If cocktails are more of a draw, Artesian, housed in the five-star Langham Hotel, offers a menu of out-of-this-world cocktails that has earned it the accolade of ‘Best Bar in the World’ by Drinks International magazine. Head bartender Alex Kratena and his team of expert mixologists have drawn on a world of backgrounds to craft a menu packed full of unexpected delights and once-in-a-lifetime taste experiences. Among more familiar favourites are nestled some truly unusual ingredients such as kale, smoke and even leather. Order a ‘Selfie Compatible’ and you’ll be served a cylinder of chocolate-flavoured smoke to swirl around your mouth before sipping a cocktail from an asymmetric glass balanced within it. Other innovative concoctions include the ‘Magician’, presented in a special cup from the Czech Republic, with a straw built into the handle that means every sip reveals a new taste, and the ‘Camouflage’, housed in a golden pineapple filled with Tanqueray No. Ten gin, carrot and lit sandalwood incense. Chocolate lovers should not miss ‘What is Agugu?!’ – a rich blend of mezcal, tequila, sweet vermouth, chipotle and the finest Mexican chocolate, poured in front of you to emit irresistible aromas. These are drinks that will certainly leave a lasting impression.
Drawing inspiration from Aesop’s fables, The Fable Bar & Restaurant in Holborn offers another quirky twist on a great night out. Across three floors, you’ll find yourself surrounded by magical décor and a booth made from piles of fairytale novels. Again, the cocktails are something truly special and are served with a creative flair you’ll struggle to find elsewhere. Our favourite was the fruit goldfish swimming in gin, mandarin vodka and edible lily pads. Alongside this is, of course, a menu of seasonal food crafted using ingredients from local suppliers such as Allens of Mayfair and artisan bakery The Flour Station, based in Borough Market. Expect plenty of British favourites served with a gourmet twist, such as Suffolk farm lamb shank with sweet potato mash, rosemary jus and harissa, and flatbreads piled high with honey, goat’s cheese and figs, topped off with edible flowers. Make sure you leave space for a winterberry crumble or a selection of not-so-mini pudding shots –heart-warmingly delicious as this time of year.
Finally, what could be more unexpected than discovering a peaceful Japanese garden in the centre of one of London’s busiest, most fashionable hotels? The Sanderson’s Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea is simply so delightfully strange, the inspiration could only have come from Lewis Carroll’s famous novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The tea features a whole range of exciting twists on the conventional meal, served on crockery created in collaboration with Shoreditch-based design collective Luna & Curious. Menus are hidden inside a vintage book and guests can choose between teas flavoured with rhubarb or custard and apple pie, washed down with a potion labelled ‘Drink me’, created using a mixture of passion fruit jelly and coconut panna cotta. Sweet treats include homemade marshmallow toadstools and mango cheesecake wrapped in rainbow-patterned chocolate, while sandwiches are made using bread flavoured with anything from saffron and spinach to lemon. The final triumph is a selection of elaborate fruit jellies set in Victorian moulds and wheeled out on a silver cake trolley – a simply spectacular finale to your surreal adventure.
There are some amazing restaurants to sample in the capital, but these ones will stimulate your imagination as well as your palate. Food and drink with theatrical flair – it’s what this city is all about.