Exmouth Market’s been London’s up-and-coming idyllic village for a while – maybe came-and-coming would be more accurate. Yet it’s not been taken over just by newbies; quite the contrary in the case of Medcalf Traiteur, the offspring of its decade-old original, Medcalf. Here the theme is quite French picnic, so pop by when you’re feeling chilled and chatty.
While the Traiteur’s quite popular at lunch times for its hearty specials, at night the place turns wine bar, with a selection of quirky Old World wines served by the glass, and plenty more bottles if you’re very thirsty. It’s all very convivial and informal, so get chatting to the waiter about what you like – or not – and they’ll be happy to get you tasting. The wines available change as often as weekly so we’d recommend small measures to try them all, and to keep coming back. Food wise it’s all charcuterie platters, cheese and salads, but some is available from the main restaurant next door too if you’re feeling like “proper” plates. We loved the potato gnocchi and could not get enough of the desserts.
Looking around, things are pretty simple: wooden décor, plain hanging lights, brick walls painted white and a display of meats and cheese by the window. This isn’t a place trying to be more than it is – you, small groups of friends, passers-by and eager guzzlers alike will feel welcome. It feels like an extension of your own living room, and that’s what matters most.
Best Bars tip: Bring your old vinyls and ask if you can contribute to the night’s playlist … the DJ’s the record player here.
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We know it’s all about the beef here, but if you don’t get the bingo wings – then you’re missing out. Just be sure to have some paper towels on hand. And grab a side of fried pickles with blue cheese dip then wash them down with a cold beer (or a pickleback, if it’s later on in the evening).
Food comes in the form of bites and jars, and since it’s coming out of Atherton’s kitchen – you can’t go wrong. Try the salt and Szechuan pepper Cornish chipirones with lime (aka crispy squid) or the duck fat chips with curry aioli (because we can never resist).
Breakfasts are banging (see above: bacon naan roll), but food here is fresh and full of flavour all day long. We love the crispy prawn koliwada — moreish morsels served with tamarind and date chutney. And you have to try the can’t-stop-won’t-stop okra fries, they’re a tad hot and a lot delicious.
This place is a meat lover’s paradise, with hearty dishes like the ox cheek French dip (literally a meat sub that you dip into gravy) or the pig’s head poutine (a Canadian delicacy … or cheese fries with gravy, as some may call them). Burgers are bangin’ and so are the sticky Seoul ribs.
Seasonal dishes mean ingredients are packed full of flavour and the menu changes all the time, but it’s always bang on. Just check out that sexy wild mushroom tagliatelle above. And if it’s on offer, order the globe artichoke with the finger-lickin’ anchovy dip.
Those who are worried about missing out on the meat-fest taking place upstairs need not worry. The snax section of the 12-page bar menu has some of the restaurant’s best options. Our favourite though? Gigantic Yorkshire puds with whipped chicken livers for dipping. We get emotional just at the thought of them.
These guys know how to take bar bites to another level. Whether it’s the splendiforous toasties grilled behind the bar, to beautiful charcuterie boards, to healthy zesty numbers like the bulgur wheat, courgette, pistachio, pomegranate and mint mix above — it’s all good.
For crispy nibbles, try the Parma ham croquettes — everything we love wrapped up in a bite. Get adventurous and order the mixed vegetable and halloumi tempura with cherry soy. Savoury, crunchy, chewy and probably not in the least bit healthy. But definitely delicious (and surprisingly filling).
Swingers isn’t an adventurous wife-swapping secret society, this Shoreditch pop-up is a hopping, raucous party where you can play … you guessed it, golf.
Drinks are just as serious as golf here (or just as fun, either way). With a whisky-heavy menu of cocktails, lots of boozy jugs, and even an elegant wine and bubbles bar if you’re so inclined. We say keep that sportsmanship vibe alive and go for the sharing cocktails like the aptly named Caddy Jack with Gentleman Jack, apricot brandy, lemon, honey and bitters. Or if you want something a bit fresh and tart, nab a Berry Lemonade Pitcher with Grey Goose L’Citron, lemonade, fresh raspberry and mint. Nibbles come in the form of quintessential east London grub: street-food stalls parked up inside the building. From Patty & Bun to Pizza Pilgrims to When Mac Met Cheese, this is a glutton’s idea of heaven (and ours too).
But let’s not forget the name of the game here … and that’s golf. Whether you’re a Tiger Woods — minus the affairs — or an all-thumbs newbie, throw inhibition to the wind and just get stuck in. You’ll love it.
Best Bars tip: Once you’ve destroyed your game mates after 9 holes, shimmy your way back up to the bar and dance the night away to brilliant throwback tunes that even the shyest of your group won’t be able to resist.
Ground passes £3; Advance golf tickets £10 (include entry and golf).
Wed-Fri: 6pm-12:30am; Sat: 12:30pm-12:30am.
7-11 Hearn Street (off Curtain Road), London EC2A 3LS.
— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips