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Bars To Watch 2015
IT IS ABOUT NOW THAT WE GAZE WISTFULLY AT THE HORIZON and try to imagine the landscape of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2016. You might have seen we released the names of bars that finished from 51-100 a month ahead of the top 50 this year, and these are all great bars. But our Bars to Watch predictions are not as simple as backing those that nearly inched across the line.
They are far less scientific. Some of the following picks are dark horses that lurk in the shadows of the 2015 list, but for some reason feel like better bars than their ranking would have them. There are the fledging venues that could fly to prominence within the space of a year, while others are unbridled hunches. All are leaps of fancy, but regardless of whether they ascend to W50BB status, they are damn fine bars worthy of a visit.
Via del Babuino, 9, 00187 Roma, Italy
The Stravinskij Bar doesn’t scream class and elegance – it whispers it discreetly into your ear. It is among the great hotel bars of the world, though sadly not as famous as the big names from London. Found in the courtyard and rear of the five-star Hotel de Russie, Stravinskij Bar opened with the hotel in 2000. The best time to come is April to October when the courtyard is open and the outside bar in swing. Sitting at one of the tables you are framed by the hotel’s inner walls, left, right and behind. In front of you is a stunning terraced garden that rises up to the night sky. Rush hour (probably more stroll) is 18.30 until about 21.30 – essentially aperitivo time and there can’t be many better places to drink a Negroni or Americano. But the staff here aren’t limited in their repertoire. Inside is a luxurious lounge where the team are better watched plying their craft, but if the weather is good and a table free, the courtyard is alfresco drinking at its beautiful best. If you go to Rome, go to Stravinskij Bar, it’s as simple as that. Because it is relatively unknown, we make it our long shot at 10:1.
THE BLIND PIG @ SOCIAL EATING HOUSE
58 Poland Street, London
Ok, well spotted. This bar was one of our picks from last year. But like a drunk builder, we’ll keep banging away. That’s because this is a blinding bar. That’s the blind bit, what about the pig? Well, probably something to do with the meaty morsels sold inside. Perched above Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton’s City Social in London, it is a dark and brooding neo-classic speakeasy that thrums with Soho atmosphere. Blind Pig dishes up some of the best cocktails in London, and some of the best dishes as accompaniment. Running the bar is Kyle Wilkinson and his drinks have a classical feel but stray well beyond the borders of formality. One of our favourites for making the grade next year – 3:1.
No.1 Jianguomenwai Avenue, Beijing, 100004
Atmosphere is not the big fish of the Shangri-la’s global bar portfolio – that title goes to the Lobster Bar – but to those who have been, it is just as impressive. Visually, certainly. An expanse of luxury that towers over Beijing offering a sense of conquest over the city beneath. Here you will find the kind of indulgence befitting a hotel named after utopia in China’s moneyed capital. There are few finer places to spend money on the finer things in life. Behind the bar is Attila Balint, a gentleman of a bygone era who orchestrates a convivial humdrum of young Chinese and international guests. Drinks come in all forms – indeed, cocktails are by no means the go-to. With some of the finest wines and whiskies outside of a Chinese government office (no mean feat), this is a bar that doesn’t rely on fancy cocktails, though it has them. An outsider for full 50 Best status next year at 10:1.
Cocktail Trading Company
22 Great Marlborough Street, London
It trades in cocktails, but that’s about the only business convention Cocktail Trading Company conforms to in this den of fancy yet affordable drinks. Staff receive a share of the profits. If owners Andy Mil, Elliot Ball and Olly Brading aren’t strung up for crimes against capitalism, they deserve special praise for being benevolent paymasters. Happy staff don’t necessarily put bums on seats, but the dark, velvety subterranean space does. It has an intimate atmosphere, music for people who listen to music rather than just hear it, table service from one of the owners on the floor and wonderfully ostentatious cocktails that would make Marian Beke meow. It’s only been open a year, and if Academy members can find it (it’s well hidden) it could steal one of their five votes. Middle-order favourite for ascension – 4:1.
B1 83-4 Cheongdam Dong, Seoul, South Korea
Seoul’s best bar according to a recent poll and it’s easy to see why. Behind the stick is Sungmin Park, Korean Diageo World Class winner from 2013 and 2014, and in support owners and Seoul bar world gurus Eom Do-hwan and Lim Jae-jin. The décor is plush in a moneyed chesterfields-and-chandeliers sort of way. Step up to the bar which is stocked with great whiskies and waistcoated bartenders who know what to do with them. Or climb to the VIP room that surveys the classical expanse from up high. This is the must-see bar of Seoul. A decent shout to step up to the big time next year – 4:1
Vesterbrogade 72b, 1620 København V, Denmark
Sister bar to Ruby, no. 34 in this year’s list, is Lidkoeb, a behemoth venue owned by Rasmus Lomborg. The bar (or should it be bars?) is split between three spaces that collectively cater to just about all occasions that require good drinking allied to good times. The outside space on ground levels sings in summer. On the first floor are cocktails, but if the hour is late head upstairs to the attic. This intimate whisky den is the perfect wind-down space with a collection of old Scotch that makes you wonder if the Vikings are still pillaging Scotland. Less of a dark horse for next year, more a genuine runner – 4:1.