Glass smokes its first cigar in the May Fair Hotel’s new Cigar Room
When I first envisaged a career in journalism, I had imagined visiting far-flung destinations, sampling exotic cuisine and occasionally, possibly, trying something a little bit daring. Bungee-jumping off bridges, eating the odd potentially poisonous sea urchin or interviewing a notorious gangster, perhaps. Smoking, however, was not on the menu.
Which isn't to say that I don't enjoy the occasional menthol cigarette (I don’t Dad – I promise), or that I haven't taken a quick toke on someone's New Year's cigarello. But a whole cigar? Not a chance. Surely these are the reserve of sovereign-ring-sporting oligarchs or those afore-mentioned gangsters? Certainly cigar-smoking has always been, to my mind, something of a male rite-of-passage, and not for ladies or hipsters like me.
And so, when I found myself in the May Fair hotel's newly-built Cigar Room, it was not without trepidation that I accepted my first Havana cigar. Sat amongst a group of journalists, most of whom appeared to be quite at ease with cigar-etiquette (presumably writers from Cigar Weekly or The Tabacconist) I was briefly given the low-down on Cuban cigars by Daniel Pink from Hunters and Frankau – the only official supplier or genuine Havana cigars in the UK.
Having soaked a cigar overnight, Pink peeled away the leaves of the cigar one by one, explaining the care and handcraft involved in the production of Havana cigars, a skill requiring many years of training. He also, helpfully, pointed out which end of the cigar was which and the do’s and don’ts of cigar smoking. Thankfully, the do’s seem to far outweigh the don'ts. Cigars can be smoked over a long period of time – more than an hour – they can be left to go out and relit later and are not, it seems, the reserve of gentlemen.
In fact, the May Fair are looking to encourage a female clientele in their new Cigar Room. 'There is nothing sexier than a lady confidently smoking a cigar' said General Manager of the May Fair, Anthony Lee. Perhaps not, but, as the Manager of the Connaught for thirty years, and now the May Fair, Lee knows his ladies - so I decided to take his advice and give it a go.
With the help of the May Fair’s delightful staff, I removed the end of my cigar using the guillotine-esque cutter provided in the Cigar Room's beautiful ashtray boxes – designed by LSA – and lit up. All that was left to do at this point was to sit back and admire my surroundings.
The Cigar Room itself is quite a feat. Designed by Architect Graham Cox, of Cox and Filer, in conjunction with the May Fair's in-house design team, it meets the requirements of the smoking ban regulations, whilst retaining a cosy, sheltered and inviting environment.
The Cigar Room, as it says on the tin, feels like a room. Yet its walls are formed of a sort of chain-mail. The 2007 regulations regarding smoking indoors have a requirement for 50 per cent of a space to be open, which this metal mesh cleverly provides, whilst mitigating any wind or weather. A glass “roof”, open at the edges, completes the illusion. The chain-mail is hung about the room to create a sort of tented den which, combined with dark wood slats, luxurious sofas to sink into and ambient lighting recalling the firey end of a lit cigar, serves to give the space a definite exclusive feel.
The May Fair is open to the public and, once a month, hold a cigar masterclass for novices. Its menu of cigars, however, is world-class and can provide for the most accomplished or discerning cigar-connoisseur.
My first cigar was a delight. Accompanied by one of the Cigar Room's menu of specially designed cocktails – a tobacco-infused martini – I was surprised at the ease with which i learned to smoke it and the delicate flavour it gave. I was also delighted to find myself, cigar in hand, feeling simultaneously elegant and powerful.