Unless you are in the know, you might never find the Stafford’s American Bar in Mayfair. Tucked away in a mews cul-de-sac, off St James’s street, it’s undoubtedly one of the best cocktail bars and quintessentially-British hangouts in town. Known in the 1930s as a home-away-from-home for the American tourists coming to the UK on luxury liners, hangout for pilots and officers during WWII and meeting point for big names of the entertaining industry, the bar oozes history. Like many other hotel bars, it owes its name to the American mass influx in the 1930s, but unlikely many of them, it never changed it after that period was over.
The venue is full of character and looks more like a country club or the 19th hole of a posh golf club than a traditional hotel cocktail bar. The walls and ceiling are crowded with memorabilia, including baseball caps, club ties, airplane models and signed celebrity photos. As the story goes, all the items – over 3000 according to the last count- have been donated by customers, starting with the carving of an American eagle by a US guest, followed by a model Eskimo by a Canadian visitor.
Managed since 1997 by Benoit Prevost, the protégé of well-known Charles Guano who worked there for 42 years until his death, the bar serves great food and drinks. A mix of Anglo-American-French dishes including a selection of flavoury nibbles, hamburgers, and fish and chips, the tasty bar snacks are made with quality ingredients and are served on trays with beanbag cushion undersides so that customers can eat them off their laps. Counting on a well-supplied wine cellar, the bar menu offer a great selection of wines, traditional cocktails and house creations. The staff, French by tradition, is extremely polite and very helpful, even when the place gets crowded.
Strong of a warm and very cosy interior, the bar makes a perfect winter spot; glossy wood panelling, comfy sofas and armchairs create a relaxed atmosphere and makes you feel like you are sitting in a friend’s posh living room. But that’s not all, the bar also has a charming courtyard, surrounded by converted stables, that becomes a great place to sip a cocktail or have lunch under the sun, during the summer. An absolute institution within London’s bar scene.