Looking for Romance at the Westbury Hotel’s Polo Bar, Mayfair

18 Jul 2016

It’s easy to feel like a cliché when you opt for cocktails at a hotel bar in a city like London. With the streets bursting with newly-opened watering holes, choosing to spend your hard-earned cash inside a dimly-lit lounge only seems fitting for businessmen unwinding while still wearing a Bluetooth headset or for a chance romantic encounter.

These were exactly my thoughts as we headed to the Polo Bar at Mayfair’s The Westbury Hotel, a spot that took Best Hotel Bar by the London Club and Bar Awards in 2016, to test out the menu of cocktails and nibbles.

The bar’s website promises a ‘super chic’ spot with Art Deco-inspired décor ‘taking opulence to the extreme with its Swarovski Crystal fittings and custom Fendi detailing’. Claiming to cater to ‘sophisticated Bond Street clientele’, I was ready for a slightly pretentious vibe – it even goes as far to call itself a ‘shrine of educated drinking’.

While the low-ceilinged bar is certainly plush – think shadows and carpets your feet sink right into – the vibe was rather solemn for a Wednesday at 7.30pm in a city where everyone was piling into the pubs to watch Portugal defeat Wales in the Euro Semi Finals. With quiet classical music and mostly empty tables throughout the place (as predicted, I spotted at least two businessmen sipping glasses of red while scrolling through emails), the Polo Bar certainly gave off a stereotypical hotel lobby vibe. However, it was far from sleazy – I certainly couldn’t see any napkin number swapping happening.

However, the food menu, available between 11am and 10.30pm Monday to Sunday with an evening menu available from 10.30pm, isn’t your average lobby bar selection – from Beluga Caviar (£420 for 50g) to a Scottish Lobster Salad (£48 for a whole lobster), there is certainly an option for luxury dining.

We tested out the Panko Crusted Prawns (£22.50), a thick and juicy portion of lightly battered, succulent prawns on skewers served with a sweet chilli dip, which were exactly what you would expect and hope for from the title (thought maybe for a lesser price).

Next we cast our taste buds on the Smoked Salmon Cones (£21) which resembled mini ice creams yet were stuffed with rich yet salty smoked salmon mousse, crème fraiche, Aquitaine caviar and chives.

The most intriguing part of the evening, however, was certainly the cocktails, which were beautifully presented by the knowledgeable bar staff who, while taking slightly too long to attend to what was a very quiet room, were friendly and more than accommodating.

The Polo Signature Pearl Gem cocktail (£18.50), made with gin, tea, lychee, lime and sugar and served with Champagne and pineapple foam, made for a refreshing yet highly sweet drink, the perfect pick for summer.

For something with more of a kick, the tart and well-balanced The Delightful (£15.50) lived up to its name, made with Pisco, wine, lemon juice, egg white, homemade lavender and vanilla syrups.

While the cocktails were certainly delicious and the surroundings luxe, I wouldn’t expect to see Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannsen (think Lost in Translation) flirting at the bar over vodka and whiskey any time soon. However, while it might not become your go-to date spot, Polo Bar is worth a visit for those in the area looking for a quiet spot for a truly great cocktail – but you’d better hope someone else is picking up the tab.

Alison

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