Bucket List Bars & Drinking Destinations in London

“Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares.

If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.”

– Earnest Hemingway

From unspeakably-trendy haunts and clandestine speakeasies to the plush environs of a classic hotel bar – drinking destinations in London have always offered a fascinating lens into our life and times. Here are the darlings on the scene, both current and timeless, which are as much about the experience and their enchanting surrounds as the immaculate cocktails and extensive drinks list promised…


Lyaness

Master mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana follows up on ‘The World’s Best Bar’ – Dandelyan – with Lyaness – a new concept in the original, iconic location at Sea Container’s Hotel. The unconventional menu here constellates on just seven key ingredients (including the likes of Infinite Banana, ONYX and King Monkey Nut!), each created to enhance a central flavour. The more playful approach paves the path for choosing cocktails based on “an ingredient familiarity from a more established food connection”, with subtle shades of grey peppered against cool blue interiors, adding a suave edge to a stylish set-up!

Lyaness, 20 Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PD


Oriole

Then there’s the thrill of stumbling into London’s more secretive speakeasies. Oriole in Smithfield Market is particularly inviting, evoking an air of tropical seclusion with its palm prints and offbeat artefacts. The air of adventure carries through to cocktails swirling with a cornucopia of colours, imbued with ingredients discovered across the world. With live jazz through the week and globe-trotting drinks styled with whimsy and eccentricity, Oriole adds a delicious dash of drama to an evening out on the town!

Oriole,  E Poultry Ave, Farringdon, London EC1A 9LH


Fogg’s House of Botanicals

There’s always been much to delight the explorer in us at Phileas Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair or his Gin Parlour in Covent Garden, each presenting a veritable treasure trove of memorabilia and artefacts amassed on Fogg’s famous exploits around the world (completed in 80 days no less!). His House of Botanicals in Fitzrovia is just as beguiling, celebrating Victorian horticulture with a mind-boggling library of botanicals and a plethora of flora. It’s as Instagrammable as it is enchanting, with viridescent cocktails reminiscent of the Victorian tradition of gifting flowers to express different emotions!

Fogg’s House of Botanicals, 48 Newman St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1QQ


The Mandrake

Botanical inspirations also run wild at The Mandrake. Expect to see hanging gardens of jasmine and passion vines encircling the central courtyard of this achingly-cool hotel, not to mention potent, plant-based twists to the cocktails (featuring the likes of rhubarb cordial and sea buckthorn tincture!). The haute scene is very much a parade of people-watching too… that is, if you can tear your eyes away from the haunting piece of taxidermy jumping out from behind the bar, Waeska, an illustrative metaphor of a peacock transmogrifying into a gazelle!

The Mandrake, 20-21 Newman St, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1PG


Chiltern Firehouse

Of course, loyalists would remain faithful to the original trend-setter Chiltern Firehouse, which is as painfully-cool today as the day it was launched by André Balazs (the American hotelier behind the iconic Chateau Marmont). I’ll level with you: the languidly laid-back tone is matched by service that is sometimes slow to the point of being ineffectual. You won’t find yourself minding too much though, as it’s just the excuse needed to linger that little while longer in your convivial corner of their cobbled courtyard!

Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern St, Marylebone, London W1U 7PA


Perrier Jouët Champagne Terrace, Harrods

There’s much to love about Perrier Jouët’s new Champagne Terrace in London. For one, it’s tucked away in an airy verandah on the fourth floor of Harrods (as though we needed another excuse to visit this haute emporium!). Then there are the champagne cocktails, rendered with elegant finesse.

La Méprise is my pick of what to drink here, featuring a Negroni reduction exquisitely enlivened with Perrier Jouët’s Grand Brut, orange peel and junipers. Small plates assembling the finest pick of Harrods’ produce are in no short supply, with the ceremonious strawberry platter spinning a new definition of decadence for the timeless combination of strawberries and champagne! Read more, here.

Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7XL


Clarette

Over in Marylebone, an attractive Tudor facade belies the cosiest of wine bars complete with stained glass windows, Insta-worthy shades of pink, communal tables and a roaring fireplace. That one of the founders is from the Chateau Margaux wine estate in France, is evident from a thoughtfully-curated and surprisingly-accessible wine list here!

Clarette, 44 Blandford St, Marylebone, London W1U 7HS


The Coral Room

The Coral Room is a a brightly-attractive bolthole in the heart of Bloomsbury. The vivid palette presents a captivating canvas to showcase the quirky artworks of the illustrator Luke Edward Hall; while the Murano glass chandeliers, marble-drenched bar and antique mirroring are a joy to drink in too.

Sparkling wine enthusiasts can raise a toast to the impressively-extensive menu (one of the longest in London!); while the cocktails are as vivacious as you’d expect of the coral-hued surrounds! Snacks and small plates are surprisingly substantive too, spanning the likes of Lobster Mac n Cheese and a deceptively-delicate Welsh Rarebit that is really a gloriously-greasy pleasure. It’s a good thing then that there’s no dearth of plush armchairs to sink back into afterwards.

The Coral Room, 6-22 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3NN


Alto, Selfridges

A recent NYT article may have stirred a storm on the appeal of Aperol, but if the fiercely-loyal response is anything to go by, we’re right on track for another summer blissfully spent sipping the quintessentially Venetian spritz! Alto – the rooftop restaurant and bar at Selfridges – is a particularly breezy spot for Aperol o’ clock, especially if you’re looking flee the madding crowd out for a bargain in the summer sales… More on where to to eat & drink whilst shopping here, here.

Alto, Selfridges, Oxford St, London W1A 1AB


The Coburg at The Connaught

Saving perhaps the best for the last, is The Connaught Hotel, an institution among institutions exuding old world glamour matched by the warm and familiar character of an old friend.

The formidable selection of cocktails here majors in martinis – shaken, never stirred – with the experience particularly enthralling at the eponymous Connaught Bar, where white-gloved mixologists bring out the Martini Trolley, expertly concocting your drink of choice by your table with theatrical flourishes to finish (from a quick spray of perfume to smoke).

Truth be told, I usually prefer the cosy comfort of The Coburg Bar, with its inviting verandah replete with wing-backed chairs, from which to wistfully look out onto picturesque Mount Street! The service is excellent and as an added bonus, agreeable to bringing over the legendary black truffle pizza from Jean George’ restaurant (just down the corridor) if you fancy boosting the carb count of a fabulous evening!

The Connaught, Carlos Pl, Mayfair, London W1K 2AL


Discover more to do, eat & drink in London, here.

Author: The Foodie Diaries

A food travel & lifestyle journal, chronicling my culinary and other adventures around town.

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