The glamorous way to drink

Timothy Barber
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IF you want the finest cocktails served by the most talented bar staff in the most spectacular setting – and let’s face it, who doesn’t – London’s swish hotels are right now the place to find them. Thanks to a slew of upgrades and openings, the ever-burgeoning popularity of sophisticated cocktails and the continuing cultural cool of all things old-fashioned, the capital’s hotel bars have been having a notable resurgence. From new openings to old classics, here is City A.M.’s pick of the best.

HOTEL: St Pancras Renaissance

BAR: The Booking Office and the Gilbert Scott (right)

The gothic splendour of the newly-revived hotel at St Pancras station is on show in its primary bar, whose name – the Booking Office – hardly offers an idea of its cathedral-esque proportions and architecture. The station’s old wooden ticket booth still curves along one wall behind the bar, where cocktails include Victorian punch served in copper punch bowls. Smaller but, in our opinion, even more splendid, is the bar of chef Marcus Wareing’s new restaurant there, the Gilbert Scott. Its ineffably glamorous, romantic look is the work of uber-designer David Collins – we love the huge bells that hang from the ceiling acting as light shades.

HOTEL: Corinthia, Whitehall Place

BAR: The Bassoon Bart

Built at the end of the 19th century, this old hotel building has been turned into something very grand indeed: a stupendously extravagant hotel full of gleaming white marble, colossal modernist chandeliers, vast restaurants and a four-floor spa; but not without controversy – its development has been partially funded by Libyan sovereign wealth money. The marvellously-named bar is in the old hotel’s music room, now a sleek, debonair environment of 1920s cool mixed with contemporary ultra-luxury. The Manhattan cocktails are superb, and the “food cocktails” – including the ingenious creation of an oyster in a mini Bloody Mary – are sheer class, as are the staff.

HOTEL: Claridges, Mayfair

BAR: The Fumoir (above)

There may be those who have patronised the bar at Claridges for ages without knowing about its inner sanctum, the Fumoir. Step through a mirrored door into a world of svelte art deco – all purple velvet seating, gleaming Lalique glass panels, sculpted mirrors and vintage photographs, plus a fabulous horseshoe marble bar.

HOTEL: Flemings, Mayfair

BAR: Flemings cocktail bar (below)

Another hotel that underwent a recent refurbishment, Flemings has emerged from relative obscurity, hidden away on a Mayfair side street, as a place of serious cool. Its basement bar is like no other, all bold colours, funky furnishings and loud patterned carpets, yet intimate enough and chic enough not to feel garish. It’s a sophisticated place for a late-night tipple, and the drinks, from tremendous Pink Pigeon rum to its signature martinis, are worth the trip alone.

HOTEL: Dukes Hotel, St James

BAR: Dukes Bar

Talking of signature martinis, they don’t come better than at the legendary bar of Dukes hotel in St James’s. Famously frequented by Ian Fleming, the place is a hushed, unfussy place dedicated to good conversation and phenomenal drinks.

HOTEL: The Connaught, Mayfair

BAR: The Coburg Bar and the Connaught Bar

You could pick the marble-and-mirrors glitz and innovative cocktails of the Connaught Bar, but we’d say the connoisseur’s choice is the understated lounge-bar chic of the Coburg bar, which opened in 2008. Not least because of the remarkable “bacchanology” drinks menu, which is full of historic cocktails and rare vintage champagnes and wines. The atmosphere is low-key but ineffably smart, as dapper and suave as a Savile Row suit, and a marvellous place to while away the hours as you work your way through 300 years of cocktails.

HOTEL: The Savoy, the Strand

BAR: The American Bar and the Beaufort bar

The Savoy’s famous institution, the American Bar, is all about the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, with classic American cocktails, live jazz piano and smart deco stylings. Joining it since the hotel’s refurbishment is the altogether more ritzy Beaufort Bar, in the space of the hotel’s old cabaret stage and with a black-and-gold interior that’s as theatrical as they come.