The Hope & Ruin

The Hope Brighton gigSituated 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…

– Heather Steele, @steeleheather

The Hope Brighton

West Thirty Six

West Thirty Six Notting HillA beautifully renovated Victorian house with wood-board ceilings, an open kitchen, cosy booths and trendy staff. West Thirty Six is a townhouse of treasures, with secret dining rooms, open fires, smoking terraces and private party spaces. It feels like a members’ club, but it’s open to everyone. Nip by any time of day and hang out in the sunny ground floor bar – either nab a seat overlooking the open kitchen or park up in one of the leather banquettes.

If you’re coming for dinner, head to the first floor dining room – it’s seriously dark and seriously sexy. The menu is a mash-up of American and British cuisine, so come hungry. We had the scallops, steak, crab trifle, beef tartare and finished it off with a luxurious deconstructed banoffee pie. It was all hearty and delicious (and our waistlines were not the better for it). But who can resist a perfect seared steak and dishes full of ultra smoky and unctuous flavours. Since we love a good drink, naturally we had to have a few Manhattans – and you should too.

The crowd here is west London hip, with big groups of young guys and gals sharing big plates and bottles of bubbly then heading out to one of the FOUR alfresco areas for a smoke. Yes, four. In the summer, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to alfresco drinking.

Best Bars tip: Looking for a private party space? The top floor is where it’s at. Hire it out and it’ll be like the best house party you’ve ever been to (with DJs and drinks supplied).

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

West Thirty Six dining room

Bond No 9

Bond No 9 EdinburghBond No 9 in name refers to its location on Leith’s Commercial Street, in a large building once a whisky bond, shared by a Michelin-starred restaurant, offices and a furniture store among the residents. A lot of the original stone has been revealed in the main area with a good sized bright conservatory out to the rear which can be booked out for events. During the summer months it’s also a great place to park up and enjoy the weather in their outside area.

We made our way there for some decent sustenance after a cycle around Edinburgh’s coastal paths and arrived just in time to grab one of the last tables in the conservatory area. Brunch is served every weekend and the offer of their “bigger breakfast” was too good to skip: pork and herb sausages, smoked bacon, and Stornoway black pudding were the main stars of an ample dish backed up with the usual brunch features. Although the cocktail list is ample and well executed it was a strong cuppa and a virgin Bloody Mary with their house blend of spices for us, this time.

Leith is an area which due to a lot of redevelopment in recent years attracts a diverse crowd and Bond No 9 is no exception. Weekdays the main draw is relaxed food and great coffee, weekends a more restaurant feel is there with patrons enjoying top notch grub served by candlelight. Check their social media too as they’ll often have local DJ talent playing later in the evenings at the weekends.

Best Bars tip: The gantry holding all the spirits at Bond is one of the biggest and most diverse in Edinburgh. This means that they can rustle up not just the drinks from the award winning menu but pretty much anything your heart desires – Pisco Sour anyone?

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Bond No 9 Edinburgh brunch

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

Belgrave Music Hall

Belgrave Music hall LeedsLeeds’ 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.

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Belgrave Music Hall Leeds beer garden

Hare & Hounds

Hare and Hounds Birmingham diningThe 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.

Best Bars tip: Sign up to the e-newsletter to avoid missing out on the next big musical thing. UB40 started here.

– Katy Drohan, ICHOOSEBirmingham.com

Hare and Hounds 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