Oct 29, 2015
London is famed for its ancient, enduring pubs, where the likes of Charles Dickens and George Orwell would enjoy an ale or three. But the British capital is also home to some seriously slick and charmingly offbeat bars, too.
Prohibition-style speakeasies have blossomed across London, but Nightjar really stands out. This soulful underground den – right off trendy Old Street – seduces punters with its creative, artfully presented cocktails and live jazz and blues tunes.
129 City Road, EC1
Named “Best Bar in the World” three years in a row by Drinks International magazine, Artesian injects modern flair to the West End's genteel Langham Hotel. Its mixologists drum up experimental thirst-quenchers such as Chameleon Crystals (Tanqueray No. Ten, pisco, lime, perilla, chilli and soy).
1C Portland Place, W1
Atrium Bar at Aqua Shard
Location, location, location. That's the lure of this glossy affair on the 31st floor of The Shard, the capital's tallest building. Part of the Aqua restaurant, the bar promises spectacular panoramic views and operates on a walk-in basis, with no reservations.
31 St Thomas Street, SE1
Gordon's Wine Bar
A golden oldie – established in 1890 near Trafalgar Square – Gordon's is beloved by the after-work brigade. Expect an intimate Victorian-era décor, with vaulted, barrel-filled cellars, a comprehensive wine list and tantalising cheeseboards.
47 Villiers Street, WC2
Milroy’s of Soho
Partial to a wee dram of Scotch? Or a Japanese rare malt? Head to Milroy's, a venerable Soho haunt that stocks more than 250 types of whiskies. It's recently added a neat cellar bar, which you enter from behind a moveable bookcase.
3 Greek Street, W1
Mark's Bar at the Old Vic
A cut above most middling London theatre bars, this stylish Waterloo newcomer, all smoky mirrors and ambient lighting, is run by celebrity restaurateur Mark Hix. Try his Merlet liqueur-tinged Espresso Martini. It’s the talk of the town.
The Cut, SE1
Mr Fogg's Residence
Festooned with eclectic memorabilia (such as penny-farthings and stuffed animal heads), this Mayfair venue is inspired by the fictional explorer, Phileas Fogg. Customers – who are urged to dress in “an informal but elegant manner” – lap up the “tipsy” Champagne afternoon teas and herbal-infused cocktails.
15 Bruton Lane, W1
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
There's a surreal, Alice in Wonderland-like quality to this “hidden” basement bar near Spitalfields Market. Instead of going in via a rabbit hole, you access it through a Smeg fridge in the hip Breakfast Club café. Knock on the door and ask to see the mayor.
12-16 Artillery Lane, E1
The London Gin Club
Cluttered with vintage tin advertising signs, this high-ceilinged joint is a shabby-chic take on the gin palaces that flourished in Georgian and Dickensian London. Choose from almost 200 premium gins, including a raft of gin cocktails and “ginfusions”.
22 Great Chapel St, W1
Gritty Peckham was once synonymous with Del Boy and Rodney – of Only Fools and Horses British TV fame. Now it's one of London's coolest neighbourhoods and, in summer, Frank's, a rooftop bar and arts space that crowns a multistorey car park, is the place to be.
95A Rye Lane, SE15
Images: Addie Chinn and Jerome Courtial, Nightjar