London’s One Aldwych has more than one thing to write home about. The dove-grey hotel sits in a princely position at the confluence of The Strand and The Aldwych, curving gently to follow the road and keep its eye on the neighbouring theatres.
It’s an impressive building: a wedge-shaped Edwardian stack housing 105 boutique rooms, an excellent spa, a secret guest lounge, and a Basque restaurant by three Michelin-starred chef, Eneko Atxa.
But the hotel’s crowning glory, at least in my opinion, is one of, if not the, best cocktail bar in London: The Lobby Bar.
Named as one of the top five hotel bars in the world by the Sunday Telegraph, The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych has titanic-sized drama. Towering columns, triffid-sized flower arrangements, muscular statues, ceiling-height windows – all soar upwards dwarfing the theatre-lovers who come here for pre-show drinks.
At the end of the room, a mahogany-panelled bar breaks the white, demanding attention like a quartermaster. This is where the action happens. This is where dapper bartenders cut a dash as they serve some of the most innovative cocktails in London.
Takes the art of the cocktail making to a whole new level
The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych serves cocktails that are so inventive and unique you’ll never look at Sex on the Beach in the same way again – what a blessed relief. Yup, this a bar that takes the art of mixology very seriously and is clearly forging its own path on the scene. Not that it needs to. The cocktail scene in London is already booming and the city has proven its credentials by giving birth to cocktail greats such as the White Lady, the Collins and the Breakfast Martini.
But resting on your laurels is not One Aldwych’s style; indeed, it is well known for its famously innovative Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea. And complacency is definitely not Pedro Paulo’s style. He’s The Lobby Bar Manager; the man who’s behind the bar’s most interesting cocktail creations, including its latest, and quite incredible, invention the Showtime Cocktail menu.
Now, as gigs go, getting invited to stay at One Aldwych and sample the new cocktail menu wasn’t tough – it might have been the fastest ‘yes’ I’ve ever given. But deciding which of the 17 cocktails on the Showtime Cocktail menu to drink first, was altogether impossible.
In the end, my friend and I did the only noble thing you could do: we didn’t choose. We drank them all.
The new Showtime Cocktails menu at the One Aldwych
Showtime Cocktails, as the name suggests, take their inspiration from the shows of the West End. Not much of an imaginative leap, admittedly: the hotel sits in the heart of theatre-land and most of The Lobby’s guests are on their way to see a show.
But the idea behind the menu, however, is more than just thematic. It has been planned and executed to a remarkable degree by Pedro and his team. From the pre-cocktail reception to the drinks themselves, no experiential stone has been left unturned. It’s clear Pedro wants you to remember his cocktail experience above all others in London.
Arrive for your drinks and you’re handed a slickly-produced Showtime Cocktails brochure. Inside, the cocktails are grouped genres – Comedies, Musicals, Satires, Dramas and Backstage – with up to four unique creations in each.
Now this is where things get interesting. Each cocktail is not only paired with a theatre show and bar bites to enhance its notes, every cocktail is served like a master production with its own unique glass and experiential format. This is grown-up playtime, for the discerning cocktail seeker bored with the average blend served in other London cocktail bars.
London’s first-ever virtual reality cocktail – yes, really
We started the evening with the Origin, London’s first-ever virtual reality cocktail. For this splash of theatre, you’re given a virtual reality google headset – yes, leave your style aspirations at the door, friends – and then invited to savour a journey to the ‘origin’ of the drink you’ve yet to be served.
Pedro hired directors and drones to make the virtual story a true cinematic experience – and the VR movie doesn’t disappoint.
Although I felt particularly self-conscious with the headset on, soaring above the Highlands en-route to the Dalmore Distillery, is a real thrill. As is the moment you drift back to The Lobby Bar where wood smoke fills your nostrils and you remove your headset to find your drink in front of you.
The drink – a blend of Dalmore 12-Year-Old Whisky, Merlot Cherry Liqueur, Cherry Purée, Fresh Grapefruit Juice, Chocolate Bitters, Lallier Champagne – is the divine alcohol-infused icing on the top. The combination of the cocktail and the ‘live art’ experience is worth the £18 price tag, believe me.
17 cocktails that deliver a hefty dramatic punch
Of course, once you’ve experienced a cocktail on the cutting edge, where do you go next? Fear not, Pedro and his team have yet more tricks up their sleeve. And the whole cocktail experience just gets big and bolder and – yes, if I’m honest – slightly blurrier.
From the cheeky Take a Chance on Me, where you can try the other half of the cocktail if the chance you took wasn’t right, to the Fairy Garden Infusion with its unusual wheel bottle stuffed with pink grapefruit and dragon fruit, as if it’s fluttered straight out of a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
From the Mediterranean Macbeth, a grown-up serving of Botanist Gin, Campri, Lallier Champagne and parmesan slices to mollify any hedonism to The Coffee That’s Gone Wrong, a sharp vanilla plunge into Chivas Regal Whisky, Madeira Wine and Pedro Ximénez sherry.
We drank our way through comedies, musicals, satires, and dramas with as much aplomb as we could muster after 17 cocktails.
And although we didn’t always agree on which cocktail we preferred from the Showtime Cocktails menu, we did agree that Pedro was the nicest man we’d ever met – ever – the hotel’s hospitality and service was worth raising a glass (or 17) to, and we really should’ve packed some Anadin.
The Bar: The Lobby Bar at One Aldwych, London. Opening hours: Mon – Frid, 8am – 12pm. Sat, 9am – 12pm. Sun, 9am – 10:30pm. Food served Mon – Sun, 11am – 11pm.
The Cost: Cocktails on the Showtime Cocktail menu start at £16. Rooms at the One Aldwych start at £300 per night.
Disclaimer: I was the guest of One Aldwych for the weekend and enjoyed a stay, cocktails and dinner all with the hotel’s compliments. I’d like to thank the One Aldwych for its wonderful hospitality and brilliant service and Pedro for his attentiveness and cocktail genius! My friend and I had the most wonderful evening and can’t wait to come back.