The Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel has long been near the top of my bucket list but the high prices (and my tendency to be in cycle gear) always proved to be an obstacle. Then, thanks to the mutual decision of a few friends to make a visit to such places a regular thing, I finally arrived a couple of Sundays ago. Props to the doorman at the Langham for not batting an eye when I rushed past in cycle gear (I did immediately change into something more presentable) and to the staff at the Artesian who graciously let us move to find the table with the best view of the bar. Yes, the prices are steep, but this is a bar that is worth every penny.
What you need to know:
- Cocktails ring in around £13-18 but are individually crafted down to the custom made glassware
- The staff are very friendly and more than happy to explain what ingredients are – useful given that a good portion of the items was completely unknown to us
- You’ll get unlimited nibbles (crisps and spiced nuts) to line the stomach while you sip away
- There isn’t a dress code per se and we saw some people (presumably guests) in shorts and tshirts but given the décor you may want to dress up a bit
- The Artesian house sparkling water (everyone gets a complimentary glass) is a brilliant idea
Drinks: ★★★★★ Service: ★★★★★ Atmosphere: ★★★★☆ Value: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★★
This is a place you’ll want to go with punctual friends as there are no reservations and you quite literally have to wait in line with your group. It’s also a place with such intricate and delicate combinations of flavour that its best to go with as clean a palate as you can manage – not one that’s two pints of lager in.
A quick tip – for hotel bars, your best bet is to go on a Sunday afternoon as it’s the sweet spot between guests checking out and the new ones checking in. We arrive around 2pm and it was near empty but when we left towards 5pm it was filling up rapidly. On prime nights, the wait can be over an hour.
Where to start?
The cocktail menu is split into three segments and it’s recommended to go from left to right as the drinks get progressively more full-bodied. To that end, they’ve put a rating by each drink which shows how bold the flavours will be. That being said, you can do what you want and I started with a 2 out of 3 dashes which was a solid mid-range cocktail.
My choice was the Selfie Compatible (and yes I took the obligatory selfie) which had a Zacapa rum base mixed with Floc de Gascogne, Verjus, Beer, and Bitters. The custom glassware (they work with the brands to design a bespoke glass for each cocktail) was beautiful and the bottom portion was filled with a flavoured smoke to prime your taste buds. The cocktail itself was slightly sweet with a hint of smokiness – a definitely winner if you are into your sweeter rums. Other cocktails we sampled in the first round included:
- Love & Death – a lighter version of the classic Sazerac made with Bulleit bourbon and Verjus and comes complete with a giant ball of ice
- Vodkatini Waiting to Become Manhattan – a Ketel One martini flavoured with “gem stones” which are quite literally sparkling stones (maybe quartz?) that are liquefied using a sonic emitter
- Time, Space, & Honey – a Grey Goose martini flavoured with parsnip puree (which strangely gives it an earthy yet sweet flavour) and topped with Champagne
And if that’s just not enough?
One round is never enough, particularly when the first set were so delicious. My choice to wrap up this session was enigmatically called “What is Agugu?!” and included Don Julio tequila, Mezcal, Chipotle, Xocolait, and a Gold Nugget. The ingredient list seemed suitably decadent and the three dashes meant it would be a drink of intensity. I was served with a ceramic cup with a few gold nuggets – dark Aztec chocolate wrapped in gold leaf – and the waiter shortly arrived with a large matching ceramic jug full of what looked like hot chocolate. It turned out this wasn’t too far off, but merely calling it hot chocolate would be akin to calling a QE2 a wee boat.
It was what I imagine Charlie Bucket would create once he grew up and was looking to offer a nightcap to the girl of his dreams (and maybe get lucky too). The mescal and chipotle leant a strong warming heat to the drink while the bitterness of the dark chocolate matched the flavour of the tequila. It’s definitely a heavy drink and one that should be saved for the very end as the flavours will overpower everything else.
My drinking companions opted for a range of suitably interesting cocktails:
- Will of the Woods – a Glenlivet based drink served in a wooden bowl with mushrooms, citrus, and honey which had a very Japanese slant and would have been an excellent pairing to a bowl of posh Ramen
- Under My Skin – Made with Chief Gowanus gin aged in a leather bag which imparts a note that’s hard to describe but yet quite moreish
- Camouflage – A gin based cocktail with was light and refreshing and came served in a golden metal pineapple along with a smouldering sandalwood incense stick
Is there food?
Yes, there is a range of food from burgers & sandwiches to various sharing platters and some very tasty looking desserts. And of course you can get some caviar and oysters if you are looking to get warmed up for some, shall we say night-time, activities?
We didn’t try anything as we’d just had lunch, but the food we did see looked quite appealing.
Worth the dosh?
It’s a tough one when two cocktails are the better part of £40, but the care and thought that goes into each one makes the drink a bargain. I’d love to come back here on a regular basis but I doubt the bank account would manage to stay out of the red if I did. It’s a brilliant place to impress a date or treat yourself with friends and one I’ll definitely be returning to when a special someone comes to visit.
Find the Artesian Bar here
Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Place, London W1B 1JA