Friday, 4 October 2013
Whisky Lounge at Hilton London Metropole, Marylebone
Hands up how many Londoners have ever visited the Hilton London Metropole....excluding the time you picked up a tourist from Toledo Ohio and were talked into testing its mattresses after you'd emptied the mini-bar? Thought not! Anyway, the hotel is most excited about the £6 million transformation of its lobby. About time too. Last time I looked, a display case next to the main door housed what looked like a faded celebration of Harvest Festival 1954, as arranged by the local Women's Institute. (I'd been there in my professional capacity, not bonking a Belgian chocolate rep...honest!) The term ‘intimate whisky lounge’ - part of the big makeover - conjures up Caledonian cosiness à la Boisdale, or the postmodern luxe of the Athenaeum’s bijou temple to uisge beathe. But at the Hilton by the Flyover, the concept translates as a boxy, deeply dull room. A chandelier fashioned from glass decanters, and jarringly lit display walls housing some of the six dozen available pours, make for a too-bright space populated by ‘meh’ oatmeal armchairs. The corporate vibe is more big drinks brand showroom than a seductive space in which to savour some of Scotland’s finest - or their Irish, Welsh, American, Indian and Japanese cousins along for the ride. Blends from £5.50, and tasting flights of 3 malts from £12, are a useful introduction but will those serious about their drams choose to splash out £110 on rare Johnnie Walker Odyssey triple malt in such frigid surroundings? Blood and Sand and Rob Roy are among a selection of whisky cocktails, and bar snacks include Welsh rarebit, savoury macaroons and smoked salmon. You'll find the lounge to one side of 'EDG' - a spanking new lobby bar that has all the EDG of a put-together boy bland on X-Factor. The whisky lounge's PRs imagine it a new ‘destination bar.’ Me? I'm destined for The Savoy, Claridge's or The Goring: classic trumps EDGy I'm afraid.
(Adapted from my review for www.squaremeal.co.uk )