The Athenaeum Hotel Whisky Bar And Restaurant, Mayfair

Our features director Andrea Thompson discovers the best drinks in town.

London’s Mayfair is saturated when it comes to cool restaurants and bars, but if you’re hitting the town with a whisky connoisseur or anyone who’s passionate about cocktails for that matter, then you’d be hard pressed to find a better place than The Athenaeum hotel bar and restaurant opposite Green Park. Known locally as ‘The small hotel with the big personality’ this tardis-like family-run hideaway in the heart of town looks relatively unimposing from the outside, but is quickly building a reputation on London’s raging cocktail scene.
 
The restaurant’s infamous ‘Whisky Bar’ – a discreet little haven (perfect for first dates!) has over 300 types of the stuff – the largest selection of any hotel bar in London. They will even match your chosen tipple with a cheese from their extensive menu. We plumped for the Athenaeum Delight (Athenaeum Single Malt, Drambuie, and Lemon Juice) and an Almond Cigar (Athenaeum Single Malt, Bacardi Gold, Amaretto, and Lime Juice and almond syrup). Both were delicately flavoured, beautifully presented and dangerously punchy. If whisky’s not your thing though, don’t worry. They’ve got a great selection of other champagne, vodka and gin based offerings.
 
Once onto the restaurant, we were very impressed by the delicate fresh west coast scallop carpaccio, with lime and shallot dressing, accompanied by a crisp fennel salad. The rich creamy lobster tortellini with a nicely balanced little seaweed salsa and cream and chive sauce was even better. And that was just the starters.

We followed with the freshly caught and perfectly flaky John Dory with creamed potato, braised salsify and chantenay carrots with spinach foam, plus the tender pan fried lamb loin with a fluffy and rather indulgent mousseline potato, honey grazed beetroot, mint puree and caper jus. Both dishes were surprisingly well portioned for the price with the very best and freshest of ingredients. The restaurant has been awarded a second rosette for its excellent food and outstanding service and we can see why. This was a meal that got better with every course and the staff both in the bar and restaurant were unstuffy, charming and just fun to be around on a Friday night.

We finished with the delicous home made sticky toffee pudding, walnut and toffee sauce and Devonshire clotted cream, plus the homemade rhubarb shortbread crumble with whipped cream and vanilla custard. The selection of tasters from their fine desert wine selection was almost as impressive as the whisky list.
 
This hotel restaurant is a well loved afternoon tea venue serving up one of the very best in the city, but is hugely underrated as a dinner destination (mainly because its slightly removed from the main drawl of restaurants in this part of town). We say it’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for a discreet and very chilled retreat in the heart of town that won’t break the bank. 
 
Pop down now to take advantage of an exclusive 20% discount on all restaurant bookings up until the end of August 2014. Just quote this unique Marie Claire code when booking a table: MC001. 
 
www.athenaeumhotel.com/
 
The Athenaeum, 116 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7BJ
Main Switchboard: +44 (0)20 7499 3464

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