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Hattie Lloyd 11/07/24


The Best London Bars With Live Music

The Best London Bars With Live Music | Tipples and Trumpet Solos

Bars without live music.

They’re a little deadbeat.

So let’s have a drum roll… a bit of saxophone… and a little bass… for we are about to announce the best bars in London with regular live music nights. Not necessarily dedicated gig venues (for that, we’ve made a special guide to the best live music venues in London), but somewhere atmospheric where you can enjoy a smooth cocktail with a mood music garnish.

These are they…


JUMP TO: East London | South London | West London | North London


CENTRAL LONDON BARS WITH LIVE MUSIC

Velvet Bar | Embankment

velvet bar live music

Velvet is the Corinthia Hotel’s drop-dead gorgeous cocktail bar. It might be the closest thing you’ll get to living the 1920’s high life, with nightly live jazz and drinks created by none other than Salvatore Calabrese (one of the world’s great bartenders, widely referred to as ‘The Maestro’).

When to catch it: Tuesday – Saturday, 9pm-12am | Cover charge? None | Make a reservation at Velvet

Nightjar Carnaby | Soho

nightjar carnaby bar with live music

Tucked quietly by the entrance to Kingly Court on Carnaby Street, Nightjar Carnaby is the younger sibling to the Shoreditch original. Which means alongside the same award-winning cocktails, theatrical presentation and low-lit setting, it also has the same passion for live music, with jazz, blues, swing and funk musicians taking to the stage every night.

When to catch it: Monday – Saturday from 9pm, Sunday from 7.30pm | Cover charge? No cover charge Mon & Tues, then £4-10 later in the week | Make a reservation at Nightjar Carnaby

Swift Soho | Soho

swift soho bar

Your visit to this suave Soho bar will be anything but swift. Because downstairs in their moodily-lit, whisky-laced cocktail grotto, you’ll be able to sip on innovative, amazing-value drinks while musicians tinkle away on the keys and double bass.

When to catch it: Sundays, 7-9pm | Cover charge? No | Make a reservation at Bar Swift

Below Stone Nest | Soho

Below Stone Nest

A crepuscular, cavernous cellar beneath Stone Nest, a Grade II-listed chapel turned performance venue on the fringes of Chinatown. It comes to us from Frank and Jackson Boxer, the brothers behind Peckham rooftop/carpark bar Frank’s Cafe and the fantastic Orasay respectively. Here, while sipping classic cocktails or a glass of natural wine, you can listen to live music curated by none other than Tic Zogson. He represents bands like The XX and FKA Twigs, and programmes all sorts of live performances and DJs here. And on occasional nights, The Hidden Jazz Club swings by with their pop-up jazz sets.

When to catch it: Currently closed for maintenance, keep an eye on their Insta here

Cahoots: Signal Station | Carnaby

live music at cahoots bar

Johnny Stephens Photography

Probably the best secret 1940s-era London Underground-themed cocktail bar in the city, Cahoots busses in the finest close harmony crooners, singalong maestros and electro-swing DJs for Friday night dancing and boozy afternoon tea parties.

When to catch it: Fridays from 8.30pm, Saturdays from 9pm Cover charge? No | Make a reservation at Cahoots Signal Station

Joe Allen | Covent Garden

joe allen bar live music

One of Theatreland’s most beloved haunts, Joe’s Bar takes inspiration from the famous piano bars of New York. Swing by here after the theatre (along with half the cast, probably), and you’ll be able to sip Joe’s legendary margaritas while musicians tickle the ivories. And if the mood takes you for a late-night banoffee ice cream sundae, well, you can get one of those too.

When to catch it: Wednesdays from 7.30pm Cover charge? No | Make a reservation at Joe’s Bar

The Alligator Bar | Covent Garden

louie alligator bar

If you find yourself in Covent Garden midweek, in need of some live jazz, some stellar cocktails, and an atmosphere of wonderfully refined decadence, then head to Louie – specifically, the third floor, where you’ll find yourself in the Alligator Bar. There’s live music there every Tuesday & Wednesday night, with bands playing jazz and soul respectively.

When to catch it: Tuesday – Thursday night from 6pm | Cover charge? No, but there’s a minimum table spend to book in advance | Join the Louie guest list

Mr Fogg’s Tavern | Covent Garden

mr foggs tavern singalongs

And now for something completely different: Mr Fogg’s Tavern is a two-storey pub resembling a 1900s inn downstairs, and a chintzy gin palace upstairs – and it has live music befitting its old-timey interiors courtesy of Tom Carradine. He’s the moustachioed gentleman who runs Carradine’s Cockney Singalongs at Wilton’s Music Hall, and once or twice a week you can also crowd around the old Joanna here for a surprisingly rousing mass sing-song (lyrics provided).

When to catch it: Thursdays, 8.31-10.31pm Cover charge? No | Book for the singalong

Bloomsbury Club Bar | Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury Club, bars in Central London

A seductive subterranean drinking den whose wood panelling on every surface seems to provide the perfect acoustics for a little live music, all enjoyable alongside quirky cocktails inspired by Ancient Egypt.

When to catch it: Check upcoming dates hereCover charge? No | Make a reservation at Bloomsbury Club Bar

Scarfes Bar | Holborn

Scarfes Bar - London bars with live music

Scarfes Bar is named after Gerald Scarfe, best known for his witty and satirical cartoons, and least known for the extinct genus of monofenestratan pterosaur, Cuspicephalus scarfi, also named in his honour. Sadly it’s only the former that decorate the walls of the suave, gentleman’s club-like bar dedicated to him in Holborn’s Rosewood Hotel – a disappointment you’ll soon get over thanks to the nightly live music and world-class cocktails.

When to catch it: Mon-Sat 8pm-12am, Sunday 7-11pm Cover charge? No | Make a reservation at Scarfes Bar

The American Bar at The Savoy | Strand

Savoy American bar best Covent Garden

The American Bar at The Savoy has so many claims to fame, it’s beginning to look greedy. It’s the oldest bar of its kind in London, having opened back in 1893. It’s served drinks to everyone from Churchill to Marilyn Monroe. And those drinks are the stuff of legend: head bartender Harry Craddock literally wrote the book on cocktails during his time here in the 1930s, inventing classics like the White Lady, the Hanky Panky and the Corpse Reviver. And now, the bar also has a nightly live pianist, just for good measure.

When to catch it: Every night Cover charge? None Make a reservation, or just walk in

Ronnie Scott’s | Soho

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Bar London

Ronnie Scott’s is the godfather of London’s jazz bars. It’s a classic for a reason… and that reason is the no talking rule, saving first dates from awkward small talk since 1959.

When to catch it: Nightly, but often sells out – book ahead Cover charge? Varies, check programme for details

The Piano Works West End | Covent Garden

piano works

Remember the last time you stumbled across an almost-hidden bar in a Covent Garden theatre with classic cocktails, three course dinners with bottomless prosecco and a six-piece band exclusively playing pop song requests from the crowd? The Piano Works West End is exactly like that, except with musically-synchronised lighting.

When to catch it: Wed-Sat from 8.30pm | Cover charge? £7.50+ | Make a reservation at Piano Works

 

EAST LONDON BARS WITH LIVE MUSIC

Nightjar | Shoreditch

nightjar Shoreditch live music bar

Jerome Courtial

Nightjar is hidden away behind a curtain at the bottom of a staircase behind a very dark, unmarked door facing Old Street roundabout. It’s the kind of spot you’d never notice unless you were specifically looking for a brick-walled jazz den serving some of the city’s most unusual cocktails. Which, as of now, you are.

When to catch it: Every night from 9pm, plus midnight sets Thurs-Sat Cover charge? £4-£10 | Make a reservation at Nightjar

Servant Jazz Quarters | Dalston

Servant Jazz Quarters

Servant Jazz Quarters is a bit like a classier version of the raucous servants’ quarters below deck in Titanic. An intimate, bi-level space with candlelit cabaret tables and an art deco-styled bar, it’s the perfect place to head to whenever you fancy port cocktails accompanied by a hand-pumped harmonium. Which is always.

When to catch it: Most nights – check programme & book here Cover charge? Individually ticketed

The Sun Tavern | Bethnal Green

The Sun Tavern London bars with live music

The Sun Tavern looks like a pub. Hell, it’s literally called a tavern. But make no mistake, this place is a cocktail bar, and one of the best bars in East London too. Located inside a handsome old saloon on Bethnal Green Road, it features an expertly crafted list of high quality cocktails, more than forty Leprechaun Green Irish whiskies, and a vast selection of locally brewed craft beers and poitín, a once-illegal Irish spirit.

When to catch it: Sunday & Monday evenings | Cover charge? No | Make a reservation at The Sun Tavern

The Nickel Bar | The City

Nickel bar, London bars with live music

This 1930’s-styled American bar in The Ned has a bandstand that literally takes centre stage in the middle of the (astonishingly grand) venue, once the Midland Bank. And you can always expect the daily line-up of live music – from Friday’s classic jazz trios to fresh new acts on Monday – to be on the money…

When to catch it: Every night | Cover charge? None | No bookings

NT’s Loft | London Fields

nts loft live music

Haydon Perrior

NT’s Loft – from the Night Tales folks – has a Funktion-One sound system. If that doesn’t immediately get your heart racing then know that on weekend nights they also invite an eclectic programme of selectors to come and play with it, where you’ll hear everything from disco to R&B, with the likes of Horse Meat Disco and Laurence Guy having DJ’d here in the past. But if you’re after live music with your drinks, head up on a Wednesday for their intimate live jazz sessions.

When to catch it: Wednesdays from 8pm | Cover charge? Free entry before 7.30pm, then £5 | Reserve a table

Grow | Hackney Wick

grow hackney live music by the canal

Grow started out as a hub of artists’ studios nestled inside an old sausage factory. And true to its name, it’s now grown into a canal-side bar and pop up kitchen, too. Every Thursday night, the house jazz band pitches up by the waterside and plays a couple of sets – and any musicians in the audience are heartily encouraged to get up and join in (especially tempting after a cocktail or two).

When to catch it: Thursdays, 7-11.30pm Cover charge? Free entry OTD or £6 for an advance booking | Book here

Dalston Jazz Bar | Dalston

Just in case being an East London bar with live music wasn’t enough of ‘a thing’, Dalston Jazz Bar serves a seafood menu that keeps coming to your table until you say stop. Also, the chef’s a DJ. And it’s pay what you want for the whole meal.

When to catch it: Fri-Sat evenings, 6-10pm then DJ set Cover charge? PWYW | Make a reservation

SOUTH LONDON BARS WITH LIVE MUSIC

Amazing Grace | London Bridge

Amazing Grace

Stone walls, lofty ceilings and a good rapport with angels. That’s Amazing Grace. And there are quite a few reasons 17th Century churches make excellent live music venues, especially when that live music comes alongside a whole load of booze and regularly-rotating food from some of London’s hottest street food brands. Expect everything from 70s folk magic to gospel, as well as DJs every Friday night.

When to catch it: See what’s on, and book tickets

Cable Café Bar | Oval

cable cafe bar live jazz

By day, Cable Café Bar roasts its own coffee, bakes its own cakes, and generally spoils everyone with its ineffable neighbourhood charm. By night, it cranks out the cocktails, accompanied by free live jazz.

When to catch it: Wed & Sat evenings from 8pm Cover charge? No

CLF Art Lounge And Roof Garden | Peckham

CLF Art Lounge

It’s easier to list the nights CLF Art Lounge and Rooftop Garden doesn’t have live music than when it does. There’s Nu Jazz Generations every Wednesday, Live in The Lounge every Friday, Latin Jazz Brunch every Saturday and Rooftop Soul Sessions every Sunday, all of which take place either in the plush, speak-easy style bar or upstairs on the plant-lined rooftop (boasting both heaters and a canopy in case of rain).

When to catch it: Wednesday-Sunday | See what’s on and book

WEST LONDON BARS WITH LIVE MUSIC

Piano Bar | Kensington, Smithfield

 

piano bar kensington

The Piano: a 160 year-old Collard & Collard Grand, left in the capable hands of a rotating line-up of musicians playing everything from Nina Simone to Rihanna.

The Bar: a candlelit den with killer cocktails, bar snacks and plush leather banquettes – not that you’ll be needing them when you’re swaying round the piano singing along to ‘Feeling Good’.

When to catch it: Most evenings Cover charge? No, but most events are ticketed – see what’s on and book

Evans & Peel | Earl’s Court

evans and peel bar with live music

On the face of it, Evans and Peel appears to be your typical, everyday high-street 1940s detective agency. But sweet-talk the P.I. and you’ll be ushered into the back room: a candlelit, bootlegging den with moonshine cocktails and a live music line-up that’s criminally good.

When to catch it: Thursdays from 8.30pm, Fridays & Saturdays from 9pm Cover charge? £6pp | See what’s on & book

Troubadour | Earl’s Court

The Troubadour has been a stalwart of London’s live music scene since the fifties – but it’s also a singularly lovely place to enjoy a quiet pint with some live jazz and acoustic bubbling away in the background.

When to catch it: Most nights, live jazz Sundays & occasional Mondays Cover charge? Individually ticketed/jazz nights are free | See what’s on at Troubadour

 

NORTH LONDON BARS WITH LIVE MUSIC

69 Colebrook Row | Islington

69 Colebrook Row live music

Officially, 69 Colebrooke Row is just this bar’s address, not its name – which is The Bar With No Name. But the cocktail genius behind it does have a name: Tony Conigliaro, and the bar’s pioneering drinks menu still impresses to this day…

When to catch it: House pianist – Weds & Sun, 7pm-10pm | Live bands: Thursdays from 8.30pm | Cover charge? No | Make a reservation at 69 Colebrooke Row

The Blues Kitchen Camden | Camden, Shoreditch, Brixton

blues kitchen camden

By day, it’s a whisky-slicked brunch, lunch and dinner spot, serving smoky Texan-style BBQ, burgers and spiced Southern dishes. By night, it becomes a packed-out bar with excellent cocktails, one of London’s biggest bourbon collections, and live bands taking to the stage to play blues, funk & soul before the retro DJ set takes over until the wee hours.

When to catch it: Nightly Cover charge? No, but you’ll need to pay entry later in the weekSee what’s on at The Blues Kitchen bars

 


Want more than bar bites with those beats? Check out our guide to the best London restaurants with live music