Every week, we scour the city to find the best bars our capital has to offer. Whether you're a cocktail kind of guy or a man who enjoys a decent draft beer, there's a GQ-worthy drinking spot to suit every taste. Some people may think that British drinking culture stops at the pub door, but after arduous and entirely necessary weekly testing, we’re here to prove that it certainly doesn’t. Here's our pick of the best bars in London, just don’t blame us for the headache tomorrow.
Idris Elba’s newly opened bar in Covent Garden is a parrot-themed paradise for music lovers, with live acts playing every night and all the impressive Yamaha sound kit you’d expect from DJ Big Driis. With twisty faux vines, bird-shaped cocktail glasses and tropical potted plants dotted around the sizeable yet somehow still intimate space, the interiors call to mind a chic, grown up Rainforest Café – and we mean that in a good way. Make yours a Dusky Parrot (a subtle but smoky twist on a Negroni) or the Umbrella Cockatoo (a celebration of chamomile and honey, the foodstuff of its namesake).
The Parrot: Bar Review
45 Aldwych, Holborn, London WC2B 4DW. theparrotldn.co.uk
With a London wine trade legend at the helm, it’s little wonder this townhouse turned wine bar (complete with picture-perfect private rooms) has become an East London institution. There are more than 320 wines on offer, but more often than not, owner Luca Dusi will make the decision on what to open based on whatever he thinks his guests might enjoy. Soak up their stunning cloudy prosecco with a selection of Veronese small plates, inspired by Dusi’s hometown.
Passione Vino: Bar Review
85 Leonard Street, Hackney, London EC2A 4QS. passionevino.co.uk
The Bar at China Tang
China Tang at The Dorchester might be one of London’s most storied dining rooms, but did you know that it’s also home to a bar? Promising all the glamour you'd expect from the five-star hotel but with a far more casual vibe than the restaurant next door, the buzzy little bolthole is a true gilded treasure. Order the the whiskey-based Whistling Pig or play it safe with a well-made Negroni, sit back and soak up the atmosphere as you work your way through stacks of dim sum.
The Bar at China Tang: Bar Review
China Tang, The Dorchester, 53 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1QA. 020 7319 7088. chinatanglondon.co.uk
Forget Pret: next time you’re in King’s Cross, head to elegant new bar Anthracite at the freshly renovated Great Northern Hotel, where James Bond-worthy Martinis are served in a discreet but lavishly decorated lounge that pays aesthetic homage to the location. Oh, and it’s a mere 25 metres from the Eurostar terminus. Just don’t miss your train.
Anthracite: Bar Review
Great Northern Hotel, King’s Cross St Pancras International Station, Pancras Road, London N1C. anthracitelounge.com
Once a playground for art and literature's elite, Manetta’s is a lovely little jewellery box of a bar hidden underneath Fleming’s Hotel in Mayfair. The Manetta’s of the thirties was immortalised in the works of Agatha Christie, but old-school glamour is still the order of the day, as is the literary theme. Sip on cocktails with names like the A Portrait Of A Young Man while the portraits of esteemed writers such as James Joyce and Gertrude Stein stare down on you from the walls.
Manetta’s: Bar Review
Flemings Mayfair, 7-12 Half Moon Street, Mayfair London, London W1J. flemings-mayfair.co.uk
The Blind Pig
Hidden above Jason Atherton's genius restaurant, Social Eating House, on Soho’s Poland Street, you’ll find one of the best speakeasies in the city. Fun and games are the order of the day at The Blind Pig, where the cocktail list is modelled on children’s literature - think Baggins Shire Brew, BFG’s Dream Jar - and the pub grub-style bar snacks have all the Michelin flare of the food downstairs.
The Blind Pig: Bar Review
The Blind Pig, 58 Poland Street, Soho, London, W1F 7NR. Call 020 7993 3251 to reserve a table socialeatinghouse.com
No29 Power Station West
Battersea Power Station has become South-West London’s hottest hangout, with an influx of openings precipitated by Apple’s decision to set up a headquarters there in the coming years. One such opening is No29 Power Station West, a beautiful new bar with sleek interiors, expansive views of the Thames, decent food and an excellent, fairly priced, cocktail list to boot.
No29 Power Station West: Bar Review
29 Circus West Battersea Power Station London SW8. no29powerstationwest.co.uk
Every Cloud, Hackney
That there is a crisp menu, where nostalgia-tinged snacks are sold at corner-shop prices, should tell you everything you need to know about Every Cloud in Hackney. Unglamorous, casual and refreshingly down to earth, drinks come served the old fashioned way (in glasses, with a wedge of fruit). Plus the menu descriptions are written by the hilarious Vice journalist Joel Golby.
Every Cloud: Bar Review
Every Cloud, 11a Morning Lane, London E9. everycloudbar.com
We’re calling it: Cahoots in Kingly Court, Soho, is the best concept bar in London. Modelled on a tube station turned air raid bunker turned station once more, revellers are swept into the spirit of 1946, when the war had been won and the city came alive with jubilance and relief. The attention to detail is astonishing; think sandbags, signage, vintage ads and even an old Tube carriage. And the drinks are very decently priced, too.
Cahoots: Bar Review
Cahoots, 13 Kingly Street, London W1. 020 7352 6200. cahoots-london.com
The newly revamped bar at London’s Corinthia, Bassoon, feels more like a super-luxe speakeasy than a hotel bar. The theme is 1920s New Orleans, which you can see in the monochrome Art Nouveau-meets-Mondrian decor, the jazz-era modernist paintings that line the walls and the shiny black seven-metre bar morphs into a piano at the far end. Expect a big-easy inspired cocktail list overseen by bar director Marcis Dzelzainis of East London’s award-winning Sager + Wilde.
Bassoon at Corinthia: Bar Review
Bassoon Bar, 10 Whitehall Pl, Westminster, London SW1A 2BD. corinthia.com/bassoon
Blakes Below is the hedonistic hideaway under one of London’s most glamorous boutique hotels, Blakes in South Kensington, with a reputation as a veritable playground for the well-heeled West London set. The vibe is part Oriental-inspired iniquity, part noughties nightclub, encapsulated best by our favourite cocktail, the East To West – a mix of Heaven’s Sake, Hennessy VS, Cointreau, lemon and raspberry. It’s dark, the music is loud, and the DJ plays until closing time at 1am from Wednesday to Saturday.
Blakes Below: Bar Review
Blakes Hotel, 33 Roland Gardens, London SW7. 020 7370 6701. blakeshotels.com
Tucked beside the arches of London Bridge you’ll find the ridiculously trendy Nine Lives, where sustainability and a seriously good soundtrack are the order of the day. The subterranean space looks like a thoroughly enviable bachelor pad, with interiors that scream Scandinavia meets Japan by way of Borough and a shuffleboard table. GQ’s must-order? It’s got to be the salted caramel whisky cocktail.
Nine Lives: Bar Review
Nine Lives, Basement, 8 Holyrood Street, London SE1. 020 7407 8226. ninelivesbar.com