Travel

London Bars & Nightlife

Establishment neighborhood
Bar at the Chiltern Firehouse
1 Chiltern St., Marylebone
Marylebone is full of bakeries, bookshops, and quiet residential streets, despite its proximity to bustling Oxford Street. One of our favorite stops is the bar at the Chiltern Firehouse, which feels almost like spending time in a garden (while being inside). Nearly all the seats and sofas are embellished with colorful florals, and dozens of trailing green plants form a cornice around the room. Afternoon tea is a special treat—a silver tea tray stacked with chocolate and coffee éclairs is presented by the stylishly attired staff. It’s a great place to counteract a midday slump, and for the freelancers out there, to get some work done.
Laylow
10 Golborne Rd., Notting Hill
Notting Hill needed a place like Laylow. Aside from the few existing late-night haunts that have been around forever in this corner of West London, there haven’t been many hot spots when it comes to fun, atmospheric watering holes. But Laylow brought in new life here—this is a social club where you can arrive in the early afternoon and stay until way past bedtime. Have dinner at the restaurant, relax on the rooftop with a glass of wine, then wind down with a cocktail in a bar that feels like a sumptuous living room (replete with plush velvet banquettes and armchairs). The only kicker? It's a private members-only club, so you’ll have to find a friend who can get you in.
The Blue Posts
28 Rupert St., Soho
This recently renovated watering hole in Soho is a classic pub, a modern cocktail bar, and tiny restaurant, all in one. Downstairs, you can grab a craft microbrew or cider with other locals sipping pints after work. Upstairs, you’ll find The Mulwray for mixed drinks and wine, while in the basement, there’s an eleven-seat kitchen bar, Evelyn’s Table. This means you can eat lunch, have an afternoon pint, grab dinner and a late-night cocktail without having to leave the building. The bar snacks at the Blue Post is maybe our favorite thing about the place. Peanuts dusted in harissa, a fried fish sandwich, and the most perfect bar snack of all: the sausage roll.
Neptune
Corner Guilford St. & Russell Sq., Bloomsbury
The dining room at Neptune is almost as good as the food, a soothing blend of rose, peach, and blush tones, and lighting that’s warm and low. Given that Neptune is the Roman god of the sea, it’s no surprise that the menu is pretty much all fish, and the food is great, but the bar is better. Slide onto a stool, order a few of their bar snacks—buttery crab rolls, bracingly tart pickles, cheddar cheese puffs, chips—and a martini. The people-watching (full of Bloomsbury locals) is first rate.
Blind Pig
58 Poland St., Soho
The Blind Pig is a proper speakeasy. In other words, it’s difficult to find. (Look for the old-school optician’s sign and knock). Once you’re inside, the dark, moody interior feels a little illicit in the best way. The low ceiling is entirely mirrored, the bar is a long sheet of polished copper, and the booths are a rich brown leather you immediately want to melt into. The cocktails are tongue-in-cheek interpretations named after the figures from our childhoods—Peter Rabbit, Pooh, even Harry Potter—with a full illustrated menu to match. Aptly, the Harry Potter is a reimagined butterbeer bitter, butterscotch included.
The Montpelier
43 Choumert Rd., Peckham
One of the most verdantly beautiful pubs in London, the Montpelier is painted a regal navy blue with flower baskets cascading down every corner and lush plant boxes on every windowsill. Inside, the same deep navy covers the walls, creating a warm, cozy feeling enhanced by the perpetually crackling fireplace. The Montpelier is a local spot filled with young creative types and the more settled crowd (often with their kids) seven nights a week. The traditional Sunday roast—complete with gravy and towering Yorkshire puddings—is even more excellent when accompanied by live jazz. The pub has its own screening room; head there on the weekend, and follow it with heated conversation and a few drinks at the bar.
Hovarda
36–40 Rupert St., Soho
Hovarda is technically an Aegean restaurant, but we like it better for drinks. Part of the appeal is that it's open late and serves great salty snacks until the early hours of the morning. Vegetable fritters and tzatziki with pita for dipping go especially well with a chilled glass of white wine. As evening becomes night, the music gets louder, the DJs set up shop, and suddenly Hovarda feels more like a club than a restaurant—but a club you would happily sit in for a while, with a yuzu margarita in hand.
Dukes Bar
35 St. James's Pl., Mayfair
A well-made martini is hard to come by, and for this alone, Dukes Hotel Bar merits a visit. This quintessentially British bar is an elegant affair and a perfect spot to decompress in Mayfair. Have a seat at one of the tables and take in the hushed civility around you—portraits of notable Brits, prints of city landmarks. In a few minutes, a bartender in a starched white jacket will come by with the martini trolley and mix the cocktail to your exact specifications. It’s ideal for a calm drink with your parents (the cigar and Cognac garden helps), or come alone, sit at the bar, and enjoy the indulgence of a perfectly mixed drink, just because.
Bar Termini
7 Old Compton St., Soho
From Tony Conigliaro, the don of cocktail-making in London and founder of 69 Colebrooke Row, and Marco Arrigo, the head of quality at Illy, comes an Italian-inspired coffee and cocktail bar so perfect that it might just beat the real thing. Here, you can have your cappuccino at the bar—made with UHT milk, just as the Italians do—or sit at one of the tables sipping transcendent cocktails served by mixologists in elegant, crisp white uniforms. The space is tiny, which actually makes the experience all the more charming and authentic.
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