The cosmopolitan centre of our capital is brimming with exceptional bars, some classic, set within sumptuous, world famous hotels with long histories of serving celebrated names.
Others, brand new independents, making headlines with queues of trendsetters eager to get inside.
These two districts are the sensible older sisters to Soho’s renowned raucousness, and all the better for it. Peppered with galleries, high-end shopping and Michelin-starred restaurants, Marylebone and Fitzrovia are truly the places to see and be seen and they consistently lead the way for fashion, both in glamorous garments and decadent drinking dens.
Flaming punchbowls, edible grasshoppers and 200 varieties of rum stocked to the rafters make this cavernous, Havana-style speakeasy an unmissable option. The name Burlock refers to the twine and hemp sacks used to transport rum secretively during prohibition, and there are many other touches echoing 1920’s Cuba, with a vintage lounge, Caribbean wallpapers and grand piano taking centre stage. The extensive cocktail list features names like ‘Don Voyage’, ‘Mary’s Pickled’ and ‘Grasshopper Deluxe’ to name a few, or those hunting a smoother tipple must try the ‘Almond Butter Colada’. Who knew so much could be achieved with rum!
There’s even a little Cuban barbershop inside should patrons feel the need for a trim between sips.
The striking façade of Clarette is just the beginning of its allure. Housed in a chocolate-box ‘tudorbethan’ former pub in the heart of Marylebone, Clarette’s setting is wholly old-world English, but step through the door and into the wine bar for a vividly French art-deco feel. Midnight blue wood panelling and golden-sconce lamps frame the stained-glass windows in the bar, above which sits a sophisticated salon and up again to the second floor private dining room. Why not accompany a Chateaubriand with a superior croque monsieur?
Inside a decommissioned fire station from 1887 you’ll find hotel, bar and outdoor terrace. Intimate and cosy but a good place to celeb spot. When it first opened, you would be looking for ways to get in. But gone are the days of name dropping. The idea that it is inaccessible is untrue. Get there early enough to get a seat in the bar on the left. Grab a small table or perch at the bar, enjoy the cocktails and the view. The crab stuffed donuts and fried chicken are a must. Always brimming with energy, head for afternoon cocktails or for a bigger one on Friday and Saturday nights when it turns into a club night. Its the only way to rub shoulders with the celebs hitting the town that night.
The Mandeville Hotel
Right in the centre of the beating heart of Marylebone is the Mandeville Hotel’s Reform Social Bar & Grill. Taking design inspiration from the gentleman’s supper clubs of times gone by, but with a distinctly modern twist, Reform Social is the ideal location for a quintessentially British drinking experience. Think button-back leather sofas and marble topped tables under elegantly dim lighting, plush carpeting and walls adorned with contemporary art within a grand Victorian townhouse. The bar serves up an array of bites and small plates to tantalise the taste buds late into the night. Guests can cosy away in booths for intimate conversation or raise the roof at larger tables. Classic favourites to their Retox/Detox menu, you could end up spending hours in this relaxed space.
The Mandeville also offers master classes in cocktail making with their expert mixologists, so you can shake up a storm and learn how to make your rum, gin or martini based cocktails best suited to your own individual taste.
Is Purl a bar, or the world’s classiest laboratory?! Molecular mixology and scientific concoctions make this basement hideaway a seriously class-leading cocktail saloon. Making a name for itself by offering up innovative, multi-sensory creations, Purl uses aromas, fogs and foams, twisting up classic cocktails and tantalizing taste buds. The Blue Bayou (Absolut Elyx vodka, pisco, yuzu and citrus sherbet with a foamy “Blue Air’) the smoking Citrus Myrtifolia (navy rum, red vermouth, ginger syrup and wild strawberry bitter) and absinth-fuelled mist of the Tinique Punch (maraschino liqueur, rums, honey shrub and homemade grenadine) are just some of the wild libations guests can sample here, against the soundtrack of soothing strains of jazz.
The name Purl derives from an Old English drink consisting of warm ale, gin, wormwood and spices –scruffy! Purl offers superior master classes and works for a great girl’s night out.
Just next door to the Wigmore, and a stone’s throw from exciting Oxford Circus, this quirky, award-winning bar within The Langham Hotel complex is a dream in amethyst. Floor to ceiling lilac decorations adorn this sophisticated space, where English regency and Ming dynasty styles gracefully collide. The oriental pagodas that crown the bar are perhaps a satirical suggestion of a place of boozy worship, where congregations come en masse to sample the Artesian’s selection of 50 rums. However it’s the deliciously absurd cocktails that people truly flock here for. Expect to find exotic ingredients such as yuzu, shochu and vetiver blended with the more familiar, but equally bizarre, artichoke and coriander, served potentially in a golden pineapple, or presented on the haunches of a giant metal ant. Every concoction is a show stopping performance, and we can guarantee you wont become bored in the eccentric Artesian. Voted World’s Best Bar three years running in 2012, 2013 and 2014 it certainly hasn’t lost its charm, or its ability to attract celebrity clientele…
Reverend JW Simpson
This shabby chic speakeasy-style bar is a Fitzrovia institution. Flat-cap wearing bartenders serve up quirky cocktails and a seasonal menu of bar bites. This drinking-den is an ideal first date location, offering a seated service and a dinky list of ‘edible cocktails’ sure to delight. Housed in what was the basement flat of their celebrated namesake, the ‘Rev’ was found out to be no stranger to the odd tipple, and so its fitting really that the tattered wall coverings and floor tiles that give this bar its charm have been retained, making revellers right at home in its former resident’s living room!
Having earned an impressive reputation for the quality of their cocktails, the Revs team are well known for their use of obscure and little known spirits such as mead, sherry and horchata. Taking full advantage of the recent surge in popularity, RJWS offers cocktail master classes (or ‘spirited sermons’ as they prefer to call them) but these exclusive classes have sporadic dates and limited places, so wise to check online for tickets.
Bourne and Hollingsworth
A one for late-night carousing, this bar has a thoroughly retro aesthetic. Mismatched antique chairs and scrubbed parquet flooring paired with the pretty hand-painted fabric wallpaper offering up a relaxed and calming space to unwind with after work drinks. B&H’s cocktail menu is lustrous list of concoctions using international ingredients designed to cater to everybody’s tastes ‘fitting better than Cinderella’s slipper’! If that fairy tale fantasy doesn’t tempt you then we don’t know what will.
“Guaranteed to bring some frivolity into a Fitzrovian evening” is a tagline that whets our appetite! The Lucky Pig a happy hideaway of retro 1920s glamour. With live performances throughout the weekday evenings and DJ sets at the weekends, this is no place to sit and chat – polish up your dancing shoes, don your glad rags and jive into the small hours, with that all important cocktail in hand as well. Ideal for parties and celebrations, The Lucky Pig has enticingly named cocktails such as “Fizz-rovia” “Flappers D’Vine” and “Tea Dance” that perfectly accompany a luscious list of nibbles and pizzas.
The Remedy Wine Bar & Kitchen
A ‘fusion indie wine bar’, the Remedy is exactly that: a calming cure for post-work drinks in a chilled out setting, so understated you could almost walk past it. With a copper topped bar and cute outside terrace, this serves as an ideal place to take the weight off. Owners David and Renato have wine trade pedigree, and present their extensive knowledge of organic and natural products here in spades. They admit to being a bit geeky about their beloved wines, but we adore their passion. Tipples range from a very attractive £6 to a cool £15 a glass and can be accompanied by luscious boards of charcuterie.
Roka Shochu Lounge
Roka now has four locations in the city, serving up sensational Japanese robatayaki cuisine, but it’s the Charlotte Street Shochu lounge that we’re interested in. This subterranean den is a dark yet tranquil refuge from the hectic city above, and serves up inventive cocktails built around the vodka-like spirit that gives it its name, with some peculiar ingredient additions like plum and sweet potato.
Roka’s philosophy speaks for itself: ‘Ro’ is a meeting place for convivial food and drinks, and ‘Ka’ depicts warmth and all-encompassing energy. However don’t expect to see a traditional coy pond, this establishment is one of absolute style and class.
The Lobby at The London EDITION & Punch Room
As is the current trend for hotels these days to open up their lobbies to the public, the London Edition follows suit, turning the traditional space into a buzzing showpiece. Housed in this vast Edwardian masterpiece of a building, the Lobby bar is open to non-guests of the hotel to work and to play. A huge silver egg hangs above the bar area, mirroring the scenes of merriment below, directing patrons attention upward to the incredible plasterwork and stuccos that adorn the walls and ceilings. When you’re done gawping at the impressive scene, sink into one of the plush velvety sofas with a cocktail and tuck into some bar bites like Korean spiced chicken wings and some seriously mouth watering truffle mac n cheese balls.
The Edition’s Punch Room is a modern reincarnation of London’s 19th century private clubs. Its namesake is the focus here: over 30 varieties of punch are available including the signature gin-based ‘Edition’. Panelled in aged oak and strewn with plush button-backed loungers, this elegant room throbs to the rhythm of soul and blues, and often has impromptu live performances.