Hunker down in a cosy bar this autumn

Timothy Barber
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WHEN temperatures drop – as they did rather suddenly at the weekend – it’s time for a change of tack when it comes to drinking venues. Those breezy summer cocktails in light-filled bars don’t seem quite the thing when it’s dark and blowing a freezing gale outside. What we need is intimacy and comfort – but with a bit of style too. We pick a few of the best bars in which to hunker down and snuggle up.

It’s rare to find a smart, classy bar in W1 where you can warm yourself in front of a roaring fire, but the Donovan Bar in Brown’s hotel in Mayfair offers you just that. It’s a sleek and chic little hideaway, reached via the hotel’s larger piano bar, and named after the fashion photographer Terence Donovan, whose pictures of Swinging Sixties London adorn the walls. It’s a comfy but sophisticated little place, with elegant armchairs, low tables, and its own inner sanctum – banquette seating arranged around a table known as the “naughty corner”, surrounded by some of Donovan’s more racy snaps. Brown's Hotel, Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4BP

The Scots know how to cope with the cold – they have to do so most of the year, after all – and the perfect solution is, of course, whisky. Not far from Victoria, and with a similarly labyrinthine branch on Bishopsgate, Boisdale is London’s atmospheric slice of tartan-tinged indulgence. Mixing the warm ambience of a gentlemen’s club with the charm of an old jazz venue – there’s regular live music here – Boisdale has a spectacular range of single malts and blends and any number of nooks and corners to enjoy them in. 15 Eccleston Street, SW1W 9LX. Swedeland Court, 202 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4NR

Another bar within a bar at a famous Mayfair hotel, The Fumoir is pure old school elegance and sultry glamour. As its name suggests, it’s a place redolent of a smokier age – the Thirties, to be precise – but it loses nothing in atmosphere for being nicotine free. Head through a secret door from the Claridge’s main bar, and you’re greeted by a tiny room full of art deco sumptuousness – purple velvet banquettes, dark leather seats, extravagantly carved mirrors and a magnificent horseshoe bar. Where better to escape on a freezing day for a warming glass of top-notch brandy or port? Claridge’s, Brook Street, W1K 4HR.

Owned by the group behind The Ivy and Le Caprice restaurants, Fitzrovia’s Bam-Bou is a maze of intimate dining rooms, private rooms and bar areas occupying a striking Georgian townhouse. The theme is oriental: menus focus on dishes from Thailand, China and Vietnam, and that’s a theme continued in the cosy Red Bar, with cocktails like Lotus Flower, Indochine Martini and – ahem – Me Love You Long Time. An enchanting hideaway haven to let a bit of sun into the autumnal cold. 1 Percy Street, W1T 1DB.

There’s a certain cosy charm to heading below decks for a drink, and Eight members club houses one of our favourite underground bars. You could call it a dive bar but it’s certainly no dive – think stylish leather armchairs and chesterfields, elegant low-level lighting, and a terrific, New York-style bar where members can store their own personal bottles in a private storage cabinet. Sit at the bar or in the lounge, or have a game of pool at one of the three full-size tables. Eight, 1 Change Alley, EC3V 3ND. 020 7621 0808