A classy social bar festooned with the political artwork of feted doodling satirist Gerald Scarfe, this stately lunchtime boozer offers an Indian menu as tantalising as it is incongruous. Signature cocktails are rarely seen in such close proximity to curries and naan, but with careful drinks pairings they make deliciously spicy bedmates.
WHERE? 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN. One of the three restaurants in the Rosewood London hotel by Holborn station, a Grade-II listed Edwardian monument to luxurious tastes, with velvet chesterfields and abundant throw cushions. If you’re lucky you might even spot the hotel dog traipsing about the sun-drenched courtyard.
WHO? The head chef is Cinnamon Club alumnus Palash Mitra, who’s put together a curry-centric menu of biryanis, ghobis and assorted tikka skewers. Nothing’s outlandishly hot on the lunchtime menu, so palates of a delicate disposition need not be discouraged.
ORDER THIS... The old delhi style butter chicken curry is the menu’s oldest and most popular dish, but you should try the ajwaini gabro, two pieces of tikka-sticky black cod charred to perfection and served with spiced chutney. Order the tiger prawns, which come with a creamy bowl of garlic buttered crab on the side. Thanks, the ocean.
BUSINESS OR PLEASURE? The express lunch set menu aims to have you in and out the door within a lunch hour, and if you’ve no time for mains there’s an extensive bar snacks menu to pick on while you sample the cocktail menu: gunpowder scampi and hot chilli chicken bits on sticks.
NEED TO BOOK? You could expect to walk in at lunchtime, but for evening tables you’ll want to make a reservation at scarfesbar.com. Live music and high-society vibes make Scarfe’s a popular after-work haunt for both Holborn locals at Rosewood guests.
THE VERDICT… A sophisticated and upmarket cocktail bar that through sheer force of character sheds that weird depressing air that haunts so many hotel restaurants. Eating next to this many drawings of Margaret Thatcher shouldn’t be this enjoyable.