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Drink in the glamorous scene in these cocktail lounges
The American Bar at The Savoy : It's the place to go at the moment after the recent, much-ballyhooed $400-million renovation of this iconic London hotel, where the ghosts of past guests (Vivien Leigh, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Claude Monet) are as impressive as the endless list of famous cocktails. There's nothing Britishy about the American Bar. No ye-olde touches. Its decor is frank and clean. So is the vibe. Forget your pinot noir habit. Order a White Lady and take in the live piano music and the buzz of the after-work crowd - even on a recent Monday night, it was packed.
Claridge's Bar at Claridge's: This Mayfair hotel bar is worth a stop, if only to see how the Other Half lives while on holiday - the Other Half being those of aristocratic stock. With its origins dating to 1812, the hotel has long been referred to as an extension of Buck House (Buckingham Palace). And it has a hushed, I-feel-like-I'm-in-a-palace atmosphere. Wear your best shoes. Coif your hair. Polish up your manners. This is not a place for a boisterous gathering. Once, long ago, I stayed here. The staff packed up our suitcases to move us to another room. The King and Queen of Spain were visiting, and they needed a whole floor for their entourage. Oh, pardon me.
Bassoon Bar at Corinthia Hotel: This is the talk of the town as the latest entry into the five-star luxury hotel stakes. Opened this month after a spectacular $468-million two-year renovation, the hotel is just below Trafalgar Square. Built in 1885 as the Metropole Hotel, it became the Ministry of Defence during the First World War. But nothing remotely dowdy remains as the Pisani family of Malta makes a bold statement of ambition with what will be its flagship hotel. The Bassoon Bar, designed by David Collins, whose work manages to be both ubiquitous and unexpected, features an ingenious black bar top that ends in a piano as if it's the extension of the top of a Steinway.
The Rivoli at the Ritz: Despite its sumptuous surroundings, don't go to the Ritz for tea. Brown's Hotel (not far away in Mayfair) is without rival for that afternoon ritual. But do go to the Rivoli Bar at the Ritz. It's like sitting inside a wealthy lady's ornate jewellery boîte. Small - it accommodates just over 40 people - it has beautiful art deco finishes of polished camphor wood walls, an onyx marble bar, illuminated Lalique glass panels, gilded and silvered mirror glass, and gilt-leaf ceiling domes. Jacket and tie required, and rightly so. This is elegance. Resist the bustle of Piccadilly for an hour, sip your ridiculously expensive $40 flute of Bollinger champagne and hold the hand of your beloved.