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Pouring the Martini Royales
It’s the terrible dilemma that faces you when you set foot in the Langham London. Does one head straight into Palm Court for one of the best afternoon teas in the world capital of afternoon teas? Or does one turn left and nip into Artesian for a perfectly blended cocktail?
Clearly, it wasn’t just us having a moral dilemma, because the Langham has just started The Art of the Aperitif - a pop-up bar bringing drinks from Artesian into Palm Court.
It’s being run in conjunction with Martini, so all the drinks (there are seven) have vermouth and, and there’s Martini memorabilia scattered around. But it’s no boring promo thing – the drinks have been created by Artesian’s Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale (head bartender and assistant head respectively), and there are food pairings (or snacks, rather), too, for the all important stomach-lining process.
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Question: What do you get the person who has everything? (This is the question which possibly, probably foxed Brad Pitt as he debated whether to go to a certain celebrity wedding.)
Answer: A ticket to Barcelona for a meal at Hotel Arts. (Shame Brad didn't think of this, he might have got a Venetian holiday out of it.)
Why? Because it’s truffle season, and the hotel’s two Michelin-starred restaurant, Enoteca, is running a special white truffle tasting menu throughout November. It’s not just special because it involves white truffles – the dishes come with wine pairings, and those wines include the award-winning Miraval rosé. Not familiar with said rosé? It’s from Brangelina’s estate in Provence, and is not publicly for sale. Enough said.
Unlike New York, the list of rooftop bars in London isn’t that long, and even fewer can boast floor-to-ceiling windows with river views and outdoor space for al-fresco lounging and drinking, but Rumpus Room has both.
With eight dining establishments already in New York City alone, including the two-Michelin starred DANIEL, this is great news for Bostonians, visitors, and all self-proclaimed foodies. This also marks the third Bar Boulud after New York and London and the second partnership for Boulud with Mandarin Oriental Hotels (there is also a Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.)
The design of the new Bar Boulud was handled by Adam D. Tihany of Tihany Design. From the looks of the restaurant now that it’s completed, we think it’s quite simply, spectacular.
For those moments when you need to socialize and detox, there’s a genteel catch up over a cup of tea… and then there’s Tanya’s Café at MyHotel Chelsea, which opened in August serving raw food and superfood cocktails.
We popped in last week for post-work drinks. First surprise: it was buzzing. And the clientele didn’t seem to be hotel guests either, but locals – particularly slender, clear-skinned, unbelievably young posh locals – think Cara Delevigne-types (Cara lives nearby in Belgravia).
Second surprise: it was expensive. £10.50 for a cocktail is fine, but a plate of chips & dips for £17.50? Nope. Also, surprisingly, there were only snack-style platters available in the evening – the proper meals are daytime only.
Third surprise: lawd, it was good. Here’s what we tried:
A Mastic Sour with the Monastery of St John on the hill, top right
We blame the Grande Bretagne in Athens. After we tasted the Tears of Chios cocktail at its rooftop Selfie Spot bar, we got a little obsessed with mastiha, a liquor flavored with mastic (a gum-resin thing that’s produced on the island of Chios). Mastiha cocktails, neat mastiha after dinner – it’s all we wanted to drink in Greece.
So when we were on the island of Patmos, we went in search of mastiha-infused cocktails. Patmos is a notoriously un-party island (it’s home to a huge monastery, various convents and the Cave of the Apocalypse) so this was always going to be a tall order.
We started at Patmos Aktis, one of the poshest hotels on the island, which had looked lush from afar. But then we left immediately because the server in the (deserted) restaurant threw a tantrum about us only wanting drinks.
We ended up in port town Skala at Chris Hotel, not nearly as rarefied a place as Patmos Aktis (right by the port, for starters – and then there’s the name), but not nearly as snooty. The terrace bar, which had been buzzing every time we drove by, was full – and not just with tourists, but mainly with locals. This, apparently, is where the young of Patmos go to party.
When we visited the Selfie Spot at the Grande Bretagne in Athens the week before last, we remembered the other hotel bar with truly jaw-dropping Acropolis views (as opposed to other hotels which pretty much all have a glimpse of the Acropolis): the Galaxy Bar at the Hilton Athens. So, with a couple of hours to spare in Athens last week, we headed over.
The Hilton is back a bit from the center of Athens – out by the Byzantine Museum, around a 10-15 minute walk from Syntagma Square. But what it lacks in ease of location, it makes up for in views – because thanks to the low-rise buildings all around it, it has a straight on view of the Parthenon. It is extraordinary.
Sadly, we tell you this from memory, because on arrival we discovered the Galaxy Bar isn’t open all day, like the GB roof terrace; it opens at 6pm. Instead, we settled at Aethrion Lounge on the ground floor for some lunch and drinks.
We suggest you don’t follow our example.
It doesn’t feel this long, and yet it feels like forever – the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago in November, and the city is marking the anniversary on November 9 by lining up 8000 helium balloons along a 7.5 mile stretch of the old border between east and west.
Obviously no hotel wants to be seen to be taking advantage of an event of such historical importance, but the Hotel de Rome has drawn up a pretty sober package, valid November 7-10.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall package includes three nights accommodation and breakfast, a three hour private guided tour of Wall-related sites, a trip to the Asisi Panorama near Checkpoint Charlie, and a two hour Trabi tour (in an iconic East German Trabant car). They’ll also throw in champagne and currywurst as you watch the balloons on the 9th from the hotel rooftop terrace.
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We’ve shown you the Selfie Spot at the Grande Bretagne in Athens and we’ve banned you from taking selfies. So what else can you do up there? Well, you can take glorious panorama photos of Athens and the Aegean Sea. Or you can drink.
The GB Roof Garden has a restaurant and a separate bar area with outside terrace. (NB: The bar area is right by the Selfie Spot, if you need Dutch courage to get your selfie juices flowing.) Cocktails vary from €14-€21 ($18-$27), there’s free WiFi, free (bottled) water served with drinks and some rather snazzy bar snacks including candied fruit. It’s all very civilized.
Two years ago, The W Hotel Union Square in New York debuted a new lounge concept for the space once occupied by Underbar, which in its heyday of the early aughts, was the place to see and be seen. Called Lilium, the space operated as a small nightclub with hand-sculpted steel lilies hanging from the ceiling and video art played on a loop on a flat-screen TV behind the bar.
Today, Lilium is out and Studio is in. The space, officially opening tonight, is a partnership between the Gerber Group (who also ran Underbar and Lilium) and contemporary artist, Domingo Zapata, who designed the club's interiors which are inspired by Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Here's how the space is described:
Upon arrival, guests will descend into Zapata’s richly imagined interior world, falling down a veritable “rabbit hole” as they experience Alice-inspired murals leading down to a subterranean lounge. Once inside, a continuous, vaguely narrative mural runs through the space’s perimeter. Inspired by the style of his own Gramercy Park studio, Studio’s shadowy enclaves and seating areas are reupholstered in rich velvet red fabrics, and allude to a glamorous old New York feel contrasted by the rawness of open ceilings and untainted floors.
We call the Queen seat.
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We just love a good play on words because while “staying dry” at Gran Meliá Fénix’s DRY Bar is possible, with an 84-page bar menu, it’s probably not the time or the place.
The bar, whose full name is the lengthy DRY Cosmopolitan Bar by Javier de las Muelas, has a tantalizing selection of bevvies that fall into categories such as DRY & Tonics, Exotiks, Sensory, and a full page of Beer Cocktails (remember we saw this as a trend during Cocktail Week?). But it’s really the Classics, as in martini classics, that the bar most wants you to try, because when you do, you join a select group.
Each person who orders the Extra Dry Martini (€13 or $17) officially becomes a—as in you get a certificate and everything—proud supporter of the “Javier de las Muelas Dry Foundation, created for the development of the cocktail world.” Your certificate states your martini order number, as does the martini counter above the Bar’s bar.
You’ll be drinking your lip-smacking, mouth-drying martini (gin is certainly the thing here with 60 varieties available) in a clubby, woody type of bar where you feel you can stay and sink into the furniture for a while.
They say opposites attract, although isn’t internet dating saying the opposite these days? Anyway, here’s an interesting combination: laidback Hawaii meets stiff-and-proper Paris as the head barman from the Ritz Paris is heading to the Halekulani hotel in Waikiki to present an “interactive cocktail pairing experience”.
Colin Field, from the Ritz’s Bar Hemingway (and the “best barman in the world”, according to Forbes), will be in Hawaii from 22-26 September, propping up the bar at L’Aperitif. On his final evening (6-8pm) he’ll lead a “tasting experience”, demonstrating the art of cocktail making and then (the crucial part) doling them out, along with posh amuse bouches created by the hotel’s exec chef.