Test Driving The American Bar at The Stafford London - the historic bar gets a sympathetic revamp

asparagustopThe new look bar - which still has all the crazy stuff hanging from the ceiling

So what do we need to know about the American Bar at The Stafford London?

First of all, don't confuse it with the American Bar at The Savoy or even the Bar Américain at Zedel - although the Stafford and Savoy bars both date from the same period. Created to make American tourists feel at home in the 20s and 30s, the American Bar at The Stafford created its iconic look by hanging artefacts donated by visitors - notably baseball caps - from its ceiling.

There's even a plaque at the bar honouring World War II resistance fighter Nancy Wake, who popped in every day at 11am for over 50 years for a G&T. It's that kind of place.

Where is it?

In the heart of St James. There are two ways to get to it - either go in the front entrance of the hotel, walk past The Game Bird and on through to the bar at back of the hotel, or enter through Blue Ball Yard.

drinksDrinks from the new cocktail list and yes - the middle one is in a deliberately wonky glass

If it's been around for years, why are you visiting it now?

Not least because any bar that's survived this long in London ought to be celebrated. But yes, there is another reason - it's just had a bit of a major makeover, coinciding with the arrival of the hotel's Culinary Director, Ben Tish - formerly from the Salt Yard Group. So the food menu is new and there's a new cocktail menu too, courtesy of Bar Manager Benoit Provost, who has been at The Stafford for 25 years.

Where's the best place to sit?

There are quite a few good options. Obviously, up at the new marble bar would be nice if you enjoy watching your cocktails being made. There's also a gorgeous outside terrace in the old coaching inn yard, where Tish puts on BBQs on suitably sunny days. But if you, like us, fancy trying out the new bar menu, then a table in the main bar area is probably the best spot.

croquettesSpring pea croquettes with truffle alioli

What to drink?

Bar Manager Benoit's new drinks form the Journey Through St James’s cocktail list. So there's:

  • The Moriarty (Don Julio Tequila, Vida Mezcal, Solerno Blood Orange, Grapefruit Juice, Agave Syrup, Lime - £19.50) because Moriarty first tried to kill Sherlock Holmes when leaving The Diogenes Club (widely presumed to be based on a St James club).
  • The Three Dots and a Dash (The Balvenie 14 Caribbean Cask, Plantation Trinidad, Roasted Coffee Bean Syrup - £20) which refers to the Morse Code for V for Victory, tying in the hotel's WWII history when it put up US and Canadian Officers during the way.

If you're after something that draws the attention of everyone else in the room, order The Oppenheimer (Beluga Vodka, Italicus, St. Germain, Lemongrass Syrup - £20) - a luminous blue drink named after the biggest blue diamond ever sold and served in a diamond-shaped glass that slowly rotates on a jeweller's display setting. Pure bling.

There are also two new drinks on the list for those eschewing booze and they were happy to knock up an off-list concoction too.

ibericoIberico pork pinchos mourunos

What about the food?

You know that if Ben Tish is involved, it should be good and so it proved to be. There's a distinct Italian/Spanish thread running through the menu. Highlights, from a thorough going-over of the small plates and sharing dishes included:

  • Spring pea croquettes with truffle alioli (£7.50)
  • Iberico pork pinchos mourunos (£8)
  • Slow cooked octopus served with Chickpeas, fennel and cumin (£14)
  • Cannon and Cannon charcuterie platter served with flatbreads - featuring oak smoked, air-dried lamb, Trealy Farm venison carpaccio, Native Breed Cornish chorizo, Cornish seaweed and cider salami (£24)

Overall thoughts

If you've never been to this tucked-away bar, then now's the perfect time to discover it. If you're already a fan, then you'll want to come back to check out the gentle changes that we think have only enhanced this rather special space. It's a good job we don't live or work near here - otherwise, we'd be in all the time. A lovely, lovely spot.

tartareSteak tartare with croutons and pine nuts


More about The American Bar at The Stafford London

Where: 16-18 St James's Place, St. James's, London SW1A 1NJ.

How to book: Call 0207 493 0111.

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Twitter @staffordlondon

Hot Dinners were guests of The American Bar. Prices correct at time of publication.