Connaught vs. Claridge’s: Two London Hotels Open a Pair of Artful Cocktail Bars
Above image: The Red Room at the Connaught
We must admit, through months and months of lockdowns, one of our most recurring daydreams found us sat at the bar of some glamorous London hotel, knocking back an expertly made Gin & Tonic and chatting about possible Oasis reunions and the latest Benedict Cumberbatch film. But now there are two very good new reasons to quit daydreaming and just catch the next transatlantic flight to Blighty’s capital.
To be sure, the two hotels that perhaps most ideally represent that very sense of glamour in the city’s posh Mayfair district, the Connaught and Claridge’s, have each opened an exceedingly stylish new spot for a bit of artful autumn tippling.
At the former, the impressively conceptual new Red Room has just debuted, with a focus on – yes indeed – all things red. Designer Bryan O’ Sullivan conceived the space as the living room of a particularly aesthetically astute art collector (think: pink onyx bar, Italian marble fireplace), and Maybourne Hotel Group Co-Owner Paddy McKillen expertly curated a quartet of artworks, all by women, and all vividly featuring the color red. And so there is Louise Bourgeois’ ‘I Am Rouge’; the oil painting ‘Scarlet Mist’ by Vietnamese artist Ti-a Thuy Nguyen; Cali photographer Trina McKillen’s ‘Composition #8’; and most provocatively, Jenny Holzer’s ‘Benghazi’, a graphite and watercolor modification of censored US government documents from that very high-profile scandal.
For full thematic effect, on offer is a very well chosen list of red wines (rare vintages, first growths) from the Connaught’s legendary cellar – though several signature cocktails are also featured.
Over at Claridge’s, O’Sullivan’s talents were also applied to absolutely stunning effect at the new Painter’s Room. The designer looked back through the hotel’s history to the 1930’s, with the goal of creating a contemporary update of the Art Deco bar of the same name from that time. The centerpiece is possibly the first ever blush colored bar, which could perhaps be branded “powderpuff chic”? A skylight just above of cream and peach colored glass makes for a striking visual effect – especially with the lavish custom Deco chandelier dangling at its center.
Speaking to the name, Brit artist Annie Morris was commissioned to create a bar-wide installation, a painted monochrome mural which is her first ever work in stained glass. Her characters are reproduced on the bar’s napkins, making for quite a nice souvenir, if you’re careful not to make a mess. The smartly conceived cocktail menu is divided up into Light, Complex, Clean and Interpretations, and many of the creations have very Euro-y names like the Magistretti (Boatyard Gin, Cocchi, Americano, Tarragon, Grapefruit, Elderflower), the Saint Remy (Belvedere Vodka, Almond Blossom, Quince), and what will surely be our favorite, the Florence (Vermouth Di Torino, Fraise, Avocado, Absinthe).
Expect both to offer excellent people watching, with the Connaught’s guest list including the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, David Beckham, Taylor Swift and Cameron Diaz, and Claridge’s boasting Kate Moss, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo and Charlize Theron. But one hardly needs the promise of celebrity sightings to be tempted to urbanely while away an evening at what are sure to be two of London’s most buzzed about nightlife destinations this season. If we spot you there, the G&T is on us.