For the non francophones out there, “Joyeux Bordel” roughly translates as jolly mess – but while there might be potential for a messy night, walking through the hidden entrance (this is Shoreditch, after all) and down the stairs to the bar gives off more of a sophisticated vibe, with just a little plenty-of-dark-corners kind of edge.
The latest born of the Experimental Cocktail Club, it’s got a drinks menu with the expected flair, and a reasonable amount of French influence – old aperitifs, dusty bottles with continental names and all the Suze and Lillet you’d ever want. Go for the bar’s signature drink – the Jolly Mess – which uses rye spirit, pear eau de vie, vermouth, cardamom syrup and chocolate liqueur. Sounds moreish and decadent but is surprisingly balanced, with a nice bitter chocolate aftertaste.
One thing you might not expect at first is that Joyeux Bordel is a music lover’s paradise – a nice touch when you know the space used to be legendary club Plastic People until it closed early this year. The sound system is one of the best in Europe, with speakers and amps legendary in a way that we didn’t manage to understand, so expect a refined line-up of DJs with The Clove Club’s Daniel Willis at the helm.
Best Bars tip: If you’re fond of antique bottles and glasses, and fancy sipping on something really special that no one quite knows the history of, Joyeux Bordel has a collection of antique spirits that they might just let the regulars try.
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.
Situated right down from the station and not too far away from the beach, this spacious venue is popular with the post-work and student crowds alike.
While a lot of people come to the Hope & Ruin for the friendly, laid-back attitude and the fact that it stays open nice and late, the rest arrive for the music. The bar’s outdoor sign, which features a logo of a retro Orange amp, should set the evening’s tone well.
Upstairs you’ll find a 100-capacity venue, Hope Live, where the venue hosts four or five gigs and club nights a week. It is here that you can catch both local indie types as well as touring acts from around the world. Downstairs, expect an assortment of old but comfy sofas, a jukebox, a pint or four of something cold and a good playlist soundtracking the night. If you fancy a bite to eat, then the bar’s tapas and pizza menus should do the trick.
Best Bars tip: The Strokes, Adele and The White Stripes have all played at The Hope over the years. We suggest catching an up-and-coming band here while they’re still up-and-coming. You never know…
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.
Now, this one’s the real deal. You’ll find the great and greater of the bar world both sides of the bar at (pretty much) all times of night, and no doubt joining in will make you feel a bit special – even more so with drink in hand. Sovereign Loss is small, the list is small, but the welcome is warm and the knowledge without bounds. You’re in for a good night.
The drinks list changes weekly, so it’s hard to know what to expect. You’ll likely find classics slightly twisted and a short selection of drinks with a good emphasis on fruit spirits. While we cannot speak highly enough of the Army and Navy — a wonderfully creamy, slightly sweet and pleasantly bitter almond drink — the best thing to do at Sovereign Loss is to tell the team what you like to drink and they’ll be happy to find a serve to your taste that’ll still surprise you.
This is the perfect place for late-night drinking: hard to find (you’ll have to be escorted from an unexciting side door of the downstairs Prince of Wales to the bar), darkly-lit and open until 5am or more. Add to that very reasonably priced cocktails and the cosy 20s feel and you might as well move in. We sure are.
Best Bars tip: Week evenings are quiet enough, but if you’re planning to visit on the weekend, book ahead.
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.
The 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.
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