Why are minibars so exciting? It’s a question we ask ourselves every time we check into a hotel. Because they shouldn’t be exciting at all. We’ve all got fridges at home — not to mention full-size bottles of whisky, vodka and wine we could pop open if we wanted to.
And yet, the first thing we do after throwing our bags on the bed is seek out the minibar. These tiny fridges with their even tinier bottles get us unreasonably riled up — and that’s before we’ve even drunk a £17 miniature of Jack Daniel’s. But here’s the big question about these small fridges: which is the best in London?
Brown’s Hotel has the best pre-mixed cocktails in town
Let’s first throw open the tiny fridges inside Brown’s — a Mayfair institution and one of London’s oldest existing hotels. Not only was this the site of the first successful telephone call in Europe – by Alexander Graham Bell himself – but its hallowed halls have also played host to Oscar Wilde, Theodore Roosevelt, Agatha Christie, Napoleon III and Arthur Conan Doyle. And the nibbles are nonpareil.
The best bottle of wine: It’s got to be a toss-up between the Ruinart Brut NV, a bulbous little bottle with fine bubbles and golden glints, and a delightful miniature bottle of Château La Gasparde, a savoury red perfect for a midnight night-cap.
The spirit selection: Where do we start? You’ve got a 200ml bottle of Cragganmore Single Malt just waiting to be broken into, or smaller options including miniatures of Glenmorangie 10 Year Old, Hennessy Cognac or Bombay Sapphire. But our favourite option? The pre-mixed Benjamin & Blum cocktails; choose from a Negroni, Aviation or Orange Bloom.
The midnight bites: A selection of Willies Cacao chocolate squares — including Ginger Lime and Hazelnut Raisin. Or, for the less sweet-toothed, Tyrrell’s crisps and popcorn — and a jar of mixed nuts.
The Dorchester has a wine selection to check-in for
Next up, we’re checking into The Dorchester — one of the world’s most prestigious and exclusive hotels. This was where Queen Elizabeth II stayed the day before her engagement to Prince Phillip in 1947, it’s where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton kicked up a storm and where novelist W. Somerset Maugham wrestled with Of Human Bondage. He should have just cracked open a minibar — nothing melts away writer’s block like a well-opened miniature…
The best bottle of wine: Now you really are spoilt for choice at the Dorchester. You could pop a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Brut NV, ‘R’ de Ruinart Brut or even Ruinart Rosé NV — but we’d keep the cap on the fizz. Instead, we’d recommend the Margaux de Brane, a pearl of a Bordeaux blend. Either that, or the Domaine G. Tremblay Chablis.
The spirit selection: A little more pedestrian here, with your usual choices of vodka, gin and whisky offered in 50ml or 200ml if, like Maugham, you’re struggling to get past the first page on your typewriter. There is a nifty VSOP offered, though it’s pretty steep at £80 for 350ml.
The midnight bites: The Dorchester, it appears, goes nuts for nuts. If you’re a kernel connoisseur, this is the hotel for you — with its smorgasbord of pistachios, cashews and almonds — the latter even being chocolate-coated. And, on the topic of chocolate, there’s also a gourmet bar from gourmet chocolatier Rococo.
45 Park Lane has the most expensive miniature in London
Another five-star stay courtesy of The Dorchester Collection, 45 Park Lane is a beacon of art, architecture and contemporary culture in the heart of classic London. You even get your very own host when you check in; a butler, concierge or personal assistant on hand around the clock. But, if you don’t want to bother Jeeves, the minibar is bursting with a bar-full of excellent options.
The best bottle of wine: For us there’s only one choice: a 375ml bottle of Krug. Now, bear with us. It may set you back £190 — prepare to wince at your itemised bill — but Krug is one of the best champagnes in the world; mouth-wateringly firm with a rich profile of toasted brioche. Worth every copious penny.
The spirit selection: Equally as impressive. There’s even an aged Negroni bottled in-house and put in your fridge if you want it. Aside from that, all spirits are 50ml. You’ve got Balvenie 12 Year Old and Macallan Gold for whisky, Chase and Russian Standard for vodka, Monkey 47 and Hendrick’s for gin and Mount Gay and Sailor Jerry for rum. But the crowning glory? A miniature of Louis XIII de Rémy Martin for a wallet-busting £680. You’ll need a drink after paying that.
The midnight bites: Less substantial. But, if you’re feeling nostalgic, sweets from M&Ms to Maltesers are sure to hit the chocolatey spot.
The Stafford has nibbles from Highgrove
In the heart of St. James’s, The Stafford is known for its unique air of classic Britishness. The on-site restaurant, The Game Bird, focuses on modern British cooking — with dishes including steak and ale steamed suet pudding, venison stew and Lyle’s golden syrup sponge. But how do the minibars measure up?
The best bottle of wine: It’s either the Mâcon Lugny Les Genievres, a 2016 Chardonnay with melon and peach notes — or the 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We’d go with the latter — perfect after a gamey dinner downstairs.
The spirit selection: There’s the classic gin and vodka brands, and an especially nice Bacardi rum miniature. But we’d focus on the whisky selection. Not only is there Glenfiddich 12-Year-Old on offer, but you can also find a Jack Daniel’s — its inclusion a refreshing concession by a quintessentially British hotel.
The midnight bites: Now this is a treat. The Stafford has worked closely with Highgrove — yes, them of the Royals — to produce the minibar’s nibbles. There’s a bag of Clotted Cream Fudge or rich, buttery, melt-in-the-mouth Organic Shortbread if you fancy feeling regal with your glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
The Rosewood has three separate minibar menus
The next tiny fridge we’re cracking into can be found in Covent Garden. Located on High Holborn, guests check into Rosewood London through a grand Edwardian courtyard. And this opulence extends into the rooms, because the hotel doesn’t have just one minibar menu — it has three. Naturally, we forewent the Deluxe Executive and Grand Premier Suites and went straight for the most exclusive, The House.
The best bottle of wine: You could uncork half-bottles of 2012 Chateau de Ricaud or ‘R’ de Ruinart, but why would you when there’s a full bottle of 2006 Dom Perignon on offer? Yes, it may be £350, but you’ve just stumped up for the finest room in the place — so what’s a little more effervescent expenditure?
The spirit selection: There are decanters! In the minibar! Choose from Balvenie Double Wood, Bombay Sapphire or Sipsmith Sloe Gin if you’re looking to really feel at home. Otherwise, there’s a full page in the minibar menu for spirits — with everything from Frapin Château Fontpinot XO Cognac to Sipsmith London Dry Gin. But we’d steer you towards the 700ml bottlings of Avantgarde Cocktails; including takes on the Manhattan, Negroni and Martini.
The midnight bites: There’s some good brands to snack on, including Brown Bag Potato Chips and Jealous Vegetarian Sweets. But we’d plump for Joe & Seph’s popcorn every time, with flavours ranging from Toffee Apple with Cinnamon, to Goats Cheese & Black Pepper.
The Edition has an eclectic selection of spirits
From Ian Schrager, London’s Edition Hotel is resolutely unique. It naturally attracts the rich, famous and beautiful — and they won’t settle for anything less than a carefully curated collection of snacks and spirits in their rooms. So what can you crack into in rooms that once hosted illustrious guests such as King Edward VII and Carl Fabergé?
The best bottle of wine: There’s also Krug on offer here, but it’s testament to the rest of the offering that it’s not our top choice. Instead, that honour goes to the Chianti Gli Scudi — incredible value for an intensely flavoured, ruby red bottling. There’s also a lovely Mâcon-Villages, Cave de l’Aurore white Burgundy on offer.
The spirit selection: Reasonably priced and very eclectic. From London-born Sipsmith gin to Belvedere vodka, there are options that you could find all over London. But then there’s a couple of wildcards. A 200ml of Balvenie whisky is a welcome sight, as is a miniature of Patron Silver tequila. But the crowning glory? A tiny miniature of Crystal Head vodka you’ll just have to take home.
The midnight bites: Now here’s a snack selection to end all others. The makings of the best midnight feast of your life, The Edition’s food offerings include Pana Dark Chocolate, Tamari Roasted Almonds, Joe and Seph’s Caramel Popcorn, Trotters Pork Crackling and Chilli Bacon Jam. There’s also a copy of George Orwell’s 1984 available to buy, if you’re feeling particularly decadent and dystopian.
The Standard has CBD gummies and Moët et Chandon
When we took a look around The Standard last year, we discovered that it was anything but. And London’s coolest hotel has extended its panache and pizzazz into its rooms’ minibars. There’s even a whole host of other products on offer — from a Harry’s shave kit to CBD gummies.
The best bottle of wine: If you’re after white wine, there are few bottlings better than the half-bottle of Gavi di Gavi ‘Lugarara’ The Standard has on offer. Or, if red is more your thing, it’s got a mean Rioja Reserva from Izadi. But the best option has to be the Moët et Chandon Imperial Brut — a steal at just £35.
The spirit selection: Almost completely different to anything else on this list, you can tell that true care and consideration have gone into The Standard’s spirit list. There’s a smoky Johnnie Walker Black Label for the whisky aficionados, a Talisker Skye if you’re after a single malt and a wonderful miniature of Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum. There’s some Patrón X.O. Cafe if you fancy your chances at whipping up an Espresso Martini, and some savoury Ketel One vodka if you’re more of a Bloody Mary man.
The midnight bites: Where most minibars focus on sweet treats, The Standard excel at the savoury. Kings Ribeye Biltong, Habanero Chilli Corn, Black Truffle Torres Crisps and Pecorino, Rosemary & Seaweed Biscuits are just some of the snacks on offer. And, after indulging, a pack of Peppersmith Mints are just £4.
The Biltmore will tailor your bottles to you
Overlooking Grosvenor Square, hotels don’t get much more exclusive than The Biltmore. After reopening last September, it is now one of the most sought-after nights in London — offering a seamless balance of distinctive character and unrivalled service. And their minibars reflect this service. Alcohol stocked is subject to guest’s preferences — who get to choose four full-size bottles from a selection to be placed in their room before check-in.
The best bottle of wine: There’s a glorious half bottle of 2014 Chateau Gloria Saint-Julien on offer — balanced, smoky and firm. But the Trinbech Pinot Blanc would be our choice — a singular wine from Alsace with a bouquet of green apple, jasmine and beeswax.
The spirit selection: It’s a best of British situation with your spirits. The bottles we’d choose for our room? The Black Cow Vodka from Dorset, Cambridge Dry Gin — and perhaps the Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Select for good measure — and good measures, too.
The midnight bites: Satisfy your hunger pangs in the restaurant downstairs – The Biltmore’s minibar is all about the booze.