Compiled by Isabel Clift
Sip, glug and stumble your way around London with this, the guide to the capital’s best bars according to our team of local expert bloggers.
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Gilbert Scott Bar, Kings Cross from Victoria Philpott, VickyFlipFlop Travels
For a special occasion a Bloody Mary at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel’s Gilbert Scott bar hits the spot. The strength of the vodka and fancy presentation makes every one of the ten pounds worth it. You can sup it in beautiful, elegant surroundings before crawling over the road to the Wetherspoons to make your money stretch a bit further.
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, England NW1 2AR; More info
The London Cocktail Club, Fitzrovia from John James Goodman, The London Cocktail Club
The London cocktail club is the perfect party spot. The atmosphere kicks off straight after work and goes through till midnight. Expect amazing cocktails, reasonable prices and old school sing-a-longs, with the most friendly staff we have met in ages!
61 Goodge Street, London W1T 1TL; More info
Zenna Bar, Soho from Dan Thompson, Vesper Black
In celebration of World Gin Day, this year in June Bombay Sapphire opened its Bombay Sapphire Blue Rooms in Soho at the Zenna Bar. Escape central London and sample exclusive cocktails like the Bombay Sapphire Aviation. It’s in residence until the 9th of September.
77 Dean Street, London, W1D 3SH; More info
Callooh Callay, Shoreditch from Tom Butler, London Calling
A great little bar in the heart of Shoreditch on Rivington Street. Ideal for being somewhere to start the night or as a destination venue. Cocktails are varied and really well-made. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable and they’ve got some great bar snacks to go with the liquid refreshment.
5 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY; More info
Frank’s Café & Campari Bar, Peckham from Isabel Clift, HostelBookers
Freshly mixed negronis, aperol spritzs and Campari four ways (on the rocks, with orange, soda or Prosecco) brings an Italian theme to Frank’s, a summer outdoor pop-up on the roof of Peckham multistory car park. Cocktail in hand, delish plate of food in front of you, watch the sunset wink off the Shard, the Gherkin and the London Eye spread out in panorama below. I’m finding it too hard to recommend just one place – for more mixes, go for a Bramble at Seven in Brixton’s Market Row, or a frozen Margarita at Rita’s in Dalston.
Purl, Marylebone from Andrew, Design my Night
Purl is a beautiful 1920s inspired cocktail bar for the adventurous and pleasure seeking. Ranging from classical to crazy, their cocktails are brilliant laboratory temptations using aroma, fogs, airs, foams, food and liquid nitrogen to create a cocktail bar experience that goes beyond your imagination. Combined with a gorgeous time-warping setting of cosy alcoves, jazz tinkling in the background and the shimmering light of lush chandeliers this speakeasy bar in Marylebone is a must-visit when in London.
50/54 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HX; More info
Skylounge, Tower Hill by Christian Day, Fluid London
It’s practically an unspoken rule in London that all the best bars are underground, hidden in basements (see Freud, The Whistling Shop, Purl, The Nightjar, etc) so it may come as a surprise to see Skylounge as my number one tip. The views from this swanky rooftop hotel cocktail bar across to the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, City Hall, the Shard, the Gherkin and St. Paul’s are superb and anyone with an ounce of romance in their body will want to impress a date up here. The Hanoi High cocktail is a must and if you’re peckish, there’s even a BBQ on hand. Bonus.
7 Pepys Street London, EC3N 4AF; More info
Coco Momo, Holborn from Gotje, HostelBookers Deutschland
Coco Momo near Holborn Station have some unusual creations, like their Applestrudel Martini. It’s a small café/bar so the atmosphere is really nice.
64 Theobalds Road WC1X 8SF; More info
Rules, Covent Garden by Damien, Social and Cocktail
The bar at Rules (London’s oldest restaurant) is a real treat for cocktail lovers and hard to fault. Exemplary service and beautifully executed classically-styled drinks are always a winning combination but Rules somehow adds something a little special you can’t quite put your finger on to make a trip just that bit more essential.
35 Maiden Lane, London, WC2E 7LB; More info
Ruby’s, Dalston by Imogen Parson, Miss Immy’s London
If you find yourself in trendy Dalston, Miss Immy’s London recommends you pop along to Ruby’s Bar. It’s discreetly located in a basement and was a Chinese takeaway in its former life. Decor is cosy and eclectic, whilst the staff are friendly and make top-notch cocktails served in old milk bottles and tin mugs. The Blackberry Mojito is amazing!
76, Stoke Newington Road, London, N16 7XB; More info
Happiness Forgets, Shoreditch from Mark, the Cocktail Geek
Happiness Forgets offer some of the most flavoursome and well-made cocktails in the city from their low-rent basement bar in Shoreditch. The place has an authentic charm that comes from the friendly, knowledgeable staff and a focus on quality.
8-9 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, London, N1 6NU; More info
Ginstitute, Notting Hill from Lucy Hatherall, Completely London
Blend your very own gin cocktails at the West London ‘Ginstitute’, a small-scale replica of a Victorian gin palace located above Notting Hill’s Portobello Star. Enter the Still Room, where, under the watchful eye of Ginstitute director Jake Burger, you’ll be given the chance to taste and blend 25 different flavoured distillates to create your signature gin. Concoction complete, it’s yours to take home, while your recipe is kept on file should you want to order another bottle…
The Portobello Star, 171 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London, W11 2DY; More info
Courthouse Hotel, Soho by Matt Brown, Londonist
I’d recommend the Courthouse Hotel bar for cocktails. Not only do they serve a decent Martini, but you can drink it while sat in a converted prison cell, complete with original toilet. As it’s name suggests, the building was previously a court house, passing judgment on the likes of Mick Jagger and Oscar Wilde. It’s on Great Marlborough Street opposite Carnaby Street.
19-21 Great Marlborough Street, London W1F 7HL; More info
Bar Polski, Holborn from Irene, HostelBookers Espana
If you are a vodka drinker, you have to try Bar Polski. This little Polish bar right behind Holborn station is perfect for an evening drink. It offers a good selection of vodka cocktails in a relaxed atmosphere. Definitely worth visiting!
1 Little Turnstile Holborn, London WC1V 7DX; Photo: Fluid Eating
The Buckingham Arms, Victoria by Jayne, Young’s
A classic example of a traditional Victorian public house, the Buckingham Arms in Petty France has been here since 1804 or thereabouts. We serve a variety of cask ales including Young’s London Gold, plus excellent food and friendly service and we’re practically next door to Buckingham Palace!
The Pineapple, Kentish Town from Jonno, the London Pub Crawl Co.
The Pineapple is a fantastic locals’ pub tucked away from Kentish Town Road on Leverton Street. The cosy front bar plays host to quiz nights and many locals just enjoy the friendly atmosphere. Out the back is a conservatory area and a small garden. At various times of the year the Pineapple hosts its very own real ale festival with barrels of ale stacked high in the garden.
51 Leverton Street, London, NW5 2NX; Photo: Ewan-M
Dean Swift, London Bridge from Mark, Real Ale Reviews
Twilight is arguably the best time to visit the Dean Swift, perched just behind Tower Bridge on the south side of the Thames. Cosy, unfussy, with a diverse range of cask ale from across the UK. Daily food specials change but it’s hard to go wrong with burger and spud – fillings are stacked high and chips disobey the size of their bowls. Gorge, relax, and walk it all off along Southwark’s river bank under the twinkling lights of Tower Bridge.
Museum Tavern, Holborn from Mario, HostelBookers em Português
An authentic old Victorian pub across the street from the British Museum. After visiting the museum, absorb a different kind of culture through another essential British experience – downing a pint of real ale!
The Parcel Yard, Kings Cross from Neil Walker, Eating isn’t Cheating
Underneath the new domed roof of the King’s Cross concourse you’ll find The Parcel Yard, a stunning Fuller’s Brewery pub serving up excellent food alongside a full range of Fuller’s beers and an ever changing selection of guest ales from local breweries. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to grab a pint of their excellent Bengal Lancer IPA which regularly appears as a special, or the wonderfully hoppy Chiswick Bitter or smooth London Porter which are permanents on the bar, meaning there’s always a great beer to be had.
Unit 8, Shared Service Yard, Goods Way, King’s Cross Station, London, N1C 4AH; More info
The Village, Walthamstow from John Cryne, CAMRA
The London Branches of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) are coordinating a range of beer and pub activities across London this summer. Check out the Cask Ale Festival happening at ‘The Village’ pub in Walthamstow from the 26th- 27th August. You can take advantage of the free WIFI whilst tasting traditional ales in this classic pub with modern amenities. If you miss this then don’t worry other events happening around London include brewery trips; meet the brewer events; pub crawls and open events at many of London’s brewers. You can find more details here: London City of Beer
The Village, 31 Orford Road, Walthamstow Village, London E17 9NL; More info
Southampton Arms, Kentish Town from Tom Butler, London Calling
The only dedicated Ale and Cider house in London to only sell beers and ciders from small independent UK breweries. A good old-fashioned pub. They don’t take bookings or reserve tables and it’s a cash bar. A proper pub serving proper beer.
139 Highgate Road, London NW5 ILE; More info
The Rake, Borough Market from Darren Norbury, Beer Today
This small but perfectly formed bar has a range of cask and keg beers from all over the country, as well as foreign brews. There is also a vast selection of international bottled beers. The bar is informal with a covered outside seating area. For a more traditional British pub experience, but also with a huge selection of beer, try the Market Porter pub nearby which is a must-visit too.
14a Winchester Walk London SE1 9AG; More info
The Bree Louise, Euston from Chris Draper, Great British Beer
A really great real-ale pub very close to Euston station, it has excellent food (pies!) and an extensive range of great British beers. Discounts for students, NHS staff, the armed forces and Camra members. Can be found by turning right coming out of Euston Station – it is really convenient for travellers and a gem of a pub. Tell them GreatBritishBeer.co.uk sent you if you visit!
Queens Head, Kings Cross from Mark Fletcher, Real Ale Reviews
Trekking across London can be thirsty business – luckily the Queen’s Head is little more than a javelin’s throw from Kings Cross station and strategically placed on the walk towards the river. A small but quirky selection of bottled beer complements a handful of cask ales and usually a cider, all set amongst comfy chairs, wooden tables and Wi-Fi. A blues infused iPod playlist, mellow but gusty, is perfect for a well earned afternoon break. The grub’s good too (mmm…Ploughman’s) and an evening visit may end in tapping toes to live jazz.
Brewdog, Camden by Matthew Curtis, Total Ales
If I could pick one bar to recommend in London it would be the buzzing Brewdog Camden located on Bayham Street, just behind Camden High Street and markets. They serve great beer from their own brewery plus a wide range of craft beer from both UK and international breweries and always have something interesting on tap. On top of this the food consists of an excellent range of burgers and pizzas designed by Masterchef winner Tim Anderson. A must visit if you are a beer lover in the Camden area!
Mason & Taylor, Shoreditch from Tom Butler, London Calling
A great bar that serves countless real ales from all over the world. The beer menu changes every few months and on the last visit the Bethnal Pale Ale seemed a huge favourite! Perfect for after work drinks, catching up with friends or just enjoying a quiet pint in the heart of London with Brick Lane on its doorstep (literally!).
51-55 Bethnal Green Rd London E1 6LA; More info
26 The Craft Beer Co., Clerkenwell by Jonathan, Best London Pubs
A new additional to London is the exciting Craft Beer Company pub in the famous Leather Lane. Lovers of fine ales and lager will think they have walked into heaven with 16 real ale pumps and 18 lager taps to tempt the most discerning beer lover. The pub has been lovingly refurbished and retains the wonderful mirrored clock face ceiling and Victorian architecture. What could be better after a wander down one of London’s famous markets than settling in for a nice pint?
82 Leather Lane, Clerkenwell, London EC1N 7TR; More info
Kernel Brewery, Bermondsey from Lucy Hatherall, Completely London
For a taste of real London, look no further than South London’s Kernel Brewery, which prides itself on brewing real ales from original recipes drawn from the capital’s cellar archives. Choose from Pale India Ales, old school London Porters or even Imperial Stouts from their ever-changing menu, where beers are ‘bottled alive’ to get the most taste. Originally based under the arches at Bermondsey’s Maltby Street, they’ve moved (only a little further up the road) to Arch 11. Pop in on a Saturday to purchase your IPA first hand.
Bar Kick, Shoreditch from Leo, Match Pint
For a great place to watch the games I recommend Bar Kick in Shoreditch, an excellent bar with more table football tables than you can shake a stick out and a great vibe. Sport doesn’t come in better formats, screens are all over the place and there’s top food.
126-127 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London, E1 6JE; More info
The Faltering Fullback, Finsbury Park from Davide Corradi of HostelBookers Italia
Hands down one the best beer gardens in London, a proper hidden gem. It has a nice bar with friendly people and loads of random crazy stuff hanging on the ceiling and a separate room with outdoor furniture, a jukebox and a big screen to watch sport and have a bite of Thai food. But what makes this place the perfect summer pub is the multilevel beer garden, ideal to sip a pint or two of their best beers. Leffe and London Pride on tap.
19 Perth Road Finsbury Park, London N4 3HB; More info
Jetlag Bar, Fitzrovia from John Liptrot, Live Sports Bars
If you’re looking for a bar or pub to watch sports in London look no further than Jetlag Sports Bar on Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia. It’s the perfect place to watch just about any televised sport; great atmosphere, big screens and reasonable prices.
L’entrepot, Hackney Downs from Tom Butler, London Calling
Part of the Borough Wine family which started up seven years ago. This place is all about wine, they don’t serve anything else. It’s a little bit ‘warehousey’, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about their wines and are more than happy to give recommendations should you be struggling to choose from the huge selection on offer.
230 Dalston Lane. London. E8 1LA; Photo: Wanton Flavours
Terroirs Wine Bar and Restaurant, Trafalgar Square from Christina Pickard, Wine with Christina
Terroirs has become a mecca for London winos and foodies. During the day pull up a stool at the upstairs bar and strike up a conversation with the (most likely French) barman. In the evening, settle into a cosy corner table downstairs and order several small sharing plates from the reasonably priced menu comprised of simple yet delicious French-inspired rustic dishes. Pair them with a few glasses from London’s most comprehensive list of ‘natural’ wines (artisan wines made with little to no chemical intervention). If you love Terroirs, try her sister restaurants, Brawn and Soif.
5 William IV Street London WC2N 4DW; More info
Jancis: Not aimed at the wine snob or connoisseur but an ideal place to meet people in, and spilling outside, a long-established, atmospheric cellar close to the Thames and Embankment tube station. Lots of choice of wines by the 175ml glass at round £5. Charl: A haven to vino lovers, the place is almost always packed. As soon as you descend the wobbly stairs, just head straight to the bar and forget about queuing.
47 Villiers Street. Charing Cross. London. WC2N 6NE; More info
Planet of the Grapes, City of London from Henry Jeffreys, World of Booze
As a wine bore I like to drink the good stuff when I’m out in London. Sadly at most restaurants a 300% mark-up is usual, making anything but the house wine prohibitively expensive. My tips for impecunious connoisseurs is to visit Planet of the Grapes wine bar in the City where you choose a bottle at retail price and then they charge you £10 to drink it in the bar. What’s more they do simple but delicious food such as cheese, charcuterie and pies so that you don’t get too drunk. How very civilised!
9 Bulls Head Passage, London EC3V 1LU; More info
Vinoteca, Clerkenwell from Matthew Jukes
The best wine bar chain (with three branches in the trendiest parts of town) is Vinoteca. It has a superb range of wines at great prices, very knowledgeable staff and also great menus this is the place to discover new wines in a very relaxed atmosphere. With 300 wines and also a take-away policy, too, with discounted prices this is the ultimate, modern wine experience and I heartily recommend it.
7 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 4AA; More info
Bar Pepito, Kings Cross from Tom Lewis, Cambridge Wine Blogger
My favourite way to spend an evening in London after work is to meet up with friends for sherries and a plate of salami and cheeses. Pepito’s in Kings Cross is a broom cupboard of an Andalusian bodega tucked away in a inauspicious courtyard just off the Euston Road; it’s tiny and there are no reservations, but the jamon is carved off the bone and the sherry selection is to die for. Choose from a crisp, tangy fino or manzanilla before moving onto the darker, more complex styles like Palo Cortado or an unctuously sweet PX. If you’re in the mood for a meal rather than a snack, there is a menu of cooked food and also a good wine selection. Worth seeking out.
3 Varnishers Yard The Regent Quarter, Kings Cross, London N1 9FD; More info
Wine Pantry, Borough Market from Robin Goldsmith, Robin’s Food and Drink Blog
With English wine regularly winning international awards, now is the time to experience what all the fuss is about. Wine Pantry at London’s famous Borough Market offers the visitor the opportunity to taste and buy many of England’s finest wines. In a fascinating area of London, you can combine a trip to some great tourist attractions with a visit to the world-famous food market. At Wine Pantry, you can find out at first hand why English wine is gaining such a fantastic reputation.
1 Stoney Street, Borough Market, SE1 9AA; More info
28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen, Marylebone from Jimmy Smith, West London Wine School
A wine enthusiast’s dream with excellent wine and food. An extensive wine list is on hand, as well as a daily-changing by-the-glass menu with a fantastic “flight offer” of a wine style/grape of the week with three well-priced tasting glasses. Staff are knowledgeable and very helpful. Thoroughly recommended.
17-19 Marylebone, London, W1U 2NE; More info
Bunga Bunga, Battersea from Becky, Global Grasshopper
For those who like their wine bar surroundings to be a little bit different, try the Bunga Bunga Bar in Battersea. Bunga Bunga - named after the notorious parties thrown by infamous former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi – is a wonderfully wacky bar, pizzeria and karaoke joint all rolled into one. It has a kitsch Italian theme and inside you’ll find Vespa helmets a-plenty and a bar shaped like a gondola. Drink Prosecco, Bellinis or cocktails from mugs shaped like the ex Premier’s head or share giant pitchers formed like miniature Leaning Tower of Pisas.
37 Battersea Bridge Road, London, SW11 3BA; More info
Agree/disagree? Let us know in the comments… and happy drinking!
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Thanks to the bloggers, venue websites and Flickr users for the photos. Please note, Flickr images were held under the Creative Commons licence at the time of publication.