Call me an old lady (don’t) but I love a bar where I can offer to pay for a round without my credit card crying, a place where the music isn’t so ridiculously loud it turns all form of audible speech into screaming/primitive sign language (*loud music plays* “SO SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR BROTHER IN THAT CAR ACCIDENT, IS HE OK?” “WHAT?” “IS YOUR BROTHER OK AFTER…” “YEAH, GOOD IDEA, I’LL GET ANOTHER ROUND IN!”) and somewhere central but off the tourist trail. In London, this is asking for a lot. In central London this is nigh on impossible.
Cue Apres. This little bar is literally right next to Selfridges, a stone’s throw from Bond Street station on the central line, set on a little street off heaving Oxford Street. Saying that, most people seemed to be enjoying a post-work glass of vino rather than hoards of tourists getting merry at happy hour.
Although it’s central, it seems to be a well-kept secret. Perfect for socialising with work friends, or an apres (see what I did there?) shopping treat.
Once you step inside you’re greeted with the smell of fruity shisha, which is available on the heated patio outside, and dimly lit interiors with huge copper light shades. There’s a row of seats on the back, large windows and square suede stools to perch on. It reminded me of a luxury Thai hotel I stayed at once; all wooden and metallic.
Inside, a lot of people were standing and chatting but as there are plenty of shelves to perch drinks on, it doesn’t really matter if you’re seated or not. One nice thing: a couple of ladies who were drinking a bottle of red had to stand. The waiter noticed, and promptly set up a table and some seats next to ours so they had somewhere to place their bottle. How kind!
Onto the drinks. The cocktail menu is expansive, featuring classic combinations and more inventive blends. There’s something to suit every taste too; where I’m a fan of bitter and sour cocktails, the boy prefers sweeter-than-sweet long, iced drinks, and we both found something to suit.
We started with a Daiquiri, garnished with grapefruit peel and served in a frozen glass, and Tatanka, a cinnamon and apple cocktail which obviously was inspired by grandma’s apple crumble (the boy wanted me to write that. Hey, it was his drink!). Service was average speed, but this just gave us enough time to have a chat and a snoop around rather than feel rushed. About fifteen minutes after ordering, we found the drinks were mixed well and were a welcome refreshment after our long trek from Old Street.
Next, I had to try the Pink Panther. Being a favourite childhood cartoon, and made with white chocolate liqueur and watermelon, it had Laura written all over it. The boy went for the Highlander, a smoky, whisky-based drink. I was blown over by his choice. It’s not easy to mix three rich, smoky single malt blends and get something drinkable out of it. But it was delicious. It blew my Pink Panther right out of the water.
Waitresses were super friendly and stood patiently as we scanned the list of cocktails. At one point we did start to wonder if our waitress (a Zooey Deschanel lookalike in skin tight pleather trousers and neon crop top) had forgotten about our order. But it always seemed when we were getting to that point, the drinks mysteriously appeared. Perfect timing! And brownie points were given for the impromptu table setting for the two ladies. One thing we did notice was that cocktails seemed to vary in size from person to person. So, the Pink Panther for example. When a couple on the table in front ordered the same cocktail, theirs seemed to be filled to the brim, whereas mine was 3/4 full. I’m unsure whether this was barman’s variation – there were two or three people behind the bar – or just a lack of liquids when mixing.
Our favourites of the night were the Highlander, Moby Dick and Daquiri. And although the place was crowded, we didn’t feel squished. All in all, this is a relaxed, quirky little place without any snootiness or pretentiousness. I’d say it’s more suited for a group of people than a second date, but would be equally as perfect after a show in the West End with a special someone. They have a DJ booth and club downstairs, and live music nights throughout the week. Cocktails are a delicious £5 from 5-8, which explains why it’s a fan of young, creative types. It’s definitely worth a visit.
Apres | 31 Duke Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 1LG | 020 7224 3452