Yet another installment of the ever-delicious (and secret but not-so-secret) 5cc… this time underneath Singer Tavern on City Road. On the cusp of Shoreditch but still in City bounds, you’ll get a mix of post-work drinkers and trendies getting their gin on. This is the type of place where two worlds happily collide.
If you’re drinking here, then you must try the Three Martini Lunch — this is up for a bit of experimentation so lay your trust in the bartender’s capable hands. Since we’re always inclined to order one of the smokier sips, we loved the Oaxaca Negroni made with mezcal, Campari, Cocchi Torino and a touch of Ocho Blanco tequila. It’s big and booze — just how we like it. Whether you’re a bit peckish or want the whole hog, you can chow down on nibbles from the snacks menu or get a full dinner from the upstairs gastropub.
Coming down with a big group? Sidle into one of the booths that are backed by exposed brick and tucked under the street grates so the lights from above trickle down to your table. Then get into the pirate spirit (really) and order one of the sharing barrels — we’re inclined to go for Lola’s Smash which is a gin-based punch with ELLC Batch 1 gin, cloudy apple, grapes, ginger, lime and basil. Aye, aye captain!
Best Bars tip: If it’s a Monday and you’re still hanging from the weekend, don’t be ashamed to order one of their ‘Shameless’ non-alcoholic cocktails — they’re as good as the hard stuff.
“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s the best they’ll feel all day.” Anywhere that quotes Old Blue Eyes on its cocktail menus has us sold. Housed on the ground floor of growing foodie square Kingly Court, Wright Brothers’ Soho Oyster House gives bivalve mollusc lovers what they want in unpretentious environs. Marble-top poser tables and stools make the bar area of the group’s Soho outpost possibly more suited than others to casual meets than sit-down dinners (although we wouldn’t be adverse to the latter).
The wine list would please any fisherman after a long day at sea, but it’s the herb- and fruit-heavy cocktail list that catches the eye. For long libation lovers, the Manda’s Elixir ticks the boxes with Portobello Road gin, peach, passionfruit, apple and lemon juice. But if it’s a short, sharp hit you’re after, the Mellow Barrel with Four Roses bourbon, Portal LBV port and egg white will take the edge off a long working day. Damage control comes in the form of small and large plates — we’re salivating over the likes of Alaskan king crab and wagyu beef. But it is, of course, the oysters we’re here for. Majestic platters served on stands make for, perhaps, the most extravagant of table centres. Get them dressed with kizami wasabi, chilli jam and cucumber sorbet, or have them naked, just as nature intended them to be.
You’ll be just as likely to see suited co-workers chatting shop as a couple of friends catching up after a long day in their respective offices. A dedicated bar entrance also means you don’t get the thoroughfare of restaurant and private dining guests disturbing you. Nobody wants to be watched as they slurp, do they?
Best Bars tip: This place fills up at about 7pm, so get down early for pre-dinner oysters or post-work cocktails with a couple of mates. Make sure to check out the cool caged private dining area, too. Guys looking to impress a date would do well to book in at the window. Well, you know what they say about oysters, don’t you?
Down South has gone north, with the latest outpost of Joe’s Southern Kitchen opening in Kentish Town – fully kitted out with all its signature trimmings, nibbles and tipples.
Head downstairs to Jailbird for the basement bar experience, and don’t worry, they won’t lock you in (plus the food is a million notches above prison swill). Notable faves on the menu include the mac and cheese, the crispy chips and saucy wings. This is messy business, so keep plenty of serviettes to hand and maybe leave the white shirt at home.
To drink, there’s a lot of bourbon and American whiskey on the menu, unsurprisingly, so we say stick to the theme. If you’re in the mood for something stirred down and brown then order The Assasin with Rittenhouse Rye, Chambord, Noilly Prat and Campari served up with a lemon peel. And for £12, you can have this drink plus six fried wings. *We lurve a good deal … particularly the £5 signature cocktails that are ALWAYS a fiver. Sorted.
Best Bars tip: Book yourself one of the booths, and settle in for a one-stop shop kind of night.
Situated below London’s oldest whisky shop, The Vault is a proper, Hollywood-like secret bar. Walk in with confidence and make your way to the back of the shop to push with all your strength against the bookcase; and down you go to a small cellar bar where we guarantee a boozy night. A little rough around the edges, this feels like the old school Soho so many are saying is going and gone – a must-visit, then.
Keen on a little education? Take a seat at the bar and let the bartending team guide you through the menu. This is a bar where you sort of have to go big from the start – so try The Buckley, with punchy agricole rum infused with fruit and balanced with egg white. Later at night, you can’t go wrong with The Simo, named after the bar’s owner and main bartender, a twist on a Manhattan made with rye whiskey, dry vermouth and delicately bitter Byrrh.
If you fancy extending your stay, the leather sofas are welcoming, the salted almonds a dream, and some days of the week, Simo’s dog Chester hangs around – let’s make it a rule that all bars must have a dog now, shall we?
Best Bars tip: There’s a barrel-shaped room at the back that’s available to book if you’ve got something to celebrate…
For the non francophones out there, “Joyeux Bordel” roughly translates as jolly mess – but while there might be potential for a messy night, walking through the hidden entrance (this is Shoreditch, after all) and down the stairs to the bar gives off more of a sophisticated vibe, with just a little plenty-of-dark-corners kind of edge.
The latest born of the Experimental Cocktail Club, it’s got a drinks menu with the expected flair, and a reasonable amount of French influence – old aperitifs, dusty bottles with continental names and all the Suze and Lillet you’d ever want. Go for the bar’s signature drink – the Jolly Mess – which uses rye spirit, pear eau de vie, vermouth, cardamom syrup and chocolate liqueur. Sounds moreish and decadent but is surprisingly balanced, with a nice bitter chocolate aftertaste.
One thing you might not expect at first is that Joyeux Bordel is a music lover’s paradise – a nice touch when you know the space used to be legendary club Plastic People until it closed early this year. The sound system is one of the best in Europe, with speakers and amps legendary in a way that we didn’t manage to understand, so expect a refined line-up of DJs with The Clove Club’s Daniel Willis at the helm.
Best Bars tip: If you’re fond of antique bottles and glasses, and fancy sipping on something really special that no one quite knows the history of, Joyeux Bordel has a collection of antique spirits that they might just let the regulars try.
Do you ever get the urge to sail the seven seas? Well now you can and without leaving your favourite create comforts behind, namely a G&T. And while Regent’s Canal isn’t quite the open ocean, there is something truly spectacular about setting sail from King’s Cross and gently floating downstream. The Gin Voyage comes courtesy of one of our favourite chaps, Leon Dalloway, who is the main man responsible for the Gin Journey (another one of the best boozy nights in London).
On this three-hour cruise, you’ll learn about the history of gin, taste a variety of delicious serves and even get to make your own variety that you can take home. Through a juniper-filled haze, you’ll discover a London you didn’t even know existed.
Some of the best bits include venturing into the Islington tunnel, watching the sunset, and of course, drinking plenty of gin. The Voyage costs £70pp, sets sail from King’s Cross at 6:30pm and returns to dock there at 9:30pm. You’ll get six cocktails and two samples of spirit.
Best Bars tip: There’s no food on board, so definitely bring along some snacks and/or eat dinner beforehand. Then once you wrap up here, jump over to one of Granary Square’s finest haunts such as Dishoom, Caravan or go down the road to Vinoteca. The King’s Cross bar crawl just got serious.
Set on one of Haggerston’s quiet residential streets is a London food-and-drink gem that you absolutely must not miss. The ever-so-slightly quirky signage outside might flag that The Richmond ain’t your average neighbourhood boozer. A simple clean interior with red walls and well chosen artwork makes it inviting, casual and on the right side of refined. And while we like the design, it’s the food and drink that will keep us coming here again and again.
As we said, the menus here are sensational. To eat, we started off with the raw bar (a must) and topped our oysters with a zesty spicy sauce that we would love to take with us to every shellfish haunt the world over. We then moved on to hotter items such as the chargrilled octopus which was hands down the BEST octopus we’ve ever tasted. Perfectly charred on the outside and still lovely and tender in. Plus the healthy dollop of aioli didn’t go remiss either. And don’t leave without getting the banana tart (remarkably soft and with a delicate sweetness that’s outrageously sumptuous) as well as the apple beignets that come with caramelised apples and ricotta sorbet. We have a real soft spot for anything resembling apple pie.
And now on to the drinks — well it’s no surprise here that there is just as much care and attention given to the liquid refreshments as to the solids. The bar manager here has an impressive CV having worked for the likes of HIX and Dishoom so now he is bringing his sophisticated touch to a short list of cocktails that seem both accessible and refined all at once. For a long and frothy option, try The Richmond Fizz with Beefeater gin, fresh lime, Pedrino and egg white. If you’re keen for something stirred down and brown, try Madame Maury with Diplomatico reserva exclusiva, Maury, sugar and bitters.
Best Bars tip: Come hungry. Leave happy. And definitely swing by for the happy hour: £1 oysters from 6-7pm on weekdays and 5-6pm on Saturdays. Unmissable.