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40 Elephants: Exquisite cocktails in central London

by Sara Darling
40 Elephants

Where is 40 Elephants

Footsteps away from the hoi polloi of Westminster is a discreet hotel and an even more unusual bar! Nestled in the back streets behind Pall Mall is the five-star Great Scotland Yard Hotel which was the headquarters of London’s police force for over 200 years. Boasting 152 quirky bedrooms, where no two rooms are the same, this Grade II-listed building has become a desirable five-star hotel, with a rather unique bar.

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The residence was once home to Scottish royalty, architect Christopher Wren and poet John Milton, before becoming the base of the Met; and in keeping with its colourful history, the 40 Elephants Bar is a celebration of London’s most notorious female led gangsters from Elephant and Castle, who wreaked havoc across the city for over forty years.

Who were the 40 Elephants?

The gang had a penchant for dressing well and living the high life, funded by shoplifting and plundering thousands of pounds worth of goods. Their trademark was disguising themselves as maids from wealthy homes, before ransacking the houses of everything of worth. Led by Alice Diamond, the notorious gang reached its zenith in the roaring 20s, and the bar is decorated in the plush Art Deco style, to echo the highlife the mob enjoyed, completed with a Nicola Green print, ‘Bob Haired Bandit’ embellished with diamond dust, which takes pride of place above the fireplace.

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On my mid-week visit, I was surprised to discover a buzzy atmosphere, and with just 24 covers, there are lots of nooks and crannies to plan mischief! Saturated in velvet and mirrors, the central point is a chandelier consisting of shards of broken glass- inspired by the smash-and-grab antics and the walls are decorated with portraits of the 40 gang, whilst items from their thefts are displayed under glass table tops, The drinks list reads as a homage to the gang’s antics, completed with an imposing portrait of Julie Diamond, the getaway driver who was never caught by the police.

What to drink

The bar has unveiled a new, inventive cocktail menu, with intriguing concoctions to inspire. , ‘Puttin’ on the Posh’ is a reference to how the women used to dress up to pass unnoticed in upmarket stores. The ‘Keep em’ running’ cocktail is a juicy blend of Zacapa 23 Rum, Belsazar White, Chambord, lemongrass, citrus and pineapple bitter, and is named after the double-bluff getaway where the thieves had already handed their booty to an accomplice before causing a kerfuffle in a glamorous car, which always confounded the police!

Or enjoy the ‘Disguised as Maids’ cocktail, consisting of Tanqueray Royale, Broken Clock vodka, apricot, blackberry, Green Chartreuse, citrus, and syrup, which is a reference to the habit the gang undertook in order to gain entry to wealthy homes. By using false references, they gained access to the properties, scoping the valuables which they would eventually embezzle. Sometimes, some of the women would also seduce the man of the house, and would ask to be paid for their silence!

If you’ve exhausted the rooftop bars and fancy something a little bit more edgy, you’ll love the vibe at 40 Elephants. If you’re staying the night in one of the suites, the cocktails just get even more tempting!

40 Elephants at Great Scotland Yard Hotel
3-5 Great Scotland Yard
United Kingdom

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