5CC Singer Tavern

5cc old street interior 5Yet 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. 

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

5cc old street interior

The Vault

The Vault's Skandy Dandy

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…

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

The Vault Soho

Joyeux Bordel

Joyeux Bordel Shoreditch
© Addie Chinn

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.

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Joyeux Bordel Shoreditch
© Addie Chinn

Gin Voyage

Gin Voyage London

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.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Gin Voyage London

The Richmond

The Richmond Hackney nduja spiced seafood stew
© Ed Reeve

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.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

The Richmond Hackney
© Ed Reeve

Bar Opus

Bar Opus Birmingham exteriorThe Opus dynasty has launched the third member of its stripped-back, airy and oh-so convivial family. Introducing: Bar Opus. A bedazzling selection of food and drink is served from 7am-11pm at this ideal spot for people watching, whether you opt for a seat on the piazza or behind the floor-to-ceiling glass frontage.

With a bar stocked to impress the most discerning of imbibers, for the sweeter pallet, we like the Autumn Bellini (bumbleberry or pear, prosecco), while the Opus Lager is bound to become the go-to drink for the “suits” that aren’t in the mood for the stonkingly well-crafted wine list.

Try the Brixham Bay bouillabaisse for a client lunch or wait until 5pm for a livelier after-work scene.

Best Bars tip: Secure an evening spot alongside the open kitchen for first dibs on the glazed baby chorizo sharing plate.

— Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Bar Opus Birmingham

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