Mad Hatter’s Tea, Sanderson Hotel

2 years ago

The Vibe

The famous Long Bar at the Sanderson is just the place to grab a first date drink. However, the lovely courtyard is the place you take someone you’ve become rather romantically fond of over time.

With marble tables, white awnings and a central water feature, this place is pretty Zen for a luxe hotel. Taking afternoon tea here is a more modern take on the stuffy richly furnished rooms of grand hotels. Less for mother-daughter trips, more for cheeky day dates where you can trip into Soho after a few glasses of good champagne, and a bit too much sugar.

The Order

48 of your finest pounds for a savoury platter with a smoked salmon, quail egg and caviar scotch egg, a teeny Wiltshire ham and applewood croque-monsier, a Cornish crab and herb éclair and a green cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on fresh lime bread.

They are far more serious about their sweet selection which is whimsical, creative and steers away from trad offerings. Red velvet ladybirds sit alongside blue caterpillars, magic marshmallow mushrooms, carrot meringue, banana bread in a butterfly shape, scones and the absolute highlight, a Drink Me potion composed of lemon curd and creamy goodness, sucked through a dinky straw.

If you’re not quite buzzing, ask for a little passion fruit ice-cream garden pot topped with chocolate soil.

Oh and champagne, a crisp glass of Perrier- Jouet to start or an insanely delicate selection of teas.

The Game

It’s your 3rd or 4th date and time to give the late nights a break.  If you’re really romantic you’ll ask them to take the afternoon off work. Then meet for tea at 2pm, and sip on both tea and champagne as you bite off morsels and discuss favourites. As you start to feel a little delirious, wrap things up and wander to nearby Berner’s Tavern for afternoon Negronis and some sobering chips.

The Faults

Don’t eat it all, your pulse will race.

Sex Factor

2.

The Luggage Room, Mayfair

4 years ago

“ He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

The Luggage Room Stairs view

The Vibe

Oh Fitzgerald. With all this noise about the new film, I forgot what a Panty-Dropper your prose could be. If we can leave Baz Luhrmann’s world of high-octane action, big name stars and hip hop tracks for a moment, let’s reconsider the 1920s as a place where the rich, when not flapping around on Egg Island, were hanging around in polished hotels and cutting loose. Theses joints were as wet as the speakeasies, but a little more exclusive.*

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The Luggage Room is not the place to visit in costume after having watched the movie. It is a place to go if you are unaffected by the proliferating prohibition bars in East London and would rather play house in an Art Deco hotel bar in Mayfair, making an elegant nod to the era. Leather banquettes, stiff drinks, polished mahogany, marble floors, luggage studded trimmings, lots of champagne, cobblers and punches. So goddamn classy – with the concurrent price tag of course. And for a date? It offers intimacy, perfect acoustics for whispers and giggles, and a healthy dose of fancy escapism.

The Order

It’s only the best for the lady. Whether supping on the rich hug-in-an-expensive-glass Malbec, going for an ‘heritage’ cocktail or just taking a double shot of Mezcal straight up, you’ll adore the drinks. The Penicillin is fantastic for whiskey lovers – Johnnie Walker, lemon juice, honey, ginger and talisker. The Pisco Sour should be sampled as it’s so en vogue right now (been to Ceviche or Coya?) and an Old Fashioned ordered for style points. The best thing about these sorts of bars- and by ‘sorts’ I mean pricey, old school and residing in hotels- is that the cocktails are punchy, no scrimping on booze. Unless, like my companion, you want to lose all feeling in your legs and trip straight out of there, give up on spirits after two rounds and move on to wine. This is also a kind consideration to your bank balance (only marginally though). Miss out on the bar snacks – the refillable nuts and vegetable crisps are good enough, but the pork pie or anchovies are one to avoid on a date night.

The Game

The game is very much focused around said order. If you get that right, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be pinning them down on the leather couches by the end of the evening. There are darkish corners and the place does not heave with crowds, all the more reason to be inappropriate. One thing I will say is dress the hell up. What’s the point of living the high life if you look like a tramp. Guys, this calls for the slickest of your shirts, a new suit perhaps and some strong cologne. If you want to mack on all night, you had better make sure your face is smooth and your mouth tastes of butterscotch (How? I don’t know). Ladies, resist the call to flapper dress this up, themes spell death to a first date. But do embrace the desire to wear your heels high and your dresses short, with racy lipstick, lots of Coco Mademoiselle and a slinky little shirt draped over your shoulders to feign modesty. Chat, drink, touch, laugh, really stretch this out. And split the bill please, it’s a bitter burden for one person to shoulder. Very hard to leave but it’ll spit you out at 1am, so have that cab ordered.

The Faults

It ain’t cheap and you may be the coolest/youngest cat in there.

Sex Factor

5. You came, you stayed, you drank and spent way to much. I think the effort’s been put in darlin.

*Sooo Interesting: During prohibition, wild columnist Elsa Maxwell held a barn dance party in the Waldorf-Astoria featuring real livestock, fake trees and liquor from a life-size papier mâché cow, “which squirted champagne from one teet and Scotch from another”. Heaven.

The Chinese Bar at Blakes Hotel, South Kensington

5 years ago

The Vibe

The Chinese Bar is concealed within the first luxury boutique hotel in London, Blakes of South Kensington. It is an intimate (tiny) space, themed around ‘the orient’, as imagined perhaps by an elegant Sloane. The colour scheme is orange and charcoal which sounds disastrous but is in fact deeply sumptuous. A monogrammed Louis Vuitton travel trunk sits in the centre of the room, masquerading as a table, which immediately conjures up thoughts of Hollywood sirens. None were around when I visited, just skinny leather clad women purring at their banker boyfriends and elderly Russian men arguing with their wives about investments (probably). It could have been that these well groomed women weren’t wives or girlfriends at all, but mistresses. This secretive, dimly lit bar is exactly the kind of place that the wealthy could conduct illicit affairs in.

The Order

The cocktail menu changes regularly but tends to consist of combinations that are unique enough to justify the price (£12.50 excluding service). Most drinks contain Asian ingredients (wokka saki, mandarin puree) combined with western indulgences such as champagne. Go for the jazzed up classics such as the Chinese Mojito (infused with ginger) or the Gin and Tonic (enhanced with elderflower). The illicitness and international feel of the place also make Bond-themed drinks a perfect choice; try a Martini or Vanilla 007. If you work your way through all the complimentary wasabi peas and are still hungry, order a selection of chicken and prawn dim sum.

The Game

Meet in the dimly lit hotel reception for small talk before navigating the spiral staircase downstairs together. Whatever you do, sit at the bar. If you sit on the communal seats that face the bar you’ll just end up feeling like audience members. Stay there for one hour, enough time to get through two drinks each. Don’t be presumptuous and book a room at the hotel beforehand, it’s best to use this venue as a first port of call before heading somewhere else (try local bars Bodo Schloss and Eclipse). Ask the hotel lobby to call you a cab, as struggling with google maps along the residential backstreets of South Kensington will murder the glamour of the evening.

The Faults

If you don’t dress up you will risk feeling out of place. It’s expensive too, so avoid this bar if £70 for a couple of drinks and a fried crustacean sounds too steep.

Sex Factor

4. Blakes is a perfectly seductive venue – dark, luxurious and expensive. Best for European traders and film stars.

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