Dukes: A clandestine classic on a cobbled lane off St James’s, an institution for martini lovers. Frequented by James Bond author Ian Fleming, this old-school bar still has more than a whiff of understated glamour and mystery about it. Settle into one of its sapphire-blue armchairs and let Alessandro Palazzi, DUKES’ bar manager, and a London legend, work his magic with the martini trolley and all its secret ingredients. Just beware, one martini won’t feel like enough, two will be too many.
Painter’s Room at Claridge’s is one of the most decadent and quintessentially London experiences. Arriving into its Art Deco lobby with its chequered floor, you feel like the night is yours. Try to snag a table for two in the Painter’s Room, an intimate space decked out in marshmallow marble tones and inspired — as the name hints — by the artistic haunts of Provence and Italy. Annie Morris’ stained glass mirror and playful murals create a Golden Age aesthetic that is best paired with a glass of champagne — or the Painter’s Negroni.
Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood is named after the cartoonist and illustrator Gerald Scarfe, the Rosewood’s bar marries a grand drawing room design and a dash of the gentlemen's club with a mischievous vibe. A cocktail and jazz joint, you will find yourself surrounded by antique books and warmed by roaring fires. The drinks menu offers tongue-in-cheek riffs on the classics, such as My Tie: a heady mix of rum, mango, espelette pepper, and clarified almond. With a soundtrack of live jazz, it’s a great date spot for central London.
Seed Library at 100 Shoreditch: East London’s hotel bar options are fewer and farther between, but the recent opening of the Seed Library has upped its game. Set beneath the 100 Shoreditch Hotel, X concrete steps lead you beneath street level, revealing a slick, Seventies-style bar with sexy lighting. Ask for one of the seats at the bar so you can see the mixologists at work, and make your way through the menu: our favorite was the Coriander Seed Gimlet. Soak it all up with some of their moreish snacks — think smoked cheddar croquettes and posh chicken nuggets.
The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury is bright and bold with coral-red walls, Martin Brudinski-design space has spruced up the entrance of The Bloomsbury, creating a cocktail-fuelled haven just off Tottenham Court Road. A lengthy Art Deco bar takes center stage, offset by wonderfully frivolous chandeliers and elegant velvet seating. Do as the Roaring Twenties would do and order Champagne — or our favorite, the Classic Champagne Cocktail. Balanced with some truffled fries and a couple of sliders and you have the perfect decadent combination.
The NoMad Hotel's Common Decency, which opened in 2021, quickly became one of London's most beautiful hotels, so it was only a matter of time before they launched a stylish, subterranean drinking den. Once you find the entrance, Common Decency is an absolute delight. Transformed from the old Bow Street police station where Oscar Wilde was repeatedly held, it is intimate and sexy with lashings of velvet. Take a perch at the bar and make your way through the Avante-garde menu that leans on fruit and veg most unexpectedly — such as Quince Park Swizzle, where apple brandy, lime, and falernum mingle with brown butter, salted caramelized quince, creme fraiche, and coconut. Order the caviar potato rostis for good measure.
Aubrey at the Mandarin Oriental: Enjoying its entrance off Knightsbridge, it is a world within a world at the Mandarin Oriental. Inspired by the Japanese izakaya, its interiors are decidedly ritzy gentleman’s club and the juxtaposition works. Dark wood paneling, moss green leather, and plenty of marble offset a cocktail menu spiked with Japanese flavors and ingredients. We loved the Death of the Lion: a riff on the classic gimlet with yuzu liqueur and lime leaf cordial. For something extra special, book onto the Omakase experience, a two-hour immersive cocktail journey in a hidden six-seater bar within Aubrey.
Sir Frank’s Bar at Beaverbrook Townhouse: The London counterpart to the magnificent Beaverbrook in Surrey, this townhouse hotel has just the brilliant bar you would expect it to have. Sir Frank’s, whimsically dressed in stained glass and with raspberry banquettes for clandestine conversations, gives one the sense of being inside a kaleidoscope. Its playful cocktails, with names like Lady Clementine and Kinky Boots, nod to Lord Beaverbrook’s illustrious friends and love of theatre. Order a couple of Top Hats — a potent mix of tequila, creme d’abricot, coriander, and chill charged with Moet — and your evening will be off, up, and away.