City hotel bars don’t just offer an escape route from the chain bar and the pub crawl. With their democratic cocktail of punters, out-of-context ambience and silver-tray service, a temporary escape from real life too. And you don’t need a room key to act like a tourist.
There’s something about a hotel bar that fires the imagination more than a 2-4-1 in Hippy Chic ever could. A discreet watering hole in the middle of the city, a refuge for weary travellers, a secret trysting spot for after work shenanigans. They’re also the perfect decompression zone after the biggest weekend in the city’s calendar.
What makes a good hotel bar? A tinkling piano? Shuffling old waiters? A back-lit back bar and selection of rare malts? A place for the displaced?
Like all good cocktails, the proper measures are vital. We think it should be three-fifths out-of-town guests (for novelty) to two-fifths locals (for that authentic sense of place), and a dash of wizened old drunk propping up the end of the bar. The Adelphi’s wood-lined bar, recalling the age of the grand old liners, used to be the place for a quick room upgrade. Now, like the hotel surrounding it, it’s more shabby than chic.
So, for our Lost In Translation assignations we prefer somewhere intimate, plasma-screen free, a little oasis of civility and hushed conversations. And no bouncers. Get it right and even in a Premier Inn on a Tuesday night, you can live out your deepest desires. No-one will ever know.
Ok, so there’s no Park Hyatt Tokyo in the city, serving Suntory over ice, there’s not the remotest chance that Mrs Robinson is going to hit on us over a martini. And the only way the bar’s ever going to all all Inception on us is if we mix our drinks with reckless abandon. But Liverpool’s not short of decent hotel bars. So pull up a stool, and enjoy the best the city has to offer.
No charge to you, Mr Torrance. Your money is no good here…
Yes, lobby side it’s a little too Sky Sports for us, but tucked around the corner, in the old Lock Keeper’s cottage is the cosiest, curtain-lined snug this side of a confessional. And the slight out-of-town vibe keeps the White Bar coolly off radar. It’s also SevenStreets’ unofficial office. So come over, and buy us a round.
Order: Log Island Iced Tea
2) The Plum Bar, Malmaison, William Jessop Way.
Admittedly, on Saturday nights this womb-like cocoon can feel a bit like that Cantina in Star Wars, such is the curious array of humanity imbibing here. But we still have a soft spot for its bonkers monochromatic paean to all things purple. An added bonus is that, these days, you can walk in without being concussed by falling chunks of cladding.
Order: A Nightingale – but swap the rum and mint for gin and basil.
There was a time when hotel bars were hushed enclaves of clubby cool – all wingbacked chairs, wood-lined booths and contaminated nibbles. No more. The past decade or so has seen designers from Philippe Starck to David Collins add a touch of Wallpaper* interior porn to the proceedings. But we like things best when they’re shaken up a bit. As they are in the wonky but loveable Racquets Club.
Order: Highland Park 18 years
4) London Carriage Works Bar, Hope Street Hotel
No longer in the basement, the ever-dependable HSH’s London Carriage Works Bar is now ensconced where the old brasserie was, on the ground level. It’s reassuringly unbuttoned urban, with slate, walnut, sofas and Champers by the glass. Although, perhaps, missing the cosiness of the sub-street level hang out of old. Still, if you’re desperate for the old days, you can get married and hire the basement bar out.
Order: English Summer in a Glass: Gin, elderflower, apple juice, cucumber and mint
A brash newcomer, but with charm enough to warrant a detour down Chapel Street, Hotel Indigo’s bright blond wood, fizzy graphic art and space-age pods attracts a lively crowd of business quarter types, weekenders and city dwellers. Is it a stayer? We’ll see. Initial impressions show a deftness of touch, and attention to detail – think Barbarella meets 2001 A Space Odyssey – that would suggest yes.
Order: A Cotton candy Champagne cocktail: with real candy floss. There may be tears.
6) Bar Four, Hard Days Night Hotel, North John Street (main pic).
One of the city’s most modern hotel arrivals is also home to its most old-school hotel bars. And it’s all the better for it. Wood panelled, snug of chair, dim of light, kinda expensive lookin’ y’know? Jewellery rattling central, you could say. But as an antidote to the screaming excess of Mathew Street (irony duly noted) it’s really hard to beat.
Order: Brandy Alexander (Lennon’s favourite, we hear)
7) Pima at Hilton Hotel, Thomas Steers Way.
It’s detached and a little clinical to some – but that’s sometimes the way we roll. It’s also still very much a hidden gem. Odd, really, when you think about its location. Sure, it’s on the shady side of Thomas Steers Way, but great service, snug booths and genuinely chilled vibes make it a surprisingly comfortable escape from the madding Liverpool ONE crowds.
Order: Miss Hartley – Belvedere black raspberry vodka and bubblegum syrup.