As December gets under way, London has lit up and is ready to party with yuletide cocktails aplenty. For visiting family, I planned half a dozen pitstops around the capital to show off the best of our installations – venues that ramp up the festive atmosphere without being naff. It’s the Tipples ‘n’ Trees tour 2018 – a time-honoured Hot Property Christmas tradition.
Sketch on Conduit Street always goes big and playful – different artists and creatives get to work on its myriad restaurants and the entrance hall this year is enchanting, with candy-coloured arches of giant sweets. Take lunch and cocktails in the Glade, under a new canopy of foliage and perfectly on-trend pendant lights.
Claridges Christmas is an institution. This year the designer Diane von Furstenberg has created a giant woodland tree with sculptural silver animals in the branches. Sister hotel The Connaught always has its artist’s tree outside on Carlos Place, and this year the spruce has 12,000 mesmerising colour-changing lightbulbs by Sir Michael Craig-Martin. And while in Mayfair I came across a surprise hit outside the newly re-opened Annabel’s private members club on Berkeley Square. Lit up, literally as a Christmas tree, the whole front of the townhouse is dazzlingly illuminated in red and gold. Stunning.
The London Edition lobby bar and Berners Tavern restaurant in Fitzrovia have been fabulous additions to the London scene since Ian Schrager opened the hotel five years ago. The international hipsters are too cool for school to want anything approaching fake snow, so the traditional pine tree has been decorated with 160 huge handcrafted paper snowflakes by the artist Zoe Bradley, taking 100 hours to make.
Her pure white paper foliage also trails along the centre banquettes of Berners Tavern accompanied by flickering candles in hurricane lamps, which is absolutely delightful, as is the alpine spirits cocktail made with vodka and aromatic oak moss.
Aqua Shard on the 31st floor of the iconic skyscraper is a sure-fire winner to impress a guest, and the first on my list every year for the tour. Slick service at candlelit tables with the lights of London twinkling far and wide in the darkness is a glamorous way to kick off an evening. The “tree” is always a collaborative installation, and the falling leaves of 2016 was magical.
This year, however, it’s all too gimmicky for me – with a snowglobe effect inside a “mini-Shard” tree by Bompas & Parr and iced rum cocktails that light up. The pud paring, however, is superb – smash the white chocolate globe and creamy flavours burst forth.
The Rosewood on High Holborn is one of London’s most glamorous and contemporary hotels. The florist McQueens has decorated with froths of gold twigs and pine cones, and illuminated potted pines lead you into the grand courtyard. The Glenlivet Glade has been built from scratch and smells woody and welcoming (and bookable for parties).
All told, it seems like London’s Christmas cheer is out in all its arty extravagance, without the need to resort to cringy Christmas jingles or Santa outfits. Let the season’s eatings begin.