The Bar Hit List: The Best New Bars In London

A running list of the best new places to drink and be merry.

There are a lot of good places to drink in London. Candlelit taverns, slick hotel bars, your mate’s tiny garden where the local tabbies like to hang out while you sip the world’s strongest margarita. But sometimes you want somewhere better than good. Sometimes you want somewhere great that has the added shiny bonus of being brand spanking new. Introducing our bar hit list, a one-stop list of the new London drinking spots that we’ve tried and can’t shut up about. Bottoms up.

“Soma is not just one of the best new bars in London, it’s one of the best bars in London. I have already been to this sultry—yes, sultry—little basement spot in Soho so many times since it opened that I now receive a warm welcome from the manager. Let’s not linger on what that says about my lifestyle and instead focus on the fact that the cocktails here are outstanding. I’m talking alcohol alchemy via the medium of curry leaf vermouth, coconut milk, and a cardamom-loaded negroni that is now my favourite cocktail in London. From the people behind Indian mini-chain Kricket, the short cocktail list remixes—nay, improves—the classics and serves them on a slick oval bar. Plus, it’s open until the early hours from Tuesday to Saturday and the service is faultless.” - Heidi Lauth Beasley, Staff Writer

“Crisps are the key to my heart. But I was already head over heels for Charlie’s, a small, sultry basement bar off Columbia Road, before the eponymous owner placed a huge bowl of ridged ready salted next to my negroni. Located below a leather goods and furniture restoration shop (also owned by Charlie), the only sign of the bar’s existence (which is only open on Thursday nights) is a small chalkboard in the window with its name and the words: Ring Door Bell Hard. Already charmed. Descending the steps will whisk you to a different world—think moody speakeasy, dark wood-panelling (carved by Charlie), flickering candles, a handful of low stools, and a couple of seats at the bar. The menu is just as small and charming with a few St. John wines, bottles of beer, and five classic cocktails. The espresso martini and spicy mezcal margarita came out on top but honestly anything you drink will taste ten times better than usual because you’re drinking it at Charlie’s. And not just because they come with a side of crisps.” - Daisy Meager, Senior Editor     

“Sometimes a cocktail can change your mind. Suddenly your date looks 40% more kissable, your dedication to going to bed before midnight dissipates, or maybe it causes you to have an epiphany about candy floss in bevs. Now, I usually do not condone this kind of silliness and tend to like my cocktails simple and bitter, like my men. But there is something about the impenetrable glamour and class of this basement speakeasy that allows you to accept that maybe you do like your boulevardier with a white chocolate sceptre. Why the hell not? Just like the original Nightjar in Shoreditch, the new Carnaby location has live music almost every night of the week but if you really want to experience the full swinging attitude, come here at the weekend. Candy floss cocktail encouraged.” - HLB  

“The first time I went to Below Stone Nest on Shaftesbury Avenue, my feet hurt and I was dragging around the consequences of my urgent retail therapy. My mood would be best described as aggy with a touch of blister-sponsored hysteria. By the time I finished my negroni, I was having the time of my young hot mess life. There was a live band playing upbeat swing tunes on the stage, people seducing each other over tea light candles, and I stayed until 2am even though it was a weeknight—everyone be cool, don’t tell my boss. From the distressed tall walls to the general air that people are going to get up to all kinds of naughty things once they leave, there is something distinctly Left Bank Paris about this moody basement bar. You can’t book but every time I’ve rocked up since, I’ve walked straight in, blisters and all.”  - HLB 

“I was raised a good Christian girl—I know, given most of the things I’ve written for this website, we’re all surprised—and it’s for that reason that I can say I know a good church when I see one. Amazing Grace in London Bridge is a converted church hosting live music and is a great shout for anyone who spent the entirety of our many lockdowns posting ‘I miss gigs :(‘ on Twitter. The drinks are pretty standard but it’s the space and commitment to Good Tunes that really sets it apart from your average drinking den. There’s plenty of standing space in front of the stage but if you’re here for a carefully orchestrated display of your personality—some call this practice a ‘first date’—then sit up on the mezzanine. Just be sure to check out the calendar of live performances so you don’t rock up to a ‘90s tribute night when you were expecting a live jazz saxophone session.” - HLB 

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