Happy is the imbiber who waters at this trough, one of London's more plausible speakeasies in a quarter that's not exactly stoked with ‘cred' cocktail joints. Appealingly done out like a seedy Prohibition-era joint, Lucky Pig’s chaises longues and cushion-strewn, curtained-off vaults are perfect for a spot of canoodling, while weekends bring the live sounds of red-hot mamas, be-bop cats, Brylcreem-slick balladeers and rollicking DJ sets. To drink, order retro ‘giggle water’ (Sidecar or French Martini), or modern mixes dreamed up with the Fitzrovia and Marylebone mob in mind: Bullet Proof, Luciano Sour and Fingers Crossed (Zacapa 23 rum, Mozart chocolate liqueur, Pimento Dram rum-based liqueur, Coco Pops milk and Aztec bitters). For solid fuel, pick at pizzas, cheeses or a charcuterie platter – not such a lucky pig after all.
The Lucky Pig
Tucked away discreetly at the rear of this glossy hotel (also home to Berners Tavern), The Punch Room is an inviting, low-key hideaway with a blazing open fire. With the Venetian blinds drawn, fumed oak walls, low lights and tobacco leather, the vibe is a cross between a private yacht and a modern Soho members’ club, with slick service from laid-back, professional staff. As the name implies, the room's freestanding dispense bar is big on heritage punches. The hardback cocktail book is a painstakingly prepared, drinkable history of punch, peppered with strange ingredients and intriguing flourishes; fancy a serve which was sipped on board the Titanic? Then order the Punch a la Romaine, a blend of lemon foam, gin, dry curaçao, green tea and Champagne, originally used as a mid-meal palate cleanser. The menu is split into six flavour sections, which should cover most tastes. The bar’s on a self-proclaimed quest to challenge drinkers’ perceptions of punch but, with the option to order bowls in a variety of sizes, those looking for volume should be just as pleased as cocktail connoisseurs.
Punch Room at The London Edition
‘Loud, extroverted and unashamedly awesome’, that's the London Cocktail Club’s bullish boast. A seemingly unstoppable force that has now conquered the likes of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Islington, Oxford Circus and Covent Garden, it was this rock 'n' roll gaff on Goodge Street that really set the ball rolling for the brand's irrepressible owner/serial self-publicist JJ Goodman. Definitely not for shrinking violets, the laddish living-it-large vibe at LCC stays just on the right side of anarchy, and its drinks are a cut above what you'll find at lesser party pits – perfect for a night out with the gang. Whether it’s classy (Corpse Reviver #2), leftfield (Bacon & Egg Martini laced with Jack Daniel’s No.7) or trashy (Willy Wonka, a rum and amaretto sundae billed as ‘cake in a glass’), we like the results. Shots inevitably up the ante, likewise Cheeky Nandos – a smoking whiskey punchbowl.
London Cocktail Club Goodge Street
More than a warm-up act for the excellent Roka restaurant upstairs, Shochu Lounge is a destination in its own right – a snazzy and ‘sexy' subterranean space dedicated to the eponymous Japanese
spirit (similar to vodka, but usually weaker). Take a perch at the rough-hewn wooden counter and ponder the intricacies of the beverage – different flavours and varieties can be savoured on their
own, over ice (carved from a huge block at the bar) or in various cocktails: try a Noshino martini (shochu, saké and cucumber) or the vertigo (Tequila, vanilla shochu and pineapple juice). The good
news is that bar food comes straight from Roka's kitchen (think sushi, sashimi, tuna tataki or spinach leaves with sesame dressing); the bad news is that staff can occasionally be too snotty for
their own good.
Shochu Lounge at Roka Charlotte Street
This hotel-based London outpost of the internationally acclaimed Dry Martini bar group is dazzlingly decked out with a rather random mix of jewel-coloured sofas, patterns and neon, offset by chequered floors and eclectic modern art. You may need a drink to deal with the decor, but you’ve come to the right place as the list comes courtesy of world-class mixologist Javier de las Muelas. The signature dry Martinis are generously served and made to order (choose from an impressive collection of 101 gins), but more original creations are also well worth a punt. Try the spicy Moonwalk (Glenlivet 12-year-old, pineapple, lemon, fig syrup and hot chilli pepper droplets) or the sage- and rosemary-infused Spanish 43 made with 43 Liquor and topped with Freixenet Cordon Negro cava. To eat, Dry Martini serves tapas (of course), and you can also come here for a Mar-Tea-Ni afternoon tea.
Dry Martini by Javier De Las Muelas
St Pancras Station's imaginatively converted booking office is undoubtedly now one of Europe's more glamorous, glorified station buffets – a baronial bobby dazzler on an epic scale. With a long, handsome bar fashioned from original gothic mahogany ticket booths, this comfortable lounge is as good for people-watching as it is for drinks, so alight here for heritage cocktails that hark back to the era when St Pancras was built (the mid-1800s). Boozy first-class tickets worth purchasing include various Victorian daisies, cups, cobblers and puncheons served by the mug or bowl: we’re sweet on the gin-based Chambers Club, which comes on like a hooch-heavy, tart lemon meringue pie. Choose from more than 20 wines and bubbles by the glass, with mini Wagyu burgers, salt and pepper squid, or girolle and cheese toasties – the sort of snacks we fantasise about finding on board services from St Pancras to the Midlands.
Booking Office Bar
At the dawn of the millennium, the Long Bar’s glowing onyx island counter was the see-and-be-seen hub of an impossibly swanky, Philippe Starck-designed hotel lounge, propped up by every Cool Britannia gossip column fixture worth quoting. Times change, and fickle fashionistas have flocked off to the ‘next big thing’, but we still carry a torch for The Sanderson's period-piece bar and its Zen courtyard garden, featuring vines and hanging plants. Party with nature-inspired drinks including Jade Garden (Bacardi, tomatoes, matcha tea) and The Great Wave (Ki No Bi, sake, brine, samphire), while rosemary polenta chips, duck rolls and beef sliders are among the modish bar bites.
Image credit: David Griffen
Long Bar at the Sanderson
Come rain or elusive English shine, there’s never a moment when the bar at the Charlotte Street Hotel isn’t buzzing with fitted suits and the spike-heeled Fitzrovia set. Stripy footstools and cushy
Navajo-style printed chairs are permanently inhabited, but stand around the bar long enough and you may eventually nab a spot. Winking bartenders whip up signature cocktails with flamboyance – try
the fun and fruity mango fandango (a rum-based drink shaken with muddled blueberries and mango purée, topped with passion-fruit juice) or the English rose (strawberries and rose liqueur, finished
with Champagne). If you start seeing double, pad out the evening with shareable tapas, generous platters of Italian charcuterie, cheese and even sashimi to nibble with friends.
Oscar (bar) at the Charlotte Street Hotel
The story goes that this quirky cellar (a Bourne & Hollingsworth spin-off) was once home to a man of God whose taste in decor was self-evidently less than heavenly. Hipsters will hail his vacated pad as a vision in "raw deconstructionist chic"; others pray for divine intervention from Kelly Hoppen. Whereas the vicar's drinks cabinet might only have had Emva Cream sherry to offer, today's visitors can seek salvation at a pulpit bar set in the old coal cellar, where fine Old Testament stirs are now served in vintage stemware: Sloe Sherry Cobbler and latter-day revelations such as Brooklyn Cocktail (an Amer Picon-enhanced variant on a Sweet Manhattan), Deviation (a rosemary-fragranced Aviation), and Vieux Carré are all praiseworthy. Meanwhile, keenly attended ‘spirited sermons’ (cocktail masterclasses) aim to convert philistines to the cause of jenever, mezcal and other cult distillations.
Reverend JW Simpson