The best bars in London

From wow-factor views and inflated panda heads to heart-breakingly delicious cocktails

(Image credit: The Connaught Bar)

London is a city that provokes all manner of questions: "Why do the Queen's guard wear such giant hats?"; "Why is it always raining?", and, most importantly, "Where are we going for a drink?"

Luckily, there are more than a few opportunities to wet your whistle in the world's second most visited city. London's pubs are iconic and wonderful, but if you're looking for something a little more exclusive, these are the places for you:

Scarfes Bar

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Scarfes Bar sits in Holborn's Rosewood Hotel but has its own street entrance and its own sense of style. The London Evening Standard describes it as a "high-end hotel bar with a roaring fire, velvet armchairs, oodles of champagne and bookcases filled with antique books hand-picked by a Portobello antiques dealer", while Tatler notes "the bar itself is nicely laid back" and drinks are "excellent".

With the addition of live music and good food ("cracking curry" and "mean mac 'n' cheese", according to Tatler), it has everything you need. The Daily Telegraph says it's "like the oversized library of some enormous stately home" – so make yourself comfortable.


Artesian describes itself as a "social hub for chic Londoners". It's a reassuringly confident description from the kind of place that can afford to blow its own trumpet. It has been named "the world's best bar" too many times to count, while the Telegraph says a night here is "the cocktail lover's equivalent of a night at the theatre".

It's located at Portland Place's Langham Hotel, a prize destination in its own right. The drinks are as stylish as the surroundings, as the Standard notes: "Its standout innovative cocktails include the Super Panda: a concoction served over a single ice ball in a tumbler, positioned on top of an inflated panda-head lantern filled with a tangerine aroma." Not bad.

The Connaught Bar

The Connaught Bar in Mayfair provides a luxurious setting to enjoy a cocktail menu filled with specially curated concoctions. Time Out says it is "all about style and glamour – mirrors, low lighting, silver leaf, tasteful palette, lots of plush seating for intimate conversation".

The venue "will particularly appeal to cocktail connoisseurs… Expect to encounter unusual ingredients and unexpected flavours if dedicating an evening to [master mixologist] Agostino's creations", says the Telegraph.

If you're looking for something a bit more traditional, then don't let the house-created cocktails scare you off. Time Out says the cocktail menu is "stuffed with peerless examples of all the originals".

Dukes Bar

The last few years has seen London go mad for cocktails and Dukes Bar in St James's is the perfect place to enjoy the trend. The Guardian calls it "a proper old London establishment" that "it is neither cheap, nor pretentious".

Time Out calls Dukes "one of London's true classic bars" and says it is the place to go "if you are looking for a single, mind-blowingly strong, heart-breakingly delicious cocktail, in surroundings designed for talking rather than shouting".

There's no mobile signal inside Dukes, so your entertainment comes from the people you're with. The Telegraph calls the drinks "nigh-on perfect" and the place "somewhere to sit long into a winter night with a good friend and a couple of [manager] Alessandro's impeccable creations".

Nam Long Le Shaker

When a bar can boast a client list ranging from the Duke of Cambridge to Sir Mick Jagger, you know it's doing something right. Nam Long Le Shaker in South Kensington has been famous since the 1980s for its clientele as well as its former eccentric owner, Thai Dang.

His daughter has taken over the reins. "When Prince William came to the door with trainers on, [my father] refused him entry," she told the Standard. "Mick Jagger later came in, but he had his collar up. My father said to him, 'Who the f*** do you think you are? Turn your collar down.' And so he did."

Dang Sr died in 2014, but the funky style and alternative approach remain. BarChick says: "This place does it so wrong, it's so right; from the poor lighting to the terrible decor and the temperamental staff, people continue to return time and time again. It's the best place to start a party, and it always delivers."

City Social Bar

When it comes to City Social, it does what it says on the tin. Housed on the 24th floor of Tower 42, you're treated to views of the city skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows. The Telegraph says the bar is best for its "wow-factor view", making City Social an "all-rounder, ideal for celebratory, romantic or business dining".

Time Out says "the food and drink is of a far higher standard than you might reasonably expect up a skyscraper" and "the cocktails are great". However, it's the vista that swings it: "City Social's view can invoke serious high-rise envy, especially in the glass-walled gents' where the view will be more spectacular than usual for most."


Spread across two floors, this new Italian wine bar in Spitalfields has a cosy interior, featuring large wooden tables that lend the space a friendly, communal feel.

Bottles focuses mainly on Italian wine and food pairings, though its menu includes tempting drops from all over the world. For example, during our visit, we bypassed Italy entirely, opting instead for a lovely Chateau Lyonnat Lussac St Emilion from Bordeaux. The wine was medium-bodied with a palate of dark rich fruits and hints of dried flowers and spice - delicious.

Alongside its extensive wine list, Bottles also has a mouth-watering food menu. To start, the Soodplì Cacio and pepe rice balls with pecorino and mozzarella are warm and crunchy, and bursting with spice. The pick of the mains, meanwhile, might just be the Iberico pork with fermented cherries, coconut cream, and fennel herbs - a perfect balance of savoury and sweet.

Bottles is an ideal spot for either a quick glass of wine or a full meal. A perfect match for the friendly, artistic energy of Old Spitalfields market.

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