I’ve already reviewed some of London’s best cocktail bars; now I’m moving on to a wider choice – let’s talk about the best selection of all the bars London offers. I know they are countless, I know I am inevitably going to forget some of them or at the very least – have different views than you on the matter which ones are best but if you are trying to find a new favorite place or just a spot for your special occasion or even making a list of places to visit in order to rank your own ‘best bars’: take a look at my suggestions (presented in no particular order and excluding the ones already reviewed).
This quirky venue is a relatively new addition to the capital’s nightlife and since it’s brought to us by the same team which created Happiness Forgets, you know your expectations will be high. Seductive interior, smoothly lit so as to be dark be not too dark, wall pendants, a very long bar and what’s best – a lot more space than in Happiness Forgets. Original Sin’s cocktail list is not the longest I’ve seen but keep in mind that these drinks are strong and very unusual – obviously the bartenders count on well-balanced mixtures that nobody’s tasted before rather than offering the regular cocktails you can make yourself. And on top of everything else, bear no doubt that your orders will be taken and executed with excellence as the staff are always smiling and more than attentive.
Prices: £8 for a cocktail
Address: 129 Stoke Newington High St, London N16 0PH
69 Colebrooke Row
Wondering where to take out your date? Well, here’s your answer. Dimly lit, intimate tables, perfectly selected music (usually played live on the piano) – every feature you seek or your romantic evening. The place is rather small, don’t risk visiting without a reservation, but after all its size is exactly what creates the calming atmosphere. And if you get too calm your salvation will be the bar’s cocktail list – classics made by confident professionals and served by staff which manage to do their jobs brilliantly without overbearing you. Don’t miss this stylish jazz-age star of London.
Prices: £10.50 – 12.50 for a cocktail; £4-6 for a sandwich.
Address: 69 Colebrooke Row, London, UK N1 8AA
Ladies & Gents
A top bar in many rankings, highly recommended by many Londoners; and for a reason. The sign at the entrance does its job by alluring visitors with the controversial, funny yet meaningless ‘Ladies & Gents’. When you walk trough the doors you’re warmly welcomed by amiable staff, lead to your painstakingly decorated table and presented with menus while you waitress serves you glasses of water (which she will not stop refilling when a suspicion that they’re beginning to empty crosses her mind). The place is elegant, always lively but not so packed that you think you’re having a conversation with the three tables around yours. And what is more, Ladies & Gents boasts a rich cocktail menu praised by all of the bars clientele, especially when taking into account the fact that for this type of bar the prices are more than acceptable.
Prices: £8-9 for a cocktail.
Address: 2 Highgate Rd, London NW5
Three Eight Four
Don’t be fooled by its location; even though the bar is at Brixton you cannot be sure you’ll manage to get a table without a reservation, at least not very quickly. Three Eight Four is the second adventure for the owners of Brixton Market’s Seven and luckily for them (and us) it proved to be a good decision. The venue is uniquely designed with building site walls around you, seats that used to fill a bus, not a furniture shop and lamps made out of supermarket baskets; it’s very refreshing to grab a drink surrounded by Three Eight Four’s décor. About these drinks now. The bar has a great cocktail menu, the staff always finds a way to serve them in a funny way and the list of mixtures is very resourceful – you can see how the bartender struggles to take a minute break from everyone’s endless orders. You can also try some small plates which are very decent and go perfectly with alcohol experimenting.
Price: Around £8-9 for a meal; Around £8 for a cocktail.
Address: 384 Coldharbour Ln, London SW9 8LF
The Doodle Bar
Probably this is a venue you’ve never been to. Not surprising, the only trail of its existence to the unenlightened passers-by is the unspecific neon sign ‘BAR’ hanging above the entrance of a seemingly former factory. That’s because the crowd in Doodle Bar is naturally selected. You can find tons of interesting personalities and what brings them together is their affinity for art; be it artists, amateurs or just fanciers, The Doodle Bar attracts a significantly colourful crowd. You can stumble upon some exhibitions, art classes or just a heated discussion among students from the nearby Royal College of Arts. There is also a spacious terrace with a view over Ransome’s Dock, ping pong tables, blackboard walls…I think you get it: your imagination cannot foresee what you’ll find at The Doodle Bar. Just go and check out for yourself, I doubt you won’t love at least some part of this venue.
Prices: £4-9 for a glass of wine.
Address:33 Parkgate Road, London SW11 4NP
This venue is not like the other on the list. A wine bar offering a chill evening experience while maintaining a somehow sophisticated vibe is what Mission is for me. Named after a San Francisco neighbourhood and positioned at the very distantly former heaven of prostitutes Mission is the peculiar and Lononders’ favourite spot to taste the best wine complimented by carefully selected dishes. It’s not a snobby restaurant, don’t expect to walk into an £80-per person-shiny-stiff dining. Mission just manages to combine the relaxing atmosphere of a bar and the exciting experience of tasting new flavours. Most of the clichés are missing from the bar’s wine list and you can have a glass of something more contemporary for the price of £5-10.The chef at Mission will also meet your needs very successfully; no wine degustation can go without proper food and don’t hesitate to try the bar’s dishes; the rest of the staff is also perfectly mannered. What’s best about Mission is that you can visit it with a big group of friends and have a loud free evening at a place that’s not the usual bar.
Prices:£5.50 – 8 for a cocktail; £5-20 for a glass of wine; Around £6 for a plate.
Address: 250 Paradise Row, London E2 9LE
Jazz, blues, rock and roll…You know what NOLA stands for? Well, New Orleans, Louisiana, of course. Replicating the exquisite jazz feeling of New Orleans in London, NOLA is a place for true connoisseurs. The cocktail menu also offers traditional cocktails characteristic of the capital of jazz and even if you don’t pick any of them be sure you will inevitably pick a greatly executed mixture; NOLA offers strong cocktails for those who want to have more of a loose night as well as light gin based, for example, flavours. The staff will do their best to make your stay worth it and I you don’t know what to order – a surprise option is a very good decision. Just don’t forget to book a table, you don’t want to deal with queues…
Prices: £10-12 for a cocktail;
Address: 68 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3AY
Always open. Seriously, you can choose Parlour for an official brunch with a business partner, an out-of-the-office lunch, a drink after work, free night out or even hire the venue for your own private event; the bar is a wonderful option for any kind of occasion. The bar offers a wide menu, some cocktails, great wine list and fresh food with selected seasonal ingredients. What I find best about Parlour is the outside bar – a ping pong table, lovely ambience to enjoy a sunny afternoon and even if London decides to be too typical and sunlight is actually scarce you can use the cute blanket they give out. The staff is amiable, attentive and you almost don’t feel their presence. Pick a warmish day and check out this relaxing shifter bar.
Prices: £8-10 for a cocktail; £5-8 for a glass of wine; £10-20 for a plate.
Address: The Park Pavilion, 40 Canada Square, London E14 5FW
Bar Termini definitely fight for a top place at the ranking. It does not matter whether you stop by during the day or go for an evening experience – you’ll find the best of the best. In the first case, when you walk in with the purpose of refreshing with a cup of coffee, this simple order will be brilliantly met: Marco Arrigo, head of quality for Illy is the one behind the coffee making; and if you are ordering a handful of cocktails with your pals, well, prepare for the products of bartenders trained personally by Tony Conigliaro. Yes, Termini’s drinks are excellently executed with the help of London most famous specialists in the field. On top of that, the prices of these delicious treats are just what you see in any other menu; coffee drinks seem a little pricey at first but to be honest, not too few places offer lower prices and if we take into consideration their quality there is no room for comparison. The place is intimate, it can seat around 25 people and the staff’s efficiency makes your stay even brighter. Don’t forget to book a table for the evening though – with all these features and its great location, you know spontaneous entrance is close to impossible.
Prices: £9 for a cocktail;
Address: 7 Old Compton St, London W1D 5JE
This elegant venue where James Bond’s Martini was supposedly born offers just a perfect experience. It’s not just a rumour, the Martini is a must, made at your table side this drink is so delicious that it’s very very unlikely you’ll be able to get home yourself after you leave Dukes Bar. Some say that Dukes Bar qualifies as rather expensive but can you really let the world’s best Martinis combined with quiet, relaxing atmosphere, top central location and immaculate service let go for a lower cost? It would be a crime.
Prices: Around £10 for a cocktail.
Address: Dukes Hotel, 35 St James’s Pl, London SW1A 1NY
I’m not sure if my list even comprises 1% of London’s bars overall; I can’t even state that no other deserves to be in such a rank. But I know how tricky it is to plan a decent evening around the capital and my desire was to help you bet on a safe horse. You might try out other venues, come back and recommend them for my next review or you might even have some suggestions already. But if you’re not up for a hazardous going out or would like to enlarge your collection of must-sees you’ve seen – I really hope I’ve been helpful; pick a bar, try it out and tell me whether I’ve succeeded.