Address: 24 Craven Terrace, Lancaster Gate, London W2 3QH UK
Address: 16 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4TL
Tel: +44 (0)207 287 9111
Type: Cocktail bar
A Japanese specialist whisky bar hidden below restaurant Bincho Yakitori, the bar's presence is not exactly a secret, but it can only be reached by walking through the restaurant to stairs at the rear. It is named for the Japanese whisky highball serve which is theatrically and slowly diluted over several minutes over hand-cracked, crystal clear chunks of ice, and which appears at the top of the drinks list (£9.50). It is accompanied by a varied range of whisky cocktails that articulate delicate flavours through three- and four-ingredient serves, made expertly by knowledgeable and friendly staff.
Incorrectly billed as a dive bar, it's actually a rather refined, candlelit space, with Japanese adornments and ornaments around the place and some rather fancy whiskies from Suntory, Nikka, Ichiro and Karuizawa, the country's smallest distillery, ranging from £8.50 to £24 a shot. Still water, decanted in former Hibiki whisky bottles, contains strips of charcoal to create a softer mouthfeel and better complement whisky if you take it straight. A range of skewers cooked on the open fire charcoal upstairs are a tasty accompaniment. 3.5/5
Address: 336-337 The Strand, London WC2R 1HA, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7395 3450
Hours: Mon-Sat Noon-1am
Type: Restaurant bar
"Not your Daddy's steakhouse", goes STK's slogan, and indeed its nightclub-style dining room, indoor cherry blossom trees, pink/purple colour scheme and DJ booth are unlikely to impress your father. This overtly 'female-friendly' restaurant, part of a US chain (its first outpost overseas is in the ME London hotel Aldwych), also advertises itself with stilettos and catwalk models who look like the last thing they'd eat is a nice, juicy steak. Presumably ladies don't like vowels, hence the STK, but they apparently do like Shrimp Rice Krispies, one of the signature dishes.
On the drinks menu, 15 cocktails cover the full range of dark and white spirits and short and tall serves though the flavour emphasis is largely on the sweet side, with the Not Your Daddy's Manhattan, at the top of the list, sweetened not just with sweet vermouth but Liqor 43 too (all drinks from £10-12). Despite the drinks' names also pandering to the lay-dees (Cucumber Stiletto, English Rose, Pink Orchid), there's just - just! - about enough balance to cater to both sexes (hey, if they're allowed to generalise, so are we). An upbeat atmosphere does, however, take it far from the stuffy steakhouses of old. 3/5