Fine Living | The Reconnoisseur

A wonderfully understated cocktail-hour destination

Stumbling upon one of London’s perfect early-evening watering holes

A wonderfully understated cocktail-hour destination

April 13 2010
Karen Wheeler

For longer than I can remember, like many who work in the fashion and beauty world, my default setting for work meetings has been Claridge’s. So I was intrigued when the PR for a well-known luxury goods brand suggested that we meet at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair – a venue that had not previously registered on my radar – for a 5pm meeting.

I subsequently discovered that Brown’s Hotel, part of the Rocco Forte collection and not to be confused with the restaurant of the same name on nearby Maddox Street, won the Tea Guild’s Top London Afternoon Tea award in 2009. But since it was nearly cocktail hour, we cut the cucumber sandwich and cream cake fest (£37) and convened in a little alcove in the bar instead.

The Donovan bar, named after fashion photographer Terence Donovan, has dim lighting, tasteful blue-grey panelled walls and is wonderfully understated. Even better, as I scanned the room, I realised that I didn’t recognise a single person there. It felt as if I had stumbled on one of London’s last secret places.

The drinks list is excellent, with a good choice of gins and vodkas and a lovely summery champagne cocktail called the Champanska Royal, which contains cucumber-infused vodka blended with elderflower cordial and champagne (£13.50). Unlike most champagne cocktails, it doesn’t knock you out and is not overly sweet.

In the evening it’s a different story, as I discovered a few weeks later when, by coincidence, I was taken there by my literary agent, who is based on the same street. The bar was buzzing, so this time we decamped to a red velvet banquette in the tea room.

Since then, for an afternoon or early evening meeting, Brown’s has become my new default destination.

See also

Bars, Cocktails, London