Best bars in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars

Both Clerkenwell + Blackfriars offer a superb selection of bars, all included here in SquareMeal’s list of the best bars in the area. Whether it’s the hip atmosphere of Clerkenwell or the riverside beauty of Blackfriars you prefer, you are certain to find the perfect bar in either area with this SquareMeal guide. You may also want to take a look at SquareMeal’s guide to the best bars in the neighbouring City and Southbank + Shad Thames just across the river.

Posted on 18 April 2018

Best bars in Clerkenwell + Blackfriars

Every one of the bars and pubs in London with al fresco drinking featured in SquareMeal’s list of London’s best bars and pubs for alfresco drinking have been tried and tested by critics and our own customers. For more drinking inspiration, see our recommendations for the best bars in London. Each SquareMeal listing features an independent review, as well as reviews from those who have visited, together with unique special offers such as free drinks and discounts.


Jerusalem Tavern

Jerusalem Tavern

By rights, The Jerusalem Tavern should be full to bursting with camera-wielding American tourists, but this higgledy-piggledy historic pub remains proudly off the beaten track. The tourists’ loss is the local workforce’s gain; this is a boozer to be proud of. Admittedly, its olde-worlde credentials are a little deceptive: there’s been a pub by that name in the area since medieval times, but they’ve only been pulling pints in this 18th-century building since the 1990s. Suffolk brewery St Peter’s runs the show with a keen eye on quality control – their own beers (six at a time on the taps) are as fresh and well kept as you would expect. Prices are favourable, so enjoy the likes of honey porter, IPA or English lager with upper-crust pub grub including Scotch eggs and sourdough doorstep sandwiches.

Jerusalem Tavern

The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell

The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell

The ‘B’ word (that’s B for ‘boutique’) looms large at the Zetter Townhouse hotel, not least in the Zetter Townhouse Cocktail Lounge with richly decadent colour schemes, assorted sofas, armchairs and “slightly sinister” artworks conjuring up the salon of some Victorian adventurer. The brainchild of cocktail whizz Tony Conigliaro and chef Ben Boeynaems, the space is suitably evocative and indulgent – just right for what follows. How about The Clipper (whisky, samphire syrup and a dash of absinthe) or Priory Sour (whiskey, this time, with beurre noisette and malted barley)? Alternatively go for a Lime Blossom fizz if you prefer something a little more effervescent (all the cordials and infusions are made in-house). The menu is short and to the point – assorted sharing boards, mugs of soup, nibbles and small plates such as potted smoked mackerel with pickled cucumber.

The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell

City of London Distillery & Bar

City of London Distillery & Bar

A promising waft of fermenting gin greets punters as they descend the stairs into this specialist bar down windy Bride Lane. Which ?is exactly what you would expect of a distillery – yes, the dramatically illuminated copper stills sparkling behind a glass wall are for more than display purposes. True to the name, this place really does produce City of London gin, having resurrected the Square Mile's distilling tradition after an absence of nearly two centuries. There are various ways of discovering the 200 brands available – via an educational tour, a tasting session or simply through an expertly made classic cocktail or G&T. A sophisticated speakeasy vibe prevails in this stylish, subterranean drinking den, and its table service, capacious armchairs, bookable seats and curtained-off corners beat a scrum at the bar any day of the week.

City of London Distillery & Bar

Harrild & Sons

Harrild & Sons

Harrild & Sons is that rare thing in the City, a bar that is suitable for both loafers and suits. Occupying a former printworks, it's now done up as a new-wave boozer in brick and raw timber with a heavyweight coppertop bar, skylit dining room and small-scale beer garden. Hip, hoppy craft beers from names such as Mikkeller and Burning Sky, plus a dedicated G&T menu, mark it out as a modern sort of place – though Harrild & Sons generously retains fair pub prices for the basics, while the big spenders can head downstairs to the 5cc drinking den, where top-flight whiskies and ace cocktails await: the H&S Collins with Scotch, ginger beer, lemon marmalade and wheat beer, for example. The food is gussied-up pub grub – Wagyu burgers, crispy duck salad, grilled lobster and chips.

Harrild & Sons

Ask For Janice

Ask For Janice

The name is inspired by a Beastie Boys track, but a Michael Jackson album is your clue to uncovering this Smithfield diner’s hidden secret – an ‘off the wall’ liquor lair below stairs (imagine a wood-panelled box room tagged with graffiti). Gin is the craic here, with more than 50 brands (and counting) in cocktails or in your ‘perfect serve’ G&T which, according to Janice, could well be Opihr with Fevertree tonic water, cardamom and orange. There’s also an extensive range of craft beers ranging from Hackney Hopster to Fuller’s Wild River (also available in taster flights), while 18 accessibly priced wines promise the likes of Portuguese vinho verde and Argentinian Malbec. Janice’s favourite snacks are yours for the asking for a modest outlay – think deep-fried sprats, chicken crackling and lardo on toast with peppers and pickled chilli.

Ask For Janice

Le Bar

Le Bar

Lovers of all things Gallic should swing by Club Gascon's ‘annex' , a sophisticated cocktail bar offering French small plates. The menu is proudly regionalist, with a great line in charcuterie, artisan cheese and all manner of ‘piggy' and ‘ducky' delights: pick from snacks of pig’s trotter cake and truffled cheese baguette, or go for heartier options, such as oyster, mushroom and black pudding salad, or foie gras with mussels. The ‘express lunch’ menu remains a steal for a dish of the day, plus a starter, glass of wine and pudding such as baked brandy custard. Other deals, including monthly wine dinners and oyster evenings, are also well worth considering. “Great for date nights”, says a fan.

Le Bar