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1C Portland Place, Regent Street, London, UK
This year London has kicked New York between the legs and snatched back the best bar crown from PDT. And it has done so lapping lovely libations in the luxury of the Langham Hotel’s Artesian bar.
The Artesian is a worthy number one and for many will be far from a surprise victor – indeed, it already has a trophy cabinet creaking under the weight of global gongs. At Tales of the Cocktail this year it claimed World’s Best Hotel Bar as well as the World’s Best International Bartender in Alex Kratena and it is universally accepted that the bar is properly special.
The cocktail menu has attracted much of the credit, and with good reason. It effortlessly blends modern innovation with a classic reverence and each beautifully designed concoction justifies its luxury price tag. The Langham Cobbler, for example, peers into the past for inspiration but challenges current taste buds with a blend of lychee and aged sake; while the Club Netherlands twists a classic in the Clover Club with tongue-tingling floral botanicals from its bespoke syrup.
Elsewhere, a list of gin & tonic variations reminds patrons they are in a very British establishment, this being the first London hotel to have a lift, no less.
Each of these intricate in-house intoxications comes complete with glorious garnishes, a collection of impressive rim dressings that would bring a blush to the most couture of catwalks. Interestingly, most of the edible varieties offer more nutritional substance than a model could shake a limp wrist at.
But if this barrage of modern cocktail choice frustrates your frontal lobe, there’s a fine selection of classics. Familiar fellows such as the Daiquiri, Negroni and Old Fashioned are there to restore some balance and satisfy a simpler selection process.
Comprehensive coverage on the spirits list also warrants a thumbs-up and includes an eye-watering collection of rums, each producing region represented in a sterling fashion.
Décor plays homage to classic hotel style but also smacks the more austere features on the cheek with a kiss from a set of purple lips, with lush fabrics and leathers hugging fixtures and fittings. Glassware is glamorous and the ostentatious bar, complete with mirrored pagoda, gives even the most conservative of hotel guests a knowing glad eye.
What perhaps sets Artesian apart, though, is the service. The staff make you feel warmer inside than a Welcome Break coffee, but in a much more welcome fashion. The charm is effortless, an unrelenting exhibition of courtesy. If they deserve a number one shout for any reason, we’d put this at the forefront for, in truth, if the drinks weren’t quite right, the décor let the place down and the music policy was a little off, we could still be convinced to return to a bar based on the staff’s charm. When combined with all the other successful facets, this makes it a deserving winner.