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.
The battle for “bar with the greatest view of London” is a hard-fought one and Rumpus Room is the most recent contender. Facing the river from the top of Mondrian London at Sea Containers, a drink there will definitely give you that Londoner pride feeling – and not least so because the bar’s part of Mr Lyan’s portfolio.
The space really is the star player here. Visit at night, when the room is dark and lit by dandelion-like pendant lamps, the backbar and the city’s windows and streetlights. The deep red sofas are super comfortable, but if the weather’s right, nip out on the terrace to really take in the view.
Drinks wise, the menu’s split between ten classics and ten Rumpus serves – don’t expect the same as downstairs in Dandelyan. Here the drinks are a bit more approachable; twists on well-known names mostly. We liked the fresh and easy-drinking Pineapple Dark’n’Stormy, and the note of hops in the cistrusy Lemon Balm Margarita. There are also a few bites available – if you’ve managed to avoid London’s lobster frenzy, now is really time to give a lobster roll a try.
Best Bars tip: Rumpus Room is often closed for private events, so check before visiting.
Just 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.
In a normal world, abandoned-looking industrial buildings tucked away behind railway arches are best avoided – expect of course if you’re in London, in which case chances are you’ve found a genial cocktail bar. It’s the case for Cecil’s, a gem of a drinking den that truly asks for some commitment to be found: a dark alley and grim looking stairs lead to a large, dim room where time is well spent.
The drinks list is really quite eclectic, with some interesting work on serving categories: choose from punches, highballs, large pots to share, or small pick-me-ups – elaborate shots. Keep it local with a Borough Citrus Punch — beautifully refreshing and dry. Or go bold with the whole Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor set of shots, which combine different spirits with liqueurs and juices.
The place looks like an Asian-inspired Prohibition bar, perhaps a touch confusing but it really works: Chinese lanterns and small plates of dumplings mix with evenings of live blues and swing dancing. There’s really nothing not to love.
Best Bars tip: Saturday nights are Uff Tea nights – an immersive 1930s Shanghai experience with live jazz, extravagant glamour and of course, great drinks.
Descend an unassuming set of stairs into the brick-clad labyrinth which is The Vaults. Choose between the subterranean chic and bouncing beats of the main bar or the seclusion of a private booth within vaulted enclaves.
For those of the sweeter disposition, try a dreamily blended Porn Star Martini. For everyone else we like the Brookers’ Negroni. And because a first class cocktail bar is not enough, there’s also a smart modern British restaurant serving up seasonally changing fare, with an emphasis on close relationships with local suppliers. We’ve heard great things about the monkfish tail.
A young, buzzy crowd and house DJ keep the bar busy until late on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant is equally popular come the weekend.
Best Bars tip: Get table service by pre-booking one of eight booths for a taste of stripped back luxury.
So 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.
A members’ only pop-up bar for art lovers and booze lovers alike. Oh yes, it is real. Welcome to La Maison Rémy Martin: a two-week-long, four-storey, fun house in Soho where you can sip down bespoke cocktails created by five of London’s most talented bartenders.
To drink, you’re in great hands: from the Artesian’s Alex Kratena to Alastair Burgess of Happiness Forgets. Whatever creation you get, it’ll be damn tasty. The food menu comes courtesy of Ottolenghi. And if you haven’t experienced his cooking yet, well … you’re in for a treat. On the culture side of things, head over for one of the workshops. One in particular that piqued our interest is the Joseph Lukes Guitars session, where Luke will demonstrate the importance of wood and its aging process by constructing a handmade “Grand Concert Guitar” using Rémy Martin French Limousin oak. Members will be taken through the unique production of the instrument as well as being able to experience how the sound of a guitar changes depending on wood, age, source and density.
It’s invitation only (and we were lucky enough to get a sneak peak). But they’ve kindly extended out that invitation and are selection a lucky 100 people to become members during the next two weeks, just apply online and cross your fingers.
Best Bars tip: This place is perfect for celebrity spotting, so be sure to wear your finest digs.
25 November – 6 December. 19 Greek Street, W1D 4DT.