Beside but not attached to the Rubens Hotel, the Bbar exudes cultured Africana: black-and-white photographs of elephants and big cats, leopard-spotted lampshades, South African wines on the hundred-strong, categorised-by-taste wine list.
Some of the cocktails also have a springbok in their step, if in name alone: take, for instance, the Cape Town (Sazerac rye, Lillet Blanc, blue curação and bitters), named in honour of South Africa but otherwise bearing no trace of it. The 40-plus cocktails are mostly fuelled by quality spirits, with Hendrick’s gin combined with rosewater and lychees in an appealing rose petal martini.
Although the bottled beers also bear African labels (Namibian Windhoek), the food is international: burgers on naan bread, chicken liver pâté with melba toast and the like. The clientele are typical of the neighbourhood.
The menu is international, with something for everyone, but with a South African accent lent by dishes such as springbok fillet, grilled boerewors sausages and bobotie spring rolls.
The two bars serve an impressive 110 wines (more than 50 by the glass) from an eclectic list of old and new world producers including Bouchard Finalyson, a vineyard in South Africa also belonging to The Red Carnation Hotel Collection. Passionate mixologists prepare more than 60 cocktails from the classics to the more exotic, while the warm and relaxed service creates an invitingly intimate atmosphere.
Being just a short walk from the Victoria Palace and Apollo Victoria theatres, bbar is an excellent option for pre-theatre dining, and offers versatile options for celebrating all manner of private parties including exclusive 'drinks and canapés' functions for 250 people, and dining for 100 guests with bespoke menus. 43 Below is an intimate downstairs bar and is available for private bookings. With its own sound system and a cosy club-like atmosphere, it's perfect for parties of up to 70 people.