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.
A former public convenience near Tower Bridge has been converted into a subterranean drinking den with an art-deco look of chequered floor tiles and marquetry panelling that pays homage to the golden era of cocktail making. With most sips pegged at £9.50, you’d expect a decent drink and you won’t be disappointed: Sage of Consent, for example, packs enough punch for a rumble in the jungle with its blend of butter-washed rum, sage, citrusy bergamot, lemon juice and dark cane sugar. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something lighter, there are some cheaper aperitifs and spritzers – try the aptly named South of the River (sloe gin, lemon, sugar and Prosecco) or the more serious Chrysanthemum with its mix of absinthe, Bénédictine and Lillet Blanc. BAC is open until 2am, which sounds like a good excuse to use to use the night tube – even though the nearest station is a 15-mInute walk away.
Bermondsey Arts Club
What’s not to love about the OXO Tower Bar at Harvey Nichols’ towering success on the river? Here you’ll find plausible cocktails, beef kimchi sliders, vegetable dim sum with ponzu, and grilled squid with a chilli rouille (£8.50). But the clincher is the postcard-perfect panorama of tourist London (including St Paul’s), seen across the water from the eighth-floor vantage point. Tables can be booked, with seating on curvaceous cream armchairs, but some places are saved for walk-ins until capacity is reached. The drawbacks? Well, 11pm on weekdays and midnight at weekends are ridiculously early closing times. We want to enjoy cherry Manhattans like they do in Manhattan, at an hour when others are fast asleep; and to have the option of ordering Dusk ’til Dawn (Ilegal mezcal, Cocchi, Punt e Mes vermouth and Lagavulin 16 whisky) from dusk to dawn.
OXO Tower Bar
The Hide is a nondescript-looking bar tucked below the International Wine & Spirit Centre – and there’s the rub. Because it’s so close to London’s leading coven for experts in alcoholic beverages, you might expect it to be full of bartenders, emulating Tom Cruise, juggling shakers and practicing dance moves. The reality is less ritzy, though you may get to overhear the odd conversation about double parallel fermentation or suchlike. Instead, focus on the cocktail list, where you’ll find a fistful of classics made with great expertise. Most items cost under a tenner, such as the LDN Cobbler (made with Kamm’s aperitif, blackberry syrup and Roots lemonade) or the Big Lebowski (Moskovskaya vodka, almond milk, Pedro Ximénez and coffee tincture). There are also some spiffingly good wines by the glass and London craft beers to go with tacos, arancini, croquettes and sharing boards.