The Metropolitan Hotel, for instance, has got so over-inflated by the presence of the odd celeb that it's almost unbearable, with door staff refusing to allow even those on the guest list into the MetBar. A couple of weeks ago, I spent 45 minutes in their lobby watching charmless waitresses bring drinks to all the men, while my host drummed his fingers in the bar. I gather that this is hardly a unique experience. Design is all very well, kids, but if you can't provide service you might as well shut up shop.
Latest in the phenomenon is One Aldwych, lobby of the hyper-cool grand hotel which overlooks the permanent rush-hour at Waterloo Bridge. As lobbies go, it's impressive, a double-height white space filled with statuary, perspex plinths, pillars and oversized thrones, and as bars go, it certainly knocks you in the eye. If you're feeling quite confident, this is a place to be: it sets off the labels, links and coiffeur of the mobile-phone set most elegantly, and the seating is both comfortable and pleasantly spaced for those who suffer claustrophobia.
A shame, then, that the service doesn't match the decor. I'm not complaining here about the general side you tend to get at the longer-established venues - everyone was sweet, and my Bloody Mary was jolly nice. But I'd have liked anything after the wait. It took five minutes to order and 10 further minutes to get our drinks. The bill came 10 minutes after we requested it and someone came to collect the card 10 minutes after that. For three drinks, we paid pounds 20.98, including a 12.5 per cent service charge. Still, it's a good place to go for a drink as long as you don't expect to fit in dinner afterwards.
One Aldwych, No 1 Aldwych, WC2 (0171-300 1000)
HOTEL BARS WORTH A PUNT
Windows on the World Hilton, 22 Park Lane, W1 (0171-493 8000) A chilly atmosphere greets unescorted women, but the fantastic views make up for any deficiencies.
The Library Bar Lanesborough Hotel, 1 Lanesborough Place, SW1 (0171-259 5599) Book-lined, sofa-filled bar with excellent cocktails, nice little snacks, a pianist and little noise from Hyde Park Corner.
Ritz Hotel Piccadilly, W1 (0171-493 8181) Excellent mixed nuts (including macadamias) elegant sofas, absurd decor and relatively affordable champagne.
The Heights St George's Hotel, Langham Place, W1 (0171-636 1939) Slightly old-fashioned 15th-floor bar that boasts great views, a good wine list, and well-made snacks.
American Bar Savoy, Strand, WC2 (0171-836 4343) Some of the better cocktails in London, with prices to match, as well as a snotty clothing policy.
American Bar The Stafford, St James's Place, SW1 (0171-493 0111) A little gem, full of Americans, every inch of the walls covered in a bizarre collection of memorabilia. Good for entire evenings.Reuse content