Each year, finding the time to meet friends and planning somewhere nice to sit down and have a proper catch up, with a steady supply of cocktails, seems to get harder. Quick, last-minute catch ups squeezed in between work and life can be easier but I’ll always value quality time with my friends much more. Is there anything better than putting the world to rights and getting fully up to speed with the people who you care about, who know you best and who you feel most comfortable with? It’s such a nice way to spend an evening and I’m pretty sure has some health benefits too 😉
Lucinda and I had been talking about getting a cocktail hour in the diary for ages. Despite working in offices next door to each other, work and after-work life has often got in the way of catch ups outside our quick lunch dates. But the other week we finally managed to find a Friday night before wedding season kicks off and we were determined to find good cocktails. After consulting Time Out London’s Best Cocktail Bars and the London’s Best Cocktail app, we’d shortlisted a few places. As you can guess from the title we ended up choosing Bar Americain. It’s super central, being right next to Piccadilly Circus, and it gets great reviews.
Bar Americain is part of Brasserie Zedel, which was once part of The Regent Palace Hotel and opened in 1915. It was redecorated in an Art Deco style in the 1930s by the widely respected Oliver Percy Bernard, but after World War II its popularity declined and it fell into disrepute. The Crown Estate brought it back to life some decades later, carefully restoring its Art Deco past whilst bringing it up to 21st century standards and raising its reputation. Today, you’ll find a grand restaurant, with a lively cabaret and jazz bar, and separate cocktail bar in the basement.
We arrived at Bar Americain not long after 6pm without a reservation and managed to grab one of the last few tables for two near the bar.
I loved the American Art Deco interior, the aviation/ travel theme makes it feel like being in a first class airport bar from the 30s (I’m not entirely sure they existed then but that’s what I decided it felt like.)
One of the great things about my friendship with Lucinda is that we’ve known each other long enough we can happily sit in a minute of silence whilst we deliberate our choices.
I had ‘The French Aperitif’ to start – Gin, Byrrh, Lemon Juice, Orgeat, Bitter Lemon and Cherry Bitters.
Tart, crisp and refreshing, combined with that Friday night thirst it was enjoyed pretty quickly. I loved how the gold stripes tied in with the Art Deco theme. It’s definitely details like this that make the difference.
Lucinda had the ‘Lady Day’ – Gin, Blackberry, Raspberry, Apple, Lemon & Soda
A sweet combination of flavours with just enough sharpness from the gin and lemon to avoid it becoming a bit sickly.
This was followed by two ‘Parisian Summer’ – Citron Vodka, Lillet Rose, Cointreau, Cranberry.
This was one of my favourites. There’s something about drinking out of saucers like this that feels so decadent.
(I can’t deny that I currently have this scene from Great Gatsby in my mind as I write this!)
I finished with a ‘Millionaire’ – Dark Rum, Sloe Gin, Apricot, Lime.
Rum always provides a bit of a tropical slant in a cocktail (maybe because it’s the spirit of summer holidays for me!), but the other ingredients were enough to make it in-keeping with the bar theme. Of course, this one went down well too.
And for Lucinda’s last cocktail… Hmmm, I can’t remember the name of it!
Possibly the ‘Aviation’ – Gin, Maraschino, Lemon? Memory loss, perhaps one of the first effects of drinking three cocktails before dinner!
After handing over more money than we were intending to spend on cocktails that night (oops!), we left a bustling bar full of cabaret customers, passers-by, and planned small parties.
Bar Americain is definitely a great option for a pre-dinner cocktail or catch up with a friend. The table service was efficient and we weren’t left without a drink for too long, which can be quite a feat in a cocktail bar like this. Whilst it was at the more expensive side of cocktail bars, sometimes it’s worth paying the extra for somewhere that isn’t overcrowded and you can hear people speak, with good service that means you don’t get that irritated feeling when waiting for a drink.
You can find it here (the cocktail bar is in the basement next to the cabaret bar). The nearest station is Piccadilly Circus. It’s open Monday to Wednesday (4.30pm – 12am), Thursday to Friday (4.30pm – 1am), Saturday (1pm-1am) and Sunday (4.30pm – 11pm).
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Have you been to Bar Americain or Brassiere Zedel? Have you found any other great cocktail bars recently?