The Best Bars in London
Just Opened London’s ‘Best Of’ series covers a combination of recently-opened venues and established London favourites to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
From a 100-year-old cocktail bar that’s survived two world wars to the home of the famous James Bond Martini, you can’t say you’ve ‘done’ London until you’ve visited these incredible bars – our pick of the best in London.
Ryan Chetiyawardana (Mr Lyan) is seemingly unstoppable and his new bar is causing quite the buzz around town. This time, it’s focused on food as much as booze and is described as, ‘blurring the boundaries between food and drink.’ We know, that sounds pretentious, but there’s actually a lot to like.
The bar here runs the length of the er, bar and also acts as a pass, so the bartenders are also chefs and vice versa. We think. Just go and try it out for yourself – £45 gets you nine courses on this flavour merry go round, which is pretty good value.
Also, look at those shiny yellow leather banquettes!
Cub, 153 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ
Bar Termini Centrale
A classy pit stop
Tony Conigliaro’s Bar Termini Centrale is exciting because it’s a new type of bar for London – the kind of place you nip into for a swift drink but that drink is actually a really decent cocktail. You are not particularly encouraged to linger.
The concise drinks list doesn’t invite freestyling either, with options steering you towards swift decision making. Don’t be put off by the bottled Negronis, though, as they’re some of the best in town. Snacks, too, are easily prepped and flung onto tables. None of this is criticism, rather admiration for their clear vision of what this bar should be.
The bar is based on Rome’s Termini bar, and was built around the idea that a station bar should be able to serve a customer an appropriate drink at any time of day. So, espressos in the morning, £7 Negronis pre-dinner. We’re not sure if they’ll let you do it the other way around. Worth a go?
Bar Termini Centrale, 31 Duke Street, W1U 1LG
Our perfect bar
This is one of our favourite bars in London and Felix Cohen is one of the best drinks-mixers (we refuse to use the word mixologist and so would he). One of our favourites at Every Cloud has been the Tomato Cowsmopolitan, which makes use of clear tomato juice – a fancy bit of trickery which keeps the flavour but not the colour. Sometimes, red just seems a bit… basic. It was inspired by the fact that drinking a bloody Mary post-midday feels weird, so Felix took the main elements and made a more evening-appropriate version.
That’s not on the menu right now, as it changes often, so we’re ordering the Good Morning, Vietnam, which is basically a Vietnamese style creamy iced coffee with booze. We’ve thought about this drink on a Monday morning before without even the slightest hint of shame.
The icing on the cake is the neighbourhood vibes. It’s small, packed with locals and the service is really individual. Yeah, it’s pretty much perfect in every way.
Every Cloud, 11A Morning Lane, E9 6ND
The Laughing Heart
Late night wine
The Laughing Heart is leading the way in late-night drinking. Here is a bar where we can rock up at 12am, order from an exciting wine list and eat a really decent, boldly flavoured plate of food (or three) and feel completely satisfied that everything is right with the world.
The Laughing Heart is the antithesis of All Bar One. We recommend spending some time with what is possibly the finest and most covetable natural wine list in London. Not into natural wine? This isn’t the bar for you.
There’s brilliant food, too. Who doesn’t want their bread to come with brown crab butter? Their pak choi with Shaoxing broth? Who could resist the temptation of something called Sichuan creme brulee? We can practically hear the French scoffing from here, and we like it.
The Laughing Heart, 277 Hackney Road, E2 8NA
Top of its game
Noble Rot has been open for a couple of years now but is still just as exciting. Part wine bar, part restaurant, it’s a collaboration with everyone’s favourite British seaside restaurant, The Sportsman. They even serve the famous slipsole here, albeit with smoked butter, not seaweed. More ‘London’, innit.
They also use any oxidised wine in their cooking; the ‘spoiled’ unpleasant flavours disappear when added to a sauce for, say, fish, leaving behind a sort of sherry character, which works well and ensures the wine doesn’t go to waste.
Noble Rot basically redefined the concept of a wine bar in the capital, with a vast, impeccably chosen list. It’s somewhere we’d happily get lost in if money were no option.
Noble Rot, 51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, WC1N 3NB
Cocktails from the world’s best bar
Richard Corrigan recently revamped his Mayfair restaurant bar into an uber sexy little drinking spot that is a destination in itself. In strong contrast to the traditional restaurant next door, the bar has a modern vibe with bold, patterned sofas, edgy mirror-panelled walls and a centrepiece steel antler head staring at you from the bar. But, stunning as it is, what really draws people across town is the cocktails – designed by world famous mixologist Gregory Buda who hails from the ‘best bar in the world’ Dead Rabbit in New York. Greg has carefully thought out each drink, using rare spirits and complex ingredients, many of which are sourced from Corrigan’s garden and farm Virginia Park Lodge in Ireland.
We loved the sharp and zesty Covent School Chorus Girl, with vodka and vermouth. The menu is full of complicated looking ingredients, so if you’re a bit overwhelmed, ask friendly Head Bartender Daniel and he’ll happily break it down for you. Other nice details include the menu, presented as a storybook, with beautiful illustrations following the tale of the bar, with cocktails named after characters important to Virginia’s Park’s history. Pair up your drink with a bag of the home-made bar snacks, such as Goat’s cheese popcorn and crispy skins (think prawn cracker meets pork crackling). Your taste buds sure won’t get bored here.
Dickie’s Bar, 28 Upper Grosvenor Street, W1K 7EH
From the Pidgin guys
We spot something new and shiny in Mayfair – it’s Magpie. From the owners of Hackney restaurant Pidgin, you know the food is going to be pretty hot stuff. Here it’s all about the dim sum and small plates, aiming to mirror traditional trolley service of Chinese restaurants. Thirsty? Hollar for the cocktail trolley (they’re big on trolleys here), dishing up pre-mixed serves with tongue-in-cheek names like Bo Diddly Rip Off, with mescal and Hellfire bitters. They’ve also got a large wine tap collection, and an intriguing sounding ‘off menu’ dessert – there are just too many reasons to tick this place off the list.
Magpie, 10 Heddon Street, W1B 4BX
Epic Champagne cocktails
This new French-style Bethnal Green bar has got itself a stellar reputation in the short time it’s been around, with rave reviews from bartenders and cocktail-lovers alike. The place is headed up by Chris Moore, who hails from the legendary Beaufort bar at the Savoy (so you know he’s going to have a serious eye on quality).
The bar uses lots of French artisanal products in its drinks, like the seasonal truffles in its White Truffle Negroni and Calvados in its Apples cocktail. There’s also a healthy selection of Champagne cocktails (oh oui!), each of which is exceptional. We can’t get enough of the Champagne Piña Colada: it’s icy and fresh, with rum, Agricole, pineapple, coconut sorbet and Moët. Say bonjour to Head Bartender Franck while you’re propped up on the bespoke handmade countertop, made up of hundreds of French centimes.
Coupette, 423 Bethnal Green Road, E2 0AN
American Bar at The Savoy
London’s longest-standing cocktail bar
If you ever wondered what old-school London was like, you should go and hang out at American Bar — it feels like this place has been completely frozen in time since it opened in the turn of the century back in 1904. From the art deco-style design to the sharply dressed bartenders in white jackets and ties, this place feels truly classic. It’s legendary, having survived two world wars and serving London’s richest and most famous (Winston Churchill was a regular).
It’s also where the renowned The Savoy Cocktail Book was born, which cemented the recipes of many classic cocktails, such as the Hanky Panky, a sweet martini made with a few dashes of bitter herbal liqueur Fernet Branca. The cocktail was invented by the bar’s famous female head bartender Ada ‘Coley’ Coleman back in the 1900s, and it’s one you’ve got to try when you’re here.
American Bar at The Savoy, 100 Strand, WC2R 0EZ
Duck & Waffle
Inventive cocktails 230 metres in the sky
Since it launched up in the clouds back in 2012, Duck & Waffle has been on every cocktail fan’s hit list. Make sure you get in and rock up looking swish (or at the very least, stay clear of trainers after 5 pm). You’ll be ushered into a see-through lift that will make your stomach flip as it whooshes up the ten floors in a few seconds flat. Pull up a stool and take in sweeping views of the big sprawling city.
With views like this, they could have just left it at that, but their cocktail game is top notch too. Rich Woods heads up all the drinks for the bar and every one of his serves is brimming with imagination. From the limited edition Nutella Negroni (available only for a few weeks every Easter) to a rum and Champagne cocktail served with a frozen avocado pit in the glass, everything you see and taste up here will wow your socks off.
Duck & Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Botanical cocktails and sexy décor
If you’re going to spend your well-earned £15 on a cocktail in London, we say blow it here. This Thamesside bar has scooped up armfuls of industry awards since it opened only three years ago. And you can see why: the cocktails are exceptional, headed up by cocktail rock star Ryan Chetiyawardana (a.k.a. Mr Lyan, the dude behind the infamous White Lyan bar). With bold and colourful floral designs, even the physical menus are a feast for the eyes — so wait ‘til you see the drinks! They all follow a botany theme, using edgy ingredients like tomato wine and nixtamalized blue corn.
And we haven’t even got to the décor yet, that slick yet organic Tom Dixon style, with soft pinks and rich emerald greens, along with a kickass view of the river. Try Flowers of Five from the new menu, with pink grapefruit vodka, passion fruit flower, leather (we said it was edgy), lemon bramble gin liqueur — a full flavour drink, with lots of interesting contrasts.
Dandelyan, 20 Upper Ground, SE1 9PD
Mixology in Marylebone
This basement Marylebone cocktail bar was one of the first on the London molecular mixology scene — here you’ll find incredible smoky potions, billowing smog, leaping flames, foams and all sorts of boozy magic. The bare-bricked bar is a special mishmash of old Victoria charm and plush vintage glamour, with worn Chesterfields, faded books on the shelves, and little coves out the back, with chandeliers and smart white leather sofas.
All the cocktails are playful, photogenic and seriously tasty, but the one to try is the bar’s infamous Cerez Joker, a vodka and raspberry cocktail served with a balloon garnish that is set alight — pop! Maybe not one for the faint-hearted…
Purl, 50–54 Blandford Street, W1U 7HX
Gordon’s Wine Bar
London’s oldest wine bar
Slip through the Dickensian-style door on Villiers Street, and down some creaking stairs you’ll find this candlelit wine cave — and that is no exaggeration. The oldest wine bar in London, around since 1809, it’s sure got a lot of stories to tell. It’s housed in the cellar of Kipling House, which housed famous tenants such as Samuel Pepys in the 1680s and Rudyard Kipling in the 1890s. Both Kipling and famous 20th-century writer G.K. Chesterton wrote some of their works right here in this bar.
Breaking many of the norms of today’s trendy modern wine bars, Gordon’s remains family-owned and serves strictly wine only. You can get hold of pretty much any type of wine imaginable here: vegan wine, organic wine, low-sulphate wine, and a nice little selection of sherries, Madeiras and ports too. We recommend teaming it up with a cheese plate — each cheese comes with a suggested wine pairing. Try the soft Swiss Tomme with a glass of smooth Château Hautes Graves d’-Arthus Grand Cru. Dreamy.
Gordon’s Wine Bar, 47 Villiers Street, WC2N 6NE
You haven’t ‘done’ the London cocktail scene until you’ve gone for a tipple in Nightjar. There are many speakeasies nowadays in the city, but this has to be one of the most famous and vibrant. These guys have nailed the vibe, with low-key candlelight and and live blues and jazz music. But stealing the show every time is the cocktails, which are truly and very fabulously over-the-top. We don’t think they do conventional glasses here — we’ve only ever seen cocktails served up in bird-shaped vessels, Victorian jugs, miniature fountains and skull heads. Expect boozy potions involving anything from fire to smoke or dry ice…
Although one of our current faves is actually pretty low key: the Africa Cocktail, which is served in a beautiful wooden bowl, with gin, Armagnac, buchu magnesium and fresh lime, and garnished with edible flowers. It’s light, tropical, and so drinkable, you’ll have to stop yourself chugging it all down in one go.
Nightjar, 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB
Famous martini trolley
If you’re doing the London cocktail scene seriously, you should really try a martini from the bar that’s world-famous for it. They’re served from your personal martini trolley, where a bespoke version will be made up according to your tastes — always stirred, never ever shaken.
Part of the magic of Connaught Bar is the warm family-like feel you get in here; although the bar and hotel might look classy and traditional, the vibe is far from stuck up. As well as their classics, you should also check out the new cocktail menu, like their take on the Bloody Mary, using celery foam instead of the stick. You also get a little recipe card about your chosen cocktail to take home and try out for yourself — nice touch!
Connaught Bar, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL
Famous low-key basement bar
Tourists will pass by this little basement bar none-the-wiser, but Londoners know the place to grab a nightcap is tucked underneath a quaint Petit Pois French restaurant on Hoxton Square. The guys here were doing the whole Shoreditch ‘basic’ trend before it became rife. This place plays on its low-rent thing, with simple bare brick walls and a chunky curtain drawn over the doors for that New York speakeasy touch.
They’re very serious about their cocktails down here, so expect some tasty stuff (basically everything on the menu). Try their staple Perfect Storm, with dark rum, honey, lemon, freshly squeezed ginger juice and plum brandy — it’s way, way too good to forget.
Happiness Forgets, 8–9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU
James Bond martinis
The James Bond bar — certainly one for the cocktail hit list. Tucked away on the cobbled streets of St James, it’s the place that is said to have inspired Sir Ian Fleming to give James Bond his signature martini cocktail. It’s truly British through and through, with its tight-lipped traditional portraits on the wall, Victorian furnishings and a charmingly out-of-date patterned carpet. It’s a very grown-up, calm ambience, and you can see why Sir Ian liked it so much here.
We don’t need to tell you that the classic Dukes martini is the one to try, although bartender Alessandro Palazzi has expanded the menu to a ten-strong martini collection — so pick your poison. On ordering your drink, they’ll wheel over the trolley and whip out the bottles fresh from the freezer, finished with a peel of fruit from the bowl.
Dukes Bar, 35 St. James’s Place, SW1A 1NY
69 Colebrooke Row
Renowned 1940s-style cocktail bar
This slick cocktail bar is tucked just off the main high street in Angel, down the cobbled Colebrooke Row. The bar officially has no name, but it’s usually titled after its address. It’s got a truly retro classic Italian feel, with a black and white tiled floor, red leather seats and a piano in the corner. It’s like you’ve stumbled onto a 1940s film noir bar scene — all that’s missing is the cigar smoke. Owner Tony Conigliaro is famous for his cocktail game, and many come here due to his big reputation.
The cocktails served here are stylishly theatrical — don’t leave without trying their famous Prairie Oyster, a deconstructed Bloody Mary with an ‘egg yolk’ made from clarified tomato juice. Swallow it down in one, along with the pool of Worcestershire sauce, pepper, shallots, red wine vinegar and oyster leaf. It’s the quickest hangover fix in town.
69 Colebrooke Row, N1 8AA