We’ve taken the liberty of compiling you a to-do list. It is made up of what we deem to be the best bars in central London – which includes everything from a laid-back, buzzy theatre bar to a cocktail parlour once voted No. 1 in the world.
Topping the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2021, The Connaught Bar is the epitome of old-school glamour – lofty, ornate ceilings; marble floors; and big brown leather armchairs. The cocktails are a mix of signature creations, some of which are barrel-aged behind the bar, and slightly more classic drinks, although always with a Connaught twist. Like their Bloody Mary for instance, ‘pepped with home-made spices and…celery air’. They also have a world-renowned martini trolley which – wheeled up to you at your table – offers up seven different styles of martini to drink… You’ll be hard stretched to find anywhere better.
Address: The Connaught Hotel, Carlos Place, Mayfair, W1K 2AL | No bookings: find out more here
FAIRY-LIT CAVERN: THE BLOOMSBURY CLUB BAR | Bloomsbury
Tucked round the corner from The British Museum, The Bloomsbury Club Bar is a sophisticated roaring Twenties-styled space with rare whiskey-filled cabinets, leather seats and live jazz, with a date-worthy terrace area decked out in fairy-lights. Oh, and the staff (besides making drinks) promise to make you wiser, more charismatic and generally improve your life through a new menu of Ancient Egyptian-inspired cocktails. ‘Open up and connect’ under the influence of Meri, the Universal Mother (and also a potent concoction of 10 year-old Bourbon, crème de cacao and Branca Menta); or ‘take a dramatic new direction’ with Anubis (channelled through cognac, dates and cardamom bitters). And if it sounds difficult to choose, don’t worry – your decision will be left to the fates as you circle an amulet around a cocktail pyramid.
Address: 16-22 Great Russell St, WC1B 3NN | Book here
Our list of “Duos Who Have Made The World A Better Place” is long. But only the latest duo on our list – cocktailing supremo Tony Conigliaro and coffee king Marco Arrigo – have pooled their respective talents in order to create a tiny little 1950’s Italianate coffee and cocktail bar in the heart of Soho. Pop in to Bar Termini for an espresso with the paper, or settle in to try each and every one of their negronis…
Address: Old Compton Street, Soho, W1D 5JE | Book here (highly recommended – though they’ll always try to fit you in somehow)
DECONSECRATED DRAANKS: BELOW STONE NEST | Leicester Square
Here’s a bar that crypt up out of nowhere: Below Stone Nest is the culmination of the talents of Jackson & Frank Boxer, behind Orasay and Frank’s respectively. And as well as being a nice, under-the-radar bar in central London where you can sip a heavily curated list of cocktails, beers and natural wines, it just so happens to be found underneath a 19th century church on Cambridge Circus.
Address: 136 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EZ | No bookings – find out more here
Technically speaking, The Blind Pig actually has two ‘i’s. It’s the speakeasy at the top of Jason Atherton’s Social Eating House, sporting low-lighting, leather banquettes and a copper-topped bar that’s all very grown-up… until you get to the cocktail menu. It’s more like a leather storybook – complete with illustrations – with drinks inspired by classic children’s tales. Meaning you can drink Humpty Dumpty (topped with an egg, of course) and The Three Little Pigs in liquid form… The Big Bad Wolf would approve.
*just the cocktail themes we’re talking about here…
Address: 58 Poland St, W1F 7NR | Book here
MINIMALIST DRINKS & MAXIMALIST INTERIORS: ARTESIAN | Marylebone
Back in the day, Artesian was voted best bar in the world for three years running. Not ones to rest on their laurels, a brand new team took over – and now it serves cocktails made with just two ingredients (and no more theatrical, smoking vessels). Those drinks still come in at £20 a pop, but if you’re curious as to how Champagne tastes with cream, or citrus grappa with sandalwood, there’s no
other better place to find out.
Address: Langham Hotel, 1C Portland Place, W1B 1JA | Book here
Yes, at Cahoots you can snigger that you’re ‘drinking on the tube’, but you can also claim first-class cocktails, nod your head to live music (perhaps even sing along…) and pick away at the snacks trolley that boasts truffle chips and cheese, ham and marmite toasties. Oh, and it’s all served inside an ‘abandoned’ (but suspiciously well-kept) 1940s underground station, complete with tube carriage. A few of their gin and guava-injected Winston Churchills and you’re definitely heading in the right direction…
Address: 13 Kingly Court, W1B 5PW | Book here
Ronnie Scott’s is one of the most renowned jazz bars in London – a low-lit, subterranean drinking den, where you can while away the evening eating and drinking, all while listening to incredible jazz.
Address: 47 Frith Street, Soho, Central London, W1D 4HT | Book tickets here
The Soho Theatre Bar is a laid-back, inclusive theatre bar in central London, filled with creative types drinking and/or waiting on the next show. We like it because it sits in a nice middle ground between sticky pub, and cocktails. In fact, it’s hard to think of another place like it. Also, you’re almost always guaranteed a seat. See, even if you arrive when it’s full, it won’t be long until the next show – at which point everyone filters out and that booth you’ve eyed up in the corner is yours.
Address: 21 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 3NE | No bookings – find out more, and see upcoming shows, here
Lady of The Grapes is an intimate, candlelit wine bar, focused on championing wines from female producers. It’s the perfect spot for a date, or a long chat with a close friend. They also have a delicious selection of French-inspired dishes to choose from – things like homemade foie gras, served with fresh fruit bread and apple cider jelly; or fondue – made with three different types of cheeses, with plenty of crusty white bread for dipping.
Address: 16 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, WC2E 7NJ | Book here
SUBTERRANEAN MARGARITAS: EL BAR DE CAVITA | Marylebone
When Cavita opened eighteen months ago, it instantly became one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city. And now it’s shaking things up, quite literally, with its subterranean cocktail bar, El Bar de Cavita. The menu is made up of owner Adriana Cavita’s personal favourites, served alongside street food classics like ceviche tostadas and baja fish tacos bussed down from the kitchen upstairs. And with numbers like Corn Old Fashioneds and Watermelon Margaritas on offer, they’re rapidly going to become some of your personal favourites, too.
Address: 60 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, W1U 2RZ | Book here
Like the original Nightjar in Shoreditch, the sequel, Nightjar Carnaby, is the kind of bar you’ll stumble into and stumble out of, as 1) They don’t make it for you to find (speakeasy things…) and 2) There’s a mammoth list of enticing drinks to work through – organised chronologically from prohibition-era to post war – including an oyster-topped salty martini, and the Barrel Aged Zombie, laced with three types of rum and Hendricks Absinthe. It’s also one of the best bars in London for live music, which you can sit back and enjoy from a cosy dark corner or a black leather booth as artists take the stage decorated with a glittering gold lurex curtain.
Address: Unit G15, Kingly Court, W1F 9PY | Book here
A REAL WORK OF ART: BOURNE & HOLLINGSWORTH | Fitzrovia
Bourne & Hollingsworth is a quirky cocktail bar in central London combining blown-up 19th century paintings on the walls, mismatched chairs, and intriguing drinks. Basically, it’s like getting drunk in a tiny back room of The National Gallery.
Address: 28 Rathbone Place, London W1T 1JF | Book here
Hide Below is an incredibly handsome basement bar underneath Ollie Dabbous’ Michelin-starred restaurant, Hide. As well as its own walk-in wine cellar, it boasts a sweeping bar carved out of ancient burr oak, backed by a full-stocked, glistening jewel of a drinks cabinet, lit up in gold. The cocktails come courtesy of Oskar Kinberg, a long-term colleague and friend of Dabbous, who – above everything – knows how to mix a bloody good drink. There’s no theatrics here; instead the focus is flavour. Seasonal produce is used to create simple but delicious drinks, and we’re yet to taste anything to the contrary.
Address: 85 Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 7NB | Book here
Bar Crispin takes all the joy of Spitalfields’ Crispin, and squeezes it into a bar in Central London. It’s a pleasingly avant-garde kind of space, decked out in graphic zig zags, where you can take your pick of 150 natural wines curated by sommelier Alex Price (formerly of members club Annabel’s). That’s not a challenge for you to go out and try them all, of course, but it is open all day… (until 11pm) and although it’s called Bar Crispin, a snappy menu of seasonal small plates that includes pig’s head croquettes with hot plum sauce and beef tartare toast with blue cheese, means that you can have a cracking dinner here too.
Address: 9 Kingly St, W1B 5PY | Book here
Swift Soho is a two-storey cocktail bar on Old Compton Street, brought to you by the folks behind both Nightjar and Milk & Honey. Upstairs is a slightly more laid-back, brighter space, focused around a small list of ‘light’ cocktails and oysters; downstairs on the other-hand is low-lit and moody, with a 250-strong whisky selection; a slightly lengthier (often whisky-based) cocktail list; and, occasionally, live jazz.
Address: 12 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 4TQ | Book here
In Louche, the Records team (the guys behind Old St. Records, Venn St. Records and Northcote Records), have tried to bring Soho back to, erm, Soho. You know, the old Soho – from the wild, freewheeling days of the ‘60s – and they’ve gone about that inside a three-storey Greek Street townhouse, fitted with wood-panelled walls decorated in photos that celebrate the era’s most colourful characters and their sleazy shenanigans, plus themed parties, DJs, live music and burlesque nights. In order to properly honour Horace Silver, Madame Louise and co, get involved in the cocktails (shaken up at a beautiful stone bar), as creations like the umammartini are sure to louche-n you up…
Address: 5 Greek St, W1D 4DD | Book here
If you’re a fan of Kricket (Rik Campbell and Will Bowlby’s Indian-British Soho restaurant, not the sport…), then you’ll like Soma, the bar equivalent next door. In truth, even if you’ve never been to Kricket before then you’ll still like Soma, as it’s undeniably one of the most unique cocktail bars in central London. Pick from a dozen classics shaken up with subcontinental flavours (margaritas with chaat masala and gooseberry, old fashioneds with jaggery and toasted coconut and daiquiris with discarded banana rum and Indian spices) – and enjoy them either at the rather sexy 9-metre-steel bar or in a low-lit, more private lounge.
Address: 12-14 Denman Street, W1D 7HL | Book here
Ticked off all the best bars in Central London? Check out The Nudge’s guide to the best restaurants in Central London, too.