London’s Best Hotel Bars
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
Hotel bars can be like taking an hour-long holiday. Of course, you could drop hundreds of pounds on a room for the night, or you can just find a seat in the bar after work and order your favourite cocktail before heading off for dinner. You’ll get all the luxe hotel treatment but you still get to sleep in your own bed. Luckily, London isn’t short of a swanky hotel bar or six.
Let’s be straight here: Rosewood’s main bar is an absolute beaut. Named after the famed cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, his work adorns the walls of the bar, transforming it into a ‘living art gallery’. The bar is classic and grown up, there’s live music every evening (don’t let that put you off, it’s actually good) and the bar staff keep your snack levels topped up so frequently you’ll almost spoil your dinner.
Despite its dark interior, Scarfes is a surprisingly good all rounder – you might pop in at the start of your evening, or to end it with a fabulous nightcap. Sometimes we perch on a bar stool with a book for an hour in the middle of the afternoon. You could even double up with Holborn Dining Rooms across the courtyard, where you’ll find London’s largest gin selection.
Cocktails (or ‘potions’ as they’re called here) are inspired by popular figures and each illustrated by Scarfe. Margaret Thatcher’s cocktail is a whisky cocktail served in an iron vessel, the Charlie Chaplin features a hat and moustache. Hitchcock comes complete with birds nest. Scarfes might be chic and grown up, but it’s certainly not stuffy.
Scarfes bar at Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN
The Zetter Townhouse
If you’re looking for swanky without the sort of price per drink that will make you question whether you’ll be living on baked beans for a week, both Zetter Townhouse bars are excellent. There are two branches of this boutique hotel – the original in Clerkenwell, and Seymour’s Parlour in Marylebone – and both do the whole eccentric, Victorian Aunt vibe splendidly.
Cocktail royalty Tony Conigliaro was involved in the creation of the cocktail menus in both venues, and they’re the sort of place you can pop in for a drink before dinner and then end up changing your plans and staying until closing. It doesn’t matter what time you visit, the bars are always busy so make sure you book a table.
ZHT Lounge at The Zetter Townhouse, 49-50 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ and Seymour’s Parlour 28-30 Seymour St, W1H 7JB
The Just Opened team’s ears might prick up at the mere mention of a swish new hotel in the works but for all of the new kids on the block, The Savoy’s American Bar is a habit that we just can’t shake. Its Art Deco style and glamour pulls us back on a rather-too-regular basis.
We can’t help it, it’s a throwback to Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald and it gets absolutely everything right. Get dressed up to the nines in the middle of the week for no other reason than having a gin fizz and, we admit it, a little bit of celeb spotting.
American Bar at The Savoy, 100 Strand, WC2R 0EZ
You’d expect Southbank to be overrun with fantastic bars, but for the most part, it’s awash with chains and *shudder* the concrete monstrosity that is Doggett’s Coat & Badge. The Mondrian changed that. Dandelyan was designed by Tom Dixon and the cocktails are the work of Ryan Chetiyawardana, AKA Mr Lyan, and he’s on a one-man mission to get London and the rest of the world to try new drinks, new ingredients and challenge what they think they like.
Ryan likes to use natural ingredients wherever possible and there’s a botany theme to the very, very extensive drinks list. This means a good 20 minutes spent reading the menu before you flail and ask the waitress to recommend something. Got a friend who only drinks mojitos? Meet them after you’ve paid Dandelyan a visit. Make sure you book when the sun is shining, everyone else will have the same idea as you five minutes before you leave the office.
Dandelyan at The Mondrian, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Inspired by London’s exclusive members’ clubs of old, Edition’s Punch Room is the snug alternative to The Berner’s Tavern (although we’d happily fritter away our hard-earned cash in either establishment). One of the reasons we like it so much is that it’s reservations only which means, no queuing, no overcrowding, just time to sit back and enjoy a drink or two.
The bar lives up to its name with the drinks selection, with a menu of 30 delicious punch varieties, all served and silver punch bowls and made for sharing. We are only too happy to oblige.
Punch Room at London Edition, 10 Berners St, W1T 3NP
If you like your cocktails with imagination and theatre, The Artesian at The Langham is the bar for you. It regularly finds itself at the top of the world’s best bar lists, and with good reason. The menu might tell you you’re getting a gin concoction, but it doesn’t tell you that it’ll be served in a gold pineapple with sandalwood incense. Your drink might change flavour when you’re halfway down, or it might be iced but still be hot. The whole setup could all be declared nothing but tricks and gimmicks if the cocktails weren’t so delicious (and at £18 a pop, we really expect them to be).
There’s been a bit of a staff shake-up at The Artesian, with more than a handful of their cocktail staff moving on to other projects – including Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale – the duo who put the bar on the map. Even so, The Artesian bar will still impress even the fussiest of cocktail connoisseurs.
Artesian at The Langham, IC Portland Place, W1B 1JA