London is famous for its grand hotels, and names like Claridge’s and The Ritz are synonymous with five-star luxury and glamour. Almost as famous are the bars these hotels house, honey pots to the rich and famous and many, like the Savoy, with a historic link to the world of cocktails. In a continuing series, I explore the hotel bars of London and see if their reputations are deserved.
The Langham Hotel sits on the southern end of Portland Place, close to London landmarks like the BBC and BT Tower, and is one of the oldest luxury hotels in hotel having opened in 1865 as Europe’s first ‘grand hotel’. The hotel is currently undergoing an £80 million restoration but unusually for a five-star hotel is keeping parts of the hotel, including the bar and restaurant, open during this time.
Like many London hotel bars Artesian Bar was designed by David Collins, who this time has chosen a design the hotel describes as “Chinese Chippendale”. Grand hand-carved pagoda-style shelves dominate the back bar, offset by a marble bar and beautifully ornate wall panelling. Sculpted timber chandeliers complete the look, which isn’t very authentically Chinese but perhaps conjures up what 1930s Europe might have imagined the Far East may have looked like.
Artesian prides itself on its choice of rums, a spirit often, inexplicably, overlooked in hotel bars. They have an impressive selection of rum cocktails including classics like the Ti Punch and a rather tasty, if expensive at £25, sounding Zombie that uses Bacardi Superior, Zacapa 23 year old, Appleton Extra and Myer’s Dark Rum along with Maraschino, Falernum and a float of Bacardi 151 to finish you off.
In addition to the cocktails, they have a list of over 60 rums including two bottled especially for them by a company that buys rums from around the Caribbean and then ages then in Scotland. The Artesian 1990 Demerara Rum from the Port Morant Estate is a delicious mix of chocolate, toffee, dry fruits and oak that I really enjoyed, and the Artesian 1997 Panama Rum is a brighter, more fruity affair that was also very tasty.
In addition to the rums they also have a good selection of classic drinks and other creations on the list, without doubt my favourite of which was the Jerry’s Medicine – a mix of Mount Gay XO, Pedro Ximenez 20 year old sherry, Crème de Banane, bitters and orange zest. Perfectly balanced and full of interesting flavours I could have happily sipped these all night.
Thankfully I was visiting with Dinah which gave me the opportunity to sample the Essence of Shinjuku, a disappointing mix of Sake and Japanese whisky that was rather limp and bland compared to what we were expecting. Dinah finished the night with a decent, if slightly too tart, Last Word, while I went for an Artesian Punch.
Consisting of Pyrat Pistol rum, Calvados, Poire William, Maraschino liqueur, pineapple and citrus, finished off with a float of Myer’s and Wray & Nephew, it was quite a drink. Complete with flaming inverted lime peel it certainly looked the part, and pleasingly the taste followed through with a wonderful mixture of dry yet fruity flavour with plenty of kick on the finish.
Overall an enjoyable bar with a decent rum selection and some very interesting cocktails on the menu. With a very pretty bar (the lighting is lower at night than in the photo above, and much nicer), friendly and knowledgeable staff, and a generally high quality of cocktails Artesian is a very respectable hotel bar. It’s worth visiting just to give the Artesian 1990 Demerara Rum and the Jerry’s Medicine a try, and I certainly look forward to visiting again for just that reason soon. Recommended.
Artesian Bar is located at The Langham Hotel, Portland Place, Marylebone. Open 10:30am to 2am Monday – Sunday.
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7636 1000
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