London Bars & Nightlife
6-8 All Saints Rd., Notting Hill
Rum Kitchen is a Caribbean joint on All Saints Road with a beach shack vibe, excellent rum cocktails, and good music. It's a full-scale restaurant as well, but we come for the bar.
129 City Rd., Shoreditch
Run like an old-fashioned speakeasy, it is easy to miss the black door that marks the entrance (it doesn't help that it's down a flight of dark stairs). Once you’re in, it’s like a true jazz age bar with some stiff, old fashioned drinks. Their super spicy Bloody Mary, which comes with a basket full of fixings so you can customize, is pretty memorable. You’ll often encounter troops of swing dancers ready to dance to the live jazz provided by the bar.
329 Fulham Rd., Chelsea
Complete with the Iron Lady's speeches sounding from the bathroom speakers, this tongue-in-cheek club pays homage to the ’80s. Rad graffiti-style murals (including one of Super Mario), Rubix Cube–inspired tables, and a smattering of Thatcher portraits lend it kitschy appeal. It's a great destination for a fun—albeit expensive—night out in Chelsea.
20 Upper Ground, Southwark
This botanical bar that crowns the Mondrian's Sea Containers on the Thames is stewarded by mixologist of the moment, Ryan Chetiyawardana. Besides his innovative cocktails—many made with high-tech techniques all his own—the Tom Dixon-designed space is plushly outfitted, and there are unparalleled views of the Thames both on the top floor of the hotel, and downstairs.
Experimental Cocktail Club
13A Gerrard St., Soho
This two-story space is decorated with antiques, complete with chandeliers overhead. It can get crowded, service can be leisurely, and prices aren't low, but if you're looking for speakeasy chic, right down to the inventive cocktails and the vested and mustached waiters, this is it. Email in advance for reservations.
69 Colebrooke Row
69 Colebrooke Row, Islington
The lab above the bar is where resident mixologist, Tony Conigliaro, concocts recipes for his unique and delicious cocktails. Despite being open seven days a week with live jazz every Sunday night, the vibe is relaxed and cool. Make sure to reserve beforehand, as it’s a small space, or try the offshoot at the Zetter Townhouse.
Berkeley Blue Bar
The Berkeley Hotel, Wilton Pl., Knightsbridge
The David Collins–designed space is true to its name, with blue hues and contemporary furnishings throughout. The cocktails are as good as you would expect from the Berkeley, complete with a liquid amuse-bouche. Overall, a wonderful hotel bar.
The Connaught Bar
Carlos Pl., Mayfair
Like the luxurious apartment on the top floor of the hotel, the bar at The Connaught was designed by the late David Collins. The art deco interior with its black marble floor, long mirrors, and custom-made leather chairs is a testament to his sophisticated taste. Order a martini, and a server will roll over an old-fashioned cart (the "martini trolley") so you can pick from custom flavors like cardamom, ginger, or grapefruit for your drink. Trust us, it's a memorable experience.
95a Rye Ln., Peckham
Ever since 2008, Frank's Cafe—a bar located on top of a parking garage in Peckham—has been the neighborhood's main hub for summertime drinking. It's fairly bare bones when it comes to drinks and presentation—cocktails are pretty standard and you dine at shared picnic tables—but the sunset views across South London make navigating the always crowded concrete rooftop worthwhile. There are a lot of good up-and-coming galleries in the area, too, including Hannah Barry and The Sunday Painter. This means that the best nights to head over are after the gallery openings, when many of the neighborhood's young artists and curators head out for a celebratory drink, and this installment of the pop-up's light, Mediterranean-inspired fare.
28-30 Seymour St., Marylebone
The lobby bar at the new Zetter Townhouse in Marylebone is a characterful representation of its fictional owner, Wicked Uncle Seymour. It's a dark room packed with his collections of antiques, curiosities, and stolen mini bar bottles—presumably from many slightly seedy hotel stays across the globe. It's a cozy, jolly old retreat from the shops and bustle of its surroundings. The short menu of drinks is designed by Tony Conigliaro, who is basically the don of the cocktail scene in London, and is full of wonderful, perfectly balanced tipples that each boast a story. Try the Sphinx, a delicious and light champagne cocktail named after Uncle Seymour's favorite bordello in Paris, as the barman won't fail to mention. Photo: Andreas von Einsiedel
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