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

Three Eight Four

Three Eight Four Brixton cocktailsFrom the team behind Seven at Brixton comes a sibling that’s got potential to establish itself as one of Brixton’s greats. Three Eight Four has that “south of the River” cool minimalism, from the industrial-looking shop front through to the simple small plates and cocktail menu. It just hits the spot.

Try and grab a seat at the bar so you can stare at the shelves of spirits to give you ordering inspiration. You’ll also have front row on the spectacle if you order a Mr Flambtastic, which involves flambéed peaches that’ll cause flames almost hitting the roof in front of your eyes. The Bombay Kitchen is refreshing with a welcome kick of spice, and comes with a side of mini poppadoms to get your appetite going. The food menu’s not to be missed: the nduja with ricotta on bread is so moreish we’d recommend ordering two portions, but there’s also plenty of veggie options. Hello arancinis!

Start the day there with a stack of pancakes or come at night when it gets pleasantly buzzing – with a dimmed atmosphere that’s as good for dates as it is for imbibed catch-ups with friends.

Best Bars tip: If you’re feeling traditional drinks-wise, ask to see their classic cocktails album – it’s impressive and beautiful, and will help you get to know all the drinks you should.

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Three Eight Four Brixton food spread

The Junction

The Junction Birmingham foodSet in a commanding Victorian building at the top of Harborne High Street, open fireplaces, chequerboard tiles and sink-in-to-me-and-never-leave booth seating places The Junction squarely into must-have weekend territory.

With six regularly changing real ales and a stellar reputation for world beers – and that’s before world beers were a thing – The Junction just gets us. And if the bubbly brown stuff isn’t your thing, the rich yet revitalising Bloody Mary alongside Saturday brunch or The Junction’s epic Sunday lunch is our drink of choice.

Get your hands on a paper, some pals and settle in for the long haul – The Junction has everything you could possibly need. It even does boardgames.

Best Bars tip: Sunny day? The secluded beer garden, which isn’t visible from the front of the pub, is sometimes overlooked.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

The Junction Birmingham interior

Bond No 9

Bond No 9 EdinburghBond No 9 in name refers to its location on Leith’s Commercial Street, in a large building once a whisky bond, shared by a Michelin-starred restaurant, offices and a furniture store among the residents. A lot of the original stone has been revealed in the main area with a good sized bright conservatory out to the rear which can be booked out for events. During the summer months it’s also a great place to park up and enjoy the weather in their outside area.

We made our way there for some decent sustenance after a cycle around Edinburgh’s coastal paths and arrived just in time to grab one of the last tables in the conservatory area. Brunch is served every weekend and the offer of their “bigger breakfast” was too good to skip: pork and herb sausages, smoked bacon, and Stornoway black pudding were the main stars of an ample dish backed up with the usual brunch features. Although the cocktail list is ample and well executed it was a strong cuppa and a virgin Bloody Mary with their house blend of spices for us, this time.

Leith is an area which due to a lot of redevelopment in recent years attracts a diverse crowd and Bond No 9 is no exception. Weekdays the main draw is relaxed food and great coffee, weekends a more restaurant feel is there with patrons enjoying top notch grub served by candlelight. Check their social media too as they’ll often have local DJ talent playing later in the evenings at the weekends.

Best Bars tip: The gantry holding all the spirits at Bond is one of the biggest and most diverse in Edinburgh. This means that they can rustle up not just the drinks from the award winning menu but pretty much anything your heart desires – Pisco Sour anyone?

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Bond No 9 Edinburgh brunch

Black Swan

Black Swan Leeds interiorThe masterminds behind Sandinista and Smokestack take on Call Lane with the elegant new opening, Black Swan. Moving away from the themed stylings of its infamous Latino and Prohibition-inspired sister bars, Black Swan is Yorkshire-bred through and through. It’s the perfect spot for laid-back drinking and despite being a 450-capacity, spacious two-floor venue — the bar maintains the intimate feel of a local pub with excellent service and incredible attention to detail.

The drinks menu not only boasts over 52 craft beers, six rotating draught ales, an on-site microbrewery and accessible two-page wine list, its cocktails also showcase the unquestionable talents of owner Si Ord’s bar team. Based on twists of classic serves, each cocktail recipe is credited to individual bartenders working for the group — from the sweet and moreish Mai Tai by Loren Holmes (Sandinista) to Niall McGloin’s (Smokestack) bitter kick Amaretto Sour. You’ll even find Mr Ord putting his own specs forward for an Espresso Martini pick-me-up. Catering for afternoon to late night boozing, you’ll find an upstairs restaurant serving up delicious, best of British cuisine — including kids menus and sharing platters — while the downstairs pizza kitchen cooks up light bites.

The bar’s exposed brick walls are decorated with varying designs — from Si’s antique suitcases and metal liquor ad signs to intricate hand-painted artwork by local artists. There are unique features wherever you look — such as the upstairs restored wood bar, array of vintage-style tables and chairs, projector beaming out old classic films and a roaring fireplace found in the Black Swan’s intimate side room. True to the venue’s heart, chilled out indie tunes play out in the day and turn into pumped up indie anthems, both old and new, as the night goes on.

Best Bars Tip: As tempting as it is to stay at the bar working your way through the drinks menu, the Pizza Kitchen cannot be missed. Its copper furnace serves up sourdough deliciousness until 10pm every night and the Yorkshire chorizo is one of our favourite Leeds’ bar bites to date.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Black Swan Leeds fireplace

Clouds & Soil

Clouds and Soil Edinburgh barClouds & Soil is fortunate to be set in a townhouse which lends itself very nicely to a whole manner of spaces over five floors, the ground floor hosts the main bar area, the basement space is perfect for functions, and the first floor boasts a well-apportioned restaurant with private dining space. The top two floors are occupied by six luxury bedrooms which complete the space.

Having had a great eggs benedict here recently for brunch we went back to sample the seasonal dinner menu, amongst the choices on offer on this occasion was a duck breast served with fondant potato, marinated in vanilla pods and garnished with roasted root veg and a bramble and thyme jus, simply divine! Drinks wise we had a glass of house red with dinner but then skipped dessert in favour of the PBJ Flip – Buffalo Trace Bourbon, raspberry liqueur, peanut butter, cream and eggs, a twisted classic cocktail which really changed the game and if it wasn’t for an early start the next day we’d have had another or two.

With dining the heart of Clouds & Soil’s offer you are hard beat to find somewhere so good in the area. Open from brunch in the bar through to lunch and dinner throughout, there is always a contented buzz around the place. Weekdays are more casual and the weekend offers a more intimate feel.

Best Bars tip: Although Clouds & Soil offers many various dining options if you have a special intimate occasion then go for private dining for up to six in the Hendrick’s Gin room.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Clouds and Soil Edinburgh dining room

The Ivy Market Grill

The Ivy Market Grill bar Mark NicholsonSo there was the Ivy, with its art deco interior and its celebs eating shepherd’s pie and chocolate bombs. Enters The Ivy Market Grill, a more laid-back little sibling in the heart of Covent Garden that’s all about approachable dining and drinking. The shepherd’s pie is still here but it comes with a list of well thought-out cocktails and even some bespoke bottles. Go on then, tuck in.

Head bartender Jeremy Evans found inspiration for the list in Covent Garden’s history. Most drinks are fruity and floral, a reminder of the area’s past as a fruit market and an orchard, and are great pre-dinner serves – you won’t leave this place without a trip via the à la carte.  Start with a light and sour My Fair Lady, with the restaurant’s bespoke Ivy Gin – a spicy spirit that gives a little depth to the serves it’s used in. The Betty Careless is full of surprises: its smoky nose of Ardberg reveals sweetness and citrus, with warmth from Chivas Regal, and agave combining it all together. With a plate of spiced olives on the side, and followed by a crispy duck salad, we predict a very good evening.

It’s not just the plates that are inviting though: the terrace will call your name on warmer days, and in the winter you’ll want to cosy up inside, surrounded by deep green leather and warm dark wood. Expect to find a mixed crowd – theatre goers, tourists speaking barely a word of English and Ivy loyals broadening their perspectives. And you, no doubt.

Best Bars tip: Make the trip down for an afternoon tea, but swap the regular loose leaf for an Earl of Bedford, with Beefeater gin, crème de bergamote, chamomile liqueur, orange marmalade, and naturally, tea.

– Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

The Ivy Market Grill Bar dining room