Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Where To Drink Cocktails Mid-Afternoon In London

By Alwynne Gwilt.

It's hard to deny the glorious weather Londoners have been treated to the past few days is anything but a shock. Sunshine? In autumn? Sunshine in London? After a rather miserable summer that made most residents paler than an albino in the Arctic, my Twitter feed has been filled with exclamations on just how excited everyone is. But what to do in the gorgeous weather? How to celebrate?

Two words: cocktails anyone?

I love a good cocktail. Now, I know they don't only have to be drunk sat in the warm sunshine, wide-brimmed sunhat titled back in fashionista style, large Audrey Hepburn glasses glinting with sparks of its rays. Of course not. Cocktails should be drunk at anytime of year - in dark bars, wearing the highest of heels; in winter, by a roaring fire - but the point is, the sunshine does make me want to frolic. So when I was invited to an afternoon cocktail tasting I couldn't help but turn off my computer, put on my best dress and head down to the gorgeously renovated Eleanor's Bar at Charing Cross to take advantage of a little screen-time hooky.

This was the first time I had been to Eleanor's. In fact, I didn't realise it existed, hidden away as it is on the first floor of the Charing Cross Hotel. But I'm very glad I have discovered it, as was my partner in cocktail crime for the afternoon, Michael. The bar has recently undergone a renovation. It is now all sexy interiors, with black and white fashion photos tucked into gleaming red-matted, black frames, a glossy chestnut bar, and plush, beige and black-trimmed club chairs. It feels like a 1940s hideaway and, with the number of business meetings going on during our visit, one could imagine a lot of deals were being done.

The bar has been honouring its revamp and London Fashion Week by creating a set of scrumptious cocktails that represent the fashion world: there is the LBD (aka: an espresso martini); the Hoxton Skinny (French '75); and, the Wintour (Cosmopolitan), among others.

Upon arrival, bar manager Laurent Bertolini showed us to our cozy corner table - already adorned with a platter of nibbles - and promptly brought over the bar's signature sangria to try before we got down to cocktail tasting. The sangria was highly delectable - always dangerous - and even the charcuterie plate which magically showed up 10 minutes later didn't do much to dispel the feeling that a post-afternoon-drinking hangover was already in the works.

After we sipped our way through the large jar (read: four glasses) of sangria, we each chose one of the London Fashion Week inspired cocktails. In honour of the LBD I was wearing, I chose the espresso martini (coffee would help the buzz right?) while Michael went for the fashion-friendly Hoxton Skinny. The attention to detail on each was impeccable, with the smooth touch of foam atop my martini creating the look of a delicious coffee, and Michael's the perfect mix of dry gin and Champagne. One could easily imagine how classy and cool the bar would be when packed with other cocktail sippers, and I almost wished I would have postponed my drinking until a bit later to absorb the atmosphere of the bar when full. But there I was, already tipsy by 3:30pm, and simply desiring more cocktails.

This is not the first time I have been over-indulgent before dinner. In fact, there have been many a classy London bar which has welcomed me at lunchtime and not seen me on my way home until late. One of my favourite ones is the gorgeous rooftop setting of Coq D'Argent on Poultry near Bank. It serves fabulous drinks, which can be drunk standing on the edge of the roof, surrounded by green, manicured grass and the stunning architecture of The Royal Exchange nearby. You can book a spot at Coq D'Argent using this booking form. I implore you to do so immediately. And I can't forget Duke’s Bar, near Green Park, with its famous James Bond martinis (Ian Fleming is said to have invented the martini drunk by the famous spy at this bar). The service there is without fault, and they serve these amazing, huge green olives, which are the most buttery, rich kind I've ever indulged in. Oh, and the martini is to die for.

And, finally, of course, there is the fashion-friendly Hix Restaurant, Champagne and Caviar bar in Selfridges, perfect for combining some lazy afternoon shopping with some first-class indulgence.

But that's the great thing for Londoners; there are so many great drinking establishments that, once you discover another, like I did with Eleanor's, it just means more excuses to drink, and to do less work. But, in this weather, how can I sit still? I can only bet that too soon Mother Nature will get hers back, and laugh as Heathrow shuts down once again, and us Londoners slip and slide our way through the terror that is a couple of inches of snow. Although, I'm sure there will be a cocktail remedy for that too...

Eleanor's Bar will offer its London Fashion Week inspired cocktails until the 16 October. They are priced at £8 each.

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