The year 2021 has given us a fair few reasons to drink.
Thankfully, and by some miracle, it also gave us a fair few new places to do that, too. Places that all seemed to embody a near-perfect cocktail of atmosphere, service and, well, cocktails. So here are the ten best new drinking dens the capital has produced this year…
If you dig out your first edition copy of “How to Create A Dark, Moody, Subterranean Cocktail Bar”, and follow the instructions inside to the letter, you’ll end up with Soma.
It’s the kind of place that makes you feel slightly cooler just for having walked inside. You can either take a seat at the long steel bar, or ensconce yourself inside one of the velvet-curtained private alcoves, and settle in for some of the most delicious drinks you’ve had in a long while. Owned and operated by the guys from Kricket up above, the menu comprises classic cocktails given an Indian twist (the Margarita has gooseberry salt & kumquat, the Gimlet has kaffir leaf and pink peppercorn, etc.).
Details: 12-14 Denman Street, W1D 7HL | £££
Hongdae Pocha claims to be the capital’s first ever “retro-style Korean pub”.
It’s styled after the pochas (that’s what they call a pub in Korean, apparently) of the North-East Asian peninsula in the ’70s & ’80s, and if it’s anything to go by, then they were a hell of a lot of fun. Because it seems to be the one place in the world where disco balls, corrugated steel roofs, indoor BBQs, K-pop, and vintage advertising all comfortably intersect to create a whole far greater than the sum of their parts…
Details: 26 Romilly Street, W1D 5AJ | ££
You’ll find Nocturne housed underneath their wine & cheese shop in South Kensington, Old Brompton.
And it’s something of a stunner.
It was actually designed by the owners themselves, and they’ve thrown the moody, ’20s kitchen sink at it: low lighting, cocktail cabinets, drinks trolleys, studded leather furnishings, and a centrepiece piano if you fancy tinkling the ivories. They’ve even left the original bread ovens recessed into the walls, making them look like little fireplaces. And thankfully, they didn’t neglect the drinks, either…
Details: 158 Old Brompton Road, SW5 0BA | ££££
Corrochio’s Cocina & Coctelería
Ruby’s in Dalston was already a gem of a bar.
And now, it’s got a glittering sibling too. Nestled within the same, bare-brick walled, intimate underground space, Corrochio’s is a Mexican cocktail spot with plenty of first-rate drinks, both traditional and modern alike. And you can get some absolutely stellar bar food to go with it all, too.
Details: 76 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XB | ££
When you walk into the ground floor of Hacha’s new agave bar in Brixton you’ll find yourself enveloped by a mirrored room, gazing out into an infinitely reflective horizon and asking yourself where reality begins and ends…
Aaaand then you’ll drink mezcal.
If you’ve never been to the East London original, it’s the home of the award-winning Mirror Margarita (which the room you walk into downstairs is a tribute to). And here, they’ve created a space that’s bigger, better, and even more agave-filled…
Details: 12-14 Market Row, SW9 8LD | £££
Amazing Grace is housed in St Thomas’ Church opposite Borough Market, a building that was first erected in 1192.
If you’re wondering how it’s still standing, that’ll be thanks to the periodic restorations that it gets given every few centuries, most recently being updated into its current English Baroque style, complete with soaring bell tower, back in 1703.
And now it’s been updated into a bar. A bar with live music. And bao buns. And an original Banksy. And lots of cocktails…
Details: 9a St Thomas St, SE1 9RY | £££
Below Stone Nest
There aren’t many candlelit, subterranean cocktail bars hidden underneath Grade-2 listed chapels in central London.
In fact, there’s only one.
It’s called Below Stone Nest and it’s situated, well, below Stone Nest – that’s the performing arts outfit currently residing inside Covent Garden’s hauntingly beautiful Welsh-style chapel. It comes to us from brothers Jackson & Frank Boxer (also responsible for Frank’s Cafe & Brunswick House), and it’s an absolute stunner…
Details: 136 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1D 5EZ | £££
Bar La Rampa
Bar La Rampa aims to recreate the atmosphere of 1950’s Havana through authentic cocktails, live music, and food.
And, having not been to 1950s Havana, all we can say is that this is a wonderful place to get a drink. And that’s probably down to the pedigree of the team behind it, coming to us – as it does – from the excellent MJMK Group, whose other venues include Casa Do Frango & Kol, and whose founder literally spent his childhood in Cuba…
Details: 7-8 Market Place, W1W 8AG | ££££
Joe Allen has been a London institution for over four decades, and this year, it finally had to move premises.
Crisis? Opportunity? Both? Well, one thing’s for sure – getting the legendary Russell Norman to create the new bar was an excellent move.
The all-new Joe’s Bar is a moodily low lit, New York style joint with a conker-brown polished wooden bar, bentwood chairs, and a well-trodden original parquet floor. It won’t surprise you to hear that the drinks are mostly classic. In fact, the Jerry Thomas Manhattan comes from an original recipe dating back to 1884. And you can also get a bone-dry gin martini, and an old fashioned Joe Allen Margarita. Oh, and an Old Fashioned.
Details: 2 Burleigh St, WC2E 7PX | £££
To be clear, The George isn’t new.
In fact, no-one’s really sure exactly when it was even built.
Buuuuut it’s just had what surely must be one of the most significant upgrades in its history, so it nevertheless qualifies for this list: it’s been taken over by the JKS Group. And anyone who’s been to the other glittering gems in their restaurant portfolio – Gymkhana, BAO, Lyle’s, BiBi, etc. – will understand why that’s such a big deal. And why the results are so damn good…
Details: 55 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7LQ | £££
Fancy something to eat with that? Check out the best restaurants of 2021…