Shaken not stirred.
That’s how you may have to be woken after a night exploring the finest bars in St James’s. But as the birthplace of Bond’s classic catchphrase, there’s no other way to do it but to go all in.
So we’ve duly curated a guide to the best places for a stiff drink in the area, from refined hotel bars to sleek cocktail dens and old-school wine bars…
Frank’s | £££
Great dinners at Maison Francois, one of London’s best French restaurants, usually finish with a créme caramel or a tarte au café, and then a digestif. Truly great dinners at Maison Francois, however, continue downstairs at Frank’s – the slick, low-lit basement bar where guests slink around dark leather banquettes or lean over a dramatic central bar, sipping wine from a 200-something list of unconventional bottles. There’s a decent amount of food too (including the pâté en croûte, a star from upstairs), so Frank’s can be a truly great dinner in its own right…
Details: 34 Duke Street, SW1Y 6DF
Dukes Bar | ££££
One of the most famous bars in St James’s, Dukes is the birthplace of Bond’s ‘shaken not stirred’ slogan. So it’s fitting that they serve up seven different takes on the martini – although they’re so sock-blowingly strong you’ll only be allowed to order two. Which should still give you time to luxuriate in the understated indulgence of the bar, before retiring to the cognac and cigar terrace. Because of course they have one of those.
Details: 35 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NY
The Rivoli Bar | £££££
This place is less Art Deco, and more Art Decooohmygod. Glossy camphor wood panelling is interspersed with Lalique glass panels, beaten copper reliefs and de Lempicka prints, with gold-leaf scalloped alcoves in the walls and ceiling. The cocktails are equally magnificent, variously arriving in elaborate vessels, billowing plumes of smoke, or, in the case of the True Gentleman, poured into a tiny top hat with a miniature cane.
Details: The Ritz, 150 Piccadilly, W1J 9BR
This is a real Old Boys’ club.
And we’re not just talking about Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels and Jim Beam.
An eccentric, old-school, ‘clubhouse’-style bar hidden within a hotel hidden within a cul-de-sac, The American Bar’s walls are plastered with all manner of eclectic paraphernalia, from model planes to er, a stuffed kangaroo – the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail or two and pretend you’re Old Money.
Details: The Stafford Hotel, 16-18 St James’s Place, SW1A 1NJ
Davy’s at St James’s | ££
Down an unassuming alley you’ll find this cavernous cellar bar perched inside a set of old Champagne vaults, filled with snug Chesterfield armchairs, precariously lit candles and old wine-related paraphernalia. As part of the Davy’s wine merchants family, the wine list here is both extensive and reasonably priced – but it’s also worth ordering the house beer, Old Wallop – which is still served in antique pewter tankards.
Details: Crown Passage, Pall Mall, SW1Y 6QY
While you’re in the area… peruse our guide to these excellent restaurants in St James’s