Head Here If…You want old-school British style with a light, modern touch
What’s not to like about a bit of five-star luxury? From the fine drinks to the crystal glassware, stellar service to the fancy nibbles, all the components go together to make you feel like a bona fide V.I.P…
First Things First
You can’t help feeling like a proper grown up when you enter The Library Bar. Not in a boring, restrained way, we’re referring to the wonderful air of calm and orderliness that pervades the room. There are also the fixtures and fittings to consider. This is proper old-school Brit stuff: handsome dark wood, deep, heavy upholstered sofas, plenty of plumped up cushions and a scattering of leather wing chairs and textured cub chairs to sit back and take the weight off. And like any library, there are the books. They’re everywhere. Even cleverly housing the menu.
The clientele is interesting, too. As well as a nice mix of what look like uber rich hotel guests and well-to-do after work types, on the evening we visited there were regular couples, a young dude sat on his own and an older single woman who appeared to be there purely to admire Brian Morris’s piano playing.
Not that we can blame her. He seems to be part of the furniture. We’re treated to perfect renditions of our favourite cheesy listening including Nat King Cole, Frank and Ella and as a new guest enters the room, he greets them with a friendly nod.
It all goes to create a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere and that’s even before you factor in the drinks…
What else could The Signature here be but The Librarian (cognac, Antica Formula Vermouth, cherry liquor and Peychaud Bitters)? As you’d expect from a drink with bookish connotations, this one is smooth, rich, dark and contemplative, perfect for Ms S to sip and savour. As she’s beginning to understand and appreciate the complexities of cognac, she’s thrilled that this cocktail seems to tease out the characteristics perfectly. It’s wonderfully aromatic on the nose, full on the flavour front and a deep rich cherry colour which scores highly in the visual department. It’s probably more of a gentleman’s drink but this lady has no complaints at all.
The word “comprehensive” doesn’t come close in describing the choice of martinis on the menu here. Eight variations include the Dickens, Franklin and Churchill (gin stirred with an unopened bottle of vermouth waved above the shaker) but it’s the classic for Mr G. Given the surroundings the glass is appropriately elegant with an incredibly long, thin stem (although Mr G would have preferred it not to have been etched with flowers). The gin is Beefeater 24 and it’s served with a big piece of pink grapefruit peel which makes for an appetising look, a refreshing aroma and compliments the gin nicely. Most significantly the house style for this cocktail is Naked, which means you’re basically getting a glass of ice cold but undiluted gin, so it very, very strong. It ‘s delicious and showcases the gin well – but we advise sticking to one.
Ms S goes for the Aviation (gin, maraschino, lemon) and is given the option of having it mixed with or without creme de violette. She doesn’t miss a beat: definitely ‘with’. The addition of creme de violette might not be to everyone’s taste but it adds a very agreeable aroma, delicate flavour and extra dryness to this excellent aperitif served in an etched crystal martini glass.
It’s a difficult choice for Mr G with so many old favourites and new concoctions vying for attention, but this combination is most neatly captured in the Classics v. Twisted section, and from here he goes for Mr Black Negroni (Bombay Sapphire gin, sweet vermouth, Cynar Bitters). It looks nice and simple in a thin rocks glass with a lot of ice and a big half slice of orange. True to being “Twisted” it is a Negroni but it’s as though someone has turned up the volume. The bitters (derived from artichokes) are just a bit more, well, bitter without being overpowering. The sweetness is a little more pronounced too. And the gin is in the background but chipping in with a particularly good old kick. A great advert for their whole Classics v. Twisted idea.
And To Eat?
Only the best will do, we’re talking the likes of Lobster nachos (£21.50), foie gras with toasted soldiers (£21.50), potted Morecambe Bay shrimps on toast (£17.50) and Library Bar Favourites including Scotch smoked salmon (£24) and grilled Dover sole (£38). And naturally, there’s caviar, including Sevruga at £275. Mind you, even the complimentary nibbles are good. Served on a three-tiered silver stand like your mum saved for special occasions, they’re the ideal accompaniment to your martinis.
What’s The Damage
£14.50-£15.50 plus service.
Look Out For
The cosy little love nest aka the ‘celebrity table’ set off to the right of the main room. Like a posh arbour it has a lovely romantic look and feel about it – and as it’s set away from the central activities, it’s perfect for a tryst. For cognac aficionados there’s the ‘liquid history’ collection with some of the rarest and finest cognacs, including 1811 Napoleon – definitely worth splashing out on.
Ms S says
This bar works on so many levels: good drinks, first-class service, delightful setting – the list goes on. Pop in for a mid-afternoon tipple, after work drinks, pre- or post-dinner cocktails with friends, lovers or even on your own. It’s also a great place to treat your parents – they’ll feel comfortable and special but the best bit is, they’ll be able to boast about it to their friends.
Mr G says
There’s lot to enjoy about this bar but the menu alone makes it worth a visit. A long list doesn’t necessarily mean a good list (quite often it can make for the opposite) but the way it’s broken down into neat sections, all with a story – appropriate given the name of the bar, makes it easy and inviting. A big choice of martinis, martini variations, Forgotten Classics and, of course, the Classics v. Twisted are just some examples. And judging by what we sampled they’d all be worth exploring.
Lanesborough Hotel, Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA. T: 020 7259 5599. lanesborough.com
Open Mon-Sat 11am-1am; Sun 12pm-10.30pm.