Ahhhh – Selfridges. How have they made banana yellow so aspirational!? Although it has a plethora of food and beverage options in store – in the end the strip lighting and the trendy music will probably finish you off. Lucky then there’s some options within the surrounding roads. An obvious choice would be to head to St Christopher’s Place, though our suggestion is – perhaps don’t. Instead seek out one of our very fave bars in London; FAM.
Walking into Fam (you know like - FAMily) is as homely as you imagine - except there’s no weird lurking uncles to put you off your Margarita. Pictures of all their friends line the walls (ten points if you can spot us!) and the music is all on vinyl. Nice touch. The staff there are true advocates of old-fashioned hospitality so whether you order from the menu or not – it’ll be their pleasure to make it for you. Take the Duke Street exit of the store – and there it is. As always – we’d recommend sitting at the bar.
If you’re looking for something even more off the beaten tourist track - Comptoir Café & Wine is a new addition to the area and is both charming and understated whilst also being extremely well stocked. Cross Oxford Street and walk down Binney Street and it’s there on the corner winking at you with the promise of pastries and oysters and most importantly wine. There’s 2000 bottles to choose from and they have an off-trade license so if you’re really enjoying it – you can also take a bottle home.
At the Soho end of Oxford Street is where you'll find this department store - steeped in history and (in our opinion) the very best. Stuffed full of goodies but not too big and you can collect (aherm) “clubcard” points, so you’re basically doing yourself a favour by shopping there in the first place. This time of year is especially perfect as there’s the enormous Christmas tree installation, an entire Christmas floor and the Wild at Heart florist on the Great Marlborough Street entrance for aspirational living in the extreme. There are two cafes in the store, but they’re very often busy so why not treat yourself to something tasty from the outside world.
If you exit via the Carnaby Street entrance –you’re in the middle of more mayhem and if you’re looking for something quick and fuss free – you could do much worse than walk through to Kingly Court which is full of upmarket chain restaurants with very good offerings. HOWEVER! That’s not what we’re here for is it now!? We’d suggest heading to our favourite hidden gem - Antidote on the corner of Newburgh Street for some delicious (and we mean deeeelicious) wines by the glass and a plate of French cheese, or charcuterie – or well - both. The window seat at the end of the bar is the one to get. It’s so easy to lose a couple of hours in the stripped back but cosy little bar.
If you’re more in the mood for a mixed drink, there’s certainly a lot of options in the surrounding streets but if you’ve not been yet and you’re in the area – may we suggest Kwant - new to the London bar scene this summer and the new home for renowned bartender all round clever bloke – Erik Lorincz. An unassuming staircase on Heddon Street (yes – this is maybe a five minute walk from Liberty – but trust us – it’s worth it) and then through a door that definitely doesn’t want you to go through – is Kwant. A sort of grown up homage to Trader Vics without all the Tiki-gubbins and more importantly - MUCH better drinks. Time stands still down here so don’t be suprised if it’s late when you emerge. It’s open from 5pm every day so shop first – drink later.
Now – in all fairness – we’d be doing Harvey Nics a disservice if we didn’t mention the fact that they have an EXCELLENT bar on the fifth floor of their iconic department store. If you’re only here for the booze – there’s an express lift from Sloane Street that lets you bypass the jewellery (bad idea) or otherwise you can wend your way upward as you browse the goodies. They usually have an installation on their roof terrace too so there’s always a pretty good reason to pop in if you’re passing. However… off the beaten track they said and so, back into the surrounding streets for somewhere to take a load off.
If you’ve not yet been and you are hoping for something – decadent – cross across Knightsbridge and pop into The Mandarin Bar at the Mandarin Oriental. With most of the seats set around the central golden bar, this is a peaceful place to pull up a pew. The weirdest thing is that drinks are made behind a curtain, so having ordered there’s then almost nothing to see or do until your drink is ceremoniously placed in front of you. Quaint. It's a little expensive, but if you’ve just come from Harvey Nichols – we know you’re good for it. Enjoy. It’s truly a pleasure to be in this bar and this hotel.
If you’re up for a stroll – head back towards the West End until you come to another classic London hotel – The Berkeley. The Blue Bar has been pulled firmly into line with a little David Collins make over and a FANTASTIC new drinks menu. Overseen by total dreamboat Kaitlyn Wilkes – the concise but clever menu focuses the mind by honing in on flavours and sensations – and then has a non-alcoholic version of all 16 drinks. Can’t speak highly enough. Go urgently.
There’s arguably something a bit silly about Harrods. Too big. Too much. Too many rules before you even step in the door. All round – probably not for us BUT – if you’re going – good for you and you should at least have the option to reward yourself with a delicious drink when you’re done!
Exit the store and head left down Knightsbridge, then turn left again onto Egerton Gardens. Inside the Franklin Hotel is The Franklin Bar - a gleaming, glamorous jewel of a bar that’ll make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. The drinks are fairly pared back and the glassware is reminiscent of some of the more minimal styles popular on the Kingsland Road – but this adds to the charm of this juicy little bar. If you’re really feeling fancy – there are twelve Champagne options to choose from – sounds like a fun game.
If all that opulence has done you in – may we suggest revisiting our old friends at Hawksmoor? Alright yes it’s still in Knightsbridge – but the joy of propping up the bar with a Shaky Pete’s Ginger Brew – the absolute king of all cocktails - whilst awaiting a table to enjoy dripping gravy and triple cooked chips is the same wherever in the world you may be. As is always the way – Hawksmoor probably employ the best staff in London so you can ensure your steak is cooked to perfection and delivered to the table with just the right amount of chat. Bravo chaps.