For a real treat at The InterContinental Hotel’s Arch Bar, you won’t just get a tipple or two, but if you’re lucky you’ll also be afforded a miniature lesson in the history of gin. And what could be better than sipping gin cocktails on Park Lane?
Set inside Park Lane’s InterContinental Hotel just beside the main lobby, Arch Bar, perhaps unsurprisingly, really is a classy venue. The bar runs along the side of the hotel but is segregated into individual areas to give it less of an open air feel and make for a more intimate atmosphere than your average hotel bar. Little rounded tables and plump, plush, velvety chairs in black and cream are dotted around. Walls are a pearly colour and you can either gaze along to the decadent hotel chandeliers that look like rose petals hanging from the sky or glance at a marble-topped bar with a beautiful butterfly backdrop. This really is an opulent offering and glass windows run along the entire side of the bar, allowing a view in and making it all the more a showy venue.
Staff are dressed in either oriental-influenced silk uniforms for the women or waistcoats for the men, and all are impeccably groomed. Despite smart, stuffy appearances they are incredibly approachable and accommodating throughout your experience. Clientele at Arch Bar is a combination of hotel guests, business bodies conducting informal meetings and Londoners looking for a treat in town. So often hotel bars can lack atmosphere and become an extension of the hotel lobby, but much is done here to create an opulent atmosphere that is very separate from that of The InterContinental.
Sharing plates, salads and sandwiches are just about as extravagant as you’d expect, and with Theo Randall’s restaurant also on the hotel’s ground floor, Arch Bar guests may choose to stick to drinks here and save the expense for dinner. However, if drinking strong gin cocktails, a sharing platter (£25) is definitely advised, and comes with beef empanadas, tiger prawns and chicken satay spears, all served with a refreshing, in-house chilli and lemongrass dipping sauce. The tiger prawns are a particular pleasure, in a light tempura batter but still fat and juicy inside. Another sophisticated oriental option is the sashimi of yellow fin tuna, salmon and Portland crab maki with a lime infused soy wasabi (£18). For something perhaps a little less ‘intercontinental’, sandwiches are on hand but come with a similar price tag of £16. Arch Bar even has a tantalising dessert menu, with a winning trio of bitter chocolate tort, white chocolate tart and milk chocolate mousse (£9), in case hotel dwellers decide to give into any late night chocolate cravings they may be suffering.
Mother’s Ruin takes centre stage at Arch Bar, with a full list of gin cocktails accompanied by a brief history of the spirit that has risen from the drink of the paupers to its elevated status here on Park Lane. This is best witnessed in Poor Man’s Punch (£16), a Hendrick’s gin cocktail ideal for sharing, poured from an adorable vintage teapot into matching cup and saucers. The hotel’s version of a Pimm’s cup, this cocktail is brought to the table steaming and then cooled over ice cubes, each with a rose petal held inside. The fruity tipple is delicious, with intense fruit flavours, and a strong gin base means this is guaranteed to weaken the knees. Plymouth, Sipsmith and Blackwoods are a few other big gin names on a list of over 35 gins kept behind the bar and expertly mixed by staff. Indeed, Sipsmith gin is used in Prudence (£15), a cocktail that sees Arch Bar embracing the herb-infused drinks trend. It combines basil with Sipsmith and citrus vermouth to create a thoroughly herby mouthful that quickly diffuses into a light, palatable drink. This skill is also used on a lengthy and impressive list of botanical infusions, where drinkers can pick a gin and a fruity infusion to create their own cocktail combination of choice.
If gin is not your thing, The Arch Bar still has a wide selection of cocktail classics, like the Long Island (£15), or traditional cocktail bases with a modern twist, like the coconut and chilli Mojito (£16) or a spiced mango Margarita (£16), as well as lesser-known war-time creations like the Aviation cocktail (£15) with London no.1 gin, crème de violette, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur. And not to disappoint, wine is also on the drinks list, with bottles ranging from £36 to £105 a bottle.
The Last Word
Yes, food and drink here may be on the expensive side, but its Park Lane setting justifies the price tag and just means Arch Bar is perhaps more of a special treat. Expert gin knowledge and mixology skills from staff mean Mother’s Ruin is dressed up and shown off in style and thanks to this, Arch Bar manages to exude an atmosphere all of its own - no mean feat for a hotel bar.