Photography by diffordsguide.com
Words by Simon Difford on 09-Feb-2016
3 Rathausstrasse, Hamburg, 20095, Germany
Tel: +49 40 334 753 780
Website: View bar's website
Hours: Mon-Sat 6pm-3am, Sun 6pm-1am
Door: Make reservation
Style: Cocktail bar
Recommended for: Cocktails
Price guide: High-end
Food: No food
Owned by: Joerg Meyer & Rainer Wendt
Widely recognised as being one of the world's 20 best bars, Le Lion lies behind a locked door and buzzer system but is open to anyone who makes a reservation. The original ground floor is a plush lounge where the bar and its bartenders are very much the focus, yet it remains strangely discrete. By contrast, the newer Pine Room above (opened Feb 2016) is set out around the bar which dissects the room. Indeed, guests walk through the centre of the bar to access the small lounge area beyond, but most of the seating surrounds the bar itself with the bartenders performing centre stage.
Le Lion, or to give it its full name, 'Le Lion - Bar de Paris' offers luxurious five-star service and perfectly crafted cocktails in a relaxed informal environment. This is not the kind of place where all guests are required to be seated, evident by the lack of tables in the centre of the ground floor lounge. Come weekends and this area is packed with drinkers standing and chatting.
The 'Bar de Paris' part of the name lies in this bar's origins. Le Lion started as a tiny, one room speakeasy opposite the first floor toilets of Café de Paris directly across the street. The restaurant manager and acclaimed bartender, Joerg Meyer, and his business partner, Rainer Wendt, opened 'Le Bon Lion' as a place for themselves and friends to enjoy great cocktails. As word of this very special secret bar spread, so it became a destination. When the premises opposite the restaurant became available they moved their bar across the street, referencing the fact that it started as the bar of Café de Paris in the new bar's name.
The sign above Le Lion's frontage proudly proclaims "The Cradle of the Gin Basil Smash" and it was here in July 2008 that Joerg created the now world famous cocktail. It remains the best-selling drink at Le Lion, as it does in most other bars in Hamburg and beyond. However, it is one of many great signature cocktails on offer here. All are based around vintage classics and display a Germanic attention to detail. Double frozen ice stored in refrigerated covered ice-wells, frozen glassware and meticulous measuring to ensure consistency. Add to this great service, a lively atmosphere and warm décor and you can see why this is one of the world's greatest bars.