We all know of the outstanding hotel bars London has to offer — The American Bar at the Savoy, Claridges and Zetter Townhouse, to name but a few. The capital also has an abundance of equally impressive but lesser known hotel hangouts offering superior drinks, service and atmosphere – but without the heaving crowds. The following is a shout out to some of our favourites, but the list could be much longer so nominate your own best hotel bars in the comments.
Bar 190 @ The Gore Hotel
Just of off Exhibition Road in South Kensington, Bar 190 provides a quintessentially British experience with regal fixtures, a wood-panelled interior and blown-up portraits of the Rolling Stones – evidence of their antics in the basement bar during their 60's heyday. Behind the bar, Enrico Zucchino (UK mixologist finalist) and Bar Manager Michele Notaro (trained at Five Star establishments) have knocked up an impressive menu, as you might expect. For those eager to embrace the emerging tea-cocktail trend, the Samurai is a flawless mix of Chinese orange tea and Japanese sake for a light, refreshing drink. If you're more player than spectator, you can book yourself in for a masterclass that sees you go bar-side to shake and stir up some signatures. Our Old Fashioned is amazing now.
Bar 190 at The Gore Hotel, 190 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5EX 020 7584 6601. For Masterclass inquiries contact the reservations team. Average cocktail price £10.50-£13.50.
Egerton House Hotel
Egerton House Hotel is a discrete boutique destination, off the Brompton Road in Chelsea. The bar is considered by those in the know to present the best dry – and we do mean dry – martini in London; frozen gin, chilled glasses and just a dash of vermouth. Resident Barman Antonio is formerly of Dukes, ensuring a high standard. Touches of Edwardian glamour exude from the intimate space. Framed illustrations, earthy hues and chandeliers are complemented by fine wooden, upholstered furniture. Be advised that the bar itself is quite snug, with a capacity of under 30, so best book ahead if possible and don't all pile in at once after reading this, or we'll get into trouble. P.S. Try the Chocolate Martini – you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Egerton House Hotel, 17-19 Egerton Terrace, Knightsbridge, London SW3 2BX, 020 7589 2412. Bar reservations taken. Cocktail prices: Around £16.
The Heights @ Saint George's Hotel
Want to enjoy stunning views across the capital, minus the extortionately priced drinks, crowded bar and (often) thumping music that comes with it? Then head to the Heights bar on the 15th floor of Saint Georges Hotel. Despite the flat atmosphere, very dated décor (circa 1970), muzak that faintly rings in the background and an unadventurous menu of staple classics (Manhattan, Mojito etc) – this is a venue that overlooks the West End and offers the opportunity for witnessing glorious sunsets, so we're not complaining. It's also right next to the BBC, so you're almost guaranteed to spot a minor celebrity being sweet-talked by producers who can't afford the Langham across the road. Look, here's Tom Baker.
That said, we've heard that works are imminent to upgrade the whole hotel, so the time to go is now — before the inevitable addition of a roof garden on the 16th floor and prices – along with the number of people making a beeline for it – skyrocket.
The Heights at Saint Georges Hotel, 14-15 Langham Place, Regent Street, London W1B 2QS, 020 7580 0111. Cocktail prices: £8 - £9.
Megaro Bar @ The Megaro Hotel
Cinematic flair, killer cocktails and photographic exhibitions can be found in the basement bar below the Megaro Hotel, that gaudily painted building opposite King's Cross Station. It's further proof that the area is cementing its reputation as a destination, as opposed to a pit stop. The film theatre vibe is clever and consistent – you're welcomed into the sexy surroundings of 'the dark room', via red velvet curtains and comfy auditorium seating, making this a relaxed and atmospheric date/catch-up spot, and if you're out on the former, we recommend nabbing the cluster in the corner with the fully wrap-around drapes, if you're in the mood for some celluloid love. Meanwhile the adjoining 'picture room' is a slightly brighter space, dotted with movie posters, leather directors' chairs and art displays. More nods to the silver screen resonate throughout the drink section a la The Lost Steps and a Perry Mason (and some kind of crazy caper – we forget). We recommend the Lavender Hill Mob Fizz, Gin and Lemon juice topped with soda with a hint of lavender.
Megaro Bar at the Megaro Hotel, Belgrove Street, London WC1H 8AB 020 7843 2222. Call or email email@example.com for bookings of up to 6 people. Cocktail prices: £8.50 - £9.50.
Talented Mr Fox Bar @ One Leicester Street
Think modern Art Deco bar design meets your stylish mate's living room – clean lines, exposed filament bulbs, mirrored bar, blocks of colour – all combine to make this Chinatown haunt a contemporary oasis of calm overlooking the throngs of pub goers, noodle munchers and snap-happy tourists below. Matt Wiley – AKA Talented Mr Fox – formerly of Purl and Whistling Shop, has set out his stall with bespoke masterclasses and his experimental elixirs, following a successful residency last year. Highlights include Leaf Cutter (with ant protein) and the Lilse Street Gin, which matches the Jasmine tea flavours of Lilse Street Buns, available from the restaurant downstairs. The restaurant, incidentally, earned a Michelin Star last year. Pay it a visit before it gets impossible to dine without a booking.
Talented Mr Fox Bar at One Leicester Street, 1 Leicester St, London WC2H 7BL 020 3301 8020. Bar reservations taken, call or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Cocktail prices: £10 - £14.
Scarfes @ Rosewood London
So named after Gerald Scarfe, artist, caricaturist and Pink Floyd album cover guy (The Wall. That one), who in turn has lent his talent to the bespoke drawings and illustrations that will soon decorate the walls. The vibe is that of grand library, if libraries had fireplaces and bars shaking up simple, well-crafted classics with premium ingredients such as the Martinez (with Bols Genever) and Clover Club (Bombay Sapphire). The tipples are a (comparatively) reasonable £10-£12, considering the opulent settings of the Rosewood Hotel and central location. Speaking of which, being on the main footfall in Holborn, it gets pretty busy at peak times, and as a relatively new addition (it's only been open since October last year) it has yet to make a significant mark, but don't be surprised if it becomes much, much harder to bag a table or bar stool as it approaches its first anniversary.
Scarfes at Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN, 020 7781 8888 . Cocktail prices: £10.50 - £12.
Smith's @ Brook Green Hotel
The old-school sophistication of the drinking dens of Paris, New York and London all rolled up into one speakeasy-style bite in Hammersmith. The 'Smith's signature secrets', run the gamut from slightly tweaked staples — such as Aprol spritz topped with bubbles instead of soda — to full-on playfully creative. Sherbet Fountain (think vodka sour) served with a liquorice straw, and Fruit Bubbles, passion fruit and lemon sorbet, fizz with mango lollipop garnish, are just a couple of concoctions. The low lighting, silk curtains and chaises longues make this a sweet date spot (just be classy and don't take all your love interests there – yes, you). It's also party friendly — circular velvet booths, the Gustav Holst (a sharing cocktail, the composer himself won't be making an appearance), and the ability to make group bookings make this an ideal and fuss-free place for a moderately sized get together.
Smith's Bar at Brook Green Hotel, 170 Shepherds Bush Rd, London W6 7PB 020 7371 1361. Bar reservations via the website. Cocktail prices: £5.50 - £9.25.
Images obtained from the respective venues, but the editorial selection is entirely our own.
This article is part of our Best of London Food and Drink series. Visit the page for more recommendations of where to enjoy the capital's top food and drink, categorised by cuisine, food type and more.