Feature – Claridges Hotel Bar
In the second part of the series looking at the hotel bars of London, we take a trip to the institution that is Claridges. Opened only 13 years ago, the bar at Claridges is a relative newcomer to the hotel cocktail bar scene. Not that you’d know it when inside, the art deco styling together with the graceful and attentive service oozes and air of having been around for whole lot longer.
It’s also rather cosy, not exactly small, but neither do you feel like you are sat in some vast expanse of corporate hospitality. Speaking of the service, you can expect to be treated with the level of attention deserving of a 5 star hotel, but as with any of its contemporaries, the staff here are friendly and approachable too. You probably won’t want to turn up in scruffy jeans, but if you’re looking fairly presentable, this is a heaven of tranquility that need not be the preserve of the rich and famous.
As with all such hotels, many of the customers are international travellers who sit side by side with more regular folk treating themselves to what will undoubtedly be one of the more expensive cocktails they have ever ordered. Sometimes this mix can result in a bit of a weird feeling, with everyone there as a result of the situation, rather than because it is their preferred drinking venue. Interestingly, Claridges take pride in their claim that 60% of customers in the bar are ‘regulars’. Pretty affluent regular no doubt, but regulars all the same. Perhaps the same could be said of other hotel bars, but the desire to keep people coming back does seem to reflect in the friendly and, maybe even relaxed, service.
The cocktail menu is of a decent size and has some interesting flavour combinations. The cocktails are all either original creations or ‘modern’ libations, with classics being left to order by request. There is a bias towards white spirits, in particular gin, with fruit flavours making a strong showing as well. On the whole, the flavour combinations are approachable but also flavourful, and there are a couple of shorter cocktails to appeal to those looking for a bit more punch. They are reliably well-executed but are also relatively ‘safe’ in that you generally won’t find the boundaries of taste or technique being pushed here. That is not necessarily a criticism, but instead an important consideration for the more serious cocktail connoisseur looking to know what to expect. Prices are in-line with what you would expect in such a hotel bar and are probably more reflective of the environment than the uniqueness of the drinks offering.
Currently the bar is listing a cocktail by the name of ‘Fleur de Lis’. This is essentially a standard Cognac old fashioned cocktail using Remy Martin XO as the base, and finished with a spritz of 100 year old Louis XIII. The result is a very aromatic cocktail with the century old Louise XIII contributing more than a hint of rancio notes, and creating a very unique drink. The contribution of the Louis XIII is however largely restricted to the aroma, and the cocktail tastes like a very nice, but pretty standard cognac old fashioned. At £30 a pop, I’m sure there are plenty who will buy one for interest, but it probably has more of an appeal to Cognac fans than the cocktail fraternity per se. However, considering many Cognac producers remain absolute in their avoidance of the cocktail market for their products, it is nice to see a drink such as this being promoted.
All things considered, the bar at Claridges is a very solid contributor to the 5-star hotel cocktail scene. It offers a nice mix of attentive and friendly services, with a respectable and tasty cocktail list. It’s not trying to break the mould, but then why should it when the mould produces such a great product?