London’s hotel bars are some of the most famous in the world, with destinations like the American Bar at The Savoy and Duke’s Hotel topping our list of the best places for civilised nightcap. Foolproof destinations they might well be, but sometimes it pays to escape the crowds and enjoy a drink somewhere more discreet. Whether you want to impress a date, a client or just enjoy some noise-free me-time, these three under-the-radar hotel cocktail bars are worth discovering.
The Lobby Bar at The Marylebone
But a few streets away from the unpleasant bustle of Oxford Street, the bar at The Marylebone is still a well-kept secret – but it probably won’t be for long. Following the final phase of the hotels extensive refurbishment late last year, the space was transformed by international interior design collective Fettle, who lent it with the hotel’s signature botanical-inspired style. The decor is plush, but contemporary, with dark armchairs, wood-panelled walls and soft lighting. Different parts of the bar are divided into seasons, including spring, autumn and winter lounges, and an open-air summer terrace.
The winter bar (that we’ve visited a few times) has the feel of a luxurious, yet laid-back sitting room – with attentive waiters on hand with snacks and cocktail lists. There’s a clear focus on the quality of ingredients, and the menu is comprehensive but not overwhelming. Drinks are classic with a twist: try the Clover Club, a gin cocktail with raspberry syrup and egg white, or the champagne flamingo – vodka, champagne and Campari in a tall flute. The Sazerac is good, too, and rum fiends should visit for the Blazer, which is a cosy concoction of Diplomatico Reserva rum, blackberry and demerara, served warm with a cinnamon stick. Take our advice: visit while the bar’s still new and (relatively) undiscovered…
The Devil’s Darling at The Napoleon
You may well have already come across London’s smallest hotel, The Napoleon, which has only a single suite to sleep in. Although small in size, it nevertheless has a grand total of three bars to choose from, including opulent cocktail bar The Devil’s Darling. Nestled between the City and Shoreditch, its understated elegance is the perfect foil for a nightcap after a long working day.
Named after Napoleon’s infamous moniker, The Devil’s Darling takes up a Gallic theme with a huge painting of the Emperor’s coronation and Belle Epoque posters on the walls. It’s billed as the place to head for a ‘classic cocktail’ and has a punchy menu of just three drinks that changes daily. We’d recommend sticking to it – because the team there really know their stuff – but if none of the daily trio floats your boat, you can order any classic you like, from a pre-dinner Martini to a late-night Negroni. If you’re after a discreet, chic cocktail in East, this is it.
The Clarendon Cocktail Cellar at the Artist Residence
This subterranean haunt is a smart alternative to big-name hotels when you’re next out West. In the rarefied surroundings of Pimlico, the Clarendon Cocktail Cellar is the bar at the Artist Residence, an arty boutique hotel founded by husband and wife duo Justin and Charlie Salisbury. Hidden underneath a Victorian pub with a murky past, the Cellar is a quirky spot that’s perfect for escaping to after dinner on the King’s Road.
With bare brick walls, old school red leather bar stools and artwork from the Lawrence Alkin Gallery in Soho that changes each month, the Cellar more than lives up to the style credentials of the hotel upstairs. The menu is themed around iconic films, with cocktails including Airplane (Old Grandad bourbon, strawberry-infused Aperol, Bold London Spirit and fresh lemon) and Driving Miss Daisy (East London Liquor Co. gin, Quiquiriqui mezcal, beet grenadine, Amaro Nonino, lime and Teapot Bitters). Drinks even come on film poster bar mats and vats of complimentary popcorn are served to continue the cinematic theme. Secret, stylish and undeniably cool, it’s the perfect place to take a date you’re hoping to impress.