After a gruelling day of DMing Nicolas Cage memes to colleagues and reading every Guardian blind dates column ever, you need a drink. But before you settle for the 4/10 chain pub around the corner, you might want to think about going somewhere with a bit more pizzazz. Wednesdays are, after all, the new Thursdays, and at some point Thursdays were the new Fridays, which means that a majority of the week is made for drinking. So, when the sun is shining and you’ve had enough - consider going to one of these spots when aperitivo hour hits.
If you’re after something a little more intimate with drinks that have a little more kick to them, then Tayer + Elementary will suit you down to a tee. Despite being two minutes from purgatory itself, Old Street roundabout, the sceney cocktail bar manages to screen itself from the horrors outside via unusual drinks and an excellent soundtrack. It’s walk-in only, so come down early evening, lean up on one of the counters, and get yourself a watermelon negroni, lovage gimlet, or whatever else gets your juices flowing.
When straight pint-sinking isn’t your game and a cocktail too early can end up with things going far too late, then you might want to consider an after-work venue that slows the pace a little. Where you can sit back with a glass of something sparkling, eye up the other table’s snacks, and enjoy aperitivo hour without it becoming a competitive sport. This is exactly what Café Deco’s terrace is for. Spectacularly sedate and with an excellent by-the-glass list that changes daily, the Bloomsbury restaurant and wine bar is a sanctuary. And the menu is just waiting for you to get involved.
Low-lit and located under a bridge, Smokey Kudu is a moody bar. In another era you’d come here to investigate the odd disappearance of a rich heiresses’ goldfish, all the while chain-smoking and ordering things like a ‘Dark & Smokey’ whilst telling the bartender that yes, that did also happen to be your nickname. It’s part of the South African-influenced Kudu Collective restaurant and bar mini Peckham empire, so know that the snacks are going to be worth interrogating as well.
The French House is guaranteed to be rammed pretty much every night of the week and though that can be a little annoying if you’re arriving after 6pm, it’s kind of what this whole institution is about. Drinkers are still seated on a first come first served basis but this is Soho’s oldest old school spot - so expect a number of gregarious regulars to have set up shop from midday sharp. Wine and champagne are, as they should be, the drinks of choice.
The weekday-only little Italian wine bar and shop on Leonard Street is a favourite with restaurant workers and Italian wine-lovers alike. Early evenings that start with a bottle here tend to end with, well, about five more bottles here (as well as metric-tonne of charcuterie, bread, and a one last glass for good luck). The hush-hush secret upstairs bar is a candlelit, maroon drinking den that you’ll want to say saluté in for the rest of your life. Book ahead if you’re looking to go in numbers, otherwise try your luck and just try leaving after one.
A newcomer that ticks both the fussy and big groups of friends boxes, Slurp Yard is the kind of place we’d happily mix social groups in. As anxiety-inducing as that sounds, this outside-inside wine bar and terrace suits everyone. It’s two minutes from Dalston Kingsland (excellent accessibility) there’s a load of funky biodynamic wines on the by-the-glass list (excellent for the picky) as well as cocktails, beer, and Yard Sale to order in (excellent for everyone’s head the next day).
Few moves are as classic or foolproof in London as a martini at Quo Vadis’ bar. Nor too is the confident walk upstairs to the members area and trying your luck after exactly two martinis - FYI, it’s more successful than you’d think. The Soho restaurant and member’s club is a classy venue to debrief or decompress in after a long day doing whatever the hell it is you actually do.
Ordinarily, Bright leans more restaurant than wine bar - though we’d always recommend swinging by the bar during the day for a glass of something funky - but in warmer (haha!) months their front yard transforms into a brilliant space to lazily explore their wine list and nibble on whatever’s on offer from their superb changing menu. Whether you’re after some cold, hard spirits after a long day, or a glass of something funkier remains to be seen, it’s a great place to start (and likely) end your evening at.
Diogenes The Dog is a quaint corner wine bar that, whisper it, could be mistaken for somewhere Elephant and Castle-looking in Paris if you squint your eyes and get to work on that second bottle of malbec, stat. This is a one to four person type of drinking place that leans more for your core group than anything crazy. It specialises in smaller producers, and the staff can tell you as much or as little as you want to know. Also, the snacks - from terrine of the week to burratina - are both excellent and pretty reasonably priced.
Two Tribes Brewhouse & Taproom
If you’re after the age-old after-work combination of beer and, er, brisket, then you want to be heading to Two Tribes’ ‘Campfire’ venue between Kings Cross and Caledonian Road. From Wednesdays to Fridays the brewery has From The Ashes BBQ on the grill, making smoked pork buns and n’duja-filled doughnuts, all paired with Two Tribes’ American Pale or Mexican-style lager and a soundtrack from guest DJs (or the football).