Not partaking in a dry January? Good move. You may be surprised at my views given my constant pleas to please moderate alcohol for the sake of skin/health, but I think that’s entirely sensible – from what I’ve found, London isn’t built for abstinence. No, in a city that is for eight months of the year cold and dark the glittering, welcoming lights at the doors of drinking establishments are so hard to ignore.
Instead of warning off alcohol, I’m firmly in the moderation camp. Go and have one good glass of something somewhere nice – enjoy it. Then stop. The best place to do this is in a decadent hotel bar where ambience and the sheer luxury of it all offsets the eye-watering prices, but only for a drink (or possibly two)…
The Rivoli is an old school, Art Deco affair with muted shades of gold everywhere you look. It’s the sort of place I imagine Fitzgerald would’ve kicked back with a good glass of gin.
Food: The complimentary nibbles offered with drinks are a mix of caramelised almonds and wasabi-coated nuts. The food from the menu is extortionate and not a great deal better than at much cheaper local eateries.
Drink: There is no shame in a glass of champagne whatever the time of day at the Ritz. It’s the Ritz – it’s already shamefully indulgent, so order accordingly.
The first time I visited this softly-lit underground bar, I felt as if I’d descended into a parallel universe – I was sat next to Kate Moss, who was joined by Alexa Chung, Charlotte Tilbury and Sir Philip Green. I have not been graced by the Moss posse on subsequent visits, but they have still been almost as thrilling (but, then, I found the ‘Kiss Me, I’m Chinese’ hand towels exciting).
Food: If you must eat, do so at the adjoining China Tang where they offer a mix of what is essentially upmarket Cantonese. Though they serve some excellent dim sum, I’d personally stick to the bar for the atmosphere – the restaurant is bigger, brighter and overall less special.
Drink: The decor is evocative of 30’s Shanghai, so drink a cocktail – it just looks and feels right in here. Start with a Singapore Sling.
A subterranean bar that works just as well for a business meeting as it does a drink between friends, the main room is relaxed with exposed brick work and low hanging lamps, while the Wine Room is a little more luxe and is excellent for a dinner of up to 10 under the Victorian brick vaults.
Food: Go for the mediterranean-inspired tasting menu (I love the globe artichoke, pink radicchio and truffled formagella).
Drink: The refreshing Seasons cocktail made with Sipsmith vodka, Kamm & Sons, lemon juice, cucumber syrup, pressed apple, ginger ale was my choice tipple.
Bookshelves stacked with antique books, a huge fireplace and big leather sofas, this is quintessential Britain at its best. I discovered this little gem right before Christmas and returned as soon as I could, so deep was my love.
Food: The usual bar snacks as at the Ritz. The light dishes with an Indian twist are a little hit and miss – some great (such as the curries), some not so much (the cheese puffs didn’t go down well with my group).
Drink: Try the sloe gins (in which the hotel specialises) or a cocktail – I had a rather delicious basil affair on both visits that I would highly recommend.
Tucked away behind the drawing room, this is a discrete, small bar in which you’ll be served by impeccably dressed (and mannered) staff.
Food: There’s no dining area at the Egerton but they’ve created a menu offering sandwiches and standard hotel fodder (steaks, penne and burgers – you know the drill) that you can tuck into at the bar.
Drink: Just leave this to barman Antonio who is widely reputed to make the best martini in London. Having tried it, my vote goes to him, too.
The winner of last year’s Drinks International gong for the world’s best bar, this is a place where you can easily lose quite a few hours in testing the surprising (yet delicious) cocktail menu.
Food: The bar menu is fairly extensive and includes dim sum and finger foods but there isn’t an awful lot for veggies (of which I am one), so I was stuck with hummus.
Drink: The cocktails here are out of the ordinary and encompass the whole experience from scent to presentation. Don’t think that takes any of the attention away from good flavours – every drink we tried here was stupendously tasty. The Forever Young, which comes served behind a mirror holding both drink and incense so that with each sip, you are confronted with your reflected image and breathe in a waft of scent.
An update of the Edwardian original, this is all black marble and leather and a seriously decadent place to kick back with a drink.
Food: I’ve never seen a morsel of food, bar the requisite nibbles, pass anyone’s lips in here – if you’re hungry, eat the olive out of your martini.
Drink: Now this is where the Connaught really pushes the boat out – if you order the house martini, it will come to you on a trolley and you can watch your drink being blended in front of you. Not cheap, but a real experience.