Not, as it turns out, suitable events to take babies along to. However, if you’re looking for somewhere to impress someone of legal drinking age, look no further…
Arguably one of the best bars in London, Nightjar’s an actual, bona fide speakeasy. You’ll enter through an unmarked door, head down a darkened staircase and into a world of rose-tinted mirrors, the leather chairs, and the illicit, darkened corners. You’ll hear the hum of live jazz emanating from the flat-capped jazz men on stage, and winding its way through the shadows to the bar where their award-winning cocktails are created. Get a couple.
Details: Open from 6pm daily | 129 City Road, EC1V 1JB
2. Happiness Forgets
Another Shoreditch bar which sits proudly in the ‘best bars in all of London’ category, Happiness Forgets is anything but forgettable. With minimal décor and candlelit wooden tables, it is the drinks themselves and the expert makers who steal all the focus. Of course with fame comes the booking system and you’ll be lucky to get a seat if you haven’t made a reservation in advance. So, do that.
Details: Open daily 5-11pm | 8-9 Hoxton Square, N1 6NU
3. White Lyan
Possibly one of the most different bars you’ll come across, at White Lyan the drinks are all premixed, and simply poured out for you at the bar. Helmed by the glorious Ryan Chetiyawardana, by premixing they aim to control every possible variable in the construction of your drink, right down to minerality and vessel thickness. It’s also the first bar to completely avoid using perishables – no lemons, no limes, no ice – to ensure that the flavours permeate right through to the very last drop, which also happens to make it one of the least wasteful joints in town.
Details: Open Wed-Sun | 153-155 Hoxton Street, N1 6PJ
4. The Blues Kitchen
Some people believe that you need to visit at least three different places in an evening in order to drink Snake Venom, the world’s strongest beer at 67.5%; eat alligator tails; access 100 varieties of bourbon; tuck into a BBQ menu created by a three-time winner of the British Barbecue Championships; and listen to live blues, seven nights a week.
Those people are wrong.
Details: Open daily | 134-146 Curtain Road, EC2A 3AR
5. Worship Street Whistling Stop
Another contender for one of the best bars in London, Worship Street Whistling Stop is inspired by Victorian Gin Palaces, yet the drinks created behind the dark wooden bar are anything but old-fashioned (except for the Old Fashioned). A result of months of almost scientific experimentation (there’s literally a lab in the back) the menu comprises of cocktails that are as theatrical as they are tasty; containing everything from fermented baobab, to clarified milk, to barrel-aged duck fat cider.
Details: Open Mon-Sat | 63 Worship Street, EC2A 2DU
6. Looking Glass Cocktail Club
Despite the name, the Looking Glass Cocktail Club isn’t themed – but you do have to walk through a giant mirror to get in. With mismatched furniture, poured concrete floors and distressed panelling, the Hackney Road haunt could be mistaken for a very tidy garage. Any fears that you’ve stumbled into someone’s property will disappear once you spot the shiny metal topped bar – which fortunately produces some cracking cocktails. The menu is where the Lewis Carroll references appear; The White Rabbit for example, is a brandy-based cocktail…that tastes like carrots.
Details: Open daily | 49 Hackney Road, E2 7NX
7. Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge
When a bar boasts a ‘bandage room’ you know it’s going to be at least a little eccentric. Ninetyeight Bar and Lounge is in fact very eccentric, with spray painted furniture, dog portraits and lots and lots of sweeties. It’s oddly homely feeling for somewhere with more balloon back chairs than Buckingham Palace. The Curtain Road basement is full of quirks and usually a buzzing crowd from around 10pm till close at 1am. The menu changes regularly and consists of 9 cocktails, which are usually as bizarre as the décor with highlights including Candylife and Look Out for The Moustache. Previously a private members club, the bar still has an intimacy to it – but not at all in a pompous way, making it an unconventional but well advised spot for a date.
Details: Open Wed-Sat | Morrell House, 98 Curtain Road, EC2A 3AF
8. Portside Parlour
With over 80 rums and a regularly changing menu, Portside Parlour is hidden behind a shop-like exterior. Inside, however, you’ll find a slick bar, dark walls and deep leather sofas. The Rivington Street bar serves cocktails as well as neats, straight-ups, and also some extremely rare spirits (which could set you back £3000).
Details: Open Tues – Sun | 14 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DU
9. Spitalfields Bar at Hawksmoor
Yet another basement to add to the Shoreditch list, but as part of the well-oiled Hawksmoor machine, Spitalfields Bar is quite different from its subterranean counterparts. Downstairs from the steakhouse, the spotless venue features dark turquoise tiled booths, leather arms chairs and a brass-topped bar. You’ll find impressive-yet-casual snacks like the shortrib nuggets on the food menu, impressive-yet-casual drinks like the Shakey Pete’s Ginger Brew on the cocktail menu.
Details: Open Mon-Sat | 157b Commercial Street, E1 6BJ
Main image: Nightjar
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