Best Date-Night Bar
Next time you need to dress to impress and casually suggest you 'know a little place', here's your list of go-tos: the world's best date-night hotel bars…
It's hip (not achingly so) and happening (without trying). In idle moments when you yearn for unexpected pleasures or a great night out, this is the sort of bar you'd want to be taken on a date. The barkeep's your NBF, the hotel's signature cocktail is right up your street and, hey, there are some pretty nice bedrooms just upstairs if things go particularly well…
Zoe is a model turned photographer and graphic artist based between London and LA
28 HongKong Street's bar guru and head of hospitality pioneers Proof & Company
London-based TV presenter, cookbook author and one half of supper club, Jackson & Levine
Best Gourmet Getaway
Best Date-Night Bar winners...
WINNER: THE ROXY, NEW YORK, US
‘The cocktail list is impressive at the Roxy: the perfect harmony between cool and laid-back. The lounge area makes you feel like you’re in someone’s living room yet when the jazz starts playing you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.’
– Laura Jackson Presenter and author
RUNNER-UP: CHILTERN FIREHOUSE, LONDON, UK
London’s still burning for this Gothic, Grade-II-listed red-brick, the place Nuno Mendes conceived crab doughnuts. The storied Ladder Shed drinkery is an exclusive yet amiable boozer where starrier guests claim sanctuary and incendiary nights strike up. It’s London-to-Cotswolds casual in clashing florals, cane furnishings and exposed brick. Here, barkeeps tinker with apothecary-style phials, original fireman poles remain, and the DJ booth has vinyl to burn through.
RUNNER-UP: THE TEMPLE HOUSE, CHENGDU, CHINA
A paean to China’s fabled Silk Road, which started in Chengdu, the Temple House Hotel’s Jing bar weaves rich tales of the past in its glossy halls: brassy wall sconces cling like silkworm cocoons and polished detailing nods to Chengdu’s regal Buddhist temples. If that doesn’t sound sexy enough, consider the mirrored ceiling and walls in which you and your date can clock each other; the trade route of a wine list to travel; and the fire-pit-warmed terrace for flicker-lit kisses.
One might assume Brooklyn’s sky-high-bar scene is reaching capacity faster than the hottest guest lists; but the William Vale's Westlight, set 22 floors up, can more than mix it with the big boys across the river. There’s the wraparound terrace, Studio Munge’s industrial decor and cocktails (the word seems too pedestrian for the bar’s cultured libations) that include mezcal and Amontillado sherry; vermouth and absinthe… Classic New York with a kick? This William foots the bill.
This clubby Amsterdammer is an eccentric; allegedly the bar’s leather and velvet wingbacks feel ‘like a good man hug’ and tumblers are said to be heavier than one’s shoes… If the latter is true, there’s no finer place to fill your clogs. Amid art-deco-revival glamour, mixologists serve classic tonics and toddies, and fashion nonconformists consider sherbert-fizzed genever, pine essence or chai syrup. Best foot forward? Book a table, bring a date and feel the love.
Leave your halos at home, Tótem’s F. Scott Fitzgerald-inspired bar Malditos (the damned) is a wicked date-night stop. Allusions to tragic literary love aside, it’s an attractive proposition: wall panels of Seventies-style granny florals by Bárbara Osorio, lush potted-palm sentries flanking the bar and blue, blue, electric blue banquettes give it a hip time-hop feel as DJ João Ribeiro sets a sultry mood. Oh, and take what the lab-coat-clad barkeeps prescribe: they’re qualified to go rogue.
Bulk sounds more like a gym than a furnace for romance, but this Italian charmer excels in subtle suavity. It’s styled by native designers Molteni&C in latte hues, wood and leather, with conversation-piece artwork; and a magical-realist page-turner of a cocktail menu is summoned forth from Giancarlo Morelli’s imaginarium. His Smoker’s Mary is fixed with charcoal and guac, and the Suffering Bastard is a juddering face-slap of whisky, gin and campari – brisk, yet brilliant.
Check your swagger at the door: this lobby lounge is low-key and free from clipboard-wielding guardians. Bow-tied barkeeps, hailed by their surnames, are founts of baroque mixology, but they’ll cease showboating to pour your whiskey neat, too. DJs spin unobtrusively cool tunes for couples playing foosball or chattering on the terrace. Dress (comfortably) to impress, if only to sit pretty on cracked-leather button-backs or velvety mid-century armchairs.
Still your beating heart: this bar bears the soigné cool of a Nouvelle Vague anti-hero. Bold chintzes and gilt-framed portraiture – worked into a space best suited to covert knee brushing – are offset by candlelit cosiness. Leather armchairs are artfully weathered, sofas atop Persian rugs invite, and lights are dimmed, so couples can clink seasonal wines and heady cocktails in private. This hip hangout’s likely sparked more than a few Parisian love stories.
QT have some cheek: burlesque-inspired uniforms, ‘don’t disturb’ signs stating that you’re ‘tied-up’… Filth; but, it’s why we love them. Their Melbourne outpost’s rooftop bar is a wellspring of flirty fun. The nerve-centre is a green-tiled central bar where 'tenders remix Manhattans, negronis and G&Ts, or you can ascend to the 11th floor to enter a neon space of grills and girders that designer Nic Graham has softened using mid-century silhouettes and vibrant colours.
Best Date-Night Bar award criteria
Is this the place to see and be seen? Does it attract A-list clients or under-the-radar tastemakers? Is it a word-of-mouth legend or celebrated icon? Maybe its location is new, exciting or unexpected.
Killer cocktails are customised and made with a well-edited spirit selection or home-spun infusions; if there's a wine list, it's knowledgably sourced and presented; beer is craft and draught; and all the trimmings (from bar snacks to bar stools) are carefully considered.
This is a bar run with flair and dedication: staff know their stuff, the mixologist is fearless and masterful, the soundtrack is spun with love. The passion should be palpable.
Does it radiate romance? Is there a buzz in the air? Do people flock from far and wide to step through the hotel door? Does the bar boast scene-setting design that gets you in the mood? A big-name DJ, musicians, performers of some kind? Even if your date ditches you, would you be happy drinking here alone?