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 Ladder Shed at Chiltern Firehouse image

Ladder Shed at Chiltern Firehouse

This hotel, restaurant, bar and cobbled garden courtyard are housed in a former Grade II listed gothic Victorian fire station on the eponymous upmarket Marylebone backstreet. Since opening in February 2014, Chiltern Firehouse has been a magnet to A-listers with paparazzi lurking by the discrete back door on Broadstone Place mews to snap those sneaking out in the early hours. There are three drinking spots at Chiltern, one adjacent to the swanky New York-style brasserie, the Aperitif Bar is accessible to all - well those who have booked a table at the restaurant anyway. As the name suggests this specialises in aperitif and aperitif cocktails with an impressive range of 40 different vermouths. A good bar has good loos and the ones at Chiltern, which lie in the basement beneath the restaurant, are particularly special. Within the loos mirrored doors marked 'cigarettes and men' in the ladies and 'women and wine' in the gents give access to the infamous smoking terrace, actually a bar for smokers decorated with Hogarth prints depicting acts of immorality. The third bar, the Ladder Shed is only accessible to a lucky few so predictably is our favourite. This is officially only open to residents and their guests, who are required to sign the black leather guest book. A gambling chip or playing card allows re-entry to this coveted area for those who leave to dine in the restaurant. So named due to being where firemen once stored their ladders, the Ladder Shed has something of an airy colonial feel with wicker chairs and banquette seating surrounding a pink marble bar counter which juts out into the first room and bashes through a framed opening in the wall to emerge in the larger room beyond. Both rooms are made warmer and cosier by flickering mahogany-panelled fireplaces. Indeed, a warm glow prevails - both from the atmospheric lighting and the faces of the stylish guests. White-jacketed staff expertly and stylishly prepare killer cocktails from a menu curated by beverage manager, Luis Simones and head bartender Davide Zanardo. All in all this is a very special bar and experience but remember it is only accessible to hotel guests. Get a room!

House of Coco Tang image

House of Coco Tang

What's this? A club masquerading as a cocktail bar? Actually it's both, which is something you don't come across very often - at least done well. Come early and it's definitely more of a cocktail bar, though becomes more of a party as the night progresses. At all stages the drinks standards are high. Not behind the bar of your regular club would you find house-infused spirits, tequilas meant for sipping or bartenders doing something more creative than churning out vodka Red Bulls even when it's four deep at the bar. The venue is something of a rabbit warren, all darkly lit and decorated like an Eastern opium den - somewhat reminiscent of New York's Macao Trading Company - with two large bars arranged around a centrepiece glass dance floor. In addition, there's a brilliantly disguised secret entrance - among the best we've seen - to a hidden speakeasy, with a blackboard of specials in addition to the regular menu (though the plan is to focus on Prohibition drinks here) and even a newspaper from the day Prohibition came into force in a locked display case. Now, that menu. Admittedly, many of the cocktails are on the sweet side. Your teeth hurt just thinking about the Krispy Kreme, Haribo Rocks, Parma Violets or Toblerone. But this is largely a young, student crowd and at least this way they might graduate to the more mature, less creamy, stiffer classic cocktails on the list more than if they were starting out on spirits/mixers. All our drinks - from Krispy Kreme to Manhattan - were well-made, and carefully. A decent spirits list across the board helps us give this a score of 4/5.

American Bar at The Savoy image

American Bar at The Savoy

Perhaps the most famous hotel in the world, The Savoy reopened in 2010 after a three-year, £100m+ refurbishment. While the rest of the hotel now sparkles with the polish of a Las Vegas casino, to the relief of bar aficionados the American Bar was merely given a lick of paint and a new carpet and looks practically unchanged from its last makeover. It claims to be the oldest surviving cocktail bar in England, having opened in 1893 in the original riverside part of the hotel, moving to this location in 1904. The black and white photos on the walls and in glass cases attest to the American Bar's place in history - not only was this Frank Sinatra's home from home when he was in the country, this was the home of world-renowned bartenders, from Ada Coleman and Harry Craddock, author of The Savoy Cocktail Book, published in 1930, to Joe Gilmore, Peter Dorelli and Erik Lorincz. On Monday 18th January 2016, the American Bar launched its latest menu. Called The London Menu, this takes guests on a journey around six of the London boroughs that surround The Savoy. From Westminster and the City, to Hackney, Tower Hamlets and from Islington to Camden, each of the six boroughs are represented by four cocktails inspired by famous buildings, parks and gardens to lesser known features of London. The menu includes head bartender, Erik Lorincz's take on the American Bar's longest surviving cocktail - the 'Green Park,' alongside creations such as the 'Abbey Road', inspired by the famous recording studio, and London's Olympic Park. Named after the last known London site for a duel, the 'Pickering Place' is a cocktail designed to be shared by two. Amusingly, the team at the Savoy have turned the story of Pickering Place into a short silent film, which visitors to the American Bar will be able to view when ordering the cocktails.

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