London has long served as a mini cigar mecca outside Havana, yet it continues to surprise.
Since the smoking ban of 2007, cigar-friendly lounges, terraces, bars and hotels have sprung up – slowly at first, and now with increasing frequency.
Those who come to the capital for business and pleasure are among the world’s wealthiest; London is not a cheap city to visit. And because many visitors are in the top echelon category “high roller,” the bright lights set to woo them here are suitably “off the scale.”
With arguably some of the finest cigar lounges to be found anywhere on the planet, the competition here for lovers of the leaf – particularly of the Cuban kind – is fierce. Any number of top-end establishments vie for customers. They create playgrounds for the stylish and wealthy and stock remarkable cigars in first-rate conditions. London is, in short, a cigar lover’s heaven.
Private members’ clubs, too, have cottoned on to the fact that it is not only crusty old colonels who like a cigar in this day and age; it is also young men and women who like a variety of entertainment and intrigues to light up their leisure time. And the resulting cigar spaces are some of the most unusual, hedonistic, colorful and comfortable imaginable.
OSCURO – THE ARTS CLUB
A whole floor dedicated to the love of the leaf, Oscuro is a stunning combination of flair, style and comfort, with a beautiful bespoke walk-in humidor designed and crafted by the maestro Massimo de Munari of DeART.
Stepping out of the lift and into the wood-panelled interior is akin to stepping inside a lounge on a cruise liner; the walls are adorned with members’ lockers, all of them carefully and meticulously humidity controlled. On turning into the main lounge itself, you are greeted with an art deco visage. This is somewhere you can while away several hours with a great cigar, a drink, something to eat – or all three.
This floor of the club – which is only open to members and their guests – used to house Kyubi, the sensational Japanese restaurant which has now been re-housed, in equally spectacular surroundings, one floor up. Now the club’s cigar presence, which is significant, for members hold some sensational collections here, can be enjoyed without upsetting anyone who is not keen on cigar smoke. There is no reason to hit this floor unless cigars are your destination. There is something immensely satisfying in knowing that you are among friends as you kick back with your chosen smoke.
The cigar manager at Oscuro is the genial Giuliano Santilli, who is happy to guide you through an incredible selection of jars, boxes, limited edition humidors and a vast selection of singles – Cuban, as well as New World. The bar is uber-cool and you can eat from Kyubi at your table here or choose a quick steak sandwich to curb hunger pangs before choosing your next stick. Oh, and there’s also a delightful outdoor terrace here, should it ever decide to stop raining in London. It is the sort of place you would pay to be a member of – and people do. When you add the bonus of being able to enjoy The Arts Club’s nightclub, brasserie, garden, wine cellar and active event list, you begin to understand why …
You would not know it was there unless you were discreetly ushered inside. But you would be glad that you were.
Mark’s Club is a deliciously tasteful townhouse for members, with a sensational cellar and a daily menu, which means that you can wine and dine here day and night. Do not crick your neck when you notice the latest celeb walk past – it is all part of a day’s work for Mark’s Club, where the ambience is classy yet unfussy and the service impeccable. And, joy of joys, Mark’s is cigar friendly. Which means there is a whopping great humidor in the lounge, new member keeps, and the opportunity to smoke a well-aged or even vintage cigar on the warm, covered, comfortable terrace. Think of a well-styled conservatory, complete with an open fire and overhead heating, where necessary – not to mention the service of several more than competent staff who will happily fix you a black tea to accompany your Punch or a back-straightening Martini before you decide on your postprandial puff of choice.
Mark’s is an elegant place to meet friends and is very welcoming to the cigar lover – once again, something that is a real boon in the modern days of creased brows and admonishingly wagged fingers. Pull up a chair and enjoy a slice of civilisation and civility, London style.
This legendary place of revelry and panache continues to amaze, absorb and delight. Generations of music and movie stars have paraded endlessly to and from this stylish nightclub just off Berkeley Square.
These days, Annabel’s, while still retaining the incredible basement nightclub, now also offers a whole panoply of other member’s delights. If you get the chance to take a look around, do not hesitate. Just be prepared to feel a little like Alice after diving down the rabbit hole.
Every floor is distinctly, shatteringly different. Even the toilets on each floor are flamboyantly unique (there is a crocodile in one, and urinals shaped like demons in another, while downstairs, birds of paradise and rainforest signal yet another spot to powder one’s nose).
Every room is a revelation. There is a pink Onyx bar in this warren that is backlit and ethereal as it glows in the gloom; there is an English garden with retractable roof; Mexican, Italian and Asian restaurants. You want it. They have it.
And, of course, there is a lavish and decadent cigar lounge, complete with well-stocked humidor, which now comes under the watchful gaze of none other than Slawomir Bielicki – cigar sommelier of international renown and previous runner-up in the Habano Sommelier competition. You can relax in opulence here, grab a glass of something refreshing and find some very, very interesting people to chat to. In fact, you never quite know who – or what – you are likely to find at Annabel’s …