The 14 Best New London Bars of 2014

Peg and Patriot Bethnal Green Road1. Peg + Patriot

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.

Mission Bethnal Green Addie Chinn
© Addie Chinn

2. Mission

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.

The Sun Tavern bar high res3. The Sun Tavern

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.

Dandelyan Mondrian London interior4. Dandelyan

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.

City Social London5. City Social

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.

El Nivel Day of the Dead6. El Nivel

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.

Shrub and Shutter Brixton food and drink7. Shrub and Shutter

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.

High Water Stoke Newington Road interior8. High Water

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.

POND Dalston
©2014 Tom Mannion

9. POND Dalston

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.

Original Sin Stoke Newington Road
© Addie Chinn

10. Original Sin

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.

Bar Termini Soho window11. Bar Termini

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.

WC Wine and Charcuterie Clapham12. WC — Wine & Charcuterie

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.

East London Liquor Company bar13. East London Liquor Company

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.

Dishoom King's Cross14. Dishoom King’s Cross

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.

Honourable mentions:

Peony at Opium, Verden, B & H Buildings, Loves Company, Merchant House, 184 Hackney Road, Portside Parlour, and The Whip.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

American Bar at The Savoy

American Bar at The SavoyOne of London’s most iconic bars, the American Bar at The Savoy is always ready to exceed your already high expectations. You’ll walk through the doors of the hotel and immediately be swept off your feet by friendly and attentive service, then ushered over to this art deco masterpiece. With more nooks and crannies than its sister bar, this space is perfect for tucking in to some of the best Martinis you’ll ever encounter and with just one look at those signature white blazers, you’ll know you’re in capable hands.

The bar is over 125 years old, and it is still the place for a fancy tipple. Head barman Erik Lorincz is an industry champion, so whatever drink you choose — it’s going to be damn tasty. The Savoy Cocktail Book, written by Harry Craddock in the 1930s, is something of a cocktail bible. It is still the reference point for many of the drinks on the menu and we’re partial to Harry’s own Corpse Reviver #2 — fresh, uplifting and with a bit of a kick, it is made with gin, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon and a dash of absinthe. We really love to throw back with the classics here, but feel free to experiment with the twists on the menu.

A live pianist cracking out American jazz is there seven days a week — setting an elegant tone for whenever you stop by.

Best Bars tip: When you wrap up here, head over to the Beaufort Bar for more live music or cabaret (and naturally, insanely amazing cocktails).

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

American Bar at The Savoy cocktail

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 Ivy Market Grill

The Ivy Market Grill bar Mark NicholsonSo there was the Ivy, with its art deco interior and its celebs eating shepherd’s pie and chocolate bombs. Enters The Ivy Market Grill, a more laid-back little sibling in the heart of Covent Garden that’s all about approachable dining and drinking. The shepherd’s pie is still here but it comes with a list of well thought-out cocktails and even some bespoke bottles. Go on then, tuck in.

Head bartender Jeremy Evans found inspiration for the list in Covent Garden’s history. Most drinks are fruity and floral, a reminder of the area’s past as a fruit market and an orchard, and are great pre-dinner serves – you won’t leave this place without a trip via the à la carte.  Start with a light and sour My Fair Lady, with the restaurant’s bespoke Ivy Gin – a spicy spirit that gives a little depth to the serves it’s used in. The Betty Careless is full of surprises: its smoky nose of Ardberg reveals sweetness and citrus, with warmth from Chivas Regal, and agave combining it all together. With a plate of spiced olives on the side, and followed by a crispy duck salad, we predict a very good evening.

It’s not just the plates that are inviting though: the terrace will call your name on warmer days, and in the winter you’ll want to cosy up inside, surrounded by deep green leather and warm dark wood. Expect to find a mixed crowd – theatre goers, tourists speaking barely a word of English and Ivy loyals broadening their perspectives. And you, no doubt.

Best Bars tip: Make the trip down for an afternoon tea, but swap the regular loose leaf for an Earl of Bedford, with Beefeater gin, crème de bergamote, chamomile liqueur, orange marmalade, and naturally, tea.

– Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

The Ivy Market Grill Bar dining room

Portobello Star

Portobello Star Notting HillA west London staple, the Portobello Star is perfect for anyone and everyone who likes a tipple and a good time. With their own homebrand gin, it’s no surprise the chaps here really know how to make a solid drink.

Peckish? Good. Thirsty? Great. To eat, grab a sharing board with meat from the much-loved Ginger Pig butcher. Or maybe try one of Portobello’s homemade pies — beef cheek and real ale with proper gravy? Don’t mind if we do. To drink, you have to try The Slutty Mermaid (there’s a great story behind this drink, so ask the bartender). It’s a delicious mix of smoky Vida mezcal, Manzanilla sherry, lemon and egg white with a splash of seawater and garnished with a mermaid, of course. Most importantly, you can’t leave without having a Portobello Road Martini with their very own gin, Lillet Blanc, Gammel Dansk bitter Danish digestif, Bob’s Abbott’s bitters that’s all stirred up and served with a grapefruit twist. Simply EPIC.

Jake Burger is the brains behind this operation, and is responsible for some of our favourite haunts (aka Jake’s Bar and Still Room, Neon Cactus, Oporto and Cielo Blanco — need we go on?). This place is ready for a party any time, so if you swing by for a quiet cocktail … well, there’s always the chance you’ll be swilling and dancing by the end of the night. Weekends see the DJ crack out spot-on tunes and the sexy-looking crowd can’t help but pile in.

Best Bars tip: If gin is still a bit of a mystery to you, then book yourself in for a session at the Ginstitute upstairs. It’s a few hours of history, drinking and even MAKING your very own gin. If you absolutely love your own concoction, you can order extra bottles any time. WIN.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Portobello Star Notting Hill cocktail

The Site Office

The Site Office pop up BirminghamBirmingham 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.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

The Site Office pop up Birmingham

Dishoom King’s Cross

Dishoom King's CrossThe 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 food menu has slight variations to the sister restaurants, however a few of our favourites made it on to this list. The crispy prawn koliwada are flavourful, moreish morsels served with tamarind and date chutney. The chicken ruby is a rich and not-too-spicy curry with utterly tender meat. And if it’s just a little nibble you want, then the can’t-stop-won’t-stop okra fries are a tad hot and a lot delicious. A few Dishoom Pale Ales would wash all that down quite nicely, but if you want something harder then try the smoky yet sweet Chaijito. It’ll feel like summer all year round.

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.

Best Bars tip: The chai is on another level. So whether you go for the classic version or the “naughty” one (aka boozy) – this is the ultimate warming treat.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Dishoom King's Cross