Dukes Hotel, London

http://www.campbellgrayhotels.com

35-36 Saint James’s Place, London

People talk about ‘last meals’, but if there was such a thing as ‘last drinks’, Duke Hotel would be on the list. It’s apparently the very place where the martini was invented. Regardless whether it’s true or not, it’s the place where the martini was perfected.

It’s a place you have to know about, since it’s hidden down a side street close to St. James. It may be one of the grand old hotels, but its low profile means it doesn’t suffer from hordes of tourists or glammed up townies on a night out. It’s all about quiet sophistication, where a nice armchair always awaits you.

The old-school waiters in white jackets marshal the room awaiting orders. The obvious choice is a martini. I once had a friend who ordered a passionfruit martini here and she was politely told that it was a cocktail, not a martini. As a purist it makes me smile.

There’s theatre to the martini, which is necessary since it’s arguably the simplest of cocktails. Your spirit of choice is brought to you frozen, where it’s married with a hint of vermouth in a frozen glass and a wipe of lemon. It’s magic & lethal. I believe that’s why there’s a house limit of two martinis…

This fine experience does not come cheap. £15 for a martini is pretty rich, but as a drinking experience, it can’t be beaten.

It’s my favourite place to be at 5pm on a Friday, but every other occasion as well. I came here when I got engaged, on my stag night & when I’ve reacquainted myself with old friends. It sounds like an ideal second home…

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