There's nothing so welcoming as a big city hotel, perfectly done. No one (well, practically no one) can afford to spend tens of millions of dollars making their living rooms look grand, but the best hotels do it all the time. That's particularly true in an ultra-competitive city like London, where no establishment can afford to rest on its laurels for too long. So it's fitting that The Hyatt Regency London—The Churchill has been refurbished in a way that emphasizes its links to Winston Churchill and celebrates the pleasures of cigar smoking, as enjoyed for many decades by the hotel's namesake.
The Churchill effect is subtle: a portrait of him as a young military officer stands proud behind the reception desk; there is a bust of the great man in the long, understated lobby, which has the feel of a homey drawing room set off by a warming fire at one end; and a cutup montage of the love letters he exchanged with his wife Clementine are on display in the bar. The outdoor terrace has a life-size statue of a sitting Churchill, thoughtfully draped by a warm scarf in the winter months. And the cocktail menu includes some of his favorites, a few given a modern touch, a few served the classical way.
Some London hotels tuck their cigar lounges well out of the way, giving them a secluded, sequestered air, but the cigar terrace at The Churchill plays a prominent role in the lobby design. It's a semi-enclosed space with luxurious fittings—including heaters and furry blankets for the winter months—that allows smokers to luxuriate in the city's jazzy buzz while enjoying a smoke and a cocktail from the adjacent bar. Think of it as a way to pay homage to Britain's wartime leader, remembered not least for his appreciation of the finer things in life, be it Pol Roger Champagne or a superb Cuban cigar.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that cigar sommelier Slawomir Bielicki, who finished second in the recent World Habanos Sommelier competition in Havana, is an advocate for pairing a full-bodied Champagne with a Cuban smoke. He's also bucking the trend toward super-expensive smokes, filling the elegant humidor with a number of reasonably priced cigars. He tailors his recommendations not only to the smoker's desire and experience but also to the season and the time of day.
The lounge is popular with regulars who drop by for a quick but enjoyable after-lunch smoke (a Por Larrañaga Petit Corona is one of Bielicki's favorite recommendations for a warm summer afternoon) and with visitors who want to linger well into the evening after a show in the nearby West End. If they have ample time, and an interest in vintage cigars, the recommendation may be for a 2003 Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona. "If you have an extra two hours, with the beautiful weather, something like this—light, with over 14 years of age—that would be a beautiful match."
Time does seem to stop, or at least slow perceptibly, on long summer nights in London, when the last bits of sun don't fade until 10:30 or 11. There is a distinct London feel: The wonders of Hyde Park are close by, as are the West End theaters and the Oxford Street emporiums. With the sounds of the city as a backdrop, and the cheerful rattle of the cocktail shaker coming in from next door, The Churchill Bar & Terrace is a joy, no matter what stick you choose. You can rest easy. Sir Winston would approve.
Hyatt Regency London—The Churchill
The Churchill Bar & Terrace
30 Portman Square
London, W1H 7BH
+44 (0) 20-7299-2035
Monday-Saturday: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday & Bank Holidays: 9 a.m. to midnight