101 Star Bars (#26): Artesian, London
Regent Street, 1c Portland Place, London W1, 020 7636 1000
There are other David Collins-designed bars in London. There are others with a Homeric choice of rums. There may even be other bars that offer to teach you dominoes. But any place that boasts that "even our ice is special" has got to be something else.
In the Artesian Bar at London's Langham Hotel, everything is just that little bit better than average. Their water is bottled at an ancient artesian well in Yorkshire. Their vodka is made from "pure water taken from 1000' below an extinct volcano in New Zealand". Their cocktail menus explain the history of the Cuban "Daiquiri mines". (You feel for the poor miners, their little faces emerging smeared with strawberries, their lungs full of Havana Club.) Their "energised ice" is purer, colder and denser than regular ice; it makes the cocktails more potent, apparently.
That would explain it, then. It is not wanton indulgence, nor the endless pots of little salted beans, that make you want to drink 17 Sleeping Monkeys and then come back for a Hot Buttered Rum. It must be that special ice. The boyish waiters do not aid sobriety: they are whisperingly attentive, oddly persuasive and swear they have tried every cocktail on the menu – though not all on the same day.
Collins, the designer behind the Berkeley's Blue Bar and J Sheekey in Soho, has surpassed himself here. The bar resembles a huge reredos, with a lilac marble altarpiece of a bar. This is decadence on a biblical scale. Just don't drink too much of that ice.
Artesian Bar, Langham Hotel, 1c Portland Place, Regent Street, London W1b 1JA
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