For those who believe there is smoke without fire
By Henry Rubinstein, founder of lifestyle blog How To Be A Bloody Good Chap
To me a cigar is one of the sweet mysteries of life and one of its greatest pleasures (perhaps I need to get out more).
Having started at the fragile age of 16, when I was given a box as a birthday present by a friend, I have, in moderation, enjoyed a stogie or two in my 27 years on this planet. From the seedy dens of New York and the baroque grandeur of Vienna to the vineyards of Alsace and the sun-kissed beaches of Brazil, rolled tobacco has been a constant theme.
But nowhere do I enjoy smoking a great cigar than in my home town of London.
So without further ado, I give you few of my favourites, as well as a welcome option for those who like to smoke to their hearts’ content on the street, in the pub garden or (on a rare occasion) a garden of one’s own.
Dukes Hotel, St James
Gadzooks! It’s a place full of character, charm, and best of all, refinement! The bar in which Ian Fleming came up with the now world-famous ‘Vespa’, Dukes offers a staggering array of cocktails. Connoisseurs should head straight for the Martini menu, full off potent creations to bring out the inner James Bond in everyone, they are made at your table-side with incredible panache. When the weather is a little more temperate there is a fine, covered cigar terrace which offers a sophisticated haven from which to enjoy one of the fine cigars from their small, but well appointed, collection kept in their humidor. It’s an experience not to be missed.
For those who long for the nostalgia of London clubland offset with a distinct homage to the culture and cuisine of Scotland, Boisdales of Belgravia is the place for you. Set on the affluent side of Pimlico near Victoria Coach Station, this establishment boasts one of the most impressive collections of Scotch and rare whiskies in the capital as well as a fine menu full of nursery food favourites, including traditional haggis with neaps and tatties.
Full of lots of nooks and crannies in which to enjoy a snifter or two and live jazz to help the spirits slip down even easier, the real highlight must be their heated cigar terrace. Now the stuff of legend, this secluded spot is a wonderful – if expensive place – to light up. Perfect for the winter months, the restaurant even supplies cosy blankets should you feel the chill.
Casa (Floridita), Soho
Casa is a rather unassuming and boutique cigar lounge on Wardour Street with an incredible walk-in humidor. Part of the much louder, gaudier and bling-driven Floridita, Casa is something off an oasis of calm.
Set aside from a very fine cocktail bar, there is no licence in the smoking area so visitors have to make do with a cup of coffee or a soft drink. Indeed it was in this establishment that I discovered the wonders of a silky smooth Hoyo de Monterrey and a glass of ice cold Coca Cola with ice and lemon. Occasionally, even this good chap needs some time off the sauce, if not the smoke!
The Mayfair Hotel
Pomp and grandeur are two words which have been levelled at me in my time by friends, acquaintances and enemies in equal measure, but I am sure they would be united in their praise of their extortionate yet special place.
Chic, elegant and uber-glamourous, try as I might with my tweed sports jacket and vintage Dior tie, I don’t feel that I quite cut the kind of mustard they are looking for – it’s a bit cool for the likes of a rapscallion like me. Softly-lit and inviting, there’s a great selection of drinks, cigars and of course, rarified company.
Buy a cigar at J J Fox and smoke al fresco
If, like me, you’ve built up immunity to the winter elements then you would be doing yourself a favour by going to the friendly, knowledgeable and ever excellent J J Fox on St James.
At this wonderful emporium you can purchase a fine cigar to smoke either on any of the terraces above or on the pavement outside a reputable pub. From Cubans to more exotic and esoteric brands, this shop has it all, as well as in-house expertise to help you choose something to suit your taste or, if feeling ambitious, design a flight to enjoy for an evening of kippering yourself!
There are some great pubs in the area with ample outdoor space for the hardy to enjoy their purchase, and in my opinion, Chequers, which is just around the corner on Duke Street St James is the best of the lot, backing as it does onto Mason’s Yard. If you go to one cigar shop in London, make it this one.
By Henry Rubinstein of the lifestyle blog How To Be A Bloody Good Chap