Cigars and cognac at Dukes
Ah St James’s Street. Coming to this part of central London is like stepping into a time machine. None of the shops would look out of place on a Victorian high street, from William Evans the Gun & Rifle makers to Lock & Co Hatters and my personal favourite – Berry Bros. Wine Merchants with its maze of wood-panelled rooms, higgledy-piggledy staircases, cellars of dusty vintage Tokay and giant coffee scales dating back from the 1700s, when the likes of Lord Byron and William Pitt would weigh themselves in the shop. You can even read the log books of weights and the section of excuses – the Duke of Cleveland has ‘heavy coat’ written next to one particularly unflattering entry.
Dukes Hotel is located in a quiet little courtyard just off St James’s Place. I’ve come along to check out their new cognac and cigar garden attached to the drawing room conservatory. I haven’t touched a cigar since accidentally inhaling one at my graduation ball but I can appreciate what a luxury it must be to go to a bar in London, post-ban, where a long smoke with a stiff drink is actively encouraged.
Then again, this is Dukes we’re talking about, the hotel Ian Fleming used to frequent, inspiring James Bond’s famous phrase ’shaken not stirred’. It’s considerably more refined than yaou. The garden is essentially a small patio with a gazebo-type canopy sheltering it, but it fits 20 people seated and has some rather snazzy decking, lanterns, cushioned chairs and perhaps the smartest touch of all, a wooden brandy cabinet with a full range of cognac.
Alessandro, the bar manager hands us a ‘Ruby Windsor’ cocktail created especially for the garden, comprising of champagne, angostura bitters, Martell XO cognac and a brown sugar cube. It’s predictably delicious. Those who enjoy something punchier start tucking into cognac on ice until – disaster! Some poor chap’s cigar has gone out. No matter, Alessandro scuttles off to relight it and civility is restored.
Dukes’ Cigar and Cognac Garden is open all year round, from 8pm, with heating in winter. A 50ml Martell Corden Bleu is priced at £12, while the Ruby Windsor cocktail is £16.50. Cigars range from £16-£36 each.