Britain's Hotels du Vin chain is always to be found in the quirkiest places. In York they've converted a dainty former orphanage outside the city's medieval walls and within it constructed a gleaming zinc bar propped up by a row of chunky classic leather stools with chrome foot bars. Under manager David MacDonald the beverage team have been having a lot if fun with cocktails. “Twisted Classics” at £8.50 are personal variants on regulars like the gin fizz, mojito and old fashioned. There's also a range of imaginative after-dinner cocktails to be drunk in lieu of pudding and some zany originals: the Bob O'Marley, the Lipstick on His Collar and the Burnt Coffee Old Fashioned. The team also run a popular cocktail master class priced at £15-£25 pp for an hour and half demonstrations, practice and, of course, tastings.
Hart's Restaurant is tucked inside the fomer entrance of this lovely old Nottingham hospital. The hotel itself stands opposite, a new-build from 2003 constructed on the old ramparts of the Sheriff of Nottingham's Castle. Dining at Hart's reason enough to come to Nottingham. The service under manager Sally Williams and her charming assistant Vito Sledzinski is excellent and in the small lobby bar next to the maitre d's desk there's the chance of a very good martini. Try the Champagne Sapphire (with Bombay Sapphire Gin) or Hart's own version of the Bellini which is made with mango purée and cranberry juice.
The Arden's Waterside Brasserie & Champagne bar sits just opposite The Swan, Stratford's first Shakespeare theatre which was converted into a space for Jacobean dramas in the 1980s. From the small zinc-topped Champagne Bar you can watch RSC audiences come and go. Even better, take your drink out on to the Arden's brasserie terrace to enjoy the view. The cocktail list is full of reliable favourites - cosmopolitan, margarita, Singapore sling, Tom Collins, mojito – plus four kinds of martini and the delightful English Garden, which consists of Hendricks gin and a number of fruit juices. In the winter sit inside on one of the Chesterfield sofas, surrounded by black and white photos of actors who've performed with the RSC. Shakespeare may have said “The play's the thing”, but so is the location.
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