Spice Market at the W London, Leicester Square
When the W Hotel first launched in 1998 on Lexington in New York it speedily became renowned for its status as model asylum. The shiny, hard surfaced lobby pumped obnoxiously loud music to a room full of pretty limbs and frosted nostrils, astronomical bar and room rates justified by a ridiculous crowd. Over a decade later, in 2011, it launched in London, dubbing itself a ‘fabulous urban sanctuary’. Kate and Alexa were seen propping up the bar on opening night, followed by some pissed central Londoner drinkers clawing to get in.
Well W London, all hype aside, you brought some much needed glitz to London. Now I’m not saying this place is as classy as some of the more refined London hotels but there’s a lot more energy and, frankly, sex to a date night here. While the W bar and Wyld club are more for the bodycon and Amex brigade, the Spice Market restaurant on the ground floor is for people who like to cocktail before dinner, appreciate flattering lighting and slick interiors, and like a bit of crowd watching. It’s also for people who appreciate good food, because this fare was absolutely fantastic. That could have been the biggest suprise of the night, considering the style over substance vibe, but a scruffy Jack Whitehall at the bar took the biscuit.
This is one of the few cocktail bars in London where soft drinks are almost as delicious as the hard stuff, with freshly made ginger ale that was so punchy you wondered whether it had been spiked (it hadn’t). But let’s not mess around, you came for the liquor. The top dogs on the list include the Ginger Margarita– tequila, ginger, lime and ginger salt – and the Passion Whiskey Sour – bourbon, passion fruit, ginger ale. The drinks come with a side of popcorn, silly but inhaled in seconds. Food wise, order exactly this: shaved tuna with tapioca and a coconut dressing (honestly the dream), black pepper squid with dried pineapple, chill cod, ginger rice and the red duck curry. Finish with a coconut ice cream and just a spoonful of the cheesecake. You can drink wine with the meal or not, the food is enough to set the mood.
It may be a pleasure palace at the W but you should pick either the bar/club scene upstairs for a boozy date, or just focus on Spice Market for the duration of the night. Spice Market* is the choice for someone you want to chat, rather than charm, into bed. Let them make their own way to the hotel and meet you at the bar. This way you avoid any awkward moments with the bouncers at the door (“um, uh, I think Ive booked a table inside?“) and won’t suddenly be fased by the colour changing giant letter at the door. Once you take a sharp left and enter the Spice corridor, the colour palette dims, the oriental theme zens you right out and you spot your date at a low table playing with the snacks. Stay for one drink and make it last at least 30 minutes – the choosing drinks and sitting with knocking knees at the tiny table is one of the cuter moments of the night.
The first time they ask to take you to your table say no. This is a flattering way of making your date think that you want to take your time with them.The second time they ask, acquiesce, and climb the glamorous spiral cage up to the eating floor. Ask in advance for the banquette seating for 4 – if it’s a quiet night and early on, you’re in with a shot. Order everything to share and let your appreciation show as you try it. A clever dater will try and convert some of the excitement you both start to feel for the food into a misplaced excitement for their company , continuously whispering how fantastic this all is, subliminally messaging them into bed. As you haven’t overboozed during the meal, finish up after about 90 minutes and suggest a cocktail around the corner. Head straight to Opium, prop up the bar with a nightcap and finally lean over to kiss them. Get the charming bartender to call you two cabs, and lock lips till
It’s in Leicester Square (swallow your pride).
5. Food and cocktail utopia. Certainly amused my bouche (sorry).
*The New York Spice Market in the Meatpacking District is equally incredible.