The Fumoir at Claridge’s, London

Designed by Thierry Despont in the mid-1990s, this glowing jewel box of a Beaux-Arts-inspired space, with its dark plum leather-lined walls and plush dove-grey velvet banquettes, invites its guests into a world that harks back to Evelyn Waugh’s Bright Young Things. Although The Fumoir is beloved by the fashion set, it is not unusual to find yourself sitting next to a Hollywood actor or business mogul. The beauty of the place is that everyone is somehow visibly invisible. The bartenders are the perfect mix of familiar and utterly discreet. They will never forget your usual cocktail (whisky sour) or your usual table (Table Two). claridges.co.uk Fiona Golfar


The English Bar at the Athénée Palace Hilton, Bucharest

The English Bar at the Athénée Palace
The English Bar at the Athénée Palace

In the fevered atmosphere of the 1930s, when Bucharest was a haunt of spies, fascists, revolutionaries and writers, including of course a young Olivia Manning, there was one essential bar for gossip – and classy Romanian “champagne”. In the early 1990s, after the fall of the Ceausescus, Bucharest was again such a haunt and the Athénée Palace was again to the fore. Awkward ex-secret policemen in leather jackets hovered in the shadows; sparkling wine and caviar were on tap at ludicrously cheap state-subsidised prices; and one of the best Roma bands in the country played. In recent years the hotel had a third coming after a makeover by the Hilton Group. It has lost its 1990s shabby-chic charm, the subsidies and the ex-secret police; but look out over the elegant central square it adorns, and the romance of the 1930s’ Paris of the East and The Balkan Trilogy comes alive once more. hilton.com Alec Russell


La Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul de Vence, France

The cool crepuscular gloom is a respite from sun-baked, crowded streets. It’s a tiny space: a handful of wooden tables strewn with scarlet ashtrays. An unpretentious hotel reception area and waiting room for the terrace restaurant, the bar is also the heart of an establishment that attracted artists along the lines of Picasso, Matisse and Chagall, who paid the owner with canvases in lieu of cash (a Picasso is displayed with the casual lack of ceremony that defines the place). Today, vines grow rampant through the arched windows, reaching over the zinc bar to the banquettes where people sit hugger-mugger over a Kir – in conversation, inevitably, with a stranger who may turn out to be the curator of the Guggenheim. la-colombe-dor.com Catherine Fairweather


Bar Longhi at The Gritti Palace, Venice

Bar Longhi at the Gritti Palace
Bar Longhi at the Gritti Palace

Opulent, sumptuous, unabashedly decadent, Bar Longhi folds you into an embrace of Murano wall lamps and Fortuny fabrics, of marble and mirrors. Tuxedoed barmen glide between discreetly spaced tables bearing Bellinis and Venetian spritzes. On summer evenings, you can – you should – step outside onto the terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. If Venice is a kind of theatre, with her cavalcade of boats an unfolding diorama, you have just discovered her best seats. the-luxury-collection.marriott.com Stanley Stewart


Lounge Bar at JK Place, Paris

Misting a cucumber Collins at JK Place, Paris
Misting a cucumber Collins at JK Place, Paris

At Paris’s many historic palace hotel bars, the weight of history can be more powerful than the bitters in your drink. When JK Place touched down on a quiet side street in Saint-Germain-des-Prés (right before the pandemic: yikes), it was everything I wanted but wasn’t getting from the marquee institutions: intimate, cushy, discreet, with generous amounts of space somehow all divided into plush nooks encouraging dangerous liaisons. While the taste level is deeply sophisticated – the building is Beaux-Arts but the Michele Bonan-signed decor veers from midcentury to maximalist – the welcome is informal. The bartenders are as driven by whim and ingredients as classics, and everyone is available for a discussion. If the tryst that inevitably happens goes south, come back alone afterwards and dish. It’s habit-forming. jkplace.paris Alexandra Marshall


Westlight at The William Vale, New York

Westlight at the William Valle, New York
Westlight at the William Valle, New York © Noah Fecks

I wanted to hate Westlight, because to me The William Vale represents everything weird and artificial about the development of north Brooklyn. Begrudgingly, I admit that I love it. It’s on the 22nd floor. Marble bar, midcentury chairs, fairy lights, you know the look – slightly like you’re inside Instagram. And excellent drinks. One night I snuck up around closing time, and the staff let me wander as they cleaned up. The view is one of the most gorgeous you get of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens; you may have lived decades in the city but it launches you right back, giddy and charmed, into the fantasy of New York. thewilliamvale.com Lilah Raptopoulos


Port Bar at the Port Skaig Hotel, Islay, Scotland

It’s on the Isle of Islay, and is the place for a last pint before heading to Jura – just across the Sound – from the ferry terminal just outside. It’s got a sweet little beer garden out front, and Jura regulars (David Cameron and a few Astors among them) like to wait out the queues here. Not that the place itself, which has been operating since the 16th century, is posh; it’s the opposite. And with true character, evincing none of the famous dour Scottishness. The bartender, who’s also the owner, is amazing – one of those old-fashioned landladies who just tells story after story. It looks like nothing, but trust me: what an atmosphere. portaskaig.co.uk Sophy Roberts

Check in

Where is your favourite hotel bar? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll publish your nominations in a forthcoming story…


Break Room 86 at The Line Hotel, Los Angeles

Break Room 86 at The Line Hotel
Break Room 86 at The Line Hotel © The Line Hotel

Do take in a grown-up drink in the rooftop restaurant, Openaire, before braving this portal to the 1980s. You will need steeling for the pink neon, the Atari arcade, the red Breakfast Club lockers, the entire wall of old-fashioned TVs and the even bigger wall of audio cassettes. The unrelenting weirdness justifies the queues for this jewel of Koreatown, LA’s one 24-hour district. It is brought to you by the Houston brothers, who learnt their craft in their mother’s local dive bar. thelinehotel.com Janan Ganesh


Jati Bar at the Four Seasons Bali, Sayan, Bali

Jati Bar at the Four Seasons Bali
Jati Bar at the Four Seasons Bali © Christian Horan

Years before Ubud was irrevocably Eat Pray Love-d, this bar was already a Thing. An enormous crescent of wall-less space cantilevered out over the jungle that lines the Ayung river, with a double-height ceiling and spectacular views, the Jati delivers old-school Bali feels along with faultless classic cocktails, which are mixed in a sunken bar at the edge of the precipice. The place to be is one of the half-dozen seats that face directly out over the vivid-green canopy, sipping and listening to the rush of water harmonising with the chimes of the gamelan. fourseasons.com Maria Shollenbarger


Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle, New York

Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle
Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle

Some hotel bars are designed to impress constituents. Others are better for casual cocktails with colleagues. And a few seem created expressly for late-night trysts. This iconic Upper East Side institution – named after the Ludwig Bemelmans (of Madeline fame) murals that line its walls – is one of those rare hangouts that becomes whatever one needs at that moment. The Cole Porter soundtrack, most often played by a three-piece band, is pure nostalgia; the drinks are stiff (be forewarned: one Martini here is like three anywhere else); and the sublime service makes out-of-towners feel like real New Yawkahs. In other words, like the best establishments, it transports you at first sip. rosewoodhotels.com Whitney Robinson


Bar Locarno at the Hotel Locarno, Rome

Bar Locarno, Rome
Bar Locarno, Rome © Adriana Forconi

If a hotel bar’s purpose is to locate you in the real life of a city, this c1925 classic just off the Piazza del Popolo comes up aces. Owner Caterina Valente moves in a world of artists and filmmakers, and her friends spend a lot of time here, whether holed up for a month in a suite while shooting or tucked at a corner table of the courtyard under the climbing vines, pecking away at that novel. In summer, said courtyard heaves with the Anglophone trifecta of italophilia (Americans, Brits, Australians). It’s inside, in autumn and winter – ensconced at one of the small tables, low art-deco lighting reflected in the artfully tarnished mirrors, sipping a signature Roma Bracciano (Campari, vermouth, Zucca liqueur, orange bitters) – that you get the genius loci brilliance of the place. hotellocarno.com MS


The Fisherman’s Pub at Ballynahinch Castle, Ireland

The Fisherman’s Pub at Ballynahinch
The Fisherman’s Pub at Ballynahinch © Barry Murphy

An informal drinking hole for anglers and stout enthusiasts alike, The Fisherman’s Pub, in the vast crenellated Victorian mansion that makes up the Ballynahinch Castle hotel, offers incomers a roaring open fireplace and all the comforts one might expect of a Connemara establishment. Tackle, fish and memorabilia are mounted on every wall, as befitting the fabled estate believed to have the best fly-fishing in Ireland. But the environment will suit anyone in search of the romantic West and its unpretentious communality. Settle in. There will be music. There may be dancing. ballynahinch-castle.com Jo Ellison


Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong

Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong
Captain’s Bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong

The fact that this staid Hong Kong landmark was once extolled to me by Lindsay Jang – the prodigiously tattooed and street cred-laden restaurateur of Yardbird HK and Ronin fame – speaks to its crossover appeal. First, the competence: “You can take direction from those bartenders. You’re in good hands,” she said; and the vodka martini proffered on my first visit years ago, while far from my usual tipple, was indeed the ticket. Then, the pre-Handover atmosphere: the beer in tankards, the regiments of crimson leather club chairs (regularly refurbished, but never changed), the evening appearance of polished patrons. “If you were on the Titanic it’s where you would have gone for brandy and cigars after dinner,” was Jang’s take. “It’s class. And you can lean on the bar.” mandarinoriental.com MS


The John Buchan Bar at Coach House Hotel & Spa, Tzaneen, South Africa

The John Buchan Bar at Coach House Hotel & Spa
The John Buchan Bar at Coach House Hotel & Spa

If you drive north from the rocky mine dumps of Johannesburg and keep going, you will go for mile after mile across the arid landscape of the high veld, enlivened only in summer by violent electrical storms. Persevere, though, for four or more hours, and then head east, and you will plunge down the front of an epic escarpment to a tropical valley, flanked by mountains. At the heart of this is the small town of Tzaneen and the Coach House. I have stayed there often, including several times to cover South Africa’s first democratic elections. Correspondent colleagues and I would repair in the evening to its dark wooden bar. When South Africa had happily left the headlines I would escape there for long weekends with my wife. On sunny days it has a spectacular view to be saluted with a glass of crisp Cape Semillon; we have also been there in torrential rain storms, when you huddle by the fire clutching a flagon of rich Merlot. If I were to escape for a few weeks to write, it would be high on my list of retreats. orionhotels.co.za AR


Dune Burgers on the Beach at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Florida

Dune Burgers on the Beach at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Florida
Dune Burgers on the Beach at The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Florida

Ah, the life. A sighing sea, sand between your toes and the violent tangerine colours of a sub-tropical sunset – all the while sipping a chilled mojito. I’ve had many at the unpromisingly-named Dune Burgers on the Beach bar. It’s one of my favourite haunts in Miami. It’s also a half-secret. It’s a great place for high-powered meetings, or to see friends for a low-powered sundowner. I’ve done both, while wearing shorts. The bar lies at the back of The Ritz-Carlton hotel, beyond the pool, or you can approach from the beach. If you have just flown in you can make it from Miami airport in, say, 50 minutes – a very short journey to reach such a simple kind of paradise. ritzcarlton.com John Paul Rathbone


The Cellar Bar at The American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem

The Cellar Bar, American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem
The Cellar Bar, American Colony Hotel, Jerusalem © Mikaela Burstow

It somehow evokes a crypt or a cave, with worn stone walls and dark lighting made more mysterious by the fog of cigarette smoke. The Cellar Bar at the American Colony Hotel in contested East Jerusalem has long been the meeting place for journalists, NGO workers and political envoys in one of the world’s most beguiling (and bamboozling) cities. Upstairs is a serene garden oasis under the aegis of a polite Grand Dame hotel; but downstairs tales are traded, deals made and sorrows drowned. Much is said and written about hotels with storied yesteryears; but here history is constantly being written and rewritten in real time. americancolony.com David Prior


Columns bar in New Orleans
Columns bar in New Orleans © Arnaud Montagard

Columns, New Orleans

Columns is in theory a hotel bar, but it’s actually a bar with a few rooms upstairs. The bar is what matters. You can sit inside and take a cocktail where the coffered ceiling matches the mahogany bar back. You can sit on red velvet in the lobby and watch guests come down the stairs. These are all fine ways to enjoy Columns. But here is the best way. Pick an afternoon in early October, when it’s finally just cool enough to think straight. Get on the streetcar with one person you really care about, step down at St Charles and Peniston, try not to trip on the crooked sidewalk, and spend the next four hours on the front porch at Columns. The world will walk by in front of you. Let it. thecolumns.com Brendan Greeley


The Pelican Inn, Muir Beach, California

The Pelican Inn, California
The Pelican Inn, California

In truth, before it’s a hotel, it’s a bar. Really, it’s a pub with a few rooms, and one awash with Ye Olde West Country atmosphere, which is pretty brilliant considering the Marin County coordinates. Not so much a cocktail place – there’s more than enough of that across the Golden Gate – as it is a pint-and-glass one: the long list of small-production pilsners, ales and stouts spans local California and Pacific Northwest breweries as well as the British Isles, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The cellar wines selection is impressive too. Best visited after a bracing swim in the Pacific (up here, it’s bracing 24/7/365), with a seat next to the fireplace (indoor or outdoor, take your pick). pelicaninn.com MS


1911 at The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi

The art-deco styling of 1911 at The Imperial, New Delhi
The art-deco styling of 1911 at The Imperial, New Delhi

Cool is a precious commodity in the tropical heat of India. When found, the visitor has an urge to bathe in it. For that reason alone, the frosted glasses and ice rink-polished russet-and-white floor tiles of this restaurant live long in memory. The styling is art deco; abundant natural light and high-ceiling airy. A stained-glass canopy hangs over a lozenge-shaped marble and wood counter. Even a sliced lemon here is redolent of the Raj. 1911 was New Delhi’s founding year as imperial capital. You half expect a viceregal entourage or polo team to burst out of the wall prints to animate this fragrant, retro pleasure. theimperialindia.com James Lamont


The Surfrider, Malibu

The 1,000sq ft rooftop at The Surfrider, Malibu
The 1,000sq ft rooftop at The Surfrider, Malibu © Brecht Van’t Hof

It’s small, it’s hard by the Pacific Coast Highway, and its rooftop – about 1,000sq ft, with a smattering of tables and a gas “fire pit” – is a new nexus of cool in LA’s favourite beach community. Owners Matthew Goodwin and Emma Crowther-Goodwin – a Ventura local and a Brisbane native, respectively – have remade a storied motel into a destination that reels them in both from up the road and as far afield as Brazil, Sweden and, naturally, Australia (be cool in the event of a Hemsworth sighting: they happen). Tonics are house-made; cocktails are a showcase of exotic flavours (but if a purist’s negroni is your thing, they’ve got your back). You’d be remiss not to order the seared-tuna tacos, whatever you’re drinking. And if you look out towards the Pier and squint, you can almost see the golden-age ’70s Malibu of old. thesurfridermalibu.com MS


The Peacock at Rowsley, Peak District, Derbyshire

The 17th-century interior at The Peacock at Rowsley, Derbyshire
The 17th-century interior at The Peacock at Rowsley, Derbyshire

The Peacock at Rowsley not only offers a gateway to one of the most beautiful parts of England, it also acts as the guesthouse of choice to any film stars movie-making in the Peaks. Keira Knightley checked in here while making Pride and Prejudice, and such is the Austenian romance of the locale that you may well, like Lizzie Bennet, find yourself conjuring the spirit of Mr Darcy from your bedchambers, which date back to 1652. The main event, however, is the bar. More of a pub in fact, and replete with mandatory wood fires and secret nooks for retiring with an ale (or perhaps a gin and tonic) after a hard day’s tramping about on Kinder Scout. The atmosphere is fortifying, and the menu – serving hardy British classics such as ribeye steak, fish and chips, open sandwiches and sponge puddings – is a treat. thepeacockatrowsley.com JE


Manhattan at the Regent, Singapore

Manhattan at The Regent Singapore
Manhattan at The Regent Singapore © Tom White

Because it can be hard, still, to convince people that Singapore has some quotient of cool, take them here. Pull open the door to the windowless second-floor space and you enter another world of fantastic and vaguely louche opulence: mirrored, coffered ceiling, aubergine velvet drapes, tufted leather banquettes, extravagantly backlit bar wall (all sounds questionable on paper; is in fact coherent and totally fabulous). Wait staff in spats or LBDs circulate with bijou pastrami sandwiches at happy hour. The playlist – Benny Goodman one minute, Eric B & Rakim the next – is always a pleasant surprise. And the cocktails are of course superb (this is one of the addresses that helped catapult the Lion City to the top of the Asian cocktail-bar scene). regentsingapore.com.sg MS


The Newes From America Pub at Kelley House, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

For a real salt of the earth one, in Edgartown, there’s the pub known as The Newes. It’s been there since 1742 and is like walking into the American Revolution – you wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see Samuel Adams drinking a pint, writing with a quill. It’s got all sorts: highfalutin’ summer Vineyard-ers and also local year-rounders. They serve solid pub fare and beers, which in a country with approximately zero good pubs is a real pleasure, and a novelty. The menu looks like an old colonial newspaper, but not in a cheesy way. thekelleyhousehotel.com LR


Dukes Bar at Dukes London, Mayfair

Dukes Bar, Mayfair
Dukes Bar, Mayfair

Dukes Bar has one drawback: reservations are for guests only. You may have to skulk around the hotel lobby, dreaming of icy gin, while you wait for a table to open up. It’s worth it. The service of Alessandro Palazzi and his team is velvet, the room is intimate and the martini is faultless. The gin and vermouth, served right from the freezer, never touch diluting ice. The Amalfi lemon peels are fragrant; droplets of citrus oil float on the surface of the gin. The glasses are large. House limit of two. Any more would constitute general anaesthesia. dukeslondon.co.uk Robert Armstrong


Ombak Bar at Nihi Sumba, Indonesia

Ombak Bar at Nihi Sumba
Ombak Bar at Nihi Sumba

I have drunk far too much here, with super-cool folk, overlooking one of the greatest left-hand breaks in the world; on a good night, you hear some of the best stories from the greatest surfers in the world. I have always loved this place – in both its early iteration, as a kind of surf camp, and now in its luxe version under Christopher Burch and James McBride. That’s because the spirit endures, and the bar encapsulates it: high stools, barefoot dress code, strong mojitos, cool breezes, big stories. nihi.com SR

Get alerts on Travel when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section