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

West Thirty Six

West Thirty Six Notting HillA 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).

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

West Thirty Six dining room

Old Tom & English

Old Tom and English SohoWalking 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.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Old Tom and English Soho

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

The Fighting Cocks

The Fighting Cocks BirminghamNineteenth century features sit happily beside a hotchpotch of contemporary art, booth seating and the eponymous DJ Julie (weekends only) at The Fighting Cocks.

If four Cask Marque accredited real ales and 14 speciality beers, lagers and ciders aren’t enough for you, we’ve been dreaming about the ginger- and vanilla-infused Red Leg Spiced Rum repeatedly since The Fighting Cocks first introduced us.

Beloved by its Moseley locals and city folk alike, salt of the earth homemade grub is served to a relaxed crowd throughout the week. And if you ask us — which I suppose you really are — The Fighting Cocks is all about satiating that Sunday feeling, any day of the week.

Best Bars tip: Get yourself to Monday’s weekly quiz night to find out about a very special round that has been known to involve a man dressing up in a full bunny suit.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

The Fighting Cocks Birmingham bangers and mash

The Prince George

The Prince George Brighton barPopular with the post-work crowd, neighbourhood boozer The Prince George — located on bustling Trafalgar Street — is a mix of both traditional pub and boutique bar. Case in point: there are lots of cosy nooks and crannies (surrounded by the type of framed posters and paintings you’d expect to find in an old timer) merged with pendant lamps and exposed brick walls alongside fancy wallpaper. It’s this, plus the lovely little garden – replete with plenty of plants, plus heaters and big brollies in the evenings – which brings the crowds.

Its main draw, however, is its restaurant Veggie-Veggie. As its name suggests, the entire menu is dedicated to herbivores, and it’s been voted as one of PETA’s top 10 veggie restaurants in the UK. With the likes of ginger beer-battered halloumi with chips and mushy peas as well as chestnut mushroom ravioli with blue cheese sauce on head chef Malcolm Ingram’s menu, we’re not surprised.

If you’re just after a bevvie, then the selection of local ales here is almost second-to-none. There’s a range on offer from the 1648 Brewing Co, Dark Star, Langham, Kissingate and Hepworth & Co. We make ours a pint of Dark Star IPA every time.

Best Bars tip: For the serious vegetarians, there’s a meat-free wine and beer list. Very virtuous.

— Heather Steele, @steeleheather

The Prince George Brighton fireplace

Prince of Wales

Prince of Wales Birmingham MoTiki 3An “old man’s pub” given a new lease of life, The Prince Of Wales’ clientele boasts a beautiful mix of traditional cask ale lovers and hip, young Moseleyites looking for cocktails and street food. More proof they can live in harmony! From the classic boozer to the Tiki bar to the shed du vin, there’s a bit of everything at this mish-mash venue.

The cocktail must-have is the Ocean Colour Scream named after local band of the Britpop era, Ocean Colour Scene. It includes their Mo-Tiki homemade grog, lime juice, blue curaçao, cranberry and guava juice.

Check out the incredible cigar shop and winery out back, both of which face into the colossal beer garden that houses the Mo-Tiki bar (and heaters!).

Best Bars tip: Gourmet hot dog specialists Chilli Dog Dog are on hand Thursday through to Saturday nights serving jaw-dropping dogs made with local award-winning “Lashford” snags. Get involved.

— Tom Cullen

Prince of Wales Birmingham pub fireplace