Bar Opus

Bar Opus Birmingham exteriorThe Opus dynasty has launched the third member of its stripped-back, airy and oh-so convivial family. Introducing: Bar Opus. A bedazzling selection of food and drink is served from 7am-11pm at this ideal spot for people watching, whether you opt for a seat on the piazza or behind the floor-to-ceiling glass frontage.

With a bar stocked to impress the most discerning of imbibers, for the sweeter pallet, we like the Autumn Bellini (bumbleberry or pear, prosecco), while the Opus Lager is bound to become the go-to drink for the “suits” that aren’t in the mood for the stonkingly well-crafted wine list.

Try the Brixham Bay bouillabaisse for a client lunch or wait until 5pm for a livelier after-work scene.

Best Bars tip: Secure an evening spot alongside the open kitchen for first dibs on the glazed baby chorizo sharing plate.

— Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Bar Opus Birmingham

Little Red Staircase (below Viet Grill)

Little Red Staircase Viet Grill cocktails

A Saigon-inspired secret below ever-popular eatery Viet Grill, Little Red Staircase serves original tipples with an Asian twist.

Ingredients from far out east are carefully balanced with on-trend cocktail bases. Take the Hoa Hong – made from sake, hibiscus flower, Aperol and prosecco, it’s the Vietnamese take on a Spritz. Delicate flavours of the Orient make a great base for refreshing drinks like the La Long Ice Tea, with lotus ice tea added to tequila and grenadine. Aperitif drinks are a match for lightly spiced and subtle bar snacks, including “pig on a stick” and salt and chilli squid with red eye mayo.

The bar isn’t large in size but packs a punch with exotic rich red drapes, lanterns and upholstery.

Best Bars tip: Try the Viet Royal – a spoonful of plum jam lays in the bottom, with spoon left in. Simply stir to make this drink as sweet as you like.  

— Laura Richards, @Lala_Richards

Little Red Staircase Hoxton Viet Grill

The Remedy

The Remedy Wine Bar Fitzrovia.jpgThe Remedy is an adorable backstreet bar, where excellent snacks are only just upstaged by some very fine wine.

The drinks list is divided up so even rookie wine fans can get a feel for what plonk works best – you’ll find no wine snobbery at The Remedy. Red wines are fit “to entice”, while some whites on the menu are made “to quench” – happy days! To complement predominantly European wines, bar snacks have a Mediterranean feel. Opt for “on toast” dishes and large plates, or share small plates like grissini wrapped in lardo – gorgeous breadsticks with a rich mushroom pâté and melt-in-the-mouth meat slivers.

With little nooks for winter months and a small terrace out the front, The Remedy is a great date spot. Guests can also sit at the bar and take advantage of the expertise from experienced staff.

Best Bars tip: Warm and friendly staff facilitate conversation around the room – don’t be surprised if neighbouring tables start sharing wine tips.

— Laura Richards, @Lala_Richards

The Remedy Wine Bar Fitzrovia

Graphic

Graphic soho interior 1

If your partial to a G&T, this might soon become your new favourite haunt. Graphic Bar is host to an astounding 305 gins (to date) on its backbar – making it one of the biggest gin collectors in the UK. Taking a casual but eclectic approach, you can enjoy a tipple to the backdrop of installations by some innovative artists showcasing their signature creations.

Alongside their oh-so-wonderful Gin List you can enjoy servings of disco drinks, decadent cocktails and delicious gin-based punches served in oversized paint tins. Try the yellow tin for a lovely ensemble of Tanqueray, maraschino and pineapple — perfectly balanced with a little fresh lemon juice. Or the pink tin for a sweet combination of Bombay Sapphire, apricot liqueur, Peychaud bitters, all brought to life with Fever-Tree lemonade. For something a bit disco, opt for Chaplin’s Fruit Fest – a delicious mix of Hayman’s Sloe Gin, elderberry and quince jam, lime sherbet and prosecco. Accompany your gin session with a succulent selection of bar bites including pulled pork fritters, beef croquettes and tasty tacos.

Low ceilings make for an intimate feel where you can sit back and relax amongst great pieces of art from Turner prize winners, and is updated twice a year – so this bar never gets old. With bags of charm and atmosphere, this venue is usually buzzing with media folks for post-work drinks due to its central location on Golden Square, or a great stopover for that perfect serve G&T before heading for a night on the town.

Best Bars tip: With a world-class gin collection, don’t miss out on the Juniper Club held every other Monday for avid gin enthusiasts with tastings and tutorials led by huge brands in the business. 

— Nicola Carruthers, @nik_carruthers

Graphic Soho cocktail 2

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

Seven at Brixton

Seven at Brixton interiorBrixton’s little market alleyways are absolutely filled with the best of what’s to come in London – see Honest Burgers and Franco Manca, which both made names for themselves down in Brixton Village. On the Market Row side, you’ll find Seven at Brixton, a tapas and cocktail bar that infuses south London with Spanish flavours.

Start with a cocktail – they’re seasonal, and we recommend a warm apple and ginger Daiquiri in the winter. It’s the upgrade on mulled cider you always dreamed of, with that welcome tangy spice. Summer rhymes with slushies to us, and they’ve got a moreish strawberry and vanilla one – try a ginger beer and basil Mojito if you’re not a fan of sweet drinks. Once you’ve got your drinks started, we predict a lengthy time staring at the tapas menu, so here are a few pointers: the pan con tomate and the tortilla are essentials. We’re also partial to the calamares – they come with an aioli that’s perfect for dipping bread and potatoes …

Tables are reclaimed desks, lights are hanging from cables and the booze is in suitcases attached to the walls. The ambiance is completely Brixton: relaxed and almost underdone, with the necessary bit of cool, but completely unpretentious. Weekends are busy with couples on dates and friends catching up – it’s the perfect spot for long chats over nibbles. And churros. Did we mention the churros?

Best Bars tip: Bring a group of mates and order a couple of the sharing platters – and they do special tapas menus for Christmas sit downs.

– Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest

Seven at Brixton food board

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