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.
1 Dover Street, W1S 4LD
It's worth remembering that, before it turns into a full-on party, this doolally 1950s-style Polynesian cabana is a civilised spot for a sundowner. Mayfair legend Mahiki is not the place for an Aperol Spritz, but they'll make one if you really must. The big attraction here is a line-up of rum punches, grogs and slings with names like Bikini Blast, Krakatoa, Bajan Whirlpool and ‘vicious’ absinthe-spiked Baron Samedi's Brew – all served in assorted tiki vessels. Otherwise, Armada Treasure Chest and Queen Ann's Revenge (a magnum of Cîroc, two bottles of Cristal and 20 shots) are the sort of fishbowls that would feature large on Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents were the grown-ups snooping on their misbehaving progeny in Antigua rather than Ayia Napa. Asian snacks act as damage limitation as the action heats up in the downstairs club.
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Beaufort Bar at The Savoy
£30 - £49
The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0ET
If the Savoy’s American Bar is Frank Sinatra doing it his way, the Beaufort Bar is Billie Holiday singing the blues: seductive and smooth, with an edge of darkness. There aren't many bars in London that match the sheer glamour of the Beaufort, with its sleek black and gold decor, complemented by silky service. Its latest menu pays tribute to the long history of the Savoy, with drinks including the Garden of Memories, a fresh mix of Tequila, Suze, passion fruit, St Germain and lime, inspired by one of the hotel’s most lavish parties, when its courtyard was flooded and dinner was served on gondolas. A few of the Savoy’s famous guests have inspired cocktails too: The Grass is Always Greener is a homage to crooner Tom Jones; while Under the Stars is a Woodford Reserve Old Fashioned twist for Fred Astaire, who once danced on the roof of the hotel. A jaw-dropping range of rare and vintage spirits is also on offer for those with deep pockets.
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Mews of Mayfair Lounge Bar
10 Lancashire Court, New Bond Street, London, W1S 1EY
Set in a historic jumble of passageways that look like a designer version of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley, the tables outside this upscale restaurant/bar are colonised by Miu Miu-clad ‘magical creatures' who never appear to work for a living. Suitable sips for the assembled company might include lychee and ginger (a Smirnoff Black ‘oriental caipiroska') or new Highland (a Glenmorangie whisky sour with maple syrup). In the shimmery downstairs DJ lounge, you can also chill out with Champagne or Picpoul and Pinot Grigio (under £30). Wizard eats range from chilli popcorn and toasted maize to salads, charcuterie and cheese plates, upmarket toasties, burgers, fish and chips and oysters. Mind you, to look at some of the wand-thin specimens within, you'd wager they exist on a diet of edamame beans and lotus blossom tea.
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Nobu Berkeley St (bar)
15 Berkeley Street, London, W1J 8DY
Wondrously exotic lounges such as The Blue Bar and Artesian are the late David Collins’ legacy to London's cocktail scene, but at his creative peak, the Irish designer came up with this fabulously ethereal bar at Nobu Berkeley St – the Tardis as imagined for a Japanese remake of Doctor Who, perhaps. Once inside, you can pair Eurasian tapas and sushi platters with silkily superior saké, pedigree French fizz or a selection of top-notch Tokyopolitans. Nifty ideas include Nashi Bottle (a pear, rosemary, orgéat and Russian vodka sour, served in a milk bottle) and Silk Road (a Manhattan based on Nikka whisky, dates and Grand Marnier). Otherwise, One Shade of Grey (a blue Curaçao-laced twist on a Negroni, ‘served sadistically short’) is a cheapish thrill, while Japanese Painkiller (Nobu's take on New York's modern whisky classic, Penicillin) reportedly cures all ills.
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Milk & Honey
61 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NU
Milk & Honey remains as relevant today as it was in 2002, when this private members' club for grown-ups first got Soho excited. Unlike some venues, you can actually make it past reception, even if you haven't paid your £400 annual dues. How come? If you’re a non-member with a prior reservation, you simply have to accept the house rules and you’ll be welcome in the ground-floor bar until 11pm. If you want to linger longer (you will), best get pally with a member rather than face the Cinderella walk of shame long before the clock strikes midnight. Champagne starts at £55 (BYO glass slipper) and wines by the glass are easy money, but you'd be mad to miss out on Milk & Honey’s old school sips such as Boulevardier, Floradora and Prescription Julep – top picks from a tempting range of spot-on shakes, stirs and pick-me-ups.
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sketch: The Parlour
£30 - £49
9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG
Take your pick of three highly individual, amusingly designed lounges at this Mayfair must-do from Mourad Mazouz (of Momo fame). With its theatrical rococo découpage forest backdrop, The Glade could be a set for South Pacific as choreographed by the Bolshoi Ballet, while The East Bar (a futuristic cocoon) might have been lifted from a Kubrick sci-fi movie. However, we find ourselves repeatedly drawn to The Parlour, a raffishly postmodernist drawing room that wouldn’t look out of place in ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon's LA punk château. Disport and pose while you scrutinise a cast of eccentrics and fashionistas as you knock back dependably good drinks from a constantly evolving list. House wines and sips such as Nolet and the Whale (vodka, Aperol, peach and almond syrup) won't break the bank, although the same can’t be said of the patrician French fizz and pukka comfort food.
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Mark's Bar at Hix
£30 - £49
66-70 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9UP
Like an upscale, arty members club that’s open to allcomers, the quintessentially cool basement bar at Hix Soho is as sharp as a Paul Smith Paisley shirt, as comfy as John Lobb ankle boots, as classic as a camel Crombie and as relaxed as your best, lived-in denims – the sort of wardrobe that understated core Hixters cleave to. Hix’s similarly stylish cocktails are a mix of familiar friends (Hanky Panky, Zombie, Gin Punch à la Terrington) and future ‘bezzies’ such as Dorset Donkey (a Black Cow vodka, cherry and sage mule). True to his West Country roots, the chef/ patron's list also includes cider-based swallows such as Temperley Sour. Prices are Soho average for above-average ‘snax’ of whipped squash with ricotta and toasted walnuts, steak tartare, chips with curry sauce, rock samphire pakoras or Essex cockle popcorn – a steal at three for a tenner.
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