“I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s the best they’ll feel all day.” Anywhere that quotes Old Blue Eyes on its cocktail menus has us sold. Housed on the ground floor of growing foodie square Kingly Court, Wright Brothers’ Soho Oyster House gives bivalve mollusc lovers what they want in unpretentious environs. Marble-top poser tables and stools make the bar area of the group’s Soho outpost possibly more suited than others to casual meets than sit-down dinners (although we wouldn’t be adverse to the latter).
The wine list would please any fisherman after a long day at sea, but it’s the herb- and fruit-heavy cocktail list that catches the eye. For long libation lovers, the Manda’s Elixir ticks the boxes with Portobello Road gin, peach, passionfruit, apple and lemon juice. But if it’s a short, sharp hit you’re after, the Mellow Barrel with Four Roses bourbon, Portal LBV port and egg white will take the edge off a long working day. Damage control comes in the form of small and large plates — we’re salivating over the likes of Alaskan king crab and wagyu beef. But it is, of course, the oysters we’re here for. Majestic platters served on stands make for, perhaps, the most extravagant of table centres. Get them dressed with kizami wasabi, chilli jam and cucumber sorbet, or have them naked, just as nature intended them to be.
You’ll be just as likely to see suited co-workers chatting shop as a couple of friends catching up after a long day in their respective offices. A dedicated bar entrance also means you don’t get the thoroughfare of restaurant and private dining guests disturbing you. Nobody wants to be watched as they slurp, do they?
Best Bars tip: This place fills up at about 7pm, so get down early for pre-dinner oysters or post-work cocktails with a couple of mates. Make sure to check out the cool caged private dining area, too. Guys looking to impress a date would do well to book in at the window. Well, you know what they say about oysters, don’t you?
A huge outdoor seating area makes suburban Brighton pub, The Park View, a great place for post-park drinks and long summer Sundays.
Beer is well-kept with a strong roster of lagers, often including Budvar and Brooklyn lager. Local ales populate the hand pumps and the spirits selection goes way beyond the usual pub suspects. Pub food is slightly above average with dishes like salt and pepper squid and proper sausage and mash setting the tone.
Set back from the main drag between London and Brighton, The Park View tends to attract a local crowd, from 20-somethings who don’t want to head into town to families and the post-work crowd on their way home from nearby Preston Park station.
Best Bars tip: If you’re looking for a party venue, try downstairs; it’s a fair size and it comes with a separate entrance.
The 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.
Nothing 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.
From 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.
Set 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.
For some of the best views Manchester has to offer, make your way up to Cloud 23. This slick and stylish cocktail spot has floor-to-ceiling windows (and boy are they high), so grab a spot next to one and sit back to enjoy the skyline. Come rain or shine, you’ll be happy sipping away in the clouds.
Prices may be as steep as the height of this bar, but with supremely friendly and attentive service you’ll feel alright about shelling out those extra shekels. For a fun and festive cocktail, try The Industrialist with a pre-batched frozen mix of Bulleit Bourbon, vermouth, mezcal bitters and maple syrup with is then poured over a big tuft of candy floss. Give a nod to ol’ Becks with the 7’s Club – a tasty mix of Haig Club whisky, Dubbonet, rosemary & demerara syrup, walnut and it’s served on a football pitch (of course).
Expect to see a mix of glitterati and polished out of towners all chirpily chatting away. You won’t spot too many sufferers of vertigo here though …
Best Bars tip: If you’re looking to impress, whether it’s a client or a date, this is the spot for you.