The Best Bars in The City of London
The City: one of the most high-powered, cortisol-charged and fast-paced parts of London.
And that’s just on the tube before you get to work.
So nobody’s going to judge you for wanting somewhere to wind down afterwards. People will, however, judge you if you don’t have any good suggestions.
Which, luckily for you, is precisely where this list of the best bars in the City of London comes in. Behold the best liquor-laced hideouts, from Temple to Liverpool Street…
To call Black Rock a bar would be slightly misleading. Because there is no bar – instead, they’ve split a 185 year old tree in half, filled it with two home-blend whiskies, and attached two convenient taps at the end. And while placing your mouth directly under those taps is generally frowned upon, they’re more than happy to mix the contents into cocktails or serve you a dram from their 250-strong whiskey library. And if that doesn’t suit, there’s another two bars upstairs as part of new hotel, The Napoleon.
City of London Distillery (C.O.L.D.)
Be sure to pay your respects to Jennifer and Clarissa behind the bars in the City of London Distillery. You’ll recognise them as being the two huge copper distillery tanks responsible for what the bar describes as a “faint aroma of gin vapour that hangs in the air.” But if you’re after something a little more tangible than vapour, their speak-easy style bar serves up flawless G&Ts – or you can join one of their many tours, tastings, and opportunities to even distil your own gin. Either way, you’ll be taking some of that aroma with you when you leave.
By Appointment Only
The last time you found yourself in a secret subterranean Turkish bath house from the 19th century, you were probably hallucinating from sitting in a sauna too long. But the next time it happens, it’ll be because you’ve made an appointment with this place, which makes a pretty good case for one of the most beautiful bars in the City of London. In their elaborate Victorian subterranean cloisters, they create cocktails using house-made infusions like quince and blue cheese gin, and there’s a bathtub full of Champagne. Because the City.
The Four Sisters Townhouse
Confusingly a second sister to The Four Sisters in Islington, the townhouse bears all the charms of its older sibling – an enviable list of weekly-changing cocktails mixed up with home infusions, syrups and barrel-aged spirits, an intimate, ornate interior reminiscent of a Dickensian mansion, and food options ranging from duck liver parfait on toast, to full 28 day-aged steak – except this one is much, much closer to you.
The Trading House
Sharing the bar with a crowd of taxidermied birds and mammals is all part of the charm of The Trading House – formerly the Bank of New Zealand, currently an atmospheric, wood-panelled drinking establishment, with nightly live music, a bona fide book of international beers on offer, and a spectacular cocktail list. Aside from your standard numbers like Karma’s A Bitch (made with karma tea syrup) and the Chai Martini, there’s cocktails combining ales with botanical infusions, and an assiduously selected range of small-batch gins to be tried.
The short of it: it’s the second Nightjar. The long of it: it’s an extravagant, epicurean tour of the world through the medium of the cocktail, with the menu partitioned by ingredient provenance. There’s sumptuous decor, nightly live jazz, and it’s all impressively tucked under Smithfields Market.
Worship St. Whistling Shop
In some sort of power-crazed mania, the team behind Purl decided to make their second venue the hardest possible place to pronounce when drunk. But they do promise to ply you with experimental cocktails, ranging from the theatrical to the downright histrionic. Look out for the Negroni Stellare – no, seriously, or it’ll set you on fire.
El Vino Fleet Street
El Vino comprises a small number of the best bars in the City, all dating back to the 1880s. Each is filled with sprawling libraries of wines from Spain, Portugal, France, and beyond – as well as small plates of tapas and the like. The Fleet Street branch (once a hall of mirrors) is like a time machine, complete with green leather banquettes, glass dividers and even the original Edwardian telephone, while The Olde Wine Shades off Cannon Street pre-dates the Great Fire of London and has a cellar that was frequented by smugglers from the river.
The bar with no booze was missing just one key thing… a branch in East London. Now that’s all been fixed, you can tip up with your favourite tipple and they’ll whip it into a bespoke cocktail to suit your tastes. And talking of taste, there’s a sparsely decorated, but utterly delicious restaurant upstairs, headed up by long-time BYOC collaborator, James Cochran.
The chef down at Camino is called Nacho del Campo, which literally translates as Nacho of the Field – and with a name like that, he could hardly fail to create anything but the best tapas in the ground-floor restaurant here. Head downstairs, however, and you’ll find the Copa, Copa de Cava – the UK’s first dedicated cava bar – with cosy brick walls and 25 types of bubbles.
Demon Wise + Partners
Throgmorton Street. Probably not the first place you’d think of for a wild night out. But there’s an unexpectedly cosy, speakeasy-style bar hidden underneath The Arbitrager pub, serving up slick cocktails in low-lit leather booths. Their two house concoctions, the Demon and the Wise, change recipes when the drink has been made 100 times, just to keep the mystery alive.
The pale pink walls, dark green velvet seating and marble-topped bar don’t exactly scream “typical whiskey bar”. And neither does the whiskey library, because it’s 500-strong – and can either be enjoyed neat with a twist of backstory from the knowledgeable bartenders, or in one of their house cocktails, where the strong stuff is muddled with everything from aloe vera water to seaweed emulsion.
Cittie of York
As atmospheric, olde worlde pubs go, this is up there with the best, with stacks of barrels above the bar, cosy Victorian-style booths and lofty Tudor vaulted ceilings – despite being built in the 1920s. In the summer, they open their semi-secret garden out the back – and their large measures of wine are very appropriately named.
Main image: Oriole
Looking for a date spot before you hit the best bars in the City of London? Well look no further…