Features

Hattie Lloyd 22/01/22


The Best Bars In Central London

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 – everything from a laid-back, buzzy theatre bar to a cocktail parlour voted No. 1 in the world.

Enjoy.

AWARD WINNING GLAMOUR: THE CONNAUGHT BAR  | Mayfair

The Connaught Bar best bars central London

Topping The World’s 50 Best Bars list, 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 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.

MYSTERIOUS HOTEL BAR: THE BLOOMSBURY CLUB BAR | Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury Club, bars in Central London

Down below the Bloomsbury Hotel, in this sophisticated Roaring Twenties-styled space with rare whiskey-filled cabinets, leather seats and live jazz, the staff (besides making drinks) promise to make you wiser, more charismatic and improve your overall emotional state through 14 tarot deck-inspired cocktails. Those include the Mad Monkey with tequila, peach citric and egg white (which will make you ‘more mischievous’) and the rum, beeswax-infused cognac and absinthe-based Mirror Image (claiming to ‘awaken you with renewed vigour’), and, yeah, we can see how that could be true. It truly is a moody bar.

Address: 16-22 Great Russell St, WC1B 3NN | Book here

PURE ITALIAN STYLE: BAR TERMINI | Soho

Bar Termini

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 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).

FOR CHILDHOOD MEMORIES*:  THE BLIND PIG | Soho

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 

Artesian Bar bars in central london

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

A TRAIN JOURNEY LIKE NO OTHER: CAHOOTS | Soho

Cahoots kingly court bar

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…

NOTE: For more train-themed tipples, there’s also Ticket Hall & Signal Station across the path in Kingly Court. It’s run by the same people, who appear to have a great track record in these things…

Address: 13 Kingly Court, W1B 5PW | Book here


WORLD FAMOUS JAZZ DEN: RONNIE SCOTT’S | Soho

Ronnie Scotts best bars central London

It’s London’s most renowned jazz bar – 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

DATE-NIGHT WINE BAR: LADY OF THE GRAPES | Covent Garden

Lady Of The Grapes

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

FOR ‘LEARNING’ ABOUT AGAVE: MAYAHUEL | Marylebone

Mayahuel best bars in Central London

In Mexico, Mayahuel is known as the ancient Aztec goddess of fertility and the agave plant. In London, however, the name rings as one of the city’s best tequila & mezcal bars, a dimly-lit mezcaleria that you’ll find underneath Cavita (just to indicate where the food’s coming from…), where Adriana Cavita puts her incredible agave selection to good use in cocktails like the Jalisco Sour (a sour with tequila, agave syrup and jalapeño) and a Tepatío Old Fashion (an old fashioned with tequila and agave syrup), plus flights that let you sample top spirits from different parts of Mexico. So you can kind of understand why Mayahuel gets praised to the heavens over here, too.

Address: 60 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, W1U 2RZ | Book here

LAID-BACK CREATIVE DEN: SOHO THEATRE BAR | Soho

Soho Theatre Bar

It’s 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.

DECONSECRATED DRAANKS: BELOW STONE NEST | Leicester Square

chapel

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 great bar in central London to 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.


SECRET SPEAKEASY
: NIGHTJAR CARNABY | Soho

Nightjar Carnaby best bars in Central London

Like the original Nightjar in Shoreditch, the sequel here in Soho is the kind of bar you’ll stumble into and stumble out of, as they don’t make it for you to find (speakeasy things…) and there’s a mammoth list of enticing drinks to work through – organised chronologically from prohibition-era to post war – like 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

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.

HIGH-END COCKTAILS IN A TREE HOLLOW: HIDE BELOW | Mayfair

Hide Below

It’s 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 use 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.

NATURAL WINE BAR: BAR CRISPIN | Soho

Bar Crispin

Bar Crispin is the follow up to Crispin in Spitalfields, smaller but no less mighty, and offering you the 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

A BAR OF TWO HALVES: SWIFT | Soho

Swift

It’s a two-storey cocktail bar on Soho’s 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, at points, live jazz.

Address: 12 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 4TQ | Book here.

AN ODE TO SOHO’S GOLDEN AGE: LOUCHE | Soho

Louche, best bars in Central London

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 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

IMPRESSING A DATE: SOMA | Soho

Soma

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 best 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 quite sexy 9-metre-steel bar or in a low-lit, more private lounge.

Address: 12-14 Denman Street, W1D 7HL | Book here

 

Main image: Hide Below


Ticked off all the best bars in Central London? Check out The Nudge’s guide to the best restaurants in Central London, too.

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