Its claim to fame is that it is the closest hotel to Harrods, and it’s true that less than 30 seconds walk will take you right into the iconic department store. But thankfully The Capital hotel, just round the back of Harrods on a quiet Knightsbridge street, is more than just a place to stagger back to after a hard day’s shopping. Opened in 1971 by hotelier David Levin, it is still owned and managed by him and his family today, which gives it a far more friendly air than a corporate chain hotel.
While the hotel does a special ‘Shop till you Drop’ package which includes a £50 Harrods voucher, afternoon tea and a drink to restore you (if not your credit card) after your retail therapy, I went to the Capital with cocktails, rather than shopping, on my mind. Bar manager Cesar da Silva has been at the Capital for 15 years and is still extremely enthusiastic about teaching other people to make cocktails in his popular Cocktail Masterclass, which is just as well as apparently he often does 10 of these hour-long courses a day. Continue reading The Capital hotel: London’s venue for a cocktail masterclass→
The part of London between Portland Place and Goodge Street has historically been a bit of a culinary no-man’s land, with little to tempt you to eat in the estate-agent-christened ‘Noho’ unless you actually worked in the area.
However over recent years the local pubs and cafes have been smartening up, the Riding House Cafe and 48 Newman Street Tavern have opened and now there is a development so new that the postcode doesn’t even yield a map when typed into Google.
Percy & Founders, the new all-day bar and restaurant built on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital, has a nod to tradition in that you can actually peer through a glass wall from the restaurant into the hospital’s original chapel, perfectly preserved and soon to be open for people to have a look around.
One thing I’ve learnt from writing my ALadyofLeisure.com blog is that you never really know a hotel until you get someone to give you the Grand Tour. A typical hotel guest will see little more than the reception, their bedroom, the bar and the restaurant (some might make it to the gym) and I think they’re missing out.
Very rarely will guests see other bedrooms – they probably think that a request might appear unseemly – and they might think that asking for a tour shows they are too daft to find their own way around. But as a blogger and nosy journalist, I can heartily recommend it, and I don’t think I would now stay anywhere without asking to be shown every inch of the place – there are always hidden gems that you would never have discovered on your own.
My recent stay at The Stafford was a great example of this. I’d spent a very pleasant night in the hotel, which is tucked away in a quiet corner off St James’s street in London’s Piccadilly. The entrance hall was light and airy, the restaurant looked very grand, my bedroom in the modern-looking Mews Suites block overlooking the hotel courtyard was of the high quality you’d expect from a top-end London hotel whose immediate neighbours are the equally high-end Duke’s Hotel and St James’s hotel and it was all extremely, well, nice. Nothing was jumping out at me as being particularly exciting or different but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing – maybe people don’t go to posh hotels to be surprised or excited.
It is a bittersweet moment when you go to a new restaurant and discover that it has replaced an old favourite. However in the case of The Secret Garden, located just opposite Clapham North tube, London, where the highly-rated Four O Nine restaurant used to be, the new arrival is more than capable of providing memorable nights all of its own.
Behind a tiny door and up a flight of steps round the back of The Clapham North pub, The Secret Garden certainly looks a world away from its dark and atmospheric predecessor. Instead the main dining room has been transformed into a bright and airy space reflecting the garden theme: there’s artificial grass on the floor (and on the walls of the private dining room upstairs), the kitchen is designed to look like a caravan and there is even a tree spreading its branches across the ceiling.
‘Don’t worry, you won’t get a hangover,’ insisted Pleurat Shabani, the maker of Konik’s Tail vodka and the host of our martini marathon. ‘I’ve never had a hangover drinking martinis.’
I wasn’t convinced – I once gave myself a three-day hangover while trying to perfect the art of making dirty martinis – and while the next day dawned much brighter than it usually did after an epic tasting, a martini headache did kick in at lunchtime. However, it was more than worth it – Pleurat is very entertaining company and the martinis made from Konik’s Tail were sublime, as were the surroundings.
Our schedule was simple: a martini at three of London’s top cocktail bars. We were to start at the Connaught Bar in the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, go on to the legendary bar at Dukes Hotel, St James’s and then cross Piccadilly once more to end the evening at Claridge’s.
While we supped our drinks (and I ate a lot of olives), we learned about Pleurat’s almost puritanical approach to his vodka (which is named after the elusive Polish Konik wild horses, which, if spotted, are supposed to herald a good harvest.)
It shouldn’t be mixed – even freezing it, as both Dukes and Claridge’s do, makes him wince – and the idea of a putting Konik’s Tail in a cocktail was practically unthinkable (he was so unimpressed by my love for dirty martinis, which after all just have a touch of olive brine, that I thought it best not to discuss his views on appletinis or vodka and coke…) Continue reading A hat-trick of vodka martinis at London’s best bars→