More so thanDandelyan, Artesian or the sadly closed Peg + Patriot, the Ace Hotel's Lobby Bar feels like a hotel bar. It's compact, you have to walk past the reception to get there, and it's also, as the name suggests, directly connected to the rest of the Ace's lobby, filled with rough, clashing textures and abrasive East London art. Rather than a standalone bar that's owned and operated by a hotel, it feels like a natural extension of what was London's archetypal new-school boutique hotel when it opened in 2013.
The thing it does share with the above trio is a thirst for reinvention. Possibly not on the scale of Dandelyan, and without the comings and goings of industry-favourite head bartenders, but there's nonetheless the need to innovate, create new drinks and menus with new areas of interest. The new menu's full title, 'Notes from a Hotel Bar: A Compendium of Art and Spirits', is sufficiently long that it could only be created by a bartender.
The brains behind it is bar manager Chris Green, whose menu largely remains devoted to zingy, shaken drinks. Take the Forget the Smoke, for instance: built with Grey Goose, ginger, lemon and aquafaba, shaken and topped, it's like a sexed-up ginger ale, with a lick of peat on the finish. Or the Magical Realist, a riff on a margarita with Tapatio blanco tequila, bergamot and honey, whose herbed and salted rim gives it a big savoury punch.
The best I tried, though, was the Amoxicillin: using Milk & Honey's modern classic Penicillin cocktail as its inspiration, it mixes scotches including Craigellachie 13 and Elements of Islay's peated-up-to-11 expression with another bergamot hit in place of lemon to cut through its richness.
The drinks all suggest a deft touch, and reflect the Lobby Bar itself: not overtly conceptual, not set out to be scene-stealing, but a very good drinking den in one of London's best-loved hangouts.
Ace Hotel London Shoreditch, 100 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JQ; acehotel.com/london