On a cold and wet December evening, High Holborn is a drab place to be. The Rosewood hotel shines with festive light from the surrounding concrete. The bar here, Scarfe’s (named for the cartoonist, Gerald, who is supplying drawings and illustrations), has only been open for nine weeks, but already gained a reputation as an elegant place for a Christmas drink.
The night I visited it was packed, with people standing two and three deep at the bar and vying for tables. I took Ellie and Sophie from the fashion desk, who are taller than I am and know more about the finer things in life. “The crowd is media, but not too media,” pronounced Sophie. “Which is good, because you’re dangerously close to the law lot, but there don’t seem to be too many of the red trousers and loafers brigade.”
It is a large space, like the oversized library of some enormous stately home. Big chandeliers hang from the high ceiling. The walls are clad in a mixture of gorgeous green marble and thick draped fabric. A big log fire roars at the far end. In the wrong hands it might all feel a bit too baronial, but it srikes an agreeable balance. Partly this is because of the pianist warbling covers of Katy Perry and Rihanna, but also because manager Adam likes to keep things relaxed.
“I’m not from a five-star background,” he explains. “I want the bar to feel smart without being stuffy.” Originally from Australia, he ran an events company in Norway before coming to London. “I don’t want it to be all about strange drinks. People come out for company and conversation, rather than the drink. That said, if you’re operating in London your drinks have to be right up there, too.”
The ones we tried certainly earned their keep. My martini, made with Potocki – a Polish rye vodka – was excellent. Sophie had a Time Out, served in a pretty teapot, a subtle, lemony gin-based drink. Ellie’s Bubble and Shrubs, a fruity champagne cocktail with Sipsmith Gin, elderflower liqueur, and edible flowers on top. “Like a J20,” she pronounced. It was a compliment.
252 High Holborn