Words by: Theodora Sutcliffe
Photography by: Dan Malpass & Punch Room
Between grand hotels, young upstarts and sexy boutiques, it’s easy to argue that London has the best hotel scene in the world – the perfect combo of historic veterans with funky newcomers. And one element that sets London’s hotels apart? Their bars, of course.
Herewith - in alphabetical order - our ten favourite London hotel bars.
When impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte opened the Savoy in 1889, it was a blaze of modernity, from its electric lights through to its whizzy lifts. And, since Ada 'Coley' Coleman became the American Bar's first official head bartender over a century ago, many of the world's top bartenders have passed through the Savoy's hallowed portals: Harry Craddock, Peter Dorelli, Joe Gilmore, and, currently, Erik Lorincz. The longest lived of all the American bars that opened in London as transatlantic liners narrowed the continental divide, the American Bar's timeless charm is supported by laser-focused service and peerless attention to detail, recognised by World's 50 Best Bars with the number one spot in 2017: watch our documentary here.
Address: The Savoy, The Strand, London, WC2R 0EU
Tel: +44 (0)20 7836 4343
Website: American Bar
Since the Dorchester opened its doors in 1931, both the hotel and its bar have been a mecca for old-school glitterati: Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred Hitchcock, Barbara Streisand... Harry Craddock worked here after leaving the American Bar, and sealed phials of the Martini, Manhattan and White Lady in the wall in 1938: builders found them during a 1979 restoration but, rumour has it, threw them away. The Bar's glitzy interior with its daring glass shards and rich velvet was created during yet another refurb, in 2005. Giuliano Morandin has managed the bar for over 30 years, and both service and cocktails are classically elegant.
Address: Dorchester Hotel, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London, W1K 1QA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7629 8888
Website: The Bar at the Dorchester
The red brick Connaught has been a Mayfair institution since the 19th century, although it only acquired its name during World War I. (Around the same time the British Royal Family changed its name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, the German-sounding Coburg rebranded to The Connaught.) Classy and timeless though it feels, the Connaught Bar dates only to 2008. Despite the classical interior, the marble and the panelling, drinks here are thoroughly innovative. A martini trolley trundles between the tables, while Ago Perrone and his team whip up creations using everything from celery air to saffron smoke.
Address: The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL
Tel: +44 (0)20 7314 3419
Website: Connaught Bar
When the Mondrian launched on the South Bank in 2014, it was the boutique hotel brand's first opening outside the US. And Britain's Ryan Chetiyawardana, AKA 'Mr Lyan', cemented his reputation with Dandelyan, its thoroughly modern and much-awarded bar. A Saint Martins graduate, Chetiyawardana majors on complex, nuanced, cerebral drinks, featuring ingredients from beeswax to blue corn, and each incarnation of their menu is considered something of an event. The team take inspiration from fields as distinct as palaeontology, botany and geography, and every cocktail is deeply pondered and lovingly rehearsed before it makes it onto the menu.
Address: Mondrian at Sea Containers, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London, SE1 9PD
Tel: +44 (0)20 7347 1063
Perhaps the most English of London's heritage hotels, Dukes is a relative newcomer, appearing almost fully formed in the heart of St. James's in 1908. The cosy, intimate bar is a favourite with local hedge-funders, and white-jacketed bartender Alessandro Palazzi follows nimbly in the footsteps of Salvatore Calabrese and Gilberto Preti. Icy, near-naked Dukes martinis are the thing to drink here, as formulated by Calabrese and Stanton 'Irish Coffee' Delaplane in the 80s. Ian Fleming was a regular, although Preti, occasionally credited with creating the Vesper, didn't join Dukes until long after Fleming died. A renovation scheduled for late 2017 won't affect the bar.
Address: Dukes London, 35 St. James's Place, St. James's, London, SW1A 1NY
Tel: +44 (0)20 7493 1264
Website: Dukes Bar
The art deco masterpiece that is Claridge's seamlessly navigates the difficult territory between historic and hip: its sexy, Jazz Age style draws the likes of Kate Moss to party in its suites. The hotel traces its heritage to 1812, although much of the interior is from 1929: intriguingly, the celebrated female bartender Ada Coleman worked here before she moved to the Savoy. Fumoir opened around the turn of the new century, originally as a cigar bar, but with its jewel-like glass it fits right in. Cocktails are fresh, sexy takes on the classics, with a curated selection of vintage whiskies and champagnes.
Address: Claridge's, Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4HR
Tel: +44 (0)20 7629 8860
Hotelier André Balazs, the trailblazer behind Hollywood's Chateau Marmont and The Mercer, NYC, opened Chiltern Firehouse in 2013 - his first property outside the US. Carved out of the Grade-II listed Marylebone Fire Station, it became a tabloid staple overnight, thanks as much to the star power of Ladder Shed as its 26 suites. Notionally open only to members and their guests - and definitely not to be confused with the Aperitif Bar by the restaurant - Ladder Shed's quirky interior has drawn everyone from Bill Clinton, who played a DJ set, to Kate Moss. In cocktail terms, the focus is on fresh, seasonal drinks.
Address: Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7073 7676
Website: Ladder Shed
For all its neoclassical grandeur, The Lanesborough was never built as a hotel - or even as a stately home. The grand pile started life as a hospital, and only acquired its new role in 1991. For years, The Library Bar was the home of Salvatore 'Maestro' Calabrese, and his hand remains evident in their world-class selection of vintage cognacs, some dating back to before the French Revolution. A 2015 refurbishment has lightened the dark woods a little, but even under Mickael Perron's tenure the feel remains very much that of a gentleman's club, an elite enclave into which admission is a privilege.
Address: The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner, London, SW1X 7TA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7259 5599
Website: Library Bar
With its panelled walls, this dimly lit lounge resembles a gentleman's club, complete with open fire. A reservations only haven, the Punch Room lies past the London Edition Hotel's other more exuberant bars at the back of the lobby. As the name suggests, punch is a speciality, and indeed this award-winning bar is world famous for its punches. The milk punch is legendary or choose from a daily special punch menu.
Address: London Edition Hotel, 10 Berners Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 3NP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7908 7949
Website: Punch Room
From the Grade II listed splendour that greets you as you sweep through the wrought-iron gates to the marble bathrooms, you'd think Rosewood London had been hosting high-end guests since time immemorial. Yet the building first opened as a hotel in the year 2000, and only acquired its current identity in 2013. Cartoonist Gerald Scarfe not only lent his name to the bar but created 11 impressive canvases. Coupled with antique books, velvet chairs and roaring fire, there's a cosy gentleman's club feel, helped along by a fine selection of sloe gin, Scotch whisky and very inventive cocktails.
Address: Rosewood London, 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN
Tel: +44 20 3747 8611
Website: Scarfes Bar