the flavours and feelings that they associate with pivotal moments in their life. Over 500 responses later, the team have created a menu of cocktails which are all named after ‘that moment when…’
Reminisce by sipping on ‘…you went to big school’, which is made with a blend of Blanche de Normandie, almond lemonade, apple and meadowsweet, or mourn past loves with ‘…your heart was broken’, which sees Craigellachie 13YO paired with cacao, saké, racilla and verjus. Such concept-heavy cocktails and kooky presentation can veer into the kitsch, but expert mixes and a strong selection make a visit to this bar another moment which you’re unlikely to forget.
Artesian at the Langham
Part of a brand synonymous with reality TV careerists and tabloid high jinks, Crazy Bear's subterranean bar is the place for Fitzrovia folks with a fondness for knocking back cocktails and flashing
the cash. ‘Weird and wonderful' interiors – all strip lighting, lipstick-red leather, ‘cute' snakeskin seating and mellow beats – sit comfortably with the glitzy cocktail menu, which is helpfully
categorised into classic, contemporary and Champagne offerings. Bring some old-world glamour to proceedings with Crazy Bear's take on The Orient Express (vodka with Passoã liqueur, lychee,
raspberry purée and fresh mint) or The Gatsby (Tanqueray gin with grapefruit juice and fig reduction). Sushi and small plates from the restaurant upstairs are available for grazing and service
seems to have picked up of late – although the ‘freaky' mirrored-door toilets continue to confuse an unfortunate few.
Crazy Bear (bar)