The Artesian Bar at London’s Langham Hotel has just followed up its 2012 award for World’s Best Bar by winning it again. Manager Alex Kratena and his team have created a menu creative enough and an ambience hospitable enough for the Drinks International jury to consider The Artesian top among 300 bars from across Europe, the Americas, Australasia and the Middle East.
Cocktails have been the main draw since the Artesian opened seven years ago. They’re a sobering £16.50 each, but delivered with such theatre and fun you really can’t help but smile. The Aqui Estoy blends Don Julio Blanco tequila and its stronger cousin mezcal in a sombrero-ed Mexican skull, with a piece of smoking wood referencing the roasting of the agave plant to extract both these liquors.
Forever Young is vodka and eucalyptus served through a mirror by a straw, inspired by the fact Oscar Wilde was commissioned to write The Picture of Dorian Grey while at lunch at The Langham. I wish I’d tried Above and Beyond, a floating pillow above rum and mandarin bitters that when popped releases eucalyptus scent. But Perfume made up for it. First you inhale a sweetly perfumed paper strip then chew on a single jasmine flower, before drinking a moreish, fresh mix of Ketel One vodka, smoky Lillet aperitif wine and a touch of the grassy aromatic oil vetiver.
The bar’s interior is also a combination of flavours, the nostalgic romance of 19th-century London with the exotic flavours of the Far East. Carved pagoda chandeliers and golden lionhead lamps make you feel like you’re in a Shanghai casino, but you can also imagine Wallace Simpson having tea on the soft leather sofas. The Artesian has the formality of a five-star hotel, but with a Broadwalk Empire streak of rebellion. If floating bags and skulls are not your style, there’s an extensive list of wines, shorts and classics. Even Angelina Jolie ordered a simple pina colada when she visited. I tried one of those, too. Why not?
by Vicky Paterson
Noon – 02.00 Monday to Saturday)
Noon – midnight Sunday
Children welcome until 18.00.
T +44 (0)20 7636 1000
No shorts [as in not trousers] after 19.00.