The Richmond

The Richmond Hackney nduja spiced seafood stew
© Ed Reeve

Set on one of Haggerston’s quiet residential streets is a London food-and-drink gem that you absolutely must not miss. The ever-so-slightly quirky signage outside might flag that The Richmond ain’t your average neighbourhood boozer. A simple clean interior with red walls and well chosen artwork makes it inviting, casual and on the right side of refined. And while we like the design, it’s the food and drink that will keep us coming here again and again.

As we said, the menus here are sensational. To eat, we started off with the raw bar (a must) and topped our oysters with a zesty spicy sauce that we would love to take with us to every shellfish haunt the world over. We then moved on to hotter items such as the chargrilled octopus which was hands down the BEST octopus we’ve ever tasted. Perfectly charred on the outside and still lovely and tender in. Plus the healthy dollop of aioli didn’t go remiss either. And don’t leave without getting the banana tart (remarkably soft and with a delicate sweetness that’s outrageously sumptuous) as well as the apple beignets that come with caramelised apples and ricotta sorbet. We have a real soft spot for anything resembling apple pie.

And now on to the drinks — well it’s no surprise here that there is just as much care and attention given to the liquid refreshments as to the solids. The bar manager here has an impressive CV having worked for the likes of HIX and Dishoom so now he is bringing his sophisticated touch to a short list of cocktails that seem both accessible and refined all at once. For a long and frothy option, try The Richmond Fizz with Beefeater gin, fresh lime, Pedrino and egg white. If you’re keen for something stirred down and brown, try Madame Maury with Diplomatico reserva exclusiva, Maury, sugar and bitters.

Best Bars tip: Come hungry. Leave happy. And definitely swing by for the happy hour: £1 oysters from 6-7pm on weekdays and 5-6pm on Saturdays. Unmissable.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

The Richmond Hackney
© Ed Reeve

Three Eight Four

Three Eight Four Brixton cocktailsFrom 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.

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Three Eight Four Brixton food spread

Medcalf Traiteur

Medcalf Traiteur bar

*This bar is now closed.*

Exmouth Market’s been London’s up-and-coming idyllic village for a while – maybe came-and-coming would be more accurate. Yet it’s not been taken over just by newbies; quite the contrary in the case of Medcalf Traiteur, the offspring of its decade-old original, Medcalf. Here the theme is quite French picnic, so pop by when you’re feeling chilled and chatty.

While the Traiteur’s quite popular at lunch times for its hearty specials, at night the place turns wine bar, with a selection of quirky Old World wines served by the glass, and plenty more bottles if you’re very thirsty. It’s all very convivial and informal, so get chatting to the waiter about what you like – or not – and they’ll be happy to get you tasting. The wines available change as often as weekly so we’d recommend small measures to try them all, and to keep coming back. Food wise it’s all charcuterie platters, cheese and salads, but some is available from the main restaurant next door too if you’re feeling like “proper” plates. We loved the potato gnocchi and could not get enough of the desserts.

Looking around, things are pretty simple: wooden décor, plain hanging lights, brick walls painted white and a display of meats and cheese by the window. This isn’t a place trying to be more than it is – you, small groups of friends, passers-by and eager guzzlers alike will feel welcome. It feels like an extension of your own living room, and that’s what matters most.

Best Bars tip: Bring your old vinyls and ask if you can contribute to the night’s playlist … the DJ’s the record player here.

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Medcalf Traiteur exterior

Bank

Bank BirminghamJust off the ever-popular Brindley Place, floor-to-ceiling glass frontages and two seriously smart terraces put Bank leagues ahead of its surrounding pack.

Don your finest wares for champagne and oysters or if it is just-because bubbly you seek, try Henners’ eminently quaffable 2009 English sparkling. If cocktails are in order, we favour the classics here — Bank’s mixologists do particularly impressive Martinis and Cosmos.

The go-to spot in advance of a black-tie do, with flexible seating arrangements, Bank is equally adept at catering for client drinks, a lively date or cocktails with the girls.

Best Bars tip: Bank also does accomplished bar and restaurant food. Hire the not-altogether-private private dining room to make sure you are able to see and be seen whilst celebrating. 

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Bank Birmingham

The Shrub and Shutter

Shrub and Shutter Brixton
© Giles Christopher

This one’s a little out of the way, but so worth a visit. Stepping into The Shrub and Shutter feels 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.

The “drinks program” changes often, but with over 20 drinks to choose from, there are some regulars and always plenty to quench your thirst. The Brixton Buyers Club is great to start with – slightly fruity with earthy flavours coming from the sage and cardamom, but still easy-drinking. Like most drinks at this bar, it comes with a side of nibbles – here, some pineapple cubes and tiny pieces of ham. You Can’t Handle Chartreuse will blow your mind a little, and the Memento comes with a welcome theatrical touch in the form of – you guessed it – a Polaroid. It’s difficult to stop writing about the drinks, but the food helps: try the soft shell crab sandwich or gorge on a rib-eye. All ends of the food spectrum are covered.

The Shrub and Shutter wants itself to be a neighbourhood cocktail bar and despite a seriously impressive offering, manages to do just that. It’s inviting and friendly, and encourages discovery in a way that’ll probably turn a “just one drink” visit into an all-day affair. Frankly, worse could happen.

Best Bars tip: Nip to the back – there’s plenty more space for sitting with big groups, and an outdoors area for smokers and summer nights. 

— Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Shrub and Shutter Brixton food and drink

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

Covent Garden Cocktail Club

Covent Garden cocktail clubTucked below a discreet set of stairs just off the Leicester Square, a treat awaits you: the buzzy, party-loving Covent Garden Cocktail Club. Now technically this is a members’ only joint, but anyone can get a membership — just sign up here. And once you’re in, you can expect all of the qualities that make its brethren LCC venues so irresistible.

Drinking here is about frills and fun, so don’t be shy. Get the night started with a Won Ton Bomb: a Jagerbomb gone wrong. Red Bull jelly in a soup spoon served with chilled Jagermeister and a touch of tobasco. Wowza. Standing up at the bar watching the flaring masters at work should take your party mood up to eleven. And then get a bit cheeky and have an Optic Old Fashioned. A Woodford Reserve bourbon sipper that’s served in a flask. Classy, ay? If you need it, bar bites such as nuts and pizza are available.

Come at the right time and you’ll be serenaded with some lively piano playing. But this isn’t the stiff key tapping of five-star hotels, this is a seamless foray into sing-a-long tunes — and we love it.

Best Bars tip: Swing by on Monday for the ALL NIGHT happy hour, or come Tuesday-Saturday between 4:30pm-7pm for 2-for-1 tipples.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Covent Garden Cocktail Club won ton bomb