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,

Bar Opus Birmingham

GŎNG at The Shard

GONG at The Shard interiorNot many bars require a bag scanner, two lifts and some serious ear-popping to get into them; but GŎNG was never going to be understated. Sitting perilously on Level 52 of The Shard, the Shangri-La bar is the highest in London. The vertigo sufferers among you will certainly need a stiff drink to deal with the  view from the floor-to-ceiling windows, but those more in sync with their equilibrium will want one to celebrate it. Modern Asian design is the feel with the interiors paying homage to an upmarket Chinese drinking den, with purple furnishings, marble-top tables and a wall made of oriental-style cabinet drawers. Whether you sit in the cocktail or champagne bar, the atmosphere is as you’d expect: quiet and understated.

The menu, however, is anything but. Alongside the obligatory Bollinger and vintage wines, the signature cocktails are a mix of classics and clever twists. The dramatic Big Smoke (a libation consisting of Dodd’s gin, dry sherry and Mancino Rosso Amaranto) comes with a smoking bowl of herbs and spices, and the award-winning Black & Blue Swizzle mixes Talisker, honey, lime, PX sherry and blue cheese. Punchy, to say the least (we’d hope so, at £17 a pop). If you’re looking to mop up your spoils, and you don’t want to venture downstairs to the restaurants, the bar snack menu ranges from tapas to foie gras and Beluga caviar.

If you’re wanting to impress out of towners, then GŎNG is a winner. A couple of sophisticated drinks for a special occasion would go down well here too, and it’s a good excuse to put on a splash of finery while you’re at it. Just make sure you take plenty of dosh to play with – trust us, you’ll need it.

Best Bars tip: After 9pm, the infinity pool opens to imbibers who fancy poolside evening drinks. You can’t say that about a London bar often, can you?

— Millie Milliken, @milliemilliken

GONG at The Shard cocktail


Bank BirminghamJust off the ever-popular Brindley Place, floor-to-ceiling glass frontages and two seriously smart terraces put Bank leagues ahead of its surrounding pack.

Don your finest wares for champagne and oysters or if it is just-because bubbly you seek, try Henners’ eminently quaffable 2009 English sparkling. If cocktails are in order, we favour the classics here — Bank’s mixologists do particularly impressive Martinis and Cosmos.

The go-to spot in advance of a black-tie do, with flexible seating arrangements, Bank is equally adept at catering for client drinks, a lively date or cocktails with the girls.

Best Bars tip: Bank also does accomplished bar and restaurant food. Hire the not-altogether-private private dining room to make sure you are able to see and be seen whilst celebrating. 

– Katy Drohan,

Bank Birmingham

The Vaults

The Vaults Birmingham tapas TuesdayDescend an unassuming set of stairs into the brick-clad labyrinth which is The Vaults. Choose between the subterranean chic and bouncing beats of the main bar or the seclusion of a private booth within vaulted enclaves.

For those of the sweeter disposition, try a dreamily blended Porn Star Martini. For everyone else we like the Brookers’ Negroni. And because a first class cocktail bar is not enough, there’s also a smart modern British restaurant serving up seasonally changing fare, with an emphasis on close relationships with local suppliers. We’ve heard great things about the monkfish tail.

A young, buzzy crowd and house DJ keep the bar busy until late on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is equally popular come the weekend.

Best Bars tip: Get table service by pre-booking one of eight booths for a taste of stripped back luxury.

– Katy Drohan,

The Vaults Birmingham

Purnell’s Bistro & Ginger’s Bar

Purnell's Bistro and Ginger's Bar Birmingham 2Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell is the toast of Birmingham and his nearby restaurant is the place to go for the finest of fine dining. His more affordable Purnell’s Bistro (which confusingly has a bar called Ginger’s) is where to go for cocktails.

Unsurprisingly – given that the menu is supervised by the man himself – the food is divine (try the fishcakes) but the head barman Danny is the real star of the show. The Sunday Roast Cocktail is the stuff of Brum legend, including lamb-infused rum (ask if it’s not on the menu), while bacon bourbon is also a surprising hit. Those more inclined to keep their animals on a plate/in a field might like the champagne with crystallised fruit caviar.

In the heart of Birmingham’s business district it’s a mecca for the besuited men and beblazered women (that’s not a word, is it?) that demand the very best in a glass. And they get it.

Best Bars tip: They do superb cocktail masterclasses, but hardly publicise them. So ask around.

— Tom Cullen

PUrnell's Bistro and Ginger's Bar Birmingham Gin and Tonics

OXO Tower

OXO Tower London Southbank mocktailsSouth Bank’s iconic OXO Tower offers cocktails to suit the stunning Thames-side views.

The champagne certainly flows – the bar serving its very own brand of Brut – and of course there are classic cocktails. Try originals though, like the bitter and uplifting Southbank Cocktail with pink grapefruit vodka, ruby grapefruit juice and Beefeater Gin. Even non-alcoholic offerings are inventive, like the After Hours Cosmo – replacing vodka and Cointreau with fruit tea, Siberian ginseng and orange flower water. A crowd-pleasing modern European menu dazzles in the restaurant and experienced sommeliers will happily find a wine to go with each and every course.

Don’t be surprised to see client-wooing and business meetings alongside family celebrations and marriage proposals – the OXO Tower has earned its status as a special occasion destination, and for very good reason.

Best Bars tip: Be sure to book a table in the bar for that aperitif if you’re visiting for the views.

— Laura Richards, @Lala_Richards

OXO Tower London Southbank afternoon tea


Fumo Birmingham barThe first thing that hits you at Fumo is the subdued lighting and curved sweeping bar. This place is elegant. This place is brilliant.

It serves sophisticated cicchetti – small dishes of freshly prepared Italian tapas. Try either the polpette (beef meatballs with tomato) or the achingly light crab salad. In terms of drinks, they make classic cocktails brilliantly, or plump from the wine list something red and Italian – the Barolo is our favourite. Without question this is home to Birmingham’s best Italian beer selection with Menabrea, La Mi Dona, La Gradisca and Peroni Gran Riserva joining the usual suspects.

Expect Birmingham’s bankers, big spenders and food buffs. It might not be cheap, but it’s oh so worth it.

Best Bars tip: The ‘Nduja Calabrian soft spicy sausage & buffalo mozzarella pizza is the city’s best slice.

— Tom Cullen

Fumo Birmingham seafood