The 10 Best London Bars of 2018
They truly are the movers and shakers of the drink scene. And the class of 2018 are a pretty excellent bunch – so much so, in fact, that choosing between them would be almost impossible.
But we’ve had a go regardless; so, behold – in no particular order – our pick of the 10 best bars in London 2018…
Heads + Tails | Hampstead
Heads + Tails is a cocktail bar in West Hampstead with a very simple premise. Heads, you win. Tails… you also win. Because it’s a two-storey bar from two of the capital’s finest mixologists; Will Partridge of Kilburn Ironworks and Chris Dennis, co-founder of Brixton’s much-missed Sovereign Loss and gorgeous Soho speako, Disrepute. And it seems that the loss of Soverign Loss was very much Hampstead’s gain, because it led to this beauty. Bright and airy upstairs, dark and moody downstairs. Two sides, one coin, both excellent.
Details: Open Daily | 175 West End Lane, West Hampstead, NW6 2LH | £££
Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration | Embankment
Usually, the fourth entry into a series isn’t a stunner. Or at least, it’s not significantly different enough from the ones that came before it to cause a fuss. But Mr Fogg’s have alway ben a little different. Like its predecessors, Mr. Fogg’s Society of Exploration is a low-lit, atmospheric drinking den, cloaked in Victorian-era trinkets and antique bric-a-brac. However – where its previous incarnations have focussed on the fruits of those travels, this spot is inspired by the art of exploration itself. It has the wood-panelled walls, sumptuous chesterfields and low-lighting of an old 19th century gentlemen’s club, with antique maps and portraits on the walls, and bookcases stuffed with old scrolls, timepieces and rusty contraptions.
And of course, like all decent gentlemen’s clubs, there’s a full size, Orient Express-style train carriage bang in the middle of it.
And that’s enough to make it a showstopper, wherever it places in the grand scheme.
Details: Open Daily | 1a Bedford Street, WC2E 9HH | £££
Scout + Gold Tooth | Hackney
Spot the wood ants
Scout originally made its home in Shoreditch, but, after its first successful year (winning it a comfortable position in the World’s 100 Best Bars), it’s now re-opened in a new spot just by Hackney Central station. And because they were so clearly onto a good thing, they’ve recreated the same Scandi-chic interiors on the ground floor, with unvarnished furnishings and simple grey walls. Downstairs, however, they’ve added in a whole new bar, Gold Tooth showcasing their kegged cocktails…
It’s worth scouting out.
Details: Open Tues-Sat | 224 Graham Road, Hackney, E8 1BP | £££
ABQ | Hackney
ABQ isn’t just a bar. It’s an immersive cocktail experience themed after Breaking Bad, which spent the fish few years of its life in an actual RV parked somewhere in East London. It’s now gone permanent, and in a very impressive way: Because not only have they housed the entire RV within their huge new venue, but they’ve opened it out at the back, and added in an entire, chemistry lab-style cocktail bar which spins out into the larger seating area behind it. And then, they’ve only gone and thrown in a highly creative shot bar above that (called Sinner), before finally putting a full-blown pizza restaurant into the al fresco area out back.
Details: Open Tues-Sun | 18 Bohemia Place, Hackney, E8 1DU | £££
Hercules | Soho
This year, the Soho pub called The Pillars of Hercules went and transformed itself into a “cocktail pub”, simply named Hercules. Yes, the drinks got a lot stronger. And so did their atmosphere, decor, and service, too. Because they’ve apparently taken this whole “cocktail” part really quite seriously, they’ve even installed a very small laboratory space somewhere in the back along with a few ageing casks, where they can tweak, tailor, and test their recipes (and, we assume, their sobriety).
Details: Open Daily | 7 Greek Street, W1D 4DF | £££
Laki Kane | Islington
Ever since Trader Vic’s anchored itself into the London drinking scene back in 1963, the city has been waiting for a worthy tiki-style successor to pick up the baton, and use it to muddle some kind of exotic fruit. Well, Laki Kane has answered that call. It’s a two-storey Pacific island (located in Islington) where the cocktails come in ornate drinking vessels and include the likes of soursop, cupuassu, cashew nut fruit, jack fruit, snake fruit and other stuff you’ve never heard of. And you can even distill your own bottle of rum there, too.
Details: Open Daily | 144-145 Upper Street, N1 1QY | £££
St John At Hackney Brewery | Hackney
St John at Hackney Brewery is named after the church it sits opposite, and that’s quite appropriate for two reasons: 1) because they treat their responsibility to create delicious beer, and make sure you have a good time drinking it with an almost religious reverence. And 2) because once you go there (especially during the warmer month, when they can open up their al fresco area) you’ll be praying for an excuse to go again.
Details: Open Daily | 16 & 17 Bohemia Place, Hackney, E8 1DU | £££
The Lost Alpaca Bar | Covent Garden
The Lost Alpaca Bar (or, LAB) comes to us from the Gonzales brothers, who own both the Michelin Starred Peruvian restaurant Lima, and its sister spot in Covent Garden, Lima Floral – the latter of which the LAB sits directly underneath. The idea behind the place is to represent not just Peru, but all of Latin America, via the medium of booze. There’s a different spirit to rep each country & region, all going into their various cocktails. And they’re fantastic. The space is beautifully atmospheric, and the bar food is exactly as good as you’d expect, coming from one of Covent Garden’s best restaurants.
Details: Open Daily | 14 Garrick Street, Covent Garden, WC2E 9BJ | £££
Swingers West End | Marylebone
It’s almost unfair to call this a bar. Because for one, it’s got two bars. And for two, it’s got two crazy golf courses. But at its absolute essence, this is simply one of the best ways to grab a drink in the city, with caddies bringing you cocktails while you shoot golf balls through windmills and around loop-de-loops.
Details: Open Daily | 15 John Prince’s Street, W1G 0AB | £££
Meraki Bar | Fitzrovia
A late entry into the 2018 race, Meraki Bar is hidden underneath the Fitzrovia Greek restaurant of the same name. It’s a low-lit, smartly Bohemian nook that sports invitingly plush sofas and jewel-coloured banquettes covered in fat, soft, velvet cushions. And you’ll have to access it by finding the decoy bar, going past the bookshelf to the hidden stairs, and heading down…
Details: Open Daily | 30 Foley Street, Fitzrovia, W1W 7TJ | £££
Fancy something to eat with that? Check out the best restaurants of 2018…