Whether you’re planning an event in London and need recommendations for the best bar spots nearby, or you just fancy a night on the town, Shout About London’s Stuart Groves is on hand to advise.
Being recommended a bar is great. There are so many places in London, you really need to be pointed in the right direction. If you’re spending time in a city with some of the best nightlife in the world, you don’t want to be the people that sit in a Wetherspoon’s wondering where all the people with teeth are at.
We like to go one better. Knowing a good bar is great, but it’s rare you’re going to want to stay in one place all night. So finding a good stretch of road where you can ‘get your Friday on’ is a must.
You don’t want to be travelling half cut on the Northern Line between every bar if you can avoid it, save that for the journey home. “UBER UBER UBER” *Bangs Table*
If one place is all you want, we’ve got you covered. But if you want something slightly more experimental, you’ve come to the right place – London is where it’s at.
West London Crawling
You can do all six of these West London bars in one night (if you’re brave), but I’ve broken them down into two separate expeditions. That way you have something for next time and you can get the best out of the music element of each evening.
Wine and Pianists
A civilised evening with a gentle and very short walk between the two destinations.
Gordon’s Wine Bar – WC2N 6NE
An awesome vaulted venue with a superb collection of wines and a tonne of outdoor space.
Just up from Embankment Tube this has become a staple for twenty/thirty something Londoners to drink their afternoons away in large groups by the Thames. An absolute must for the summer.
New Players Theatre – WC2N 5PE
This is literally a two minute walk from the above, located opposite Heaven by Charing Cross.
It’s managed to maintain some of its cult following – despite its popularity – which adds to its undeniable charm. A great group of people, largely arriving after an afternoon/evening at Gordon’s Wine Bar, who are both friendly and welcoming. Don’t get there too early though, it’s a quiet/empty theatre bar on a Saturday night, until about 23:00 when, seemingly at the click of a finger, it’s jam packed with people. The draws of the night are the resident pianists who perform requests, invariably ending in a rendition of Piano Man accompanied by a cacophony of warbled tones from the inebriated regulars.
Beer and Bands
If you’re in the mood for something a bit more upbeat, this little stretch should help you on your way.
The Phoenix Artist Club – WC2H 8BU
Another theatre bar, quite tucked away in the recesses of Charing Cross Road. They don’t advertise the way a lot of bars do and as such have a real speakeasy feel to it. The décor is something to gaze at during conversation, with an eclectic mix of signed posters, paintings and pictures all over the walls, donated by its members. With impromptu routines often belted out, there’s something to see every time you go.
Crobar – W1D 4AS
One minute from the above. This is an unapologetic rock bar (they serve Red Stripe in cans), with a Juke box full of heavy metal – I actually found the Kinks, but was too sacred to put them on.
There’s eyeliner, ladders in tights, tattered shoes and black finger nails everywhere. The women are almost as bad.
The Alley Cat – WC2H 8LP
Again, one minute from the above. Originally a studio, this was where the Rolling Stones recorded their first album. In keeping with its impressive history, the venue puts on cracking talent most nights of the week. Worth checking the website before you go if you’re not sure about paying to enter. Wednesday is always blues and free entry.
Earlham Street Clubhouse – WC2H 9LD
This is an American themed clubhouse with amazing cocktails, world famous pizzas and an absolutely rocking party atmosphere on a Saturday night. Last weekend I was drinking Ace Venturas and Fresh Princes, dancing to the Beastie Boys and pouring my own beer out of a petrol pump. After 21:15 I’m not sure what I was doing.
East London Falling
Shoreditch is a great area to go out. It has a bit of a reputation for being full of “nob’eds” (not my terminology) and to be honest, that’s not too wide of the mark. It’s true to say, you really don’t want to go to the wrong places. Going to the ‘wrong place’ in Shoreditch doesn’t mean getting jumped down an alley, or being punched in the face over the queue for the Viagra machine in the gents. It’s more that you might end up getting ‘life lessons’ from 21 year old students in their dad’s clothes (I’d choose the alleyways anytime).
Here are a few places you can go in one night, with a lot of outdoor space between them and good crowds.
DISCLAIMER: There will be the occasional advertising ‘professional’ wearing non-prescription lenses and a 15 year old’s beanie hat, but you should be merry enough by then to see them as a little brother, as opposed to an enemy of the state.
The Water Poet – E1 6BX
Is this my favourite pub in London? Hmmmm
Good food, always busy, two (very decent) pool tables, a large outdoor patio, private beer hut, no attitude. Yes, I think it is my favourite bar
The Crown and Shuttle – E1 6JE
1 minute walk from the Water Poet. I think I’m right in saying this is the sister pub of the Water Poet. One for the late afternoon/early evening. There is a load of outdoor seating, but it gets very busy, my advice is to send an intern at about 16:00 to keep the seats warm.
DISCLAIMER (We’re used to these in events):
Make sure you don’t go here too late, as they shut the garden, it gets very sweaty and they play hipster music *thud thud thud*.
Queen of Hoxton – EC2A 3JX
Less than a four minute walk to here. They have a badly lit table tennis table on the ground floor (how very Shoreditch), a club in the basement & an awesome roof terrace including: Bar/BBQ and full on Wig Wam (no Wig Wam in the summer).
Far Rock Away Bar – EC2A 3BS
A four minute walk up the other end of Curtain Road. This used to be the old Elbow Rooms (a minute’s silence please)… Some of the coolest décor in any London bars. Make sure you look up, with one ceiling covered entirely in records, another in skate boards. Then there’s the retro arcade games, table football and a DJ booth made out of boom boxes. They quite often have people playing FIFA on some of the screens during the day (how very… oh you get the point)
Barrio East – E1 6JE
Three minute walk back on to Shoreditch High Street.
Really quirky interior, cocktails, a small outdoor space and a relentless party buzz. A nice way to end the evening and make doubly sure you’re going to wake up feeling terrible.
To ‘Pop-Up’ North or ‘Pop-Up’ South
These are both summer pop-ups and relatively well known to the masses now.
150 tonnes of Sand in the car park of the Roundhouse. They put on table tennis, music, beach furniture, bars and street food. One of two things will happen to remind you that you’re even in London. It’ll start raining…. or you’ll have dug deep enough to hit tarmac.
The South Bank’s coolest attraction. A bold statement, but it really is the draw for people who have done the merlin bit over the years. They create a real carnival atmosphere with pimms, rides and revolving bars. You can go to one of the shows (often visitors from the Fringe festival) or just pop down for a beer. Open from 7 May – 27 September
A little more elegant
Mr Fogg’s – W1J 6JD
One of the many brilliant concept bars from the Inception Group. The philosophy is: the right venue on the wrong road. So you actually have to know about it to go there. All the staff will tell you how they met the owner ‘Phileas Fogg’ and never break this illusion. Some of the best cocktails makers in London.
A little more decadent
Le Peep Boutique – W1K 7BD
Cocktail bar, restaurant and club. Inspired by the glamour of 1920s Paris, this is a crazy night out. It’s only open three nights a week and food service starts at 20:30, so it’ll be a late one.
You feel like you’ve been transported into a Moulin Rouge-esque world of prohibition, burlesque and Charleston.