Originally posted 12th February 2013
A ‘knock knock’ at a non-descript door to the left of the main entrance of the Grosvenor Square Marriott will afford you access to an old luggage room, now the ‘Luggage Room’ bar, a refreshingly different hotel watering hole that joins an ever-increasing and distinguished list of so-called ‘secret bars’ in London, a list that includes ‘Bodega Negra’, hidden behind a porn shop in Soho, ‘Barts Bar’, located ‘somewhere on Sloane Avenue’ in Kensington and my personal favourite, ‘The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town’, concealed within a fridge in the City.
Not much makes these bars secret, apart from an extra hurdle or two to get in through the door, but there is always something clandestine and cliquey about grabbing an unsuspecting co-drinker (Valentines daters take note), sidling up to an obscure door/porn-store/fridge and acting all casual-like, like;
“…yeah, just a place I tend to fall into occasionally”
Stepping across the threshold at the Luggage Room will immerse the visitor in a contemporary take on the speakeasy; the underground bars of the Prohibition Era, frequented by the rich and powerful of the Roaring Twenties. The airs and graces of the black door briskly give way to genuine class and glamour, with sturdy leather chairs surrounding chunky polished tables of intricate design, whilst attentive and sleek waiting staff weave around it all, to the tune of swinging jazz.
The drinks – delivered promptly and accompanied by the ubiquitous trio of bar snacks – are served atop napkins embossed with gold lettering, glittering under conspicuously dimmed lights, muted to the extent that one leans into the menu – justifiably so – as attention must be paid. Luggage Room cocktails are steeped in tradition, yet many come with a welcome twists and touches of personality; on a recent visit, a typical Sweet Manhattan was just as warmly-received as a slightly more left-field and tart Baron Andre d’Erlanger Martini, made with grapefruit bitters and that under-used ingredient called Absinthe, served with the patron’s choice of Ketel One or Tanqueray. The Airmail is given an interesting twist, the honey, lime juice and Appletons rum delivered with the additional affluence of Champagne. A flight of rum punch demonstrated that the bar can deliver on the sweet side of the spectrum as well, but the feeling around the table was that whereas the cocktails were tailored and idiosyncratic, the one distinguishing feature was that they were all “very, very strong”
With prices of the average cocktail starting at around £twelve, the Luggage Room is likely to forever remain a few steps but a million miles away from Oxford Street, but with character delivered in equally generous measure to the spirits in its expertly created drinks, the only thing missing from this voguish speakeasy is Al Capone himself.