Well it’s that time of year again. The day when loved up couples get extra mushy gushy and those who are single are also ready to mingle. But whether you’re attached or flying solo, we’ve rounded up the best ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day (or Anti-Valentine’s Day, as is becoming increasingly popular).
Loves Company are making cupid work extra hard this Valentine’s Day by hosting a whole week of celebrations, from 9-15 February. On Friday the 13th, it’s a night dedicated to the “Unlucky in Love” – an evening for those of us who are, let’s say, romantically challenged. Share your most embarrassing date story @LovesCompany #crymeariver and the top five worst will win a free cocktail. On 14 February, they’ll be hosting a masquerade ball – so you can drink, dance and debauch your way into total delirium at this freaky affair for star-crossed lovers. Plus “Lovely Hour” will happen every day from 7pm – 9pm, in which the classic cocktail menu will be 2-for-1 – that’s a drink for you and a free drink for your luvah … 9-15 February.
104 City Road, EC1V 2NR.
Spend the night wielding paddles in a room full of single Londoners. Get your head out of the gutter! It’s a massive ping pong party with DJs spinning tunes all night. Expect live entertainment, free ping-pong and one hell of a party. Saturday 14 February. Doors at 8:30pm, party until 3am. £5 for early bird tickets, £7 for standard tickets. 121 Holborn, EC1N 2TD.
Guided by the TRH chefs, you’ll get a step-by-step tutorial on creating the perfect banger. Whether it’s a long and thin pepperoni or a long and wide bratwurst, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. You’ll kick things off with a glass of fizz, followed by cocktails and on-theme canapés. Stuffing the skins is definitely a two person job: squeeze too hard and your bratwurst may burst, not enough pressure can lead to a limp larry (and no one likes a limp larry). You’ll get to take away your creations and the chefs will decide which couple has the finest banger. The winners will win their very own sausage maker – so you can practise your handiwork back at home. Masterclasses start at 10am, Saturday 14 February.
Tickets are £60 a head and include a glass of champagne, a Valentine’s cocktail, canapés, lunch and a glass of wine … your loved one could do a lot wurst!
50 Davies Street, Mayfair, W1K 5JE.
A one night only pop-up in a 500-capacity townhouse, Meredith Bespoke returns after the Nordic Yulefest and is bringing everyone together for this special night. Expect an evening of laughter, cocktails, love and disco, with five themed rooms including a pop-up Lulu Guinness Kissing Booth, a luxurious cinema space and heart-shaped piñatas with prizes up for grabs. Saturday 14 February. Doors at 6.30pm. Early Bird tickets are priced at £15. Standard tickets are £20.
Bloomsbury House, 2-3 Bloomsbury Square, WC1 2RL.
Get a bit experimental this Valentine’s Day, and learn how to spark a chemical reaction and create your own cocktails. In a 90-minute masterclass, you’ll work side-by-side with the talented bartenders to learn how to make their show-stopping creations. You’ll be treated to demonstrations on the bar’s three most sought-after libations: the Smokey Old Fashioned (bourbon and bitters with maple syrup and oak smoke), the French Martini (Green Mark Russian Vodka and Chambord with cranberry juice and pineapple foam) and a Passionfruit Mojito (Havana Club rum with passion fruit, lime and mint). Saturday 14 February at 3pm. £30 per person.
6 Bevis Marks, EC3A 7BA.
Dry January … it just sounds so, well, dry. But it doesn’t have to be. We all know that maybe we hit the sauce (be it cranberry or booze) a little too hard round the Christmas/New Year period, so everyone’s been cutting back. Yet switching completely to the green shakes and kale chips isn’t so enticing anymore. We’re here to help. If you’re not avoiding drinking completely, it’s time to try one of these delicious vermouthy Martinis. Plus, you’re going to look pretty bad-ass ordering off-menu drinks. If that doesn’t put 2015 off to a good start, we don’t know what will.
An underground masterpiece, MASH is big, bold and definitely beautiful. Reminiscent of cruise ships from a more decadent era, this Soho staple is perfect for post-work tipples or massive steak dinners.
If you’re in the mood for a mysterious tipple, then head to the Bar With No Name … or as it’s better known, 69 Colebrooke Row. Courtesy of cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro and his lab (a.k.a. the Drink Factory), this cosy hidden bar is constantly breaking ground with its innovative creations.
Drink to try: Ask for Mike’s twist on a gin classic — the Lip Stinger. Equal parts vermouth and gin, with a few dashes of orange bitters and a drop of absinthe to finish it off. Lip stinging? Yes. Tasty? Yes.
The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy is an art deco masterpiece and one of the singularly most decadent drinking holes in London. And by hole, we mean hotel extraordinaire. Walking in, you’ll feel every ounce special occasion — even if it’s just a Monday after-work tipple. Even though the Beaufort is a new addition following the 2011 multi-million refurb, the bar is set up on the hotel’s former cabaret stage where legendary performers used to entertain. From Frank Sinatra to Marilyn Monroe, the world’s greatest have whiled away the hours here … and you should too.
Drink to try: Ask Lorenzo to make you his land- and sea-inspired MM Cocktail — a decadent combination of vodka, dry vermouth, two dashes of pomelo bitters, a Parmesan water and Islay scotch rinse, with an oyster leaf and vanilla caviar garnish. It might sound a little crazy, but damn it tastes good.
A classy club in the heart of Soho, Quo Vadis houses the masters of Martinis. But you know what else they do well? Everything. So if you’re in the mood for sophisticated sipping, mosey on down.
Drink to try: If the ever-smiling Simone is behind the bar, ask to try The Harmony. A Martini twist made with chinotto liqueur, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth and Bombay Sapphire East Dry gin — it’s balanced and dry with gentle bitter notes.
The bar pays tribute to the grandeur and opulence of the original Town Hall building, yet there is a level of restraint that keeps things just the right amount of casual. And with plenty of spots to perch around the island bar — with an extra brass counter for your drinks — this is perfect for bar-side or table-side boozing.
Drink to try: Ask bartender Ally Martin for a Martini au Marseillen — a slightly salty mix of Bombay Sapphire Dry gin, Noilly Prat Original Dry vermouth, a splash of saline solution and garnished with a caper berry.
A subterranean Tiki party spot that is always up for a wild night fuelled by rummy cocktails. The 70s basement décoris cheeky and cheerful, much like their staff and drinks. So when you’re looking to cut loose, there’s little better than this ode to Polynesia/Tiki-Americana.
Drink to try: In true Tiki-style, the Smoki Joe Martini is all about the fire and flare — though a notably more restrained approach than some of the volcano drinks (which you should also try). We’ll leave the rest as a surprise.
Nestled in Bethnal Green’s classically beautiful Town Hall Hotel, there’s a hot spot that will tempt you further eastward — just beyond the boundaries of Shoreditch. Peg + Patriot is the latest haunt from talented drinksman Matt Whiley (of Talented Mr Fox), and he’s brought his unique style of cocktail-making to the East End.
Sitting within the naturally atmospheric railway arches on Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row, Mission’s copper-topped bar, ceiling-high palm tree, and alit wine-filled backbar all seamlessly come together to bring you that quintessential modern wine experience. Plus the food is extraordinary too.
Taking a casual approach in setting, this unassuming pub on Bethnal Green Road is pure magic inside. The dim, narrow, candelit space is equal parts cool and sexy with an L-shaped bar that’s lit up with some of the snazziest lanterns we’ve seen around. This is another page ripped straight off the New York City playbook, striking that perfect balance of Irish dive bar-meets-cocktail den.
This is one seriously talented team and they’ve brought their magic touch to South Bank’s hot hotel, Mondrian London, manning the Dandelyan bar as well as creating drinks for the entire hotel (from the Sea Containers restaurant to bottled cocktails in the mini fridges). The design is sleek and sexy, with deep purples and shades of green … oh, and the view of the Thames and St Paul’s is rather impressive too.
Socialising just got slightly darker, a bit sexier and a whole lot higher. Sitting pretty on the 24th floor of Tower 42, Jason Atherton’s skyrise outpost City Social is more art deco than the rest. We wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you are in one of New York City’s mainstay, high-rise haunts.
Tucked just above the long-loved La Perla is agaveria El Nivel — courtesy of industry legend Tomas Estes and his son Jesse. A departure from the 17 other Estes venues, this is a slightly more upscale venture with draped curtains, colourful Mexican artwork and Latin retro vibes. The bright and sunny room may be small, but the bar is big on service – and will bring you an intimate and elegant drinking experience every time.
This one’s a little out of the way, but so worth a visit. Stepping into The Shrub and Shutterfeels like being in a giant terrarium – there are plants, the flicker of candles, slates on the walls and metal cans decorating the shelves and ceiling. The menus are on the wall, and they’ll catch your attention real quick: what’s growing in this bar is one helluva cocktail list.
Come hell or High Water, Dalston has a new chilled out cocktail haven. This treasure of a bar is the product of one seriously talented team, so whatever your tipple of choice, it will be perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Classics are bang on, and so are all their twists.
Always wanted to take that dream holiday to Hawaii? Well, we can’t help you there. Or maybe we can … welcome to London’s little slice of island paradise: POND Dalston. This happy haunt comes courtesy of Byron Knight, who has put his magic touch on places like Duke’s Brew & Que as well as Off Broadway (if you haven’t been to either of those, get them in the diary). The kitchen is manned by talented chef Frog Wong while the bar is pumping out elegant tropical cocktails by Megs DeMeulenare.
The guys from Happiness Forgets have spread their magic touch, and this time it’s a slightly bigger (but definitely as beautiful) operation on Stoke Newington Road. Welcome toOriginal Sin. This basement bar is all dim lighting, cosy booths, free pool and there’s one seriously long bar that begs for you to come perch on.
Italian-styled cocktail spot Bar Termini is bringing glamour back to train station drinking. The design is pared back with nods to railways (like the overhead shelving) and the dark nighttime setting makes it rather intimate indeed. Cocktails are premixed in Tony C’s lab, so you can expect precision, consistency and most importantly, perfection. One of our favourite 69 Colebrooke Row drinks has made it over to this site: the simple-looking yet complex-tasting Terroir.
Drinking in the toilet just got classy. Think we’re mad? Think again. WC Wine and Charcuterie has opened in Clapham Common underground station’s toilets. Having lain derelict for years, the 100-year-old, listed cubicles have been given a bloody good once over and now house one of London’s most talked about bars.
Sitting in the back of what at first looks like a car park, is one of east London’s finest and newest gems — the East London Liquor Company. An industrial-yet-airy bar with copper touches and it’s biggest treat: an in-house distillery where the staff are crafting their own gins, vodkas and whiskies. If you’ve ever seen a backbar more beautiful than this … well, you probably haven’t.
The third and largest outpost of Dishoom is another beautifully designed Bombay café, setting up shop in the foodie destination of Granary Square. The warehouse-like space manages to ooze charm with antique knick-knacks and brass touches throughout. The Permit Room bar downstairs fits 90 people and opens at 5pm every day, so swing by for spicy twists on ginny numbers or even some zesty and fruity mocktails. They also have a whole selection of pre-batched cocktails for your pleasure.
UVNYE at Bounce Because you might want to let out that competitive spirit to see out 2014. Bounce is a ping pong mecca and the whole place will be lit up by UV lights — so we reckon it’s best to don your whitest whites. There will be unlimited UV ping pong all night (with free play on ALL tables), UV face painters to make you glow, special cocktail prizes for the BEST UV outfits and DJs spinning retro party anthems. Tickets are £10-£15.
8:30pm-3am. No entry after 11:30pm. 121 Holborn, London, EC1N 2TD.
NYE at The Sun Tavern With a host of DJs playing rock n’ roll from every era, new east London hot spot The Sun Tavern offers punch cocktails, classic mixed drinks and fine ales. If you fancy something a bit Irish, they have over 40 different spirits from the land, including whiskies and tasty poitins. £5 per ticket for guaranteed entry before 9pm. Tickets on sale at the bar. Open until 3am, 441 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 0AN.
New Year’s Eve 2015 at The Cat & Mutton Party into the wee hours at one of the best East End boozers around. Resident DJs will be on hand to give you the greatest funk, soul and disco tunes all night long. *And tickets are hella cheap.* Tickets are £5. Open until 3am. 76 Broadway Market, London, E8 4QJ.
Try Hard Party at Looking Glass Cocktail Club Ah Shoreditch. You love it or hate it. But mostly love it. And we can all admit that it’s often filled with one too many “try hards” so here’s your chance to have a go (in the friendliest of ways). So come in your best “try hard” outfit — i.e. like you just rolled out of bed and haven’t bathed in weeks, but your hair is perfectly dishevelled. Performer Maya Petrovna, neo-burlesque artist Lolo Brow and DJ Testu Gomorrah are gonna smash New Year’s Eve and bring Shoreditch its best party yet. £10 before 10pm, £15 after. 8pm-5am. 49 Hackney Rd, Hackney, London E2 7NX.
Black and Gold Masquerade NYE at London Cocktail Club Oxford Circus A night of masked men and masked women with classic LCC tunes pumping all night long. If you get in early, you’ll be treated to 2-for-£10 cocktails from 7pm-9pm. And the DJs will be hitting the decks at 10pm. Tickets are £10-£40 and include various treats.
7pm-3am. 4 Great Portland Street, London W1W 8QJ.
Black Tie Masquerade Ball at Kettner’s Soho This is a pricier option, but if you want to get really fancy for New Year’s — then get in here. The opulent Georgian townhouse provides the perfect setting for a masquerade ball, with lots of rooms for exploring (and midnight smooching). Plus there will be cabaret, swing dance lessons, burlesque performances, live music and DJs until 3am. Tickets are £50-£110, some tickets include cost of three-course dinner.
Doors at 7:30pm-3am. 29 Romilly Street, London, W1D 5HP.
New Year’s Eve at Lost & Found Classic cocktails, fruity vodka shots and free entry, if that sounds like your cup of tea then why not try this little bar in Balham. Relatively unknown, this cocktail bar has been open just over a year and is the perfect location to enjoy a cool and comfortable evening with tunes pumping until 3am. Plus they have their own vodka luge. Boom! Free entry. 5pm-3am. 10 Bedford Hill, London SW12 9RG.
NYE at Pub on the Park Watch fireworks at this popular pub on the edge of London Fields, with two DJs spinning some of their best tunes over two floors, prizes and pub ale to enjoy in a huge beer garden (and it’s heated!). Best of all it’s free — and you don’t even have to book. Free entry. 12pm-2am. 19 Martello St, E8 3PE.
Nightbus to Catford NYE at New Cross Inn A cheap and alternative way to welcome in 2015. A one-off special with DJs playing motown, ska, northern soul and reggae in south east London, you can turn up without a booking and pay a few quid. Cheap as chips. £5 entry, £3 before 9pm. 8pm till late. New Cross Inn, 323A New Cross Road, SE14 6AS.
Midnight Madness at Madison For those who fancy an evening of class and entertainment, look no further than Madison for a night of burlesque, cirque de soir acts, DJ superstars and even a string quartet. The night begins with a prosecco reception, canapes throughout the evening, a champagne mini at midnight, evening snacks and one of the very best spots to watch the fireworks.
Welcome the new year à la française with sophistication and beautiful French cuisine with a six-course menu, including truffles, lobster and foie gras. Earlier seating can secure those with larger purse strings a place on their very own The Eramus to view the famous firework display down the Thames in style. Those who’d like to dine later with feet firmly on the ground can enjoy the same dining experience at a lower cost. There will be live music to accompany your night whilst you sip unlimited champagne all night long.
While Thanksgiving is really for the Yanks to give thanks, London has welcomed the holiday with open arms. And why wouldn’t it? Turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and more food than you could ever imagine — resulting in some of the best leftovers outside of Christmas. And if you’re not planning on cooking up a feast yourself, then book in to one of these spots to revel in the food-filled fun.
Since it’s sister restaurant is in NYC, it is only fair that it offers Londoners some Thanksgiving treats. For £55 you can indulge yourself – American-style – with dishes like spiced roasted butternut squash soup, roast turkey, baked cod and pumpkin souffle for dessert.
Feast yourself silly for just £30. A three-course meal with a pit-smoked turkey, stuffing, cornbread, candied sweet potatoes and creamed spinach. Plus some pumpkin and squash soup and freshly baked pumpkin pie. Now THAT’S something to give thanks for.
Now we doubt you’ll be able to nab a table, but if you’re a celeb (or are mates with someone “in the know”) then treat yourself to Nuno Mendes’ special Thanksgiving dishes that will be served all day long. The first is a slow-roasted turkey with truffled stuffing and liver parfait – plus sides of French beans and maple bourbon sweet potatoes, all for £32. Then for the sweet stuff, it’s a spiced pumpkin and brown butter pie with raisin caramel and bourbon cream for £9.
Since it’s all about the ol’ US of A here, Thanksgiving is going to be big. For £19.95 you can get three courses that will include buffalo wings, potato skins or pumpkin soup as starters; turkey burger, ribs or “not fried” chicken for mains; and pecan pie, sticky toffee pudding or Mississippi mud pie for dessert.
Here you’ll find some of London’s best southern USA classics. Dinner costs £60 a head, with tasty treats like fried turkey legs, country ham and smoked brisket. Not to mention the cornbread which is cooked to order and, we reckon, the best in town. For more of a bang for your buck meal, nip in for the lunch version at £40.
It’s not always about sitting down for a sophisticated cocktail. Sometimes you just want to cut loose, drink shots and party down until the sun comes up. Here are the UK’s BEST bars for debauchery. Now whatever mischief you get yourselves into, it ain’t our fault … enjoy!
It might be one of London’s teeniest charms, but what Casita lacks in square footage it makes up for in personality. This is the kind of bar you pop into for a quick one and then end up cancelling all of your plans (happily so).
Live piano music, sing-a-long throwback tunes, crazy-looking cocktails and some of the happiest party people in town. If you’re not feeling up to it, nip down here and they’ll turn that frown upside down — guaranteed.
With blackboard walls, plenty of chalk, and an easygoing crowd bopping about to garage rock — don’t be surprised at the more adult content drawn up on the walls. You can even have a go at one-upping them yourself. And remember, downstairs is for dancing. End of.
You know you’re in for some good ol’ fashioned trouble when you step into a bar and immediately need to peel your shoes off the floor. This is party-time Americana at its best and grungiest. It’s open seven days, always late, with a (sometimes) free jukebox cranking out classic tunes – from BRUUUUUUCE to Joy Division. So let’s get turbo-sh*tfaced on the bountiful bourbons. And we should probably tell you, if you give them your bra, they’ll give you a free drink. Now the decision is yours.
East London hipsters are a given, but those fond of a tipple – or twelve – come in by the bus-load after 3pm. Music-lovers are also in luck, as it often holds free events showcasing upcoming talent – from acoustic guitarists to spinning DJs.
The 70s basement décoris cheeky and cheerful, much like their staff and drinks. So when you’re looking to cut loose, there’s little better than this ode to Polynesia/Tiki-Americana, kitted out with (un)ironic shag carpets and Tretchikoff prints.
This cheeky spot is where Edinburgh comes to play. Garibaldi’s is a colourful Mexican-themed institution, beloved by all, boozed in by all, pole danced in by all. It’s late-night partying seven days a week, and it’s impossible not to shed your inhibitions here … the tequila shooters will make sure of that.
One tequila, two tequila, three tequila … and then it all gets a bit hazy, but we’re told Neon Cactus is home to well over 70 types of this beautiful spirit. The vibrant-themed joint not only specialises in Mexico’s infamous liquor but also brings the nation’s love for traditional street food, upbeat vibes and late-night partying to Leeds’ Call Lane.
Oporto is a must-visit for music lovers and late night revellers. This Leeds rock bar certainly lives up to its slogan/hazard warning of “Go Hard or Go Home”. Prepare yourself: you’re in for a night of heavy music, all night partying and shots, lots and lots of shots.
So Tiki it hurts, Aloha’s Polynesian carvings, colourful flowery wallpaper and bars set in wooden shacks transport guests to tropical climes where rum is king and Piña Coladas are served in fresh pineapples. This large basement bar attracts a fun crowd who are keen to dance in the packed room to classic songs and cheesy numbers.
A bright and flaming Tiki den, The Liars Club is all about having a real good raucous time. From cheeky flaring tricks from the bartenders to bangin’ reggae tunes to bamboo huts – you’d struggle not to cut loose down here.
We know it’s all about the beef here, but if you don’t get the bingo wings – then you’re missing out. Just be sure to have some paper towels on hand. And grab a side of fried pickles with blue cheese dip then wash them down with a cold beer (or a pickleback, if it’s later on in the evening).
Food comes in the form of bites and jars, and since it’s coming out of Atherton’s kitchen – you can’t go wrong. Try the salt and Szechuan pepper Cornish chipirones with lime (aka crispy squid) or the duck fat chips with curry aioli (because we can never resist).
Breakfasts are banging (see above: bacon naan roll), but food here is fresh and full of flavour all day long. We love the crispy prawn koliwada — moreish morsels served with tamarind and date chutney. And you have to try the can’t-stop-won’t-stop okra fries, they’re a tad hot and a lot delicious.
This place is a meat lover’s paradise, with hearty dishes like the ox cheek French dip (literally a meat sub that you dip into gravy) or the pig’s head poutine (a Canadian delicacy … or cheese fries with gravy, as some may call them). Burgers are bangin’ and so are the sticky Seoul ribs.
Seasonal dishes mean ingredients are packed full of flavour and the menu changes all the time, but it’s always bang on. Just check out that sexy wild mushroom tagliatelle above. And if it’s on offer, order the globe artichoke with the finger-lickin’ anchovy dip.
Those who are worried about missing out on the meat-fest taking place upstairs need not worry. The snax section of the 12-page bar menu has some of the restaurant’s best options. Our favourite though? Gigantic Yorkshire puds with whipped chicken livers for dipping. We get emotional just at the thought of them.
These guys know how to take bar bites to another level. Whether it’s the splendiforous toasties grilled behind the bar, to beautiful charcuterie boards, to healthy zesty numbers like the bulgur wheat, courgette, pistachio, pomegranate and mint mix above — it’s all good.
For crispy nibbles, try the Parma ham croquettes — everything we love wrapped up in a bite. Get adventurous and order the mixed vegetable and halloumi tempura with cherry soy. Savoury, crunchy, chewy and probably not in the least bit healthy. But definitely delicious (and surprisingly filling).