Our Man On The Ground often travels far and wide across the globe but sometimes there are little gems on one’s doorstep. I came across a luxe bar that a certain manager called Alex runs with aplomb, it was my duty to investigate The Westbury Hotel’s Polo Bar in London’s Mayfair. It has a reputation for excellent food as well as that ‘ultimate’ bar experience. Read on to find out how I got on and just how many cocktails I managed to consume in one evening!
The first glimpse of the über cool Polo Bar is just that, a glimpse. Casting my eyes through the glass beads that screen the bar from Conduit Street all I could manage to see were some blurred shadows and twinkling lights. Entering the stylish Art Deco double doors into the large space and you are transformed into another world. It’s a world of a time gone, plush carpet, smiling staff, the almost liner-esque room and the hard to pin down sense of calm and luxury. I was in the Polo Bar.
Alex the manager (think charm and panache not to mention discretion) couldn’t do enough for me as I waited for my companion. Informed that I was gluten free they made a few substitutions that made the evening even better. As well as the cocktails, the bar menu is a big deal here. With big hitters like beluga or Oscietra caviar it also pays respect to classics like lobster salad or crab and crayfish sandwiches. But more of the food later.
But I kicked off with a twist on a classic, their fig julep. Made with fig syrup and Chivas Whisky this sturdy and alluring cocktail was delightful. Infused with figs, lemons and Mozart chocolate bitters it set me up nicely.
M, my companion arrived and so did the nibbles. Some excellent canapés with a mixture of salmon on bread (gluten free for me) and poached lobster took my fancy. M was not drinking so opted for a perfect virgin Mojito substituting the soda water for lemonade.
My cocktail duties weren’t over yet either. A lovely touch is the pomegranate deluxe an alluring pink mix in not one but two glasses. A mini me glass accompanies the main event (just in case your companion would like a sip or two). Refreshing and zingy I enjoyed both! A delicious platter of seared tuna with sesame seeds and an oriental dressing and scallops all conveniently on wooden sticks (no need for knife or fork) I’m a big fan of this casual but classy dining.
More nibbles in the form of spring rolls (all gluten free), which along with their inherent crunch had our taste buds cooing in gratitude. Along with my next tipple, golden curves a devilishly subtle mixture of Kentel One vodka shaken with ice wine and pear juice, lemon and a touch of sugar. This also came with a little sibling, I could get used to this.
The cool sounds that pervade this bar were just in the background, not too loud but stopping the noise being just chatter. Lighting is subtle here as well. I’m sure it was ever so slowly getting darker as the evening progressed but maybe that was the cocktails taking their inevitable toll. But I still wasn’t done. Alex had another recommendation! With olives still left on the table I was handed a crab and crayfish sandwich while M had chosen one of the house specialties’, Burrata Pugielse deep fried in breadcrumbs and served with a salad of beetroot. This I could only look on in envy at. I’m assured it tasted wonderful.
My last foray (or so I thought) into the seductive world of Polo Bar cocktails was nearly at an end. Polo Bar’s Rum Boulevardier was a twist on the classic negroni. With Zacapa 23 rum stirred with sweet vermouth and Campari it certainly packed a punch as well as a lasting taste of the rum.
The room was definitely getting darker now and I could see the amber rescue light of a taxi rank outside. The Polo Bar experience is really up there with the best of the bars in town. The knowledge of the staff and mixologists was apparent from the moment they offer their not inconsiderable experience. But just as we about to get our coats another ‘left field’ concoction came my way. M excused herself to the powder room and I took charge of an Old Fashioned made with Irish Whisky. As ever they had turned a classic into ‘something new yet familiar’. They could put that above the door it would help guests understand that slight feeling of déjà vu.
So, in my official capacity as Our Man on the Ground in London I can confirm with a certain authority that the Polo Bar is indeed a place worthy of a visit by our readers and while you’re there why not have a drink or two. It would be rude not to!
Polo Bar, The Westbury Hotel, 37 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2YF
Tel: Hotel: +44 (0)207 629 7755 / Bar: +44 (0)208 382 5006
The bar is located in the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair in between New Bond Street and Regent Street. The closest Tube Station is Oxford Circus on the Central and Bakerloo Lines, which is just under a ten-minute walk away. The bar is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 1:00am; Saturday from 11:00am to 1:00am and Sunday and Bank Holidays from midday to midnight. The dress code is smart casual.
Type of Bar: Cocktail Bar
The best seat in the house is in the elevated area to your right as your walk in the door.
Price Band: High
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Neil Hennessy-Vass is a widely-published globetrotting food and travel writer and photographer and one of our regular writers and contributing editor.
Photographs by Neil Hennessy-Vass and The Westbury