Words by Ian Cameron on 17-Dec-2012
68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)20 7406 3333
Website: Not supplied
Style: Hotel bar
Recommended for: Cocktails
Price guide: High-end
Food: No food
The iconic Cafe Royal hotel, home of the classic 1937 Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, has quietly reopened after an enormous refurbishment that has seen it closed for years. A soft opening runs into 2013 before it will be presumably launched with some fanfare.
There are two bars. The main bar, signed by a discreet and simple Art Deco 'Bar' sign over the corner entrance from Air Street, is now a dark, surprisingly industrial-looking space. Dark green glass bricks line the walls with a striking island bar forms the focal point of the room. An absinthe collection sees Belle Epoque fountains atop the bar and a good list of absinthe cocktails where the green fairy has been used judiciously. It also has a dedicated page of recipes from the cocktail book. Cocktails are - brace yourself - tres expensive at a whopping £18-20 each. Ouch - must be the price you pay for such a lengthy makeover, but drinks are well balanced and include some original and often unexpected pairings, and table service (no sitting at that bar) is spot on.
The bar takes up a smaller space than the previous Art Deco room that the earlier bar used to occupy - that's now taken up by the restaurant - and it must have been a brave decision to introduce something quite so contrasting and contemporary with the original, but it works and the approach is shared by most of the public areas. The hotel's former Grill Room has, however, been restored in all its lavish, golden Louis XVI splendour and is now a caviar and champagne bar with a dress code.