Cool London bars

Whether you’re a visitor to the capital or a savvy resident that’s always on the lookout for new glamorous drinking dens in London, SquareMeal’s list of cool London bars should be able to help you out. There are bars to suit everyone in the capital, from speakeasies to rooftop and basement bars, and we’ve rounded up the best for you right here. Read on to see our pick of the coolest of cool London bars, and get booking.

Updated on 11 November 2019

London is, without a doubt, one of coolest cities in the world. In fact, we’re just going to go ahead and say it is THE coolest city in the world. It’s full to bursting with cool and trendy restaurants and many, many cool London bars for your discovery and enjoyment – a fact which some might find a little overwhelming. Worry not, sip-seekers, for we’ve curated this handy list of cool London bars which means the only research you need undertake is the tasting kind (our favourite).

Our pick of the best cool London bars below is brimming with sky-high spots, subterranean dens and exclusive speakeasies, so whether you want to see and be seen, or visit that clandestine establishment you’ve heard people whisper about, there’s a place for you. Some are revered for their exemplary cocktails, while others win out for stylish surrounds.

Whatever vibe you’re after, you can rest assured that every one of the bars featured in SquareMeal’s list of cool London bars has been tried and tested by our expert team of independent critics, as well as regular customers. So, have a read of what we think of each place below and, if it takes your fancy, click through to read the full review and top tips on the best serves each one offers.

Sushisamba (bar)

Sushisamba (bar)

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate (38th floor), London, EC2N 4AY

From the express lift that whisks you up 38 floors up the face of Heron Tower, to the showy Japanese/Latino fusion décor, the bar at Sushisamba screams glitz and glamour. The later the hour, the louder the music and the livelier the scene as booze-fuelled high rollers ramp up the party vibe. Cocktails won’t exactly break the bank, but make no mistake: this bar is aimed at the big-money crowd.

Bars
Artesian at the Langham

Artesian at the Langham

The Langham, 1c Portland Place, Marylebone, London, W1B 1JA

London hosts 10 of the world’s 50 best bars with Artesian placing at number 48. This accolade is just one in a string of such recognitions for this high-end hotel bar. Despite its fixture in one of the city’s most lavish sleeping spots, Artesian manages to maintain an atmosphere of accessibility. The cocktail list is focused on ‘minimalism’ with drinks being built around just one flavour combination for clean, clear serves. Despite the air of relaxed luxury, be warned, sips from the cocktail list will set you back £20 a pop.   

Bars
Tayer + Elementary

Tayer + Elementary

152 Old Street, London, London, EC1V 9BW

This double bar concept comes from renowned bartender Alex Kratena (formerly of Artesian Bar) and Monica Berg. Found right by Old Street roundabout, Elementary is a casual all-day bar which serves seasonal drinks and snacks, while Tayer is a more progressive space featuring a daily changing menu written up on a blackboard.

In Elementary, guests sit around a large communal bar, enjoying drinks and snacking on a succinct menu of just three snack plates. If they move through to Tayer, they’ll find seating around a large open counter, where they can see the bartenders and chefs at work.

Ta Ta Eatery has been appointed to oversee the food side of things, serving up a menu which is Asian in style, but incorporates European elements. Dishes can be ordered individually or as tapas-style sharing plates, while the drinks list doesn’t just privilege cocktails – you can also expect considered lists of spirits, sakés and soft drinks.  

Food and drink images: Bernard Zeija

£30 - £49
Modern European
Bars
Mark

Mark's Bar at Hix

66-70 Brewer Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, W1F 9UP

Hidden beneath HIX Soho is the subterranean retreat Mark’s Bar. With a sunken bar, comfy chesterfields and a cocktail list that champions British libations, Mark’s Bar is both smart and welcoming – a rare combination in London. If you’re feeling peckish, the ‘snax’ on offer are delicious and more than reasonable. 

£30 - £49
Bars
The Connaught Bar at the Connaught

The Connaught Bar at the Connaught

The Connaught, 16 Carlos Place, Mayfair, London, W1K 2AL

This little number is London's best bar, according to the annual line up of the world's fifty best bars. Placing at second, The Connaught Bar is celebrated for its old-world elegance and thoughtfully curated drinks list. The serves include cocktails made with the bar's own gin, a herbal and citrus iteration of this popular spirit. For white-gloved, impeccable service, you can't get better than here. 

Bars
Aqua Spirit

Aqua Spirit

Fifth Floor, 240 Regent Street (entrance 30 Argyll Street), Oxford Circus, London, W1B 3BR

Often themed according to the season, this sky-high bar’s terraces and cocktails are as smartly turned out as the venue’s fashion-conscious clientele. When the weather turns, shelter indoors at the carousel bar or cosy up in one of the kimono silk-lined booths and get stuck into a list of east-west Daiquiris, Saketinis and Shanghai-style classics such as Nippon Negronis, plus some Eurasian street food.

Bars
Coq d

Coq d'Argent (bar)

1 Poultry, City of London, London, EC2R 8EJ

Perfect lawns, topiary, wisteria-clad cloisters and an outdoor bar make this fashionable rooftop garden a must for special occasions. The terrace is also covered and heated and there’s a further bar indoors so you can guarantee a good time whatever the weather’s up to. First-rate fizzes, rum iced tea, a dozen different G&Ts, Italian spritzes, virgin Coladas and classy wines make up the tempting drinks list.

Bars
Coupette

Coupette

423 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 0AN

Tucked away in Bethnal Green, this unassuming small bar won the accolade of being the world's 23rd best bar in 2019. Menus here change with the season, so you could never possibly tire of popping in for a drink or three on the regular. Drinks come with comprehensive descriptions to allow for ease of choosing, with a range of options, but all are given the utmost attention in terms of detail. A Bloody Martini, for instance, is made from house-made roasted tomato juice that has been hand filtered for a smooth texture and clean flavour.

Bars
The Chelsea Prayer Room

The Chelsea Prayer Room

333 Fulham Road, London, SW10 9QL

Location: hidden within GOAT Chelsea. Entry: protected by an ever-changing code. Vibe: a dimly lit, booze-filled study kitted out with leather chesterfields and a scratchy jazz soundtrack. Purpose: an A-Z of classic cocktails. Make your way through the alphabet and you’ll get every tenth cocktail on the house (not recommended in one visit). Prayers: answered. 

£30 - £49
Bars
Satan

Satan's Whiskers

343 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA

Definitely not one for vegans, this neighbourhood cocktail bar doubles up as an unofficial taxidermy museum. If you’re happy to keep company with stuffed exhibits and skeletal sculptures, settle in and order from a regular retinue of reasonably priced rogues, twisted classics and contemporary signatures. Nibbles include the likes of mini Scotch eggs and baby back ribs.

Bars
Kanaloa

Kanaloa

18 Wine Office Court, Hill House, Shoe Lane, London, EC4A 3BQ

This City sibling of Mayfair’s Mahiki unashamedly touts the cheesiest of ‘guilty pleasures’ including happy hours, limbo contests and party anthems, while delivering on its promise of a grass-skirted, bamboo-lined Polynesian paradise complete with carved totem poles. Drinks are heavily-themed too, so expect to slurp at least one cocktail out of a pineapple. The burgers here are just the ticket after a few sugary concoctions.

Bars
Bermondsey Arts Club

Bermondsey Arts Club

102a Tower Bridge Road, London, SE1 4TP

Housed in a former public toilet, this hip speakeasy sports an art-deco aesthetic of chequered floor tiles and marquetry panelling that pays homage to the golden era of cocktail making. Cleverly-named cocktails such as ‘Sage of Consent’ with its blend of butter-washed rum, sage, citrusy bergamot, lemon juice and dark cane sugar pack a punch, though there are lighter options available too.

Bars
sketch: The Parlour

sketch: The Parlour

9 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2XG

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. Here you can knock back dependably good drinks from a constantly evolving list, which includes house wines and cocktails such as Nolet and the Whale (vodka, Aperol, peach and almond syrup). If you want to fit in though, order a bottle of refined French fizz.

£30 - £49
Afternoon tea
International
Lyaness at Sea Containers London

Lyaness at Sea Containers London

20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London, SE1 9PD

Set up by the man behind Dandelyan, to replace it swiftly after it won the best bar in the world, Lyaness sells itself as a cocktail bar and afternoon tea hotspot, so the vibe will depend on what time of day you choose to visit. We recommend evening, when the views across the Thames are at their best and the cocktails are flowing. Need more convincing? This spot won 39th place on the line up of the world's 50 best bars in 2019. Its contemporary design features make for an elegant pit stop that won’t hurt your Instagram account and the snacks are pretty tasty too.

£30 - £49
British
Bars
Afternoon tea
Reverend JW Simpson

Reverend JW Simpson

32 Goodge Street, London, W1T 2QJ

Named for the man of God (a chap who wasn’t a stranger to the odd tipple) who once occupied the basement flat in which this cool cocktail bar is housed, Reverend JW Simpson is a hipster hangout and a half. Here you can seek salvation at a pulpit bar set in the old coal cellar with friends or a date, or attend a popular ‘spirited sermon’ (cocktail masterclass). Praise be.

Bars
Evans & Peel

Evans & Peel

310c Earls Court Road, London, SW5 9BA

Fantasy detectives Evans & Peel are a highly renowned mystery-solving duo that you’ll need to present your ‘case’ to before you’re admitted to their headquarters (the atmospheric speakeasy hidden behind the bookshelf). If role play is your bag, you’ll love it, but even if the idea makes you grimace, we’re sure you’ll find something to smile about once inside, like the agency’s inventive take on classic drinks.

Bars
Aqua Shard (bar)

Aqua Shard (bar)

Level 31, The Shard, St. Thomas Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

Slick, sexy and decked out like a Manhattan-style loft, the bar at Aqua Shard is the height of cool (see what we did there?). The bar is open throughout the day, so you can opt to take your vista with bright sunshine or with a myriad twinkling night-time lights. We recommend both, along with the gin- and tea-inspired cocktails.

Bars
Happiness Forgets

Happiness Forgets

8-9 Hoxton Square, London, London, N1 6NU

High-end cocktails in a low-rent basement sounds like a pretty cool concept, but throw in the fact that Happiness Forgets was voted the 40th best bar in the world this year, and has been honoured at the prestigious Spirited Awards in New Orleans, and it takes on a whole new meaning. Owner Andy Bird and his staff have a genuine passion for superb service and divine drinks, meaning that from the moment you sit down, you’ll be treated like an old friend. Book ahead as it’s always busy.

Bars
Bar Termini Soho

Bar Termini Soho

7 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JE

Table service and classic Italian hospitality sets this small Soho bar apart from its competitors. Drinks are made up of classics and some more modern interpretations of popular serves. If you pick a bar for its food as much as its drinks (very us) then you might be keen to know that there's also a stellar lineup of Italian small plates to pick from. 

Bars
Radio Rooftop

Radio Rooftop

ME London Hotel, 336-337 The Strand, Covent Garden, London, WC2R 1HA

The epitome of ‘cool’, this impossibly glamorous rooftop bar atop ME London in Covent Garden is a gem that you’ll need to book well in advance to gain access to. Minimalist monochrome décor and views over the City skyline are two of its greatest assets, but super sips and dainty tapas are also plus points. Be sure to bring a fully-charged phone – you’re going to need it for Instagram.  

Mediterranean
Bars
Afternoon tea
George

George's Bar

St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Euston Road, London, NW1 2AR

Few London bars can match these haute-Victorian chambers within the imposing St Pancras Renaissance Hotel. The truly stunning setting – perfect for celebrating – is matched by well-balanced seasonal cocktails, excellent wines and generously proportioned bar snacks. Craft beers, Gosset Champagne afternoon tea and sunny service complete the pretty picture.

Bars
The Lucky Pig

The Lucky Pig

5 Clipstone Street, London, W1W 6BB

This speakeasy’s chaises longues and cushion-strewn, curtained-off vaults are ideal for dates, though weekends bring the live sounds of easy-listenin' Blues, acoustic artists and rollicking DJ sets. Cocktails are inventive and delicious – one such contains Zacapa 23 rum, Mozart chocolate liqueur, Pimento Dram rum-based liqueur, Coco Pops milk and Aztec bitters – and there are pizzas, cheese and charcuterie platters for picking at.

Bars
Scout

Scout

224 Graham Road , London, E8 1BP

With a focus on sustainability, Scout practice as they preach with the use of mainly British ingredients. The team here are also no strangers to foraging their own produce for the food and drinks on offer, and stick to a zero waste policy when it comes to the small plates the kitchen engineer to complement the drinks line-up. The menu changes regularly with the seasons but on our last visit we enjoyed a fresh elderflower, gin, samphire and honey concoction. It's not just us who think Scout is worth a visit either, it was voted the 28th best bar in the world in 2019. 

Bars
London Cocktail Club Goodge Street

London Cocktail Club Goodge Street

61 Goodge Street, London, W1T 1TL

‘Loud, extroverted and unashamedly awesome’ is London Cocktail Club’s bullish boast, and we have to say we agree with it. 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, making it perfect for a night out with friends.

Bars
Call Me Mr Lucky

Call Me Mr Lucky

11 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RQ

Secreted beneath The Breakfast Club in Borough, this honky-tonk drinking dive is a must-visit for fun-seekers. Once you’ve picked your way through the restaurant's kitchen and descended into the bar, you’ll be met with fairy lights, paper lanterns and friendly bar staff ready to mix a flamboyant and surprisingly inexpensive cocktail for you. It’s a small spot so expect a bit of a squeeze on weekends.

Lounge Bohemia

Lounge Bohemia

1e Great Eastern Street, London, EC2A 3EJ

First, you’ll need to locate the ‘by appointment-only’ bunker with an unmarked door, lost in a dingy parade of shops in east London, but after that, it’s all smooth sailing. Behind the bar is a deadpan dude who uses fiendish ingredients along the lines of alcoholic cotton, fake caviar and ‘electric current’ to create highly palatable drinks (and snacks) imaginatively presented in bonkers bowls, beakers and bongs.

Bars
69 Colebrooke Row

69 Colebrooke Row

69 Colebrooke Row, London, N1 8AA

You’ll find a classic 1950s vibe going down at this dinky backstreet spot that also goes by the moniker ‘The Bar with No Name’. Located between Angel and Islington, 69 Colebrooke Row serves up unique Film Noir-inspired cocktails that change seasonally, along with a range of classic cocktails and a selection of tapas dishes. Masterclasses are also up for grabs if you’re looking for a new life skill.

Bars
Trailer Happiness

Trailer Happiness

177 Portobello Road, London, W11 2DY

Subtly kitsch decor, an expansive rum list and an array of colourful cocktails bring a touch of the exotic to this Notting Hill tiki bar. There's plenty to choose from here, ranging from the pocket-friendly to the flash, and those in large groups can go all out with a sharing cocktail. An eclectic soundtrack of funk, hip hop, reggae, house and soul complete the vibe.

Bars
GONG by Shangri La at The Shard

GONG by Shangri La at The Shard

31 St Thomas Street, London, SE1 90U

From this high altitude, the city below resembles a magical tapestry, and with a couple of drinks here costing much the same as a ticket to the touristy viewing platform above, we rate Gong as the more civilised sightseeing option. Decked out like a Bond baddie’s penthouse, Gong boasts a separate Champagne bar and a swimming pool for punters to lounge by (but not to dip into) from 8pm.

Bars
Discount Suit Company

Discount Suit Company

29A Wentworth Street, London, E1 7TB

Bespoke mezcal and poitín Old Fashioneds, elegant Daiquiris and rye Manhattans all represent off-the-peg perfection at this low-beamed former tailor’s storeroom-turned-bar. Just moments from Spitalfields Market and Liverpool Street station, this super-cool spot is well-suited (sorry, not sorry) to date nights, cosy catch-ups with friends and any other social event you can think of.  

Bars
Madison

Madison

One New Change, London, London, EC4M 9AF

Outstanding views of St Paul’s and the promise of alfresco drinks high above the City ensure that queues for the lift to Madison build early on fine afternoons. Its buzzing atmosphere makes it the ideal spot to catch up with friends and colleagues over good food, drinks and music from the in-house DJs and live acoustic trios, particularly during the summer months.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar

157a Commercial Street, Spitalfields, London, E1 6BJ

This bar was once a seedy strip joint, but there's nothing remotely sleazy about it now. Handsomely decorated in burnished art-deco bronze and blue-tiled 1900s Steampunk interiors, the bar at this eastern branch of Hawksmoor is worth a trip in itself (though it’s also a great place to wait for your table upstairs). Anticipate excellent, keenly priced cocktails and moreish grub such as burgers, cheese dogs and lobster rolls.

Bars
Milk & Honey

Milk & Honey

61 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NU

Unlike some private members’ clubs, you can actually make it past reception here so long as you have a reservation. If you want to linger longer (you will), best get pally with a member or you’ll be forced to face the Cinderella walk of shame long before the clock strikes midnight. Be sure to try Milk & Honey’s old school sips from a tempting range of spot-on shakes, stirs and pick-me-ups.

Bars
Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

Bar Américain at Brasserie Zédel

20 Sherwood Street, Piccadilly Circus, London, W1F 7ED

Dreamy art-deco interiors and gorgeous Martinis about sum up Corbin & King’s polished birch-panelled bar just a stone’s throw from frenetic Piccadilly Circus. Retro tipples such as Aviation and Millionaires – sips that date back to the days when aviation was strictly for millionaires – are a great shout, but there are plenty of classics on the menu too.

Bars
Three Sheets

Three Sheets

510b Kingsland Road, London, E8 4AE

Coming in at number 16 on the list of the 50 best bars in the world, this small East London drinking den packs a big punch. The austere decor only highlights the interesting cocktails all the more, giving the drinks full focus. With a weekly change menu that reflects the seasons, you never quite know what you're going to get, but the ingredients are always thoughtfully curated and the serves satisfyingly strong. 

Bars
The American Bar at The Savoy

The American Bar at The Savoy

The Savoy, Strand, London, WC2R 0ET

One of the city’s most recognisably famous bars, The American Bar at the Savoy is practically a rite of passage for thirsty Londoners and is thought to be the capital’s oldest surviving cocktail bar. Interiors are all 1930s old world glamour, and the host of bartenders are well positioned to make you any drink you care to name, with it not being unusual that they would remember what you had on your last visit – it’s that kind of place. With a whole string of accolades to its name, including being voted the 5th best bar in the world in 2019, The American Bar at the Savoy is bucket list stuff.

Bars
Nightjar

Nightjar

129 City Road, London, EC1V 1JB

Accessed through an anonymous wooden door just of the Old Street roundabout, this highly rated speakeasy bar has been a hit with the Shoreditch crowd since it opened in 2010. A mix of seductive surrounds, cutting-edge drinks and live music harking back to the Jazz Age make it a cool spot for lounging with friends (and Instagramming about it, obvs). Bear in mind that it’s strictly table-service only, bookings are taken online, and you will be charged for a no-show.

Bars
Callooh Callay

Callooh Callay

65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY

Inspired by the Victorian nonsense poems of Lewis Carroll, this Shoreditch bar’s drinks list is always a good read. Tumble through the looking glass to the risqué den and grab yourself a boundary-pushing libation such as a Tall & Oates (El Jimador Blanco Tequila, sherry, bitters, oat horchata and caramel waffle). Bar bites are bussed in from 100 Hoxton Street’s kitchen for when hunger sets in.

Bars
Rockwell at The Trafalgar St. James hotel

Rockwell at The Trafalgar St. James hotel

2 Spring Gardens, London, SW1A 2TS

If you're looking for a cool London bar that's more about the interiors than the drinks list, then you've found what you're after in Rockwell. Photo-friendly interiors include velvet seating, a lush-foliage bedecked bar and fringed low-hanging lighting. Staff are friendly and despite not being the most exciting line up of drinks on our list, the cocktails are a satisfying mix of sweet and sour crowd-pleasers- with interesting serve styles including an Alice in Wonderland style potion which sees your drink accompanied by a small 'drink me' labelled bottle for you to add yourself. 

£30 - £49
Bars
Hotel Bars
Duck & Waffle (bar)

Duck & Waffle (bar)

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London, EC2N 4AY

Perched atop the Heron Tower, this hotspot of a bar is a must for unparalleled views of the City skyline. The drinks are pretty memorable too, with experimental concoctions that use ingredients ranging from charred dandelion-root to burnt toast, 'damp gin,' asparagus ends and cut grass. Not all the drinks here are off the wall, but regardless of what you go for, expect to pay a pretty penny for it.

Bars
Vertigo 42

Vertigo 42

Tower 42 after Level 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ

The Shard may have stolen this oldie’s thunder with its stylishly designed bars, but it's worth making a reservation at Vertigo 42 for thrilling views and fine French fizz. Housed in the former NatWest Tower, 42 floors up, Vertigo is just the place for some classy bubbles and business-class cabin fare. Whether you get giddy on Gallimard or blow the budget on a magnum of 1990 Krug, it’s worth making the hike.

Bars
Experimental Cocktail Club

Experimental Cocktail Club

13a Gerrard Street, London, London, W1D 5PS

The Experimental Cocktail Club has narked off many a potential punter with its hard-to-locate scruffy door and its haughty doormen, but many would argue that it’s all part of the speakeasy charm. If you do get in, we’re confident you’ll find consistently good drinks, but be warned: steer clear of cocktails made with vintage spirits unless you're feeling really flush.

£30 - £49
Bars
Mahiki Mayfair

Mahiki Mayfair

1 Dover Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 4LD

The big attraction at Mayfair legend Mahiki 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. Asian snacks act as damage limitation as the action heats up in the downstairs club, which is a great place for celeb-spotting.

Bars
El Camion

El Camion

25-27 Brewer Street, London, London, W1F 0RR

This dippy cocktail pit attached to El Camion’s Mexican grill boasts more than 300 class-act Tequilas, served with homemade sangrita (salt and lime is for Philistines), plus a savvy selection of mighty mescals. If Tequila isn’t to your taste, try fruity cachaça-based batidas or any off-menu fix you fancy – not forgetting bottles of cerveza served Mexican-style with spices. If you’re planning to eat beforehand, the grill next door is an excellent choice.  

£30 - £49
Mexican
Swift

Swift

12 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4TQ

Cut straight down the middle, Swift offers a smart-casual downstairs bar that is perfect for walk-ins, while upstairs sees a more 'serious' bar for cocktail aficionados. Run by a line-up of bartending royalty, Swift placed at 41 in a line-up of the world's 50 best bars and runs two separate cocktail menus for each space. Upstairs enjoy a Tuk Tuk (Woodford Reserve, mint, cardamom and rosewater) or go for a non-alcoholic Tempest downstairs (Darjeeling kombucha, lemon, elderflower, honey and celery). Classics are always available too, should you have an old favourite.

Bars
Trader Vic

Trader Vic's London

22 Park Lane, London, London, W1K 1BE

The daddy of all things tiki, Trader Vic’s is a hula hideaway still going strong 50 years after it launched. A wine list plays second fiddle to Vic's reasonably-priced rum cocktails, served in fabulously tacky tiki mugs, and there’s plenty to enjoy on the food menu too. If you’re after a pleasingly retro experience, you’ll love Trader Vic’s.

£50 - £79
Fusion

For more drinking inspiration, check out our guide to the best hotel bars in London