*This bar is now closed, but keep an eye out … they may be cropping up at another locale soon.*
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: Bobby Hiddleston of New York’s Dead Rabbit, Durham Atkinson of Hops & Glory, Mia Johansson of Milk & Honey and Barbarossa Inan of Hawksmoor. Are these capable hands? Why yes they are.
Whatever your tipple of choice, it will be perfectly executed and utterly delicious. Classics are bang on, and so are all their twists. For a fresh and zesty choice, order the Rolling Tackle made with rosemary tequila, Aperol, carrot and mandarin sherbet. Or for a sweeter, fuller drink then try the Foo Foo Band Night with peanut butter rum, lime and banana. Yummers. For the beer drinkers, there are enough hand-picked choices to keep you happy. And for a bit of both, get a “mini” cocktail chased by a bottle of beer (for less than a tenner). One of our favourites is The Admiral, a crazy twist on the Julep, with rye, cacao, falernum, absinthe and mint.
The exposed brick walls and wood beams instantly create a cosy inviting atmosphere — the kind of place you’d be happy to prop up at the bar any time of the week. Hospitality is king here and the staff are immensely friendly and welcoming, so we reckon your best bet is to grab a couple of stools at the bar and get chatting away to these lovely folks. Or if you want a place to catch up with mates, then this is a perfect choice.
Best Bars tip: We have a sneaky suspicion that this will quickly rise to the top of your favourite bars list. Get in.
— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips
The Engineer is arguably one of London’s best-kept secrets. Tucked away in a secluded Primrose Hill spot, this laid-back pub offers up an extensive beer, cider and drinks menu, gastro grub, canal views and an incredible outdoor space that’s designed for all-year alfresco drinking.
If you’re not too busy celeb spotting (yes, this a prime hub for those Primrose Hill darlings), the drinks menu should grab your attention. Whether on draught or bottled up, The Engineer specialises in “The Best of British” beer and cider, hosting local brews such as Camden Hells, Meantime’s London Stout and Sharps’ Orchard. The pub also prides itself on a rotating selection of real ales, a global range of craft beers, old and new world wines, plus a decent list of classic cocktails.
It’s not just about relaxed drinking here but informal, chilled-out dining, with fresh seasonal dishes and notoriously delectable bar bites – we challenge you to find anywhere that serves a better homemade Scotch egg. Décor is traditional with a modern twist and the upstairs not only looks out over the Regent’s Canal but also switches from a restaurant by day to a party area or private hire space by night.
Best Bars tip: It’s a little known fact that The Engineer is home to one of the City’s best pub gardens. The spacious outdoors area is made for both summer and winter drinking. When the sun’s away heated undercover seating keeping you toasty even on the chilliest evenings.
— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu
The south-east of London has its own form of medicine: craft beer, dispensed at new relaxed boozer London Beer Dispensary, where the bar is replaced by a barrel and the ale is poured right out of the casks.
The guys of Late Knights Brewery are behind the Dispensary, so except quite a few of their brews – bitter Morning Glory will give you the kick you need. Other interesting names, all from small, independent brewers, include Heavy Industry’s Nelson’s Eye, citrusy with notes of tropical fruits, or the pink lady cider.
The food comes in the shape of buns and patties with pints of chips that you can enjoy in the beer garden on warm days and nights.
Best Bars tip: The place packs out pretty quickly, but you can take booze and grub away.
– Gaëlle Laforest, @gaellelaforest
It’s not hard to see why The Grafton was crowned Great British Pub of the Year 2014. This traditional cornerstone boozer in the heart of Kentish Town, offers a great drinks selection, a wide range of real ales, tasty meals and an impressive array of eclectic in-house events – all set in a stunning Victorian restoration complete with quirky modern features and a weather-proof roof terrace.
The downstairs bar offers no set drinks menu but check the chalkboards to scope out a rotating list of award-winning hand pumped ales, local craft beers, ciders, premium spirits and world wines. Tucked away upstairs, you’ll find a more modern bar with an adjacent rooftop terrace. With a bespoke selection of wines and the pub’s very own light prosecco, all on tap to satisfy demands for a constant flow of vino and moreish spritzers. Bar bites are available with food pop-ups such as Texas Joe’s BBQ, which is taking over Grafton’s kitchen until January 2015 with delectable meaty sharing platters.
The upstairs area also hosts Friday DJ nights, monthly Swapaholics clothes exchanges, acoustic music nights and many other fun shindigs. In fact, one look at the events listings and you’ll find there’s an occasion for everyone – from the Tuesday pub quiz (only £1 to enter) to Bring Your Own Vinyl nights, Sing-A-Long Sundays and even the all-welcoming Reggae Choir.
Best Bars tip: Having a bit of a get together? Get cosy in the Grafton’s “Boardroom”. Now available to hire, this upstairs space seats 10-14 or 20 standing and is perfect for private dining, meetings, film screenings, parties and you can even connect your own keg in the corner for all-night top ups.
— Mieke-Kyra Smith, @mieke_chu
In the heart of Mermaid Quay, right on the waterfront stands Terra Nova, one of Brains Brewery’s more contemporary pubs.
Although pouring the same ales and craft beers as its siblings, Terra Nova offers a modern twist of traditional pub grub. Alongside favourites such as fish and chips, pies and steaks, you’ll find a selection of family pleasers such as American style pancakes, sourdough bacon baps and pulled pork nachos, all very reasonably priced.
Less busy than Mermaid Quay’s other eateries, but just as good, it’s a great pit stop while on a shopping spree in the Bay.
Best Bars tip: Buy a Bragging Rights beer for a true taste of Cardiff as it’s brewed to resemble the ancient Welsh beer “bragawd”.
— Jordan Harris
A stone’s throw from London road train station, Signalman is no grubby railway boozer. Old port posters and bare bricks grace the walls, as well as a shelf or two of books and a specials board.
A handful of well-kept ales sit alongside the regular lager line-up and the wine list is short and perfectly put together. The food can be great in here and the menu keeps up with the seasons. Burgers and fish and chips are generously portioned and salads like tuna nicoise are huge, fresh and tasty.
The Signalman is a real hit with locals and it has an almost cult following, but friendly staff welcome all comers.
Best Bars tip: If you’re at a loose end on a Monday, try the quiz. It’s one of the best in town.
— Lucy Britner, @Britner
Does it get any homelier? We’ll answer that. No. A range of soft, comforting chairs, 60s style tables and kitsch wallpaper make Cherry Reds an absolute delight. In a weird way it feels like the coffee shop from Friends, only replace cappuccinos with obscure craft beers from countries like Norway and Japan.
The standard food menu is ace (try the halloumi sandwich), but the invitation to some of Birmingham’s best street food vendors to cook in their kitchen, pop-up style, makes Cherry Reds one to keep a constant eye on.
Throughout the day, park up next to laptop laden freelancers supping coffees and casually-dressed business people talking – well business we guess, or join the revellers post-work for what is always a friendly knees up.
Best Bars tip: The San Franciscan beer Anchor Steam Liberty Ale (the bottle, not the draft, although the draft is also stunning) is insatiably moreish.
— Tom Cullen