There are bars we love, and aspects of those bars which, taken individually, exceed the quality of what we find here, but for combined effect Montgomery Place in Notting Hill, London, with the right bartender behind the stick is to us the best bar in the world.
Perhaps it boils down to attention. Everything is the right choice and all those choices seem directed at the experience of someone enjoying a cocktail. The decor, lighting, music, bar snacks, size of the place, everything all adds up to exactly what we want to experience.
The mood is easy and unpressured. The rest of the world melts away as the staff tends to you. That our bartender when we've been there was Marian Beke, one of the world's finest, could be a major factor, it's true.
Our tip: try them at opening time on a rainy day for great results. However, we brought them the greatest challenge "meet our comically high expectations on the hardest night of the year for creating a classic, calm hosting situation". Yes, that's right; we showed up as they opened on New Year's Eve. Everything was perfect. The food was as excellent as we'd remembered and we were surrounded not by amateurs snapping fingers for a bartender's attention to order Grey Goose "martinis", but by off-duty incredible London bartenders making the same choice we did. Montgomery Place is where you go when you want to travel to a soothing, low-key island of style, clarity and care.
When for some reason you happen to look at your watch and you notice the new year came around half an hour ago, just raise a quiet toast with your companion to your good taste and continue that fascinating conversation with the brand ambassador occupying the barstool to your left.
[Post updated January 18, 2011, to make it clearer that Marian Beke is no longer bartending there. You can find him now at Nightjar.]