A beautifully renovated Victorian house with wood-board ceilings, an open kitchen, cosy booths and trendy staff. West Thirty Six is a townhouse of treasures, with secret dining rooms, open fires, smoking terraces and private party spaces. It feels like a members’ club, but it’s open to everyone. Nip by any time of day and hang out in the sunny ground floor bar – either nab a seat overlooking the open kitchen or park up in one of the leather banquettes.
If you’re coming for dinner, head to the first floor dining room – it’s seriously dark and seriously sexy. The menu is a mash-up of American and British cuisine, so come hungry. We had the scallops, steak, crab trifle, beef tartare and finished it off with a luxurious deconstructed banoffee pie. It was all hearty and delicious (and our waistlines were not the better for it). But who can resist a perfect seared steak and dishes full of ultra smoky and unctuous flavours. Since we love a good drink, naturally we had to have a few Manhattans – and you should too.
The crowd here is west London hip, with big groups of young guys and gals sharing big plates and bottles of bubbly then heading out to one of the FOUR alfresco areas for a smoke. Yes, four. In the summer, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to alfresco drinking.
Best Bars tip: Looking for a private party space? The top floor is where it’s at. Hire it out and it’ll be like the best house party you’ve ever been to (with DJs and drinks supplied).
Leeds’ north quarter channels east London vibes with this trendy, bustling venue. Across Belgrave Music Hall’s three floors you’ll find food, live music, an art market, film screenings, a token french bulldog or two (of course) and the city’s most impressive roof terrace.
Serving a wide selection of cask ales, premium lagers and craft brews (including the venue’s own craft beer made with Northern Monk Brew Company), this is the ideal drinking spot for beer lovers. If you’re not into hops you can choose from straight up mixers, no-fuss slushy cocktails, a short wine list or get a caffeine fix with fresh coffee courtesy of Laynes Espresso. Canteen-style street food is served up by Dough Boys, the in-house “pizza pilgrims” who deliver a constantly changing menu of locally sourced products and vegan and gluten-free options. If you’re a foodie, you’ll love Belgrave Feast which takes over the venue every second Saturday of the month to showcase independent food vendors from all around the country.
It’s easy to see Belgrave Music Hall as one of the most exciting spaces on the Leeds scene. Its east London-inspired décor with industrial touches and minimalist bold designs make the perfect backdrop for the eclectic roster of music, arts and film performances. The large roof terrace itself is enough to draw a crowd, decked out with fake grass, quirky heated huts, deck chairs and its own mini bar. Whether you’re up for food, booze or art, this is the ultimate year-round hangout for any culture vultures, foodies and beer enthusiasts.
Best Bars tip: Love dough? Pizza slices are half price until 7pm, Sunday – Thursday and 5pm Friday and Saturday.
Nestled in Bethnal Green’s classically beautiful Town Hall Hotel, there’s a hot spot that will tempt you further eastward — just beyond the boundaries of Shoreditch. Peg + Patriot is the latest haunt from talented drinksman Matt Whiley (of Talented Mr Fox), and he’s brought his unique style of cocktail-making to the East End.
Sitting within the naturally atmospheric railway arches on Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row, Mission’s copper-topped bar, ceiling-high palm tree, and alit wine-filled backbar all seamlessly come together to bring you that quintessential modern wine experience. Plus the food is extraordinary too.
Taking a casual approach in setting, this unassuming pub on Bethnal Green Road is pure magic inside. The dim, narrow, candelit space is equal parts cool and sexy with an L-shaped bar that’s lit up with some of the snazziest lanterns we’ve seen around. This is another page ripped straight off the New York City playbook, striking that perfect balance of Irish dive bar-meets-cocktail den.
This is one seriously talented team and they’ve brought their magic touch to South Bank’s hot hotel, Mondrian London, manning the Dandelyan bar as well as creating drinks for the entire hotel (from the Sea Containers restaurant to bottled cocktails in the mini fridges). The design is sleek and sexy, with deep purples and shades of green … oh, and the view of the Thames and St Paul’s is rather impressive too.
Socialising just got slightly darker, a bit sexier and a whole lot higher. Sitting pretty on the 24th floor of Tower 42, Jason Atherton’s skyrise outpost City Social is more art deco than the rest. We wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you are in one of New York City’s mainstay, high-rise haunts.
Tucked just above the long-loved La Perla is agaveria El Nivel — courtesy of industry legend Tomas Estes and his son Jesse. A departure from the 17 other Estes venues, this is a slightly more upscale venture with draped curtains, colourful Mexican artwork and Latin retro vibes. The bright and sunny room may be small, but the bar is big on service – and will bring you an intimate and elegant drinking experience every time.
This one’s a little out of the way, but so worth a visit. Stepping into The Shrub and Shutterfeels like being in a giant terrarium – there are plants, the flicker of candles, slates on the walls and metal cans decorating the shelves and ceiling. The menus are on the wall, and they’ll catch your attention real quick: what’s growing in this bar is one helluva cocktail list.
Come hell or High Water, Dalston has a new chilled out cocktail haven. This treasure of a bar is the product of one seriously talented team, so whatever your tipple of choice, it will be perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Classics are bang on, and so are all their twists.
Always wanted to take that dream holiday to Hawaii? Well, we can’t help you there. Or maybe we can … welcome to London’s little slice of island paradise: POND Dalston. This happy haunt comes courtesy of Byron Knight, who has put his magic touch on places like Duke’s Brew & Que as well as Off Broadway (if you haven’t been to either of those, get them in the diary). The kitchen is manned by talented chef Frog Wong while the bar is pumping out elegant tropical cocktails by Megs DeMeulenare.
The guys from Happiness Forgets have spread their magic touch, and this time it’s a slightly bigger (but definitely as beautiful) operation on Stoke Newington Road. Welcome toOriginal Sin. This basement bar is all dim lighting, cosy booths, free pool and there’s one seriously long bar that begs for you to come perch on.
Italian-styled cocktail spot Bar Termini is bringing glamour back to train station drinking. The design is pared back with nods to railways (like the overhead shelving) and the dark nighttime setting makes it rather intimate indeed. Cocktails are premixed in Tony C’s lab, so you can expect precision, consistency and most importantly, perfection. One of our favourite 69 Colebrooke Row drinks has made it over to this site: the simple-looking yet complex-tasting Terroir.
Drinking in the toilet just got classy. Think we’re mad? Think again. WC Wine and Charcuterie has opened in Clapham Common underground station’s toilets. Having lain derelict for years, the 100-year-old, listed cubicles have been given a bloody good once over and now house one of London’s most talked about bars.
Sitting in the back of what at first looks like a car park, is one of east London’s finest and newest gems — the East London Liquor Company. An industrial-yet-airy bar with copper touches and it’s biggest treat: an in-house distillery where the staff are crafting their own gins, vodkas and whiskies. If you’ve ever seen a backbar more beautiful than this … well, you probably haven’t.
The third and largest outpost of Dishoom is another beautifully designed Bombay café, setting up shop in the foodie destination of Granary Square. The warehouse-like space manages to ooze charm with antique knick-knacks and brass touches throughout. The Permit Room bar downstairs fits 90 people and opens at 5pm every day, so swing by for spicy twists on ginny numbers or even some zesty and fruity mocktails. They also have a whole selection of pre-batched cocktails for your pleasure.
Walking down Wardour street, we wouldn’t blame you for whizzing right past this door. With just a red light buzzing above, there’s little indicate the luxurious den that awaits downstairs. Old Tom & English plays on the brothel history of Soho, but nothing down here is seedy. The design comes courtesy of Lee Broom, with his signature 60s style and glamorous touches, this feels like walking into an episode of Mad Men.
If you’re here, then you’ve got to have an Old Fashioned — but this one comes as a twist. Made with barrel-aged gin, honey and bitters — it’s like no other Old Fashioned you’ve tried before. For a drink inspired by the area, try the South Side of Oxford Street with Gentleman’s Cut gin, lemon, sugar and Manzanilla dry sherry. Dry, fresh and definitely delicious. Food is designed to share, so start ordering those plates around. Lighter bites such as the kale and burnt apple salad are friendlier to the waistline, while those looking to indulge should get straight in to the melt-in-your-mouth confit smoked guinea fowl served with an anchovy mayo. Oh, and get the triple cooked chips … these are some of the best in town.
The booths are ideal for big groups that want a bit of privacy — you get your own little alcove to while away the hours in.
Best Bars tip: It’s reservations only (if you want a booth), but play nice and they’ll let you perch up at the bar … our favourite spot.
Clouds & 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.
Descend 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.
Birmingham is harbouring a deliciously stylish password-only pop-up, The Site Office, in which exposed brickwork, candlelit cubby holes and Chesterfields are de rigueur.
With a spirit offering befitting of its industry-insider crowd, if you can get it, try the Black Cow — that’s vodka made from Cornish cows’ milk to you and me. Another Site Office must-try is sherry cask-aged dark rum in the form of the inimitable Dos Maderas, hidden in the defilade of a woodwork project, posing as a bar.
With guest DJs that will keep you vertical until past bedtime, make your arrival no earlier than 10pm and enthusiastically wave goodbye to that last train home.
Best Bars tip: Follow, like and generally stalk The Site Office on Facebook to find out about future events. Or if you are impatient like us, hire the whole thing and throw yourself a humdinger of a private party.