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

Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms EdinburghParadise Palms is a little bit of the Vegas Sunset Strip dropped into the centre of Edinburgh’s Potterrow area. The décor is a mixture which goes beyond the eclectic into the downright fun: neon, green foliage, disco balls, cabaret club velvet and a huge stuffed boar’s head above the bar to complete the theme of having almost no theme. Somehow it all gels into an environment which is unique yet comfortable.

The Palms have teamed up with local street food mercenaries Ninja Buns who have committed a full kitchen takeover. We tried one of their signature efforts, a Taiwanese steamed bun packed full of Aberdeenshire pulled pork marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and star anise – those sneaky Ninjas know their buns! The bar team have put a big focus on tequila and mezcal – so the Paloma, a thirst quenching mix of tequila, fresh grapefruit and Caribbean soda Ting, was their recommendation. But there’s a great selection of beers too if that’s your thing.

The Potterrow area is the heart of the local university district and students and locals alike flock here for a great mix of music, killer cocktails and gourmet street food. The entertainment on offer is a mix of fresh local bands, DJs and cabaret nights.

Best Bars tip: Check in and chill out. The Best Bars team could have spent all night here and will the next time. Enjoy the atmosphere and ask the guys what’s going on later at night as that’s when the stage comes to life.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Paradise Palms Edinburgh food

The Grafton

The Grafton Kentish TownIt’s not hard to see why The Grafton was crowned Great British Pub of the Year 2014. This traditional cornerstone boozer in the heart of Kentish Town, offers a great drinks selection, a wide range of real ales, tasty meals and an impressive array of eclectic in-house events – all set in a stunning Victorian restoration complete with quirky modern features and a weather-proof roof terrace.

The downstairs bar offers no set drinks menu but check the chalkboards to scope out a rotating list of award-winning hand pumped ales, local craft beers, ciders, premium spirits and world wines. Tucked away upstairs, you’ll find a more modern bar with an adjacent rooftop terrace. With a bespoke selection of wines and the pub’s very own light prosecco, all on tap to satisfy demands for a constant flow of vino and moreish spritzers. Bar bites are available with food pop-ups such as Texas Joe’s BBQ, which is taking over Grafton’s kitchen until January 2015 with delectable meaty sharing platters.

The upstairs area also hosts Friday DJ nights, monthly Swapaholics clothes exchanges, acoustic music nights and many other fun shindigs. In fact, one look at the events listings and you’ll find there’s an occasion for everyone – from the Tuesday pub quiz (only £1 to enter) to Bring Your Own Vinyl nights, Sing-A-Long Sundays and even the all-welcoming Reggae Choir.

Best Bars tip: Having a bit of a get together? Get cosy in the Grafton’s “Boardroom”. Now available to hire, this upstairs space seats 10-14 or 20 standing and is perfect for private dining, meetings, film screenings, parties and you can even connect your own keg in the corner for all-night top ups.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

The Grafton Kentish Town roof terrace

The Water Poet

The Water Poet Spitalfields Sunday roastIf there’s any pub in east London that can hold the hundreds of revellers that descend on Shoreditch every weekend, it’s The Water Poet. A few steps from Spitalfields Market, this is the place to go if you want guaranteed floor (or even chair) space. It is a beast, of the best variety.

The main bar, smattered with high-back armchairs and stools, is pretty darn big, but it’s what lies behind that makes this labyrinthine boozer so special. There’s a basement bar with cinema system for film screenings and the  ground floor dining room can be hired out for private parties. When it’s free, this is a great place to sit down and get some grub in — we like the sound of the sausage board ourselves.

It’s the vast outdoor yard and walled garden that steals the show though. Imbibers and smokers alike pour out here whatever the weather for parties, hog roasts and barbecues in the summer.

Best Bars tip: If it’s a good, honest tipple you’re after then The Water Poet is perfect. Meantime, Camden Hells and London Fields brews grace the pumps and the whisky selection is more generous than most pubs. Always a winner with us.

— Millie Milliken, @milliemilliken

The Water Poet Spitalfields beer garden

The Victoria

The Victoria BirminghamIf you want frills, buy a frock. If you want a barnstormingly good boozer that’s rough around the edges but perfectly set right for night of entertainment – step forward The Victoria.

The pizzas are crispy and sublime with the Audrey Hepburn (all pizzas are named after actors) a must for goat’s cheese lovers and the garlicky and gorgeous Fats Domino – with pulled pork – the pick for meatheads. To drink, two words: Espresso Martini.

Expect a fairly high level of beer and cocktail-induced inebriation past 10pm on weekends, but if you’re looking for a quiet drink and glass of Malbec, you’re in the wrong place, pal.

Best Bars tip: Burger Mondays and Pizza Wednesdays are perfect if you want some bang for your buck. Two for £10, so it’s time to eat up and save up. 

— Tom Cullen

The Victoria Birmingham exterior

The Voodoo Rooms

The Voodoo Rooms Edinburgh
© Suzanne R Livingstone

Housed in part of what was Edinburgh’s first Gin Palace, The Voodoo Rooms screams decadence. An array of rooms from the cosy American bar which is available for small parties through to the grand ballroom which often gets packed out for live music shows and club nights – there is something for everyone – with the long main bar open to all every day of the week.

With such an array of uses, The Voodoo Rooms has a bar stocked with drinks to cover all tastes. If you’re in the mood for a classic, try the very well-made Tommy’s Margarita to wash down a Sunday brunch of eggs benedict and a great coffee. That will set you up nicely to try the Gin Palace Blush with Beefeater 24, Aperol, blueberries, lemon and vanilla which is topped with prosecco and tastes sublime.

With food being served throughout the venue and a huge range of killer cocktails – alongside the cream of talent on show – there is always a good buzz in The Voodoo Rooms. If you want a table midweek, it’s always a safe bet to book. There are also two separate function rooms each with their own fully stocked bars for private events.

Best Bars tip: A hive of cocktail creativity which has the outlet of a vast menu but pay attention to the specials board, the team bring you their freshest creations which will delight your palate.

— Martin Duffy

The Voodoo Rooms Edinburgh
© Suzanne R Livingstone

People’s Park Tavern

People's Park Tavern Victoria ParkPeople’s Park Tavern is one of those pubs that you’re not sure you want to tell your friends about because it’s oh so special. But with it’s huge beer garden overlooking Victoria Park, there’s plenty of space for all your pals.

Beer lovers, this place is calling your name. With its on-site brewery, you’re going to get some of the freshest ales and lagers in town. Just tell the staff what you’re looking for, and they’ll guide you toward your beer of choice. The nosh here is solidly delicious pub grub with dishes like wild mushroom and chestnut cottage pie or indulgent Sunday roasts.

Whether or not you live in the neighbourhood, enjoy this spot as if it were your local. From pub quizzes to open mic nights to winter evenings by the crackling fire, you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a perfect opportunity to while away the hours here.

Best Bars tip: There’s a bright and airy private dining room upstairs, so for a special occasion in a spot that feels like home — we reckon book yourselves in here.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

People's Park Tavern beer garden