Forget cosy, wood panelled pubs and trendy, cosmopolitan wine bars. This winter, the place to curl up with a nice hot toddy is, believe it or not, the library. No longer the preserve of bookish geeks, pottering pensioners and panicky students, more and more of London’s prestigious hotels and bars are opening swanky, book-filled watering holes, allowing visitors to partake in some seriously scholarly drinking.
The Arch London
What: 'Press to Refresh' service buttons
Why: Located opposite Madonna’s London townhouse in Marylebone is the luxurious Georgian townhouse that is the Arch London hotel, home to the elegant ‘Martini Library’. This beautiful library bar is a warm, lavish lounge area in which guests can enjoy Martinis or Afternoon Tea. The innovative ‘Press to Refresh’ service buttons, sumptuous armchairs, shelves filled with handpicked Taschen & Daunt books and stone fireplaces make this a truly decadent space. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an inclusive breakfast area, it is also the perfect spot to host an exclusive dinner party or private meeting.
Where: 50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London, W1H 7FD
The Society Club
What: Buzzy and lively bookshop/cafe/gallery
Why: The branchild of a former nightclub promoter and interior designer, this bookshop/art gallery/café/salon combines its founders’ passion for literature, music and art. Its shelves are stocked with a carefully curated selection of essential reading from cult to the occult, fashion to fascism and poetry to punk with a strong focus on photography, art and design. For those of you who are particularly bookish (you know who you are – you always took dressing up on World Book Day super seriously!), the Society Club is also a members’ club with a cocktail bar and menu inspired by literary figures.
Where: 2 Ingestre Place, Soho, W1F 0JF
The Malt Whisky Library
What: Bar as well-stocked as it's bookshelves
Why: The Malt Whisky Library is a sophisticated whisky bar located on the Lower Ground Floor of Grange Blooms Hotel London where you can unwind with a range of classic bourbons, single malts and spirits. With its Downton-esque furnishings, the Library features a well-stocked bar, impressively stacked bookshelves, tables and comfortable seating in a quintessentially English setting. There is also an adjoining patio area where you can enjoy a tipple al fresco.
Where: 7 Montague Street, Bloomsbury, WC1B 5BP
What: Fables and cocktails
Why: If you’re looking for the perfect place to take your book on a date then make a beeline for this Holborn hidden gem. Created for the Drake & Morgan collection (head to their restaurant in Kings Cross, it’s fantastic!) and inspired by the fabulous fables of Aesop, the Fable Bar offers seasonal food and sumptuous cocktails as well as bespoke events and fascinating literary masterclasses. The library itself is lined with leather bound books sourced from vintage markets across the land so expect to be entranced and enthralled by the sheer variety of books on offer.
Where: 52 Holborn Viaduct, London EC1A 2FD
What: Creative cocktails and live jazz
Why: The Rosewood Hotel, a restored Edward mansion entered via a grandiose carriageway and courtyard, knows a thing or two about luxury and this much is obvious by its gorgeous Scarfes Bar. This classy hangout is, without a shadow of a doubt, a book lover’s paradise. With a truly epic collection of books, comfy sofas and chairs, as well as a stellar drinks menu, it is certainly not to be missed.
Where: Rosewood London, High Holborn, London
The Hidden Library
What: Secret library
Why: Go through the looking glass at the Gorringe Park’s secret library. Less than a year old, what this lovely place lacks in age it makes up for in character. With its Alice in Wonderland theme, eccentric décor and cracker of a drinks and snacks menu, this delightful boozer will truly take you down the rabbit hole and is an excellent place to lose yourself in a good book. They also have a free (yes, free!) cinema room if you’re looking for an extra dollop of culture.
Where: 29 London Road, Tooting, SW17 9HW
The Cinnamon Club
What: Westminster Library's former Reading Room
Why: Wine and books sit side-by-side on the shelves at the Cinnamon Club’s Library Bar. Reopened in 2015 following an extensive refurbishment, this fine, Grade II listed establishment was once the Reading Room of the old Westminster Library and, perhaps in homage to its history, is now home to a stunning library bar. The Cinnamon Club serves innovative and creative Indian cuisine so the library is the perfect place to perch with a cocktail before you partake of dinner.
Where: The Old Westminster Library, 30-32 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BU
The Drawing Room, Southbank
What: High Brow reading
Why: Magical and mysterious, a secret bookcase leads visitors to the BFI Southbank’s Benugo Café into the plush Drawing Room, a hidden library cocktail bar lined with dozens of books, filled with comfy armchairs and seeped in warm, relaxing lighting. High-brow and inviting, this clandestine bibliotheque will leave you feeling exclusive and elite as you savour dram while pouring over the latest Man Booker Prize winner.
Where: Benugo, BFI, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XT
What: Leather bound books and Cognac from 1770
Why: The Lanesborough’s library bar feels like it’s barely changed over the years, yet remains a destination fit for the 21st Century. Cognacs from the 1770s are served at the mahogany-clad bar, where you can sit on leather bar stools or while away the hours with a good book, good company or good bottle of wine in the bookcase room with roaring fire and live piano.
Where: Hyde Park Corner, London SW1X 7TA