London’s bar scene is world famous and with good reason. There’s nowhere in the world that seems to have the same class, the same elegance as a top bar in London. As you sip martinis from a long stemmed crystal glass, you’ll no doubt be amazed by the quality of the mix, the sophistication of your surroundings and lose yourself in a moment of imperial glory. This was after all, the country that brought much of the world to tow in a manner akin to the Romans: with calm and an air of total superiority. That same arrogance still pervades much of the capital, and in a bar it’s a perfect ingredient for something delightful. Drinking cocktails in impeccably crisp shirts is a rare joy and one that requires a certain degree of haughtiness. It’s a fantasy, a departure from the modern day that many enjoy immensely.
Of course, there is another side to the story. Fun, bubbly and full of life, many bars channel a more casual approach to drinking. Instead of a place to contemplate life and savour victories, these bars are all about the wild ride. They serve cocktails in odd little concoctions: jam jars, pewter dishes, occasionally even with an umbrella. These types of bars are the ones that you could spend a whole weekend in without ever feeling down, buoyed up by frivolity and wonder. Thankfully, London has those in abundance too.
Our list of the top 10 London bars has been compiled by 2 different experts: each one a fan of one style of the other. One is the kind of man who will shake his head in dismay at a shaken martini, the other one who would wonder why you’re only ordering 1 martini at a time. We’ll start with the latter.
Buried beneath a Thai restaurant, this enterprising little bar has passed under the radar for many. Whilst they’re off throwing their money at some oligarch’s latest little plaything, perfectly good cocktails are going undrunk under here. Well, no more I say! Happiness Forgets is a bar that likes to make you smile, which is always a good start, The best bars London has to offer are the ones who want to make your time there enjoyable, rather than fleece you for as much money as possible. Those that will give you extra ice or lemon for a “small fee” should be told where to go…
Thankfully, happiness forgets isn’t like that. Small, modest and cheery it offers some interesting interpretations of classics. Nothing more, nothing less. Their hospitality and quality of the mixology will leave you feeling uplifted as you stumble out into the streets of Hoxton, and ultimately that’s the purpose of a bar.
Happiness Forgets is located at: 8-9 Hoxton Square, London N1 6NU
To find out more please visit: http://www.happinessforgets.com/
Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
Another hidden little gem, MSCT is again squirreled away beneath the streets. It’s not so quiet though: in fact it’s rather an amusing little oxymoron. You see, it’s a well known secret spot that promotes itself on being unknown. The very nicheness that draws people in also happens to be the same thing that makes it so popular. Does your head hurt yet? Mine did, but after a quick visit it became clear that it’s more than just a marketing ploy. The whole thing is a great example of irony actually working for once: the sarcastic twists on overly pompous speakeasy drinks speak of an owner who really doesn’t take himself too seriously. The staff are friendly and the whole thing a bit of a laugh really, even if the entrance is “cunningly” disguised as a fridge…
Mayor of Scaredy Cat is located at: 12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS.
To find out more please visit: http://www.themayorofscaredycattown.com/
Milk and Honey
Yes, this old chestnut. If you’re familiar with the London bar scene, you may have heard of this place in passing. After all, it’s often touted as a superb little cocktail bar but it never gets the limelight. Some big manufactured venture, doomed to fail in 18 months, always takes it and hogs it mercilessly. Honestly, I don’t think that Milk and Honey want it. Their quiet excellence keeps the atmosphere friendly and the drinks well above par.
Milk and Honey is located at:61 Poland St, London W1F 7NU
To find out more please visit: http://www.mlkhny.com/
Is it a pub, is it a bar? Well, it is a bar but it’s not a London one by any means. Prices are reasonable, the staff are friendly and it serves real beer. You could easily be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled through a portal into a Kentish town but you’re still in the capital, don’t worry.
The food’s excellent too, and this is coming from someone who knows his bar food. It never tries to be too clever, serving up excellent accompaniments without foams, reductions or whispers of anything. For those wanting a solid, dependable bar with a casual atmosphere and a decent range, this your place; the Rookery is the king of the unpretentious.
The Rookery is located at: 69 Clapham Common South Side, London SW4 9DA
To find out more please visit:http://www.therookeryclapham.co.uk/
The Sebright Arms
A real east end bar/pub. In the good sense obviously: not in the bars on the windows, chairs nailed down, fear for your life if you’re not a West Ham sort of east end pub. The kind with a real landlord behind the bar, and decent beer. The kind where getting a drink won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. It’s trendy, no doubt, and the general drinkers there are young and hip. What it isn’t though, is pretentious. It might do decent food, it might serve real ale and they might actually stock wine that isn’t closely related to vinegar, but it hasn’t lost its spirit.
The Sebright Arms is located at: 31-35 Coate St, London E2 9AG
To find out more please visit: http://www.sebrightarms.co.uk/
All of these sound great, don’t they? I have to hand it to my colleague: he almost makes them seem tempting. The reality though, is that these sorts of speakeasies and casual joints don’t have a patch on the real treasures of London. Places where you can get a drink that’s not just “good” you get one that innovative, daring and new.
Dirty Martini is just one such place. Famed for its interesting variations on the drink from which it takes its name, it thoroughly deserves to be on any list of the top 10 bars in London. There’s several branches these days, but you can’t beat the intimate little room situated in Covent Garden. The loud music and busy nature of the place all add a certain energy that’s often missing in places like this and the drinks are exceptional.
Dirty Martini is located at: 11-12 Russell St, London WC2B 5HZ:
To find out more please visit: http://dirtymartini.uk.com/
Food lovers will already know Hawksmoor. London’s best steak joint, it turns that their passion for flavour extends to drinks as well. Classy interiors, friendly staff and perfectly mixed cocktails, it’s pure excellence.
Hawksmoor is located at: 157A Commercial St, London E1 6BJ
To find out more please visit: http://thehawksmoor.com/locations/spitalfields
Ah. The elephant in the room whenever anyone discusses the top bars London has to offer. It’s excellent, as you’ve no doubt heard. The problem is the brusque staff, who make you feel like you’re in an east end takeaway rather than a top end bar. Thankfully, a more hospitable branch has opened in Mayfair and its perfection.
Hakkasan is located at: 17 Bruton St, W1J 6AL
To find out more please visit: http://hakkasan.com/
Kensington Wine Rooms
It sounds like the stuffiest, most archaic place in the world and yet a piece of modern tech is what makes this one of the very best London wine bars. Using special dispensers to keep wine fresh, they’re able to provide single glasses of almost every vintage available, making it the ideal place for those who want to sample rather than guzzle down a bottle.
The Kensington Wine Rooms are located at: 127-129 Kensington Church St, London W8 7LP
To find out more please visit: http://www.greatwinesbytheglass.com/
Beaufort Bar, at the Savoy
In theory, this is the hotel’s second bar. In practice however, its balance of creativity and precision, combined with an excellent variety make it the hottest ticket in the nearby vicinity. Arguably the best hotel bar in the capital, its golden walls and chic furniture speak of a self assured confidence that manifests itself beautifully in its elegant cocktails.
The Beaufort Bar is located at: The Savoy, WC2R 0EU
To find out more please visit: http://www.fairmont.com/savoy-london/dining/beaufortbar/