Contrary to this column’s title, I’m presently off the sauce — well, off anything stronger than beer, I’m not a monk — as I think the Hux Hotel tried to kill me last week. Or, at least, come Saturday morning I wasn’t sure living was the superior choice over the swift mercy of death. The sign of a good night and all that, but Christ. Worse than you’re imagining.
I’d been pondering the perfect hotel bar since my friend Hugh took me to the magnificent Egerton House in Knightsbridge, where I drank Vespers — straight gin martinis go to my head, so to cope I cut them with vodka (figure that one out) — and in return, I took him to a pub round the corner where we narrowly dodged a scrap with a Grenadier Guard who thought Hugh had called him a c***. He’d actually said army boy was hot, which turned out to be no better. “Ah, but we were all friends when we left,” said Hugh. “Yes,” I said, “but we did leave very quickly.”
Egerton — straight out of the gilded old world — and Ben Patrick’s modern Hux don’t have much in common, except something I’ll tell you about when we get to it. Hux sits with a view out over Kensington Gardens, the bar all velvet sofa and candles. There I was, just as the live music hit its final chord; any regulars who prop up this column might remember timing isn’t my thing. But it’s there if you want it, the music, with the piano played Wednesday to Sunday, and seven days a week once the pandemic has been slung out of our lives.
The room is also a veritable menagerie, with a peacock by the bar, penguins nearby, a monkey hanging from the ceiling. None live; don’t worry. This zoo inspires the cocktail menu — take the Pingu’s Pride, a mix of vanilla vodka, a spicy syrup, two chocolate liqueurs, Frangelico and chartreuse. There are strong ones, smoky ones, herbal things, all sorts.
Trouble is, I didn’t have many of them. It was too bloody dark to read the menu. The cost of cool, eh? But that might be my only criticism of a bar I had an absolute riot in. Besides, by now I know what I like, so I threw back mezcal Negronis, clean, icy Vespers, tequila by the litre. There was beer for £6, reasonable in this sort of place. Their spirits list is a long-running thing and staff poured even the strangest requests.
And there, in the glow of a lit-up bottle of Dom Perignon, I felt it: that affable welcome, that willingness to accommodate, a love of hospitality. I didn’t want to leave. That’s what ties this place and Egerton together — and that’s what makes a perfect hotel bar.
Best for: Taking a date you want to impress
Must order: A torch, for the menu. Then a rum-heavy Plata o Plomo (£14)
The Hux Bar and Hotel, 7-9 Kensington High St, W8, cocktails from £12, huxhotel.com