Best Bars in London 2018
Think of this list as something of a love letter to some of the very best bars, watering holes and hidden cocktail haunts in the city. With amazing new drinking dens opening across London on a weekly basis, we’ve drawn up this shortlist of only the biggest and best places in town. Read on for DesignMyNight’s complete guide to the best bars in London.
Last updated on 4th April 2018
It's true - the term 'legend' is banded around way too much, but not in the case of Nightjar. Perfecting an irresistible set-up of innovative and beautiful cocktails tied in with a dazzling programme of live music, this wonderful cocktail bar just shy of Old Street continues to win awards on the world stage. A must feature on any discerning drinker's bucket list.
The Beast of Brixton isn’t just one of the best secret bars in London, but one of the best full stop. Offering a wide range of cocktails, local craft beers, delicious street food and a Sunday roast to die for, there’s so much to enjoy here already. But this hidden gem contains another secret: they love to party! Spread across two floors, this stylishly decked out bar guarantees a playlist to party to.
Aviary is yet another hit from the ETM group, only this time they've gone sky high. Expect all the deliciousness of their previous venues, with sumptuous cocktails and British seasonal plates, only this time they come with a healthy dose of City views and chilled-out-terrace vibes.
Step behind the velvet curtain and take a trip back into the decadent throws of London's Victorian Bath House. Visits made by appointment only, this is an exclusive place to eat and drink in London where you'll experience the finest mixlogy matched with the most incredible plates all in a luxurious setting in Bishopsgate.
68 & Boston brings a simple, unfussy approach to drinking in Soho. Located just moments from theatreland in one of the most sought after districts in London, the ground floor wine bar brings high quality bottles of wine to the fore; available at a flat £20 per bottle. Upstairs is where the focus shifts to mixology, with classic and original tipples served up from 5pm alongside a tasty menu of bar snack bites.
So bear with us a little here; darts is actually really, really fun. Flight Club have breathed a completely fresh lease of life into this age-old classic of a pub game, welcoming you to their super-stylish oches to play interactive games with live-scoring and lots of impressive technology. You game? Good, bring your squad along to Shoreditch or Bloomsbury for lots of competitive socialising, pizzas and drinks!
Nestled in the heart of Shoreditch, Callooh Callay is a quirky, cocktail favourite, where talented bartenders mix up some of the most imaginative cocktails in London. Filled with plush furnitures, decadent colourways and moody lighting this bar packs a punchy atmosphere with plenty of bar areas to mooch around and even some secrets to discover....shh.
LCC is a powerhouse of quirky cocktails and rowdy nights in Shoreditch. One of the best bars in London if you're looking for unadulterated, cocktail-fuelled mayhem, check out this dive bar for off-kilter cocktail creations and a playlist of nothin' but feel-good, sing-along classics. More suited to lively all-nighters than cosy date nights, don't be surprised to find yourself up on the bartop dancing the night away.
This literally hidden gem is a chic cocktail bar and dim sum parlour in the heart of Chinatown. If you're lucky enough to find the inconspicuous green door and get in then you'll be able to experience three floors of delicious Asian cocktails and food. With a cool, trendy following this bar is sure to impress and make for a big night out with their late night opening hours.
London has no shortage of cool cocktail venues and eccentric mixologists, but perhaps none more so than those at Purl who take experimental cocktails to a whole new level. This quirky, underground hotspot, complete with cosy alcoves and even a piano, transports you back to a time gone by, into a world filled with different tastes and fragrances, to give you a cocktail experience like no other.
Oriole is an oasis of mystery and magic that transports you to a disconnected outside world. Sister site to the multi-award winning Nightjar, this is a truly vibrant bar of exotic influence and global design. Settle in and explore a cocktail menu comprised of exotic ingredients, take in some live jazz tunes and pick at a food menu offering spices and seasonings gathered from far and near.
Futuristic and playful features reign supreme in The Sanderson Hotel Long Bar. Simply overflowing with style and glamour, pull up an eye emblazoned seat and watch the hypnotising craft of the bar experts as they whip up a delectable drink for you to sip on whilst absorbing the electric atmosphere. Alluding to the feel of an 'urban spa' this is one bar to sit back and relax in.
Killer gin-inspired cocktails in a Modern, concrete trimmed art-deco space gives Graphic its appeal. Apart from the quirky, cool cocktail servings from disused paint tins, of course. That, and their DIY food menu where you can literally build your own meal from their scrumptious sliders menu. We think this calls for a new definition of graphic design, don't you?
Head to South London and you might find an awesome slice of the South Pacific. Not only do they have partying at their heart, there’s an excellent range of cocktails made from premium spirits and, of course, lots of rum.
Tumble down the rabbit hole to this magically purple setting of couture-esque physique. The Purple Bar is as luxurious as it is cool parading a polished atmosphere of Alice in Wonderland characteristics. An intimate space of velvet textures and plush seating with a collection of vintage classics gracing the cocktail menu. More of a chilled out pre-drinks vibe more than anything but still worthy of a bevvy or two.
An eclectic literary theme provides an unusual backdrop for cocktails at this popular Clerkenwell watering hole. Hand-crafted pizzas are on call if you’re peckish, if not go straight to the cocktail section where a handbook of unique drinks awaits. Bartenders throw house-infused spirits, liqueurs, syrups and bitters together to create masterful cocktails well worth checking out.
After live music, food and cocktails in Shoreditch? Old Street Records throws its hat into the ring with a cutting-edge approach to live music across its two floors. Take in EP launches, new bands and established acts alike in a record-store setting, or make for the intimate basement below where jazz nights and DJ sessions are usually held.
Aviator in Hush is one of London's best kept secrets; with an award-winning cocktail list, sumptuous decor and a gorgeous 60s theme, find this spot before everyone else does.
Hidden away beneath the Botanist Broadgate, The Soda Room is a sleek City bar promising artsy interiors, sleek seating, taxidermy and a party-starting atmosphere. Enjoy their bookable booths, or shake it some on their dancefloor; this place stays open late Monday-Saturday.
One of the top cocktail bars in London with a split level offering two different experiences for a night out. The ground floor oozes hotel champagne bar with elegant lighting and seating and is a really impressive place for a drink in Soho. Venture down the stairs to find a subterranean drinking den with plenty of seating, a warm and modern interior, singing bar tenders and DJs playing till late.
A bar for celebrities, stars, politicians: and now you. Disrepute has a cheeky history, but it delivers on everything you want right now, from their fabulous cocktails, sophisticated interior and perfect atmosphere.
Black Rock is one of the best bars in London by combining a love of whisky with a cool, minimalist and contemporary drinking space. They offer over 250 bottles of whisky, making it an ideal place for any connoisseurs out there, and their centrepiece of an 18ft, 185-year-old oak tree trunk used as an interactive cocktail ageing system is a something to behold.
Doused in Victorian-inspired style, this decadent cocktail bar on Worship Street has been heaped with praise since it opened back in 2011. Come here for a special occasion and indulge in a world of sumptuous spirits and masterful mixology, with great drinks brought to the table in an intimate, low-lit ambience.
It's cool, it's cute and it serves damn delicious cocktails; Bourne and Hollingsworth in Fitzrovia is one of our favourite basement bars in London. Head to the central venue to flop in an armchair, soak up chilled-out vibes and work your way through an inventive cocktail list.
Famed for bringing a South American party spirit to the streets of London, Barrio is a party bar in Shoreditch where the good times roll. Amigo Hour serves up £5 cocktails between 4 and 8pm, there’s a menu of tacos and nachos if you need a bite to eat and a bustling dancefloor to throw shapes on ‘til the early hours.
Set in the railway arches near Waterloo Station, there’s plenty of character to Topolski. A gallery, bar, cafe, private hire and club all rolled into one, relax with a brew and a snack during the day or come back post 5pm, when classic and creative cocktails are served. Entry is free at the weekends as resident and guest DJs get behind the decks.
There’s simply nowhere else like Heddon Street’s famous Ice Bar. The UK’s only permanently frozen bar serves suitably chilled cocktails in a setting carved out of pristine ice from the waterways of Northern Sweden. A unique day out indeed, return to a normal return temperature in the restaurant downstairs, where modern British fare is the staple.
Tucked below Stamford Bridge Football Stadium in Fulham, Under The Bridge is an uber-cool and contemporary basement space that accommodates all manner of entertainment. Super stylish and modish with a touch of industrial inspiration, this lively lair showcases a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting, and so is an ideal hub for late-night clubbing, gigs galore, fashion shoots, comedy nights and much more, so head down for a heady mix of nightlife at its finest.
There's quite simply nothing else like Aeronaut in London. Backed up by a consistent stream of 5* reviews (seriously, there's loads of 'em), as well as the DMN public's 'Best All In One Venue' of 2015, this Acton venue turns your standard pub experience upside down. Go for wholesome pub grub and beers brewed on site, with scintillating circus shows that break out into DJ and dancing sessions at the weekend.
This late night cocktail bar in King's Cross whips up unbeatable cocktails served in mismatched teacups. How quaint! With old-styled decor mixed with a glittery skull head disco ball this place has fun-house vibes aplenty and is the perfect venue for a feel-good fun night out. Expect dessert cocktails, great music, a fun crowd and retro sweets. There is no place like Simmons.
The second Bounce site in London brings more of the same playful ping-pong antics to a buzzing location close to Old Street. With 17 tables (including one used for the World Championships Final in Tokyo), there’s no better place to get down to some serious competitive socialising with your mates, with cocktails and delicious Italian food to keep you on top form.
Uncover a world of master mixology under the city as Found promises some of the most unique cocktails in London. Heralded not only for their romantic plot underneath Casita, Found have a list of libations like no other.
Boasting a super cute interior, plenty of punchy of concoctions, and a kick-ass happy hour, Simmons Soho is easily one of the best bars in the capital for cutesy vibes and affordable cocktails. Step inside to discover a super-kitsch space that's decorated with an assortment of eccentric trimmings. Sip on a long island iced tea from the finest crockery as you spend the night mingling with a crowd of friendly folk.
This is a city cocktail bar with class and style in abundance. Situated beneath The Arbitrager, make yourself at home in these plush, low-lit surroundings and enjoy a few signature cocktails after a long toil in the office. Open weekdays from 5pm til late, ease into a few drinks on a school night before catching the last train home; Demon, Wise & Partners is just a stone’s throw from Bank and Liverpool Street.
Mini-motor racing, on-site brewing, immersive team gaming; The Four Thieves really does have it all. A wonderfully buzzing all-rounder that you’ll find in Battersea, start with a drink or two in their year-round gin garden before checking in at their enormous games room; packed out with vintage arcade games, ping-pong tables, pool and an impossibly fun sceletrics-styled game in the corner. One of the most fun places for a night out in London.
With a smattering of classic Americana and a hefty douse of gentleman's parlour physique, Cartizze Bar is a Mayfair staple for creative mixology and some fine supping. Bringing a dash of the luxurious to your cocktail chasing, take a seat at the opulent bar framed by a collection of crystal glassware and smelling of rich liquors and spirits.
Hoxley and Porter's quirky train-carriage theme is interspersed with retro-chic finishes to the colours of turquoise and teak. The extravagant decor provides a stylish place to sit and sample some of the tasty British menu classics and creative cocktails. Conjuring a modern Oriental edge to its interior, this bar is exotic from drinks to food to feel.
An underground haven that’s good whether you’re in need of cocktails, beers, wines or Vietnamese street food, Ruby’s is one of the hidden treasures of east London. Prop up the bar for seasonal and innovative drinks or go to the Lounge for something a bit more lively; it’s here that the focus is on a wide selection of wines, beers and a carefully curated programme of live music and events.
Full of quirky character and cosy charm, Rehab brings a relaxed neighbourhood bar concept to Homerton. Based in a former run-down laundrette, the place scrubs up pretty well these days with plenty of exposed brickwork, low-lighting and a gentle buzz from the after work crowd. Come for cocktails, organic wines and vegan grub.
The Piano Works is a warehouse space of jazz inspired jubilance where the piano takes centre stage and the entertainment comes from requests made by yours truly. Set in a Victorian listed building, this place is a fusion of industrial underground and classic music. Sit down, stand up, sing, dance and drink at this place.
Seek out this hidden gem in the East End and you’ll immediately reap your rewards. Apples & Pears serves up fantastic and innovative cocktails in an energetic setting, evoking an infectious atmosphere that rivals some of London’s top Prohibition plots. The eclectic music programme ensures there’s always something to keep your toes tapping.
What to do with the former home of Reverend JW Simpson of the Parish of Fitzrovia? Turn it into a bar of course! The spot which was occupied into 1986 is a flash back to the past and still features many quirky bits and bobs; on top of all this, their cocktail list is full of seasonal tipples.
DSD is one of the most cutesy and unique venues to check out in London. Found just out of harm's way from the main hubbub of King's Cross, this place is charming in everything it does. Head along for cake and cocktails during the day or throw yourself into activities like Lego Robots and Beyonce-themed dance classes. After you've got your 'Do' fix, make for a mighty party in the ex-porn shop basement club.
Part pub part botanical garden, this popular pub in Fulham is renowned for its gorgeous decor and great cocktails. Featuring a huge, comfortable, covered beer garden as well, it's a perfect watering hole come rain or shine.
Head over to Notting Hill to find this four-storey gin palace. Along with tapas plates and massive goblets of gin and tonics, the spot also has a gin-making room, hotel rooms and private hire spaces.