Okay, we’ve said it a few times but The Mesmerist truly is one of the very best in Brighton. If you’re looking for somewhere unusual, yet fun and affordable to take friends from out of town, then this is the place to head for some boozy late-night action.
First up, let’s talk décor. Given that the bar’s inspired by gin palaces of yore, as well as steampunk and burlesque movements, you can picture the charming collision of curiosities: luggage cases, skulls, antlers, a knight’s armor and Grecian statues are all scattered among chesterfield sofas. It’s a hoarder’s dream home.
The downstairs bar serves up an awesome range of cocktails that spans from the classics to homemade concoctions – we say try one of the Ginger Brews, which comes which its own ginger biscuit. Yum. What’s best, though, is that many of the cocktails are only a fiver. A bargain if we ever saw one.
Best Bars tip: Friday’s are the best. Begin the evening by swigging Kraken rum and ginger in one of the darkened booths upstairs before ending up on the dancefloor downstairs once the jazz is in full swing at its Shake Holla and Roll club night. Its black and white photo booth will help you to remember the fun you had when you surface the next morning.
Disguised as a shop front in Brighton’s labyrinth South Lanes, ring the bell and head down to a sepia-toned clandestine affair — a.k.a. BYOC. Book a seat and one of the high tables that become the “bar” for the best experience.
BYOC made its name in London’s Covent Garden and the idea is that you take your spirits and the bartenders use their homemade shrubs, bitters and mixers to create bespoke cocktails. Just tell them what kind of thing you like and let them do the work, right before your eyes.
If you want to throw a larger party, check out the basement, it’s dark and delicious.
Best Bars tip: This is a great treat for birthdays and more sophisticated hen/stag parties
We found this place by accident, one rainy Sunday afternoon during that awkward period between 2.30-6pm. We were on the hunt for a roast. What we ended up with was a jumbo hot dog slathered in caramelised red onions, bacon bits and blue cheese sauce. And we weren’t sorry one little bit: unknown to us, we’d stumbled into one of our new favourite hangouts — J.W. Lennon’s.
The first thing you notice when walking into the joint is the sawdust. Yes, sawdust – all over the floor. The dog we had with us loved it. Yep, it’s pet friendly too. The second thing you’ll spot is the bar, which is surrounded by crates, casks of ale, pendant lamps and a smattering of old timey photos and signs. In fact, the whole place is covered in vintage machinery and knick knacks. Even the bar staff are uniformed in tweed waistcoats and flat caps, ol’ Americana style.
Drinks come in the form of a plethora of real ales, Brooklyn lager, local Dark Star original and ciders. The only food is the aforementioned Dirty Dawgs. Other flavours include one covered in ham, gherkins, mustard-mayo and ketchup (named In the Dog House) and one laden with jalapenos, avocados, sour cream and chili sauce (that would be a Barking Mad).
Best Bars tip: There’s a nice little beer garden out the back – a favourite spot for smokers. And the dogs, of course.
While Sticky Mike’s is predominantly known as a gig venue, it’s not unusual to find the ground floor packed, even when the tunes aren’t in full swing in the basement below. Walking in, the first thing you’ll notice is the colour. It’s adorned with trinkets, which include a selection of risqué books behind glass, as well as paintings, murals and artwork from tons of local artists. Even the loos have had a spray of graffiti.
If it is music you’re looking for, then downstairs is a good place to start. It’s usually got an interesting line-up of bands playing, as well as regular club nights.
This being something of a party bar (it only opens at 6pm) the drinks menu is wide-spanning – it’s got anything from fizz through to beer, ales and slush puppy cocktails. Feeling peckish? It also serves up homemade pizzas for a fiver until 2am, yes 2am.
Best Bars tip: This place is heaving (in a good way) when the town’s annual Great Escape music festival takes place each May. Make sure you head down and check out some up-and-coming bands.
A Tiki shack-style bar is the focal point at the bijou joint that is … The Cocktail Shack. Old furniture and vintage signs set the tone and the backdrop of Regency Square and Brighton’s skeletal West Pier remind you of where you are.
Rum is a key contender with over 20 to choose from. If that’s not your bag, try a twist on a Negroni, made with tequila – it’s a bittersweet and earthy number. For a savoury sensation, try the Truth Be Told with gin, coriander, pineapple and jalapeño water.
Curious cocktailians, holiday-makers from the hip hotel above and discerning Brightonians can be found sipping in this quality addition to the Brighton cocktail scene. If you can’t be bothered to go home, check in to the quirky Artist Residence hotel above.
Best Bars tip: The newly opened ping pong room downstairs is perfect for a round of rum punch pong or for a straight-up rally. It’s definitely one of the best looking tables we’ve ever seen, so grab your paddles pals.
The vivid green Wick Inn is one of our favourite Hove hangouts. From the outside, you’ll spot rows of globes lining the window sills. This might seem odd, but once you’re inside, you’ll see that this is all part of the décor. This is a cool space: think of a traditional pub, complete with wooden panels and high ceilings. Then imagine it embellished with mirrors, old framed photos and posters and the aforementioned globes. We love it.
While the central bar gives the place the look of a gin palace, this is a haven for continental ale and craft beer lovers. There’s also a changing selection of local offerings, plus Greenwich Meantime IPA on tap, and a great wine list. If you’re feeling peckish, The Wick Inn also serves a range of authentic Thai dishes.
Meanwhile, downstairs is the Sorcerer’s Speakeasy bar – a prohibition-themed den which puts on regular events. Here you’ll find yourself sipping on Mint Juleps and Old Fashioneds, while fellow guests in 1920s fancy dress convince you to have one more pickleback. Well, it would be rude not to.
Best Bars tip: Make sure you book the speakeasy evenings in advance – it might be new on the scene, but it’s popular and seating is limited.
From big screens in Brighton to beer gardens in Birmingham, here are some of the best bars (and pop-up pseudo-stadiums) around the UK to watch the 2014 World Cup.
The Lord Clifden 34 Great Hampton Street, Birmingham B18 6AA Sun-Thurs: 12pm-12am; Fri-Sat: 12pm-late With 12 screens throughout the bar including a giant one in their extra-large beer garden, the Lord Clifden is your go-to World Cup hub in Birmingham. To get completely in the mood, grab a drink from their new outdoors bottle bar and snag yourself a plate of hog roast, and continue the party after the games end thanks to the weekly DJ sets.
The Electric Cinema 47-49 Station Street, Southside, Birmingham B5 4DY Doors open an hour before kick-off The oldest working cinema in the UK is diversifying its offering a bit to show England’s group games. Book ahead to make sure you’ve got a seat saved on one of their sofas — tickets are only £7 and you’ll get to participate in the pre-game World Cup quiz. We hear there might be prizes …
Brighton’s Big Screen Approx. 3 Madeira Drive, Brighton, East Sussex BN2 1EN Opens from 1pm or 4pm on weekdays, from 11am on the weekend This free outdoor cinema comes back to Brighton’s seafront for its third consecutive year, and in between screenings of crowd pleasers and family classics, it will welcome football fans for the World Cup on a giant screen. Just turn up and enjoy the spectacle.
Bavarian Beerhouse 46-48 Queen Charlotte Street, Bristol BS1 4HX Mon-Thurs: 4pm-11pm; Fri-Sat: 12pm-1am; Sun: 12pm-10pm Since “you can never write off the Germans”, why not watch them at Bavarian Beerhouse with massive litre mugs in hand? The bubbly dirndl-clad waitresses will keep things fun, light hearted and on-theme. You’re probably not the only one to have the idea to watch Germany here, so make sure to book ahead (it’s mandatory for all England and Germany games).
The Roof Terrace at The Varsity Thompson’s Ln, Cambridge CB5 8AQ Mon-Thurs: 3pm-10.20pm; Fri-Sun: 12pm-10.20pm The roof terrace is a show-stealer at this splendid Cambridge boutique hotel, with incredible views of the city and the river. They’re showing two of the England games, both accompanied by a special menu of Brazilian grilled meats. Tickets are £15 on the door, and since they come with a complimentary cocktail and what’s likely the best panorama in East Anglia, we’re up for it.
Millennium Square Calverley Street, Leeds LS2 3AD Gates open 1.5 hours before kick-off Leeds is not scrimping on its World Cup festivities: the city council is throwing caution to the wind and putting up huge screens in Millennium Square for the whole tournament. You can watch the first two England group matches live as well as a selection of other matches. Admission is free and on a first come, first served basis.
World Cup Fan Park at Camp and Furnace 67 Greenland Street, Liverpool L1 2:30pm opening for days with 5pm matches; 6:30pm openings for days with 9pm matches A reformed industrial warehouse where you can get a dose of art alongside the tournament. Expect vintage caravans and indoor foliage, this ain’t your local boozer. There will be Brazilian street food for nibbles with plenty of space to samba. It’s free to enter and strictly first come, first served. The DJs will be spinning a suitably carnival-esque playlist throughout the night. And on three big screens, they’ll be showing every. single. game.
ITV Fever Pitch Old Granada Studios, Quay Street, Manchester M60 9EA Gates open either 1pm or 3pm World Cup fan parks are few and far between this time around, but Manchester is stepping up with a free football festival kitted out with 450 tonnes of sand shipped in to create a Brazilian beach stadium. You’ll be able to watch the action live on the arena’s 40sqm screen. If you keen for a kickabout, head to the High Tempo zone or refresh yourself at the Little Copacabana beach bar. Entry to this tropic delight is free, but you still need a ticket … there might be some on the door or you can volunteer to get in for free (just need to do a bit of work).