Located in affluent Marlyebone, and conveniently located just off the bustling commercial heart of Oxford Street, Apres Bar is an intimate cocktail lounge with a rather exclusive-feeling downstairs club lounge. Opposite Selfridges you'd expect a certain level of affluence, and on entering you do get the impression that this is a rather premium venue. The prices teeter on the edge of happily affordable, with your average cocktail going for around £8 a pop. Apres is divided into two parts: Upstairs is a small, intimate cocktail bar, downstairs a relatively boutique feeling and well arranged "late-lounge".
Ambience and decor
Apres Bar's decor was sophisticated, with some variety between downstairs and upstairs. The look below was a chilled and somewhat futuristic blue/violet. Down here seems like the ideal place to spend a ton of money hosting a private party for yourself and a few hundred friends, which is coincidentally what was going on when we went to take a look at it! Within the late lounge is the 'Apres Snug' - a delightful little room with a waiter buzzer, video/gaming system and it's own independent sound. VIP style for 6 people.
Lacking huge amounts of space, upstairs is not a place for dancing, but instead one for conversation with friends under less futuristic tinted lights and sipping one of the cocktails Apres prides itself on. It has a cozy feel, with the entrance right next to the bar, a variety of solid wooden tables and (often reserved) immaculate weighty leather seats that can also be found downstairs. Adjacent to the bar, Apres spills out onto the garden on the pavement. Here seats 30 and looks like a marvellous spot to enjoy when summer roles around and the Mayfair basks in sunlight.
Clientele and atmosphere
The staff were, on the whole, quite friendly yet ruthlessly efficient - a good combination in my book! Even the bouncer was a pretty laid back guy, and quick to crack a joke on my arrival. For a Saturday night the place wasn't heaving, and later into the evening it cleared even more, perhaps due to the late-lounge being hired out for a private function. Since this was just the one visit, we weren't sure if this was a regular occurrence but it was lovely to immediately get a seat on arrival, despite arriving later into the evening. It also made a change to enjoy a smaller venue that was intimate, but not uncomfortably 'crammed'.
The clientele was mixed but an affluent looking bunch, with the average age looking to be around the late 20s into the 30s. There were those looking for a chilled out night in a lively bar where you can catch up with friends and a younger (but still sophisticated) crowd probably having some luxury pre-drinks before heading off to the surrounding clubs in Mayfair and Soho.
I have to say though, there was a seriously scary 'toilet attendant'. Okay, perhaps scary isn't the word (maybe 'too friendly' is more apt). Call me old fashion, but I always find it a bit off-putting to have some guy looking over your shoulder when you are washing your hands in the bathroom, especially when he's singing the two dirty drinking songs he knows at great volume, on what seems like a loop! I'm happy to get the hand soap myself, but uh, thanks for offering…I want to start a campaign to rid London of toilet attendants. They are not needed and I'd rather spend my hard earned money on cocktails not a chupa chup lolly!
The cute bar upstairs where all the cocktail magic happens
Food and Drinks
Since it is a cocktail bar after all we settled in and tried some drinks, which were very different and rather fun...
The C&C Mary: A combination of juiced carrot, juiced cucumber, vodka, and something that tasted quite spicy (which could have been the vodka). Topped with a cucumber and a large olive. It actually tasted really good with the olive, but the experience such a strange sensation to my tongue. It actually seemed like the evil version of something you'd get at one of those 'healthy' vegan juice bars.
The Pushkin: Supposedly named after a rabbit, and not the Russian writer of the same name - it is possibly one of the best cocktails I've ever consumed. A combination of Pear vodka, apple liqueur, apple, pineapple & lemon juices, pear puree & spiced caramel syrup . It took a little while to arrive, but this could be down to the fact that it looked particularly complicated to make, with the finely sliced apple garnish and layers of delicious frothy fruitiness.
Asides from this, Apres has a substantial range of cocktails, mocktails, shots, and a reasonable wine menu. So impressed were we with the cocktails we had, we will be back to try more of those crazy cocktails!
We didn't get to try any of the food, but Apres serves a variety of light refreshments and canapes, along the lines of smoked salmon on black bread, new potatoes in a spicy Bravas sauce, and so on...
The late lounge in the basement of Apres Bar
We're not sure if this represents a regular Saturday night at Apres, but upstairs was an eclectic mix of Motown, downtempo house, funk, smooth jazz and some 60s rock standards played at a volume that still allowed for conversation. We guess that this is what makes the difference between a cocktail bar and a 'proper' club, and it's always nice not to have to scream into anyone's ears.
Downstairs there was more of a club vibe, with the the music being more electronic and dance orientated. The idea of being able to choose your noise level and the kind of music (private parties aside), by staying upstairs or partying downstairs, seems quite appealing to me.
This isn't the kind of place that I'd expect to find myself in normally, simply because I wouldn't think I'd enjoy a "Mayfair cocktail bar" but despite this I very quickly warmed to the convivial atmosphere, friendly staff and smashing drinks! While at Apres, I also told some friends who were in the area to come meet me and the cocktail bar was the perfect chilled out spot to catch up on things. It would have been good to have experienced downstairs in full 'club mode' - but due to said private party, this was not to be. Perhaps next time because I will definitely be back.
Said friend's verdicts were also positive. One described it as, "A great place to start a night, much nicer than a pub where you can sit and speak. I loved it and it was a different cocktail experience either way" - which is pretty much how I'd sum it up. Worth a look? For sure!
Budget: On the bridge of happily affordable and splash the cash
Pre-designs: Chilled night with mates, private parties, cocktail connoisseurs and explorers, reuniting with old companions
Service: 5/5 (not in the toilet!)
For further information on Apres Bar, including user reviews, opening times, food menus, drink prices and bookings, click here