The Kenton

The Kenton Mile End beer gardenNothing beats a neighbourhood boozer, and the people of Hackney have a fair few to choose from. Mile End-ers are lucky that The Kenton manages east London cool while bypassing the pretension that often comes along with it. Mixing antiques with modern curiosities, the Norwegian-run pub offers what you’d expect from a local watering hole, along with a couple of surprises along the way. American pale ales are, obviously, on the menu – Dogfish Head DNA most notably – as is Jeremiah Weed and a crowd-pleasing roster of cocktails … Viking Blood, anyone?

Lancashire-based Northern Soul Food provide the grub. Burgers start at £6.50 – amazing – and range from classic cheeseburgers to the likes of The Bambino, containing 100% wild venison with spiced red cabbage, Dijon mustard and cheese. Sunday roasts are provided in-house, too. Well, it wouldn’t be a neighbourhood pub if they didn’t.

The huge range of extra-curricular (the curricular being drinking) activities is impressive. Pop along for a film night, take part in quizzes or try your hand at the Rock N Roll bingo. You can even take advantage of the beer garden which, in the colder months, has blankets to keep punters cosy.

Best Bars tip: Go midweek for Wine Wednesdays, or get out of work quick on Fridays to take part in Rock, Paper, Scissors against the barmen. If you beat them, your drink is half-price. Winner.

— Millie Milliken, @milliemilliken

The Kenton pub Mile End food

Medcalf Traiteur

Medcalf Traiteur bar

*This bar is now closed.*

Exmouth Market’s been London’s up-and-coming idyllic village for a while – maybe came-and-coming would be more accurate. Yet it’s not been taken over just by newbies; quite the contrary in the case of Medcalf Traiteur, the offspring of its decade-old original, Medcalf. Here the theme is quite French picnic, so pop by when you’re feeling chilled and chatty.

While the Traiteur’s quite popular at lunch times for its hearty specials, at night the place turns wine bar, with a selection of quirky Old World wines served by the glass, and plenty more bottles if you’re very thirsty. It’s all very convivial and informal, so get chatting to the waiter about what you like – or not – and they’ll be happy to get you tasting. The wines available change as often as weekly so we’d recommend small measures to try them all, and to keep coming back. Food wise it’s all charcuterie platters, cheese and salads, but some is available from the main restaurant next door too if you’re feeling like “proper” plates. We loved the potato gnocchi and could not get enough of the desserts.

Looking around, things are pretty simple: wooden décor, plain hanging lights, brick walls painted white and a display of meats and cheese by the window. This isn’t a place trying to be more than it is – you, small groups of friends, passers-by and eager guzzlers alike will feel welcome. It feels like an extension of your own living room, and that’s what matters most.

Best Bars tip: Bring your old vinyls and ask if you can contribute to the night’s playlist … the DJ’s the record player here.

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Medcalf Traiteur exterior

Sovereign Loss

Sovereign Loss BrixtonNow, this one’s the real deal. You’ll find the great and greater of the bar world both sides of the bar at (pretty much) all times of night, and no doubt joining in will make you feel a bit special – even more so with drink in hand. Sovereign Loss is small, the list is small, but the welcome is warm and the knowledge without bounds. You’re in for a good night.

The drinks list changes weekly, so it’s hard to know what to expect. You’ll likely find classics slightly twisted and a short selection of drinks with a good emphasis on fruit spirits. While we cannot speak highly enough of the Army and Navy — a wonderfully creamy, slightly sweet and pleasantly bitter almond drink — the best thing to do at Sovereign Loss is to tell the team what you like to drink and they’ll be happy to find a serve to your taste that’ll still surprise you.

This is the perfect place for late-night drinking: hard to find (you’ll have to be escorted from an unexciting side door of the downstairs Prince of Wales to the bar), darkly-lit and open until 5am or more. Add to that very reasonably priced cocktails and the cosy 20s feel and you might as well move in. We sure are.

Best Bars tip: Week evenings are quiet enough, but if you’re planning to visit on the weekend, book ahead.

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Sovereign Loss Brixton

London Pisco Sour Week: The 7 Best Bars to Celebrate

LONDON PISCO SOUR WEEKLondon is about to feel a whole lot sunnier, as the city’s first Pisco Sour Week is about to kick off. From 1-8 February, seven of the best Peruvian hot spots will be dishing out delicious Pisco Sours (and a few other tasty treats too). So if you don’t spend this week washing down zesty ceviche dishes with frothy sours, then you’re just not doing it right.

All you need to do, is swing by one of these spots to collect your official #LPSW wristband and you can enjoy £5 Pisco Sours ALL. WEEK. LONG. So get registered ASAP! And grab your handy dandy map here.

Pisco Sour Week chotto matte
1. Chotto Matte

Head to Soho’s Chotto Matte – a staple for the fashion set, this is heavy on styling and is one of those places where you come to see and be seen. So go and indulge in the ultimate holiday beverage – a Piscolada – made with 1615 Quebranta, lime, pineapple and Coco Lopez.

LIMA Floral Pisco Bar

2. Lima Floral

When you arrive here, it’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to Peruvian heaven. The food is simply exquisite, and the basement Pisco Bar is too cool for school (or just cool enough). Nab yourself a £5 classic Pisco Sour, or get a tasting of three Piscos for £10 – we’d probably opt for the latter.

Coya Pisco Sour3. Coya

Serving up a slice of Peruvian paradise is the chic and glossy Coya. Downstairs you’ll find the artfully Latin-twinged restaurant and bar, with Peruvian masks, metallic bartops, and brightly coloured furnishings. Swing down for a Pisco Sour FLIGHT! You get to try three of their house-infused varieties for £15: raspberry and thyme, rhubarb, and Williams pear – basically, it’s a triple hitter. Or maybe try the barrel-aged Pisco, which is used in their Negroni in Lima – a Pisco-based aged Negroni. Yum.

Senor Ceviche4. Señor Ceviche

One of Kingly Court’s most recent additions, this bright and buzzy little space will put a pep in your step when the weather’s looking dour. Chow down on fiery chillies and cool off with Pisco Passion Sours – made with, you guessed it, passionfruit.

Pachamama Marylebone5. Pachamama

Head to this Marylebone small plates haven and try their Spiced Chamomile Pisco Sour with Barsol Quebrenta, lime, chamomile syrup, Becherovka, white chardonnay, orinoco bitter and egg white. Floral, fresh and utterly delicious.

Tierra Peru6. Tierra Perú

This place started out as a Camden Market stall, and having graduated to a permanent site in Islington – you can now rest your rump whilst you tuck in to their lengthy menu. To drink, go off piste (and extra zesty) and try the Lucuma & Mandarin Sour with 1615 Torontel Pisco, lucuma pulp, mandarin liqueur, egg white and opi cherry. Don’t know most of those ingredients? Well get adventurous and just dive in!

Tito's Peru7. Titos

A long-standing Peruvian eatery, this is a no-frills affair with hearty feasts and Pisco treats. Go for the Mango Pisco Sour because why not?

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Hare & Hounds

Hare and Hounds Birmingham diningThe Hare & Hounds is a neighbourhood boozer with international musical reach and some of the most forward-thinking club nights in the region. Two upstairs venues cover off everything from jazz to to comedy to D’n’B, while pub quizzes, home-cooked grub and weekend DJs keep both the old and new sides of the bar downstairs busy every night of the week.

We like the regularly changing guest ales and reassuringly sizeable selection of ciders for sunny afternoons which turn in to all-nighters. For a more conversational start to your visit, try the newly-renovated side of the bar where classic cocktails are now being dispensed.

Not a venue where punters generally stop in for just one — we’ve lost whole weekends to this Birmingham giant.

Best Bars tip: Sign up to the e-newsletter to avoid missing out on the next big musical thing. UB40 started here.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Hare and Hounds Birmingham

Seven at Brixton

Seven at Brixton interiorBrixton’s little market alleyways are absolutely filled with the best of what’s to come in London – see Honest Burgers and Franco Manca, which both made names for themselves down in Brixton Village. On the Market Row side, you’ll find Seven at Brixton, a tapas and cocktail bar that infuses south London with Spanish flavours.

Start with a cocktail – they’re seasonal, and we recommend a warm apple and ginger Daiquiri in the winter. It’s the upgrade on mulled cider you always dreamed of, with that welcome tangy spice. Summer rhymes with slushies to us, and they’ve got a moreish strawberry and vanilla one – try a ginger beer and basil Mojito if you’re not a fan of sweet drinks. Once you’ve got your drinks started, we predict a lengthy time staring at the tapas menu, so here are a few pointers: the pan con tomate and the tortilla are essentials. We’re also partial to the calamares – they come with an aioli that’s perfect for dipping bread and potatoes …

Tables are reclaimed desks, lights are hanging from cables and the booze is in suitcases attached to the walls. The ambiance is completely Brixton: relaxed and almost underdone, with the necessary bit of cool, but completely unpretentious. Weekends are busy with couples on dates and friends catching up – it’s the perfect spot for long chats over nibbles. And churros. Did we mention the churros?

Best Bars tip: Bring a group of mates and order a couple of the sharing platters – and they do special tapas menus for Christmas sit downs.

– Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Seven at Brixton food board

The Newsroom

The Newsroom Edinburgh barThe Newsroom can be found on the busy thoroughfare which links the city to Leith. With a range of hotels, shops, offices and much more close by. A bustling hub lit from the front by oversized jam jars filled with filament lamps lead you into a relatively unfussy and clean-feeling area with a large semi-circular bar at its heart. There are a lot of seating options on the ground floor with a separate well apportioned function space downstairs.

The food at The Newsroom is very much designed for great taste without too much fuss, which suits their guests’ demands perfectly. We tried the Great Scot burger, a haggis fritter with whisky mayo all served with salad and fries. Applewood smoke was hanging in the air after we tried the Smoking Ron Burgundy — Ron Zacapa rum with Cherry Marnier and Mozart chocolate liqueur, stirred down and smoked in a bell jar – worth the wait and our favourite Anchorman would be proud.

Very much a pre-club bar at the weekends with a DJ on every Saturday, The Newsroom attracts a young and upbeat crowd. Food is of course a major feature as is coffee and the vibe really does change throughout the day. If you’re looking for a warm up to your weekend then every Thursday there is Dr. Paul’s quiz, packed full of irrelevant facts and a lot of fun.

Best Bars tip: The beauty of The Newsroom’s downstairs private room is that is comes complete with its own bar and DJ booth, great news when you’re looking to have a party and want to impress your guests.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

The Newsroom Edinburgh