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Every neighbourhood needs a rock-solid cocktail bar, and leafy East Dulwich now boasts its own alternative to the weekend slog into central London. Top-flight mixology comes courtesy of drinks consultant and co-owner Tim Oakley, whose list mixes pimped-up classics with innovative new blends. Bar snacks – from spicy chicken skewers to herby hot dogs – hit the mark, and the eclectic decor and knowingly cool music is fine tuned to the tastes of Lordship Lane’s 20- and 30-somethings.
Following a recent reconfiguration, pukka Indian Quilon has added a bijou, understatedly luxurious lounge to its offering. A shortish cocktail list accompanies chef Sriram Aylur’s Keralan street-food snack menu, with bittor (Angostura 1919, Grand Marnier, Amaretto and lime) or whygra (Amrut Indian whiskey and grappa) the best bets. The bar also serves interesting international beers and reasonably priced wines.
Like a panic room in which to escape Spitalfields’ urban grime, the new clubby, masculine bar at the original Hawksmoor is the sort of hideout in which you could lose an entire day and night – if they’d have you. A one-time strip joint, the cellar is newly resplendent in salvaged peacock and petrol-blue mirrors and Victorian tiles. Settle in at one of its squishy booths, or on a weighty swivel stool at its butch copper bar and work your way through some of the ’hood’s best cocktails.
Tipping its hat to superTuscan wines, this wine bar/restaurant offers a modern, relaxed ‘enoteca’ feel plus a 30-strong list of boutique Italian tipples selected by co-owner Grossi Wines – anything from Roberto Mazzi’s Poiega Valpolicella to a Pian de Guardi Super Tuscan from Fattoria il Lago. On the food front, Spitalfields’ wine buffs can indulge in a seasonal menu of stuzzichini (small plates), plus a selection of antipasti platters.
Building on the success of quirky café-cum-social club Drink Shop & Do, its owners have launched a destination bar next door, in a former sex shop. The venue’s sleazy past is referenced by a lurid neon sign and tiny what-the-butler-saw peepholes set into charcoal-grey walls. Dip into a range of 30 quality gins that are far from your usual off-licence suspects, then proceed to the downstairs disco, where the music is as diverse as the friendly but cool crowd.
This lounge bar, a sibling to Jerome Tauvron’s ultra-chic Kensington restaurant L’Etranger (just next door), offers Franco-Japanese small plates plus a jaw-dropping array of thrilling desserts. Special wines from the Meursault region are available by the glass each week as an addendum to the huge wine list, as well as prestige Champagnes, saké and so-called ‘molecular cocktails’.
The Clapham branch of mini-chain Del’Aziz boasts an intimate ground-floor cocktail bar. Good shouts from the cocktail list include aviation no.1 (a sweet-and-sour Calvados, cassis and absinthe martini) and shanoush (cinnamon-infused tequila with pear cognac, apple juice and green grapes), while the well-stocked cellar yields some interesting finds. There’s also a decent range of beers, plus a large selection of teas and shisha.
Buy into the Ramsay brand for a tenner at this compact street-level bar, the portal to the chef’s City juggernaut. The main act may be upstairs in the fantasy art-nouveau brasserie, but the bar adds quirky seating in the shape of pommel and vaulting horses, cracking martinis including the signature Bread Street (cinnamon-infused Grey Goose shaken with hazelnuts, grapes, apple and lime) and snacks including wood-fired pizzette, meatballs in tomato sauce or cured meats.
Scotland’s largest indie brewery has chosen a Camden backstreet for its first foray into London’s burgeoning craft beer scene. A cast of Aberdeenshire-brewed ales with studenty names sets the tone, while more hardcore brews such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Sink the Bismarck – at a mind-blowing 32% and 41% abv respectively – are not so much beers as Scotland’s own nuclear deterrent. One for geeks & geezers, if not Gucci loafers.
Following the sell-out success of craft beer purveyor The Euston Tap, its owners have turned the second of Euston station’s grand gatehouses into its cider-shifting mirror-image twin. On offer are 15 traditionally fermented draught ciders (on rotation from more than 100 artisan producers in the UK, Ireland, Normandy & further afield), plus American ‘hard’ brews and hundreds of different bottles.
The first UK franchise of similar bars in Manhattan and Paris, Flute’s well-kept Champagne stock is impressive: Moutardier rosé, Forget-Chemin Carte Blanche, and Chartogne-Taillet are some of the less ubiquitous marques to savour at well under £100, should a Bollinger Vieilles Vignes 2002 at a cool £1K not pop your cork. At the cheaper end, investigate dozens by the glass from £11, and assorted bubbly cocktails.
What was a dreary dive has been transformed into a witty, art nouveau-inspired space in the style of a good-time hoochie-coochie joint. In the evening, dolled-up girls serve a range of spiffing quaffs, and the list of cocktails runs from silk stockings to a properly tart aviation. A better bet than most of the voguish speakeasy-style bars currently flooding the capital, The Lucky Pig is well worth hogging.
For decades, this Putney pub’s bijou stage has hosted everyone from The Stones and The Who to KD Lang and U2. Now refurbed, its atmospheric live gig room (largely untouched) and lounge bar function as two separate spaces – so earplugs aren’t necessary with your glass of fruity house red, pint of local ale, or Brit comfort food nibbles aimed at today’s Cath Kidston classes.
This itinerant nightspot asks would-be drinkers to discover its secret weekly location via cryptic clues online. A pop-up replica of Bourne & Hollingsworth, it looks like a 1930s’ sitting room, and its walls visibly shake to thumping beats as a well-stocked bar tries to keep up with demand for cocktails, some served in teacups. Entrance is free at this weekends-only shindig.
With consultant Nick Strangeway and the Mexican Tequila Board involved, the offer at Wahaca’s downstairs bar in Soho has gone noticeably upmarket. The focus is now on some 80 different sorts of premium agave spirit, which are housed in a funky lemon cage – part of a general makeover that also introduces Babyfoot tables and late-night DJs to the mix.
Eleanor’s keeps a low profile within the plush Charing Cross hotel, specialising in classic cocktails such as negroni and white lady as well as more ingenious pours such as the Cajun Martini – pepper vodka garnished with pickled jalapeño and stuffed olives. But the bar’s signature tipple is the house sangria, inspired by the Castilian roots of Edward I’s wife Eleanor, after whom the bar is named.
The cocktail list of the newly reconfigured bar aligned to Roux at Parliament Square goes overboard with twee gastronomic headings, but a quick survey reveals some royal and parliamentary rinses: ‘William’s tipple’ combines Tanqueray 10, Kammerling’s ginseng liqueur and peach bitters to harmonious effect, while ‘white paper’ and ‘penultimate word’ are also vote winners.
A new kid on Chelsea Green, the Markham Inn makes its intentions clear with a smart black facade: this is a polished operation aiming for the long haul. A curved black bar sets the tone, before snappily dressed staff lead customers through to the warmly lit, boldly decorated dining room. Most starters double as sharing plates & a concise cocktail list mixes old favourites with young contenders. What’s more, prices are pleasingly low.
The guys behind the highly successful Princess of Shoreditch have turned what was the King’s Head into an aristocratically titled gastropub with good ales, decent wines & lively food, including dishes such as roasted Blackface lamb with root-vegetable purée, crispy pancetta and juniper jus.
South London meets the USA at the Plough – a self-styled ‘bar and kitchen’ within strolling distance of Clapham Junction. Inside, it has an airy, modernist look with a long bar, bare floors, plate-glass windows and big sofas, plus diner-style banquettes and refectory tables for those who fancy snacking on the small plates on offer. Booze also fosters the ‘special relationship’, with everything from Young’s Bitter to bottles of Sierra Nevada beer and some eclectic wines.
The re-born Rosendale is a study in handsome elegance with high ceilings, big Victorian windows and galvanised steel chandeliers pointed up by vintage theatre posters, maps and a wall of butterflies. An all-day bar menu caters to nibblers, but it pays to dip into the full line-up of seasonal Brit-inspired dishes, including meat from the owners’ farm in Hampshire and Josper-grilled offerings such as sea bass with samphire and crayfish.
Another glossy neighbourhood wine bar that elevates Covent Garden’s food-&-drink offering above the tourist tat, 10 Cases – as its name would suggest – focuses on its predominantly Old World wine list. Its premise – that the bar will stock 10 cases each of a red, white & rosé, which will be changed each time they run out – ensures that committed wine lovers always have a reason to return.
Pan-Asian food meets post-industrial design at this hip new venue. Spread over two levels, the restaurant emanates big-city cool with swathes of steel cladding, plank floors and multicoloured lampshades dangling from the ceiling. Expect ‘little bites’ of Chinese salt-and-chilli squid, refreshing Vietnamese papaya salad, Korean-style lamb racks or Thai-spiced baby chicken. Presentation is sharp, prices are fair, and easy-going flexibility is the name of the game.
This pub on the site of grimy Goldsmiths Tavern is most famous for hosting the much-lauded pop-up burger joint #Meateasy, which flamed brightly but briefly within it. The space retains some of the pub’s original Victorian gin-palace features, but has been tricked out in not-so-shabby chic, with bentwood chairs and berry tones. Enjoy a pint of the owners' Bonobo or Weasel alongside modish bar bites.
This restaurant’s crimson-and-green basement bar has given itself a naughty raison d’être in the form of a dedicated absinthe menu. You might expect the result to be a louche and libertine affair, but no such luck: the bar stays on its best behaviour in buttoned-up Knightsbridge. Liven up proceedings with absinthe la clandestine, served in the traditional style with slotted spoon, sugar lump and iced water drizzled from a delicate art nouveau glass fountain.
In line with other ultra-cool openings such as Drink, Shop and Do in King’s Cross and Brunswick House Café in Vauxhall, Kensal Rise now has its own café-cum-cocktail-bar-cum-social-club where the furniture and artworks are all for sale. Ad hoc events such as vintage clothes fairs and 80s’ nights (when any girl wearing shoulder pads gets a free cocktail from the multi-coloured bar) are all part of the fun.
If you’re looking for a more intimate Champagne-and-oysters experience than the animated (but noisy) Royal Exchange opposite, the elegant curved bar at the Door is a useful ‘plan B’. Set in an attractively converted bank, it offers a fairly short cocktail list, including martinez, pear and rosemary martini, ‘the trader’ (tequila, cinnamon, ginger and orange bitters) and Cornhill fruit cup –a turbo-charged take on Pimm’s.
Designer David Collins has looked to the past for inspiration for this new bar; Evelyn Waugh’s bright young things would no doubt have felt right at home sipping elegantly presented Manhattans in the swanky 1930s’-style surroundings. As it is, expect to find Whitehall politicos enjoying ‘food cocktails’ or a spot of top-flight caviar. At £500 per 50g, let’s hope they don’t pull that old expenses trick.
Having sworn not to divulge the exact location of this chilled cocktail bar on the City's fringes, all we can reveal is that the entrance is very 'cool'. Any thrill-seeker who rings the above number will be met at the appointed time and place by a greeter and shown the ingeniously-disguised door to a buzzy retro-modern brick bunker serving pear-and-cardamom sidecars and amaretto sours.
The original Midland Grand hotel has been restored to its enchanting former glory, and its recently opened main bar, which occupies the cathedral-like former booking hall, is a truly dramatic space. Expect lots of re-invented high-Victorian mixes tailored to 21st-century palates, such as refreshing ‘morning glory’ fizz and cosmopolitan daisy. Fine wines, ales in pewter tankards and a snack menu including moreish haggis balls complete the picture.
Perched atop of One New Change, seven storeys up, this informal, stylish restaurant and bar designed by Jean Nouvel enjoys a lofty setting with unbeatable views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the capital from its private terrace – part of one of the largest terraces in Europe.
This underground bar from the team behind Soho hotspot Purl harks back to the era of Victorian gin palaces – with a dash of molecular magic thrown in for good measure. There’s a lab for cocktail development, a cocktail emporium for private parties, and a dram shop stocking the full range of gins. As cool as the dry ice it uses in abundance, this new bar is bound to become another hidden gem.
This sleek, sophisticated bar is located right on the banks of the river (and, conveniently for some high rollers, close to the London helipad). With its alfresco terrace, it’s a pleasant spot for soaking up any lingering late-evening sunshine with a long drink or house twist on a classic cocktail, and a tapas-style platter of charcuterie or seafood in front of you. When the sun goes down, head to the cool, neon-lit bar to carry on the night.
If this hip destination were in showbiz, it would be a method actor: fresh from the imagination of mixologist extraordinaire Tony Conigliaro, it’s rammed with curios that bring to life the supposed home of fictional Aunt Wilhelmina. Every nook & cranny is crammed with vintage oil paintings, stuffed animals, antique silverware, & shelves of old books. Attention to detail carries over to the line-up of 13 exquisite cocktails, too.
With its art deco accents and plush furnishings, the Waldorf’s new lounge is a luxurious spot to sip a glass of vintage Champagne or a sophisticated cocktail. Try the very very pretty (Grand Marnier, honey syrup, grapefruit juice and Champagne) or the refined madam (pictured), a scented drink that combines gin, rose liqueur, fresh lime juice, cardamom syrup and lavender bitters, served with edible rose petals and a siphon of gin and rosewater.
Wyld Bar, at the W Hotel in Leicester Square, is the latest hip hangout for the bling brigade. A huge disco ball dominates the Studio 54-inspired lounge, which welcomes the likes of models and rock stars to its dancefloor and serves knockout cocktails such as sunburnt señorita & Mexican sunset (Tapatio blanco, Campari, agave syrup, lemon & bitters). Be prepared to pay big bucks for your drinks, with bottled spirits starting at £200.
The decadent decor, killer cocktails and all-out extravagance of The Bathhouse are transported to this second, ‘baby’ venue, which offers risqué cabaret and music in the same vein as the original. By day, Baby Bathhouse is a chic café that provides lunch to North London locals, perhaps taken on the garden terrace; after dark, it steps up the pace and serves discerning night owls with performance art and live music acts alongside their meals.
This gastropub – a sister to the original in Kensington – offers a menu that mixes dishes inspired by Britain’s colonial past, such as Cornish crab samosas and Singapore laksa, with traditional Brit favourites such as potted smoked haddock and Sunday roasts. What’s more, it boasts a suntrap garden with its own dedicated bar & barbecue, perfect for sunny days ahead. In summer, the river beckons – a stone’s throw away and perfect for a post-prandial stroll.
In January, happy hours are thin on the ground, but QV, the public bar on the ground floor of Soho stalwart Quo Vadis, should brighten up those dark nights. Wind down after work with expertly mixed cocktails, or enjoy an aperitif before dinner in the restaurant. The Hart brothers have applied the same attention to detail here as in their other venues, such as Fino and Barrafina. Make sure you're first on the scene at this stylish bar.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2008)... This ‘New East End’ pub/club hybrid is already home-from-home for a mix of local chillers and interesting club monkeys. The look is reclaimed Victoriana and recycled 60s infused with the spirit of Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club, with a surround-sound system that has already hosted acclaimed live acts including Martina Topley Bird, while club nights such as Potty Mouth Disco draw a hip crowd.
RECENTLY OPENED (June 2008)... This bar from Nick House and Piers Adam – the duo behind celebrity hot-spot Mahiki – has opened on the site of what was once simply called Zeta, on the ground floor of the London Hilton. In addition to the comprehensive range of whiskies, this refurbished bar and nightclub will also offer a selection of vintage wine, Champagne and all manner of organic cocktails, alongside dishes such as smoked salmon, grilled scallops or Aberdeen Angus steak.
Papa (Salvatore Calabrese of Bar Fifty St James’s) will be pleased with son Gerry’s new Hoxton club/diner, and the excellent drinks menu designed by current UK Bartenders Guild National champion, Andy Pearson. Syrups and compotes made from organic British produce provide the base for exotic liquors such as Spring Picnic (Tanqueray, pear, thyme, ginger liqueur and lemonade), served in witty teacups. Affordable wines include a worthy 2003 Lebanese red. Draught ales, where possible, demonstrate Calabrese’s green credentials. And bottled water is strictly eau no! East End grub fit for Mayfair palates (tarragon jellied eels and chicken and crayfish pie) is served all day.
Named after the department store in Are you being Served?, Bourne & Hollingsworth is a new pint-sized bar in Fitzrovia. What it lacks in dimension, it more than makes up for in personality, with retro furnishings, classic cocktails and themed evenings such as the 1920s-influenced ‘Prohibition Re-Bourne’ where guests have to find alcohol hidden in flowerpots.
The Coburg is the first of the two newly refurbished bars to open at The Connaught following the Mayfair hotel's £70 million renovations (The American Bar opens later this year). As well as classic cocktails and fine wines, there are good looks courtesy of uber-designer David Collins
Currently open to non-members, City newcomer The East Room comes from the same stable as Milk and Honey and The Player. There's an impressive selection of wines, with several options by the glass, cocktails plus a generous buffet
Mephisto is a new bar from the guys behind trendy West London hang-outs Cherry Jam and Neighbourhood. Like its siblings, the space features quirky interiors (a mix of leather, wood, flowery wallpaper and visuals projected on to the wall) and quirky cocktails (the Danish pastry is a blend of double cream, spiced rum and dark rum, flavoured with vanilla, cinnamon and butterscotch), plus house music from established DJs. 254 Edgware Road, W2, 020 7724 9436.
News reaches us that after months of rumours, pop diva Madonna and her film-maker hubby Guy Ritchie have purchased The Punchbowl pub on Mayfair’s Farm Street. The couple have been regulars of the 18th-century boozer for some years and, since the purchase, are deciding whether to turn it into a gastropub or a private members’ club. Surely Madonna’s most unlikely re-invention since she became a children’s writer?
Zebrano on Soho’s Ganton Street, has opened a second branch. Zebrano at The Establishment is set over three floors: there’s a laid-back balcony bar upstairs, a ground-floor restaurant with a Thai/Med menu, and a dance floor and bar area in the basement. 18 Greek Street, W1, 020 7287 2051.
Creating a successful bar chain (and one with personality) is no mean feat, so we’re pleased to hear that Mike Filpi, who started up the Eclipse chain of neighbourhood boutique bars, is the force behind Chelsea’s new Bartique. It serves up swanky cocktails like the Kentucky Matcha (bourbon, vanilla liqueur, green tea syrup and white grape and pomegranate liqueur with pomegranate juice) alongside bite-size food. There's also an early evening aperitif hour with complimentary nibbles to accompany drinks.
Spicing up the St Paul’s back streets, new lounge bar Mustard comes decked out in plenty of cowhide, and serves up gourmet burgers, sarnies and steaks at lunch, sharing platters in the evening and a range of classic and contemporary cocktails. Our favourite? The Mustard Chill – a heady mix of vodka, strawberry, mint and chilli. 2 Old Change Court, Peter’s Hill, EC4, 020 7236 5318.
Veteran restaurateur Claudio Pulze, who has opened over 30 restaurants in London including Aubergine and Zafferano, has moved away from the fine-dining scene with his latest venture, The Beehive, opening in mid April. Pulze is keen to stress that it’s not a ‘gastropub’, but a pub, good and proper, albeit one serving eggs Benedict, Caesar salad and an Italian take on fish and chips, made from top-notch ingredients for very fair prices. There’s also a short list of wines, beers and ales. 126 Crawford Street, W1
Two new branches of wine bar chain Corney & Barrow are opening in July. The first (Unit 3, 25 Fenchurch Avenue, EC3) will be traditional in style with opulent furnishings and classic decor. The second (12 New Street Square, EC4) will mirror the funky, contemporary look that has proved such a success at the chain’s slinky Broadgate outpost.