The 14 Best New London Bars of 2014

Peg and Patriot Bethnal Green Road1. Peg + Patriot

Nestled in Bethnal Green’s classically beautiful Town Hall Hotel, there’s a hot spot that will tempt you further eastward — just beyond the boundaries of Shoreditch. Peg + Patriot is the latest haunt from talented drinksman Matt Whiley (of Talented Mr Fox), and he’s brought his unique style of cocktail-making to the East End.

Mission Bethnal Green Addie Chinn
© Addie Chinn

2. Mission

Sitting within the naturally atmospheric railway arches on Bethnal Green’s Paradise Row, Mission’s copper-topped bar, ceiling-high palm tree, and alit wine-filled backbar all seamlessly come together to bring you that quintessential modern wine experience. Plus the food is extraordinary too.

The Sun Tavern bar high res3. The Sun Tavern

Taking a casual approach in setting, this unassuming pub on Bethnal Green Road is pure magic inside. The dim, narrow, candelit space is equal parts cool and sexy with an L-shaped bar that’s lit up with some of the snazziest lanterns we’ve seen around. This is another page ripped straight off the New York City playbook, striking that perfect balance of Irish dive bar-meets-cocktail den.

Dandelyan Mondrian London interior4. Dandelyan

This is one seriously talented team and they’ve brought their magic touch to South Bank’s hot hotel, Mondrian London, manning the Dandelyan bar as well as creating drinks for the entire hotel (from the Sea Containers restaurant to bottled cocktails in the mini fridges). The design is sleek and sexy, with deep purples and shades of green … oh, and the view of the Thames and St Paul’s is rather impressive too.

City Social London5. City Social

Socialising just got slightly darker, a bit sexier and a whole lot higher. Sitting pretty on the 24th floor of Tower 42, Jason Atherton’s skyrise outpost City Social is more art deco than the rest. We wouldn’t blame you for feeling like you are in one of New York City’s mainstay, high-rise haunts.

El Nivel Day of the Dead6. El Nivel

Tucked just above the long-loved La Perla is agaveria El Nivel — courtesy of industry legend Tomas Estes and his son Jesse. A departure from the 17 other Estes venues, this is a slightly more upscale venture with draped curtains, colourful Mexican artwork and Latin retro vibes. The bright and sunny room may be small, but the bar is big on service – and will bring you an intimate and elegant drinking experience every time.

Shrub and Shutter Brixton food and drink7. Shrub and Shutter

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

High Water Stoke Newington Road interior8. High Water

Come hell or High Water, Dalston has a new chilled out cocktail haven. This treasure of a bar is the product of one seriously talented team, so whatever your tipple of choice, it will be perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Classics are bang on, and so are all their twists.

POND Dalston
©2014 Tom Mannion

9. POND Dalston

Always wanted to take that dream holiday to Hawaii? Well, we can’t help you there. Or maybe we can … welcome to London’s little slice of island paradise: POND Dalston. This happy haunt comes courtesy of Byron Knight, who has put his magic touch on places like Duke’s Brew & Que as well as Off Broadway (if you haven’t been to either of those, get them in the diary). The kitchen is manned by talented chef Frog Wong while the bar is pumping out elegant tropical cocktails by Megs DeMeulenare.

Original Sin Stoke Newington Road
© Addie Chinn

10. Original Sin

The guys from Happiness Forgets have spread their magic touch, and this time it’s a slightly bigger (but definitely as beautiful) operation on Stoke Newington Road. Welcome toOriginal Sin. This basement bar is all dim lighting, cosy booths, free pool and there’s one seriously long bar that begs for you to come perch on.

Bar Termini Soho window11. Bar Termini

Italian-styled cocktail spot Bar Termini is bringing glamour back to train station drinking. The design is pared back with nods to railways (like the overhead shelving) and the dark nighttime setting makes it rather intimate indeed. Cocktails are premixed in Tony C’s lab, so you can expect precision, consistency and most importantly, perfection. One of our favourite 69 Colebrooke Row drinks has made it over to this site: the simple-looking yet complex-tasting Terroir.

WC Wine and Charcuterie Clapham12. WC — Wine & Charcuterie

Drinking in the toilet just got classy. Think we’re mad? Think again. WC Wine and Charcuterie has opened in Clapham Common underground station’s toilets. Having lain derelict for years, the 100-year-old, listed cubicles have been given a bloody good once over and now house one of London’s most talked about bars.

East London Liquor Company bar13. East London Liquor Company

Sitting in the back of what at first looks like a car park, is one of east London’s finest and newest gems — the East London Liquor Company. An industrial-yet-airy bar with copper touches and it’s biggest treat: an in-house distillery where the staff are crafting their own gins, vodkas and whiskies. If you’ve ever seen a backbar more beautiful than this … well, you probably haven’t.

Dishoom King's Cross14. Dishoom King’s Cross

The third and largest outpost of Dishoom is another beautifully designed Bombay café, setting up shop in the foodie destination of Granary Square. The warehouse-like space manages to ooze charm with antique knick-knacks and brass touches throughout. The Permit Room bar downstairs fits 90 people and opens at 5pm every day, so swing by for spicy twists on ginny numbers or even some zesty and fruity mocktails. They also have a whole selection of pre-batched cocktails for your pleasure.

Honourable mentions:

Peony at Opium, Verden, B & H Buildings, Loves Company, Merchant House, 184 Hackney Road, Portside Parlour, and The Whip.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

The 7 Best Alternative Christmas Events in London 2014

Grotto Outre Christmas pop up

1. Grotto Outré

This is a wholly different kind of Christmas pop-up. Enter through an icy kingdom where the stairway to Outré awaits. All week long Grotto Outré is giving you something special: kicking off with Festive Film Nights on Mondays, Bingo Bonanza on Tuesdays, Quizmas Wednesdays and on Throwback Thursdays the reigns are handed over to you to control the playlist, find the magical track and banish Scrooges ghost’s forever to win an Outré prize. On Fridays and Saturdays expect outrageous club nights with UK DJs including Grotto resident Mrs Claws, and when the jingle bells chime, be ready to Swap-a-HoHo – stay close to that festive washing line as an item of clothing must be exchanged. On Sundays, recharge with Smokin’ Bloody Marys and live acoustic tunes. If you’re good, then you get Christmassy cocktails like Mince Pie Martinis — made with mince mix, toffee vodka, plum, apricot, lemon and a touch of sugar. Or get a bit vegetal with The Fairy’s Kiss — a mix of gin, petit pois, lemon, sugar, cranberry sauce, cranberry and apple.  And if you want to go “Off Your Sled”, you can throw back a shot of tequila, cinnamon and a slice of orange.
Tickets range from £10 to £35.
28 November-21 December. Red Gallery, 1-3 Rivington Street, EC2A 3DT.

Hot Tub Cinema crowd2. Ho-Ho-Hot Tub Christmas

Hot tubs. Cinema. Music. Dancing. This is Christmas on another level. Grab a few mates and book a whole tubs (or risk it for a biscuit and make some new friends). If you like a bit more adventure and debauchery for your movie night out, then this is it. From screenings of Elf to Gremlins to Die Hard to Love Actually, there’s a taste of something for everyone. And if you love some karaoke, then book in for 14 December and sing your heart out with lucky voice. There’s plenty to drink and nibbles to eat, plus the end of the night usually results in an impromptu hot tub dance party. Never been to one? Well now’s your chance.
Individual tickets are £35.
2-18 December. Former Shoreditch Underground station, E1 5ER.

the little match girl passion and karolaoke3. the little match girl passion + Karolaoke

This ain’t your average Christmas concert, Opera Erratica and The Coveryard are putting on an all-interactive music theatre EXTRAVAGANZA. Staging an all-night transition from winter cold and isolation to warmth and festive cheer. Expect plenty of sing-a-long pop and classical crossover covers as well as carol arrangements.
Tickets are £15 (£18 on the door).
11-12 December, 7.30pm. Shapes, 117 Wallis Road, E9 5LN.

Nordic Yulefest pop up4. Nordic Yulefest

Things have gone a bit Scandi in London this Christmas season, and this one in particular is going all out. Expect a birch tree-filled fairyland with sheepskin-laden nooks, marzipan pigs and the charismatic Tomte (or Santa Claus as some may call him) leading the festivities. Your ticket will include a Christmas cocktail, four courses of Nordic feasting, games, dancing and plenty of unbridled tomfoolery. And if you just want the frolicking, then book yourself a “Late Night Frolic” ticket for £20 — lets you in after the eating and lets you stay for all the partying.
Brunch is £55 a head. Dinner is £75 a head. 
6-21 December. Every Saturday and Sunday for brunch and dinner. 1 Kingsland Road, E2 8AA.

Palace of the Snow Queen Christmas Cabaret5. Palace of the Snow Queen

It’s a Cabaret-cum-circus in a secret Shoreditch location. From wintery themed décor to gourmet winter fare to theatrical circus and cabaret performances, this is a one-stop shop.
Standard ticket is £79. Show and after-party only is £25.
4-19 December. 6pm-2am. Secret location.

Pop Up Screens6. Pop-Up Screens

An inside-out cinema, where the wardrobe is outside (aka the entryway) and the snow is IN. Screening films like National Lampoons: Chrismas Vacation to the Muppets Christmas Carol to Trading Places — you can go family-friendly or a bit edgy. There will be typical cinema treats like popcorn and bags of sweets. And also, there will be snow. Inside. Snow inside.
Tickets are £20.
12-23 December. 1pm and 8:30pm screenings. 20th Century Theatre, 291 Westbourne Grove, W11 2QA.

Somerset House Skate7. Skate At Somerset House

Now this might seem more classical than alternative, but with club nights, an après-skate lounge and Glad Tidings Tuesdays — you’ll do a bit more than just glide around in circles. Oh, and did we mention this is probably the most beautiful ice rink in London? Well now we did.
Tickets from £7.50.
11 November-11 January. Somerset House, The Strand, WC2R 1LA.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

The UK’s 15 Best Bars for Debauchery

It’s not always about sitting down for a sophisticated cocktail. Sometimes you just want to cut loose, drink shots and party down until the sun comes up. Here are the UK’s BEST bars for debauchery. Now whatever mischief you get yourselves into, it ain’t our fault … enjoy!

LONDON

Aces and Eights Tufnell Park1. Aces and Eights, Tufnell Park

You can chuck out some proper shapes here. And the pizza is pretty damned good.

casita shoreditch tequila con verdita2. Casita, Shoreditch

It might be one of London’s teeniest charms, but what Casita lacks in square footage it makes up for in personality. This is the kind of bar you pop into for a quick one and then end up cancelling all of your plans (happily so).

Covent Garden cocktail club3. Covent Garden Cocktail Club, Covent Garden

Live piano music, sing-a-long throwback tunes, crazy-looking cocktails and some of the happiest party people in town. If you’re not feeling up to it, nip down here and they’ll turn that frown upside down — guaranteed.

El Camion Soho4. El Camion, Soho

An industry mecca, El Camion is where the drinks trade comes to party late into the night and sink back tequilas.

Modern love old street5. Modern Love, Shoreditch

With blackboard walls, plenty of chalk, and an easygoing crowd bopping about to garage rock — don’t be surprised at the more adult content drawn up on the walls. You can even have a go at one-upping them yourself. And remember, downstairs is for dancing. End of.

Slim Jim's Liquor Store Angel6. Slim Jim’s Liquor Store, Angel

You know you’re in for some good ol’ fashioned trouble when you step into a bar and immediately need to peel your shoes off the floor. This is party-time Americana at its best and grungiest. It’s open seven days, always late, with a (sometimes) free jukebox cranking out classic tunes – from BRUUUUUUCE to Joy Division. So let’s get turbo-sh*tfaced on the bountiful bourbons. And we should probably tell you, if you give them your bra, they’ll give you a free drink. Now the decision is yours.

The Dolphin Hackney7. The Dolphin, Hackney

East London hipsters are a given, but those fond of a tipple – or twelve – come in by the bus-load after 3pm. Music-lovers are also in luck, as it often holds free events showcasing upcoming talent – from acoustic guitarists to spinning DJs.

trailer happiness notting hill8. Trailer Happiness, Notting Hill

The 70s basement décor is cheeky and cheerful, much like their staff and drinks. So when you’re looking to cut loose, there’s little better than this ode to Polynesia/Tiki-Americana, kitted out with (un)ironic shag carpets and Tretchikoff prints.

EDINBURGH

Garibaldi's Edinburgh
Kinga Sosnowska

9. Garibaldi’s

This cheeky spot is where Edinburgh comes to play. Garibaldi’s is a colourful Mexican-themed institution, beloved by all, boozed in by all, pole danced in by all. It’s late-night partying seven days a week, and it’s impossible not to shed your inhibitions here … the tequila shooters will make sure of that.

LEEDS

Neon Cactus Leeds fire10. Neon Cactus

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila … and then it all gets a bit hazy, but we’re told Neon Cactus is home to well over 70 types of this beautiful spirit. The vibrant-themed joint not only specialises in Mexico’s infamous liquor but also brings the nation’s love for traditional street food, upbeat vibes and late-night partying to Leeds’ Call Lane.

Oporto Leeds hot dog eating contest11. Oporto

Oporto is a must-visit for music lovers and late night revellers. This Leeds rock bar certainly lives up to its slogan/hazard warning of “Go Hard or Go Home”. Prepare yourself: you’re in for a night of heavy music, all night partying and shots, lots and lots of shots.

LIVERPOOL

Rum Aloha Liverpool12. Aloha

So Tiki it hurts, Aloha’s Polynesian carvings, colourful flowery wallpaper and bars set in wooden shacks transport guests to tropical climes where rum is king and Piña Coladas are served in fresh pineapples. This large basement bar attracts a fun crowd who are keen to dance in the packed room to classic songs and cheesy numbers.

El Bandito Liverpool Millionaire cocktail13. El Bandito

Open every night until 5am with all the tequila you could ever want. Viva Mexico!

MANCHESTER

Liars Club Manchester bartenders and fire14. The Liars Club

A bright and flaming Tiki den, The Liars Club is all about having a real good raucous time. From cheeky flaring tricks from the bartenders to bangin’ reggae tunes to bamboo huts – you’d struggle not to cut loose down here.

MOJO manchester bartender15. MOJO

Rock ‘n roll tunes, shots galore and dancing on the bar. The party doesn’t get any better (or more debaucherous) than this.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

El Camion (The Pink Chihuahua)

El Camion SohoAn industry mecca, El Camion is where the drinks trade comes to party late into the night and sink back tequilas. Dick Bradsell, a legend himself, can sometimes be spotted behind the bar shaking up Espresso Martinis — and he invented them, so you know they’ll be good.

You’d be wise to start off with his coffee cocktail, since this place is open until 3am Monday through Saturday — and there’s no such thing as a quiet drink down here. You come for one, but leave after … well, we can’t remember. If you order tequila shots (and there are literally hundreds of varieties), they’ll be accompanied by homemade sangrita — a pomegranate spicy sipper that cuts through any of that after-kick. Of course, you’ve got to try the famous house cocktail – the Pink Chihuahua – sweet, fruity and ready for a party.

There’s no need to drink on an empty belly since the kitchen dishes out tacos and other Mexican treats until 2am.

Best Bars tip: Swing by for a bite upstairs and ask to get a membership card, this should speed up the entry process on all of your subsequent visits.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

El Camion Soho

Neon Cactus

Neon Cactus Leeds barOne tequila, two tequila, three tequila … and then it all gets a bit hazy, but we’re told Neon Cactus is home to well over 70 types of this beautiful spirit. The vibrant-themed joint not only specialises in Mexico’s infamous liquor but also brings the nation’s love for traditional street food, upbeat vibes and late-night partying to Leeds’ Call Lane.

With a drinks menu stating “I don’t like tequila … I love it”, it’s no surprise that the list is tequila heavy. You’re spoilt for choice whether you like it straight up or in cocktail form. Chick-Quila cocktails such as the hibiscus- and passionfruit-flavoured Rose Mallo are served sweet and beautifully garnished, whereas if you want a stronger kick go for a Cabrones-style cocktail like the chilli-infused Donkey Punch. New to tequila? Just ask your expert bartender for a suitable match or if you’re a connoisseur, you’ll be satisfied with a unique pick of rare and special sips. There’s also a good selection of rum-based classics for those who haven’t quite made friends with tequila just yet.

Inspired by the traditional canteens and old town vendors of Mexico, the kitchen serves up street-inspired small plates, making the bar ideal for early evening dates and weekday catch-ups. However, as the night goes on and the DJ appears from a 15-foot-high booth playing all sorts of dancefloor-filling electro, throwback hip hop, R&B and the latest chart remixes, you’ll find bar bites are god-sent party fuel.

Best Bars tip: Ask for a tequila shot and you’re in for a treat. Not to give away any surprises but at Neon Cactus they’re served up the good ol’Mexican way. ¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro amigos!

— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu

Neon Cactus Leeds fire

Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms EdinburghParadise Palms is a little bit of the Vegas Sunset Strip dropped into the centre of Edinburgh’s Potterrow area. The décor is a mixture which goes beyond the eclectic into the downright fun: neon, green foliage, disco balls, cabaret club velvet and a huge stuffed boar’s head above the bar to complete the theme of having almost no theme. Somehow it all gels into an environment which is unique yet comfortable.

The Palms have teamed up with local street food mercenaries Ninja Buns who have committed a full kitchen takeover. We tried one of their signature efforts, a Taiwanese steamed bun packed full of Aberdeenshire pulled pork marinated in soy, ginger, garlic and star anise – those sneaky Ninjas know their buns! The bar team have put a big focus on tequila and mezcal – so the Paloma, a thirst quenching mix of tequila, fresh grapefruit and Caribbean soda Ting, was their recommendation. But there’s a great selection of beers too if that’s your thing.

The Potterrow area is the heart of the local university district and students and locals alike flock here for a great mix of music, killer cocktails and gourmet street food. The entertainment on offer is a mix of fresh local bands, DJs and cabaret nights.

Best Bars tip: Check in and chill out. The Best Bars team could have spent all night here and will the next time. Enjoy the atmosphere and ask the guys what’s going on later at night as that’s when the stage comes to life.

— Martin Duffy, @DuffyDrinks

Paradise Palms Edinburgh food

The 10 Best Bars for Beard Spotting in London

From neatly trimmed numbers to caveman stylings, London is awash in all things beard. So even though Movember is all about the ‘stache, here’s our round up of the best bars to check out some chins. *And they’re all great boozers too.*

Modern Love Old Street shots

1. Modern Love

An outstanding array of facial hair (both behind the bar and not), but you’re going to come here for the divey vibes, bang-on tunes, straightforward drinks and late-night partying.

Hawksmoor Spitalfields Bar London

2. Hawksmoor Spitalfields

The staff here sport some seriously impressive facial hair, and you’re bound to see a few hairy punters too. Eats are meaty, drinks are sexy. All in all — beard or no beard — you’ll love this joint.

Talented Mr Fox cocktail
© @MattTheList — http://speakeasyfindhard.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/islington-brewhouse-kitchen-wild-game.html

3. Talented Mr Fox

Say hello to bearded champion Ally behind the stick, where you’ll find him whipping out boozy numbers like the fresh and rummy Young Cuban or the sumptuous scotch-filled Dewars Or Don’t.

Well and Bucket Bethnal Green Road4. Well and Bucket

A trendy, beer-focused Bethnal Green Road boozer, which blends all the trademarks of a traditional pub with classic East End edginess. What does this all mean? Beards. A lot of ’em.

Moustache Bar Dalston5. Moustache Bar

Need we say more?

The Grafton Kentish Town6. The Grafton

Roaring fires, a rooftop terrace and insanely good pub grub. This Kentish Town haunt covers all bases (and beards).

The Water Poet Spitalfields bar7. The Water Poet

This east London pub houses hundreds of Shoreditch revellers every weekend — naturally, they’re often a bearded bunch. This good-natured gargantuan haunt has something for everyone: pool tables, a beer garden, a screening room and sexy Sunday roasts.

The Dove, Broadway Market, Hackney8. The Dove

A trip to the wonderfully hip (yet ever-so-charming) Broadway Market isn’t complete without ducking into this maze-like pub. Whether you’re into pilsners, guezes or trappists, you’ll be spoilt for choice by a tome-like drinks list.

The Sun Tavern bar high res9. The Sun Tavern

This Irish whiskey-loving den on Bethnal Green Road is introducing you to Ireland’s version of moonshine: poitín … and well, it’s bloody brilliant. Don’t have a beard? Don’t worry. A few drinks here should sprout some hairs on that chin.

Duck and Waffle Rich Woods10. Duck & Waffle

Because of that beard (and bang awesome drinks). Ever tried a Blue Cheese and Chocolate Martini? No? Well you should.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips