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7 tales, clerkenwell and farringdon bars

Clerkenwell bars

From posh cocktail spots to wine bars a cut above the rest, find a watering hole to suit you in Clerkenwell and Farringdon

By Laura Richards
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Clerkenwell is a part of London full of history and filled with creatives, so it’s hardly a surprise that you’ll find a fair few quality bars in the ’hood, too. There are some smashing wine bars, a smattering of quirky spots for creative cocktails or classic places to drink more straight-forward and strong martinis. So whether sticking around Farringdon or heading on up to Exmouth Market, add these bars to your Clerkenwell hit list immediately.   

RECOMMENDED: Find more fun in the neighbourhood in our Clerkenwell area guide

The best bars in Clerkenwell

Ask for Janice

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Farringdon and Smithfield

With its enigmatic name, ‘secret’ basement bar, bare filament lightbulbs, white tiling, reclaimed furniture, and food served on enamel plates or in little preservation jars, Ask For Janice isn’t breaking the bar mould. Craft beer, gin and small plates confirm this, but friendly service and real attention to detail set Janice apart from the rest.

Bird of Smithfield

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Contemporary European Farringdon and Smithfield

At this five-floor dining venue on Smithfield Street you’ll find a dinky top-floor bar on the roof. Up here, you can delve into a delicious and extensive bar menu dedicated to London's summer favourite – the spritz.

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Bounce Farringdon

Bars and pubs Holborn

This is the original ping pong bar that Bounce opened and it's located, allegedly, on the exact spot that the beautiful, bouncy game was invented. Along with pizzas and cocktails, Bounce serves up a night of competitive fun in an industrial-chic space. Just watch out for the inevitable stag crowd.

Venue says Buy a gift voucher for when Bounce reopens and we'll double the value - available now at: https://www.bouncepingpong.com/gift-vouchers/

CafeKick_JP_14.jpg
© Jonathan Perugia

Café Kick

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Sports bars Clerkenwell

Exmouth Market’s Café Kick is home to football in its many forms – from screening Continental games and showing off scarves and shirts from obscure teams to championing the miniature version of the beautiful game – table football. It also has a hat-trick of a happy hour: find offers on bottles of beer, house wine and cocktails. Back of the net.

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Coin Laundry

3 out of 5 stars
Restaurants British Clerkenwell

If modern drinking doesn’t do it for you, come over all retro at Coin Laundry, a bar on the edge of Exmouth Market whose decor not only suits Thirsty Thursday, but Throwback Thursday as well. Grab a Formica table and get in a round. It’s a shame the actual drinks aren’t as retro as the setting. But for bar snacks, chicken kiev ought to hit the spot.

The Gibson

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Old Street

If you like your drinks to look like showstoppers, pay a visit to The Gibson. Every cocktail is made to look like a masterpiece, and each one has a unique flavour to back it up with. It’s a dinky space with a loose 1920s look and with friendly table service, so you can settle in and let those drinks create all the atmosphere you’ll be needing.

Venue says Time travelling bar The Gibson transport's you through the 1900s via a selection of some of the most innovative cocktails in London.

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Gunmakers

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Pubs Clerkenwell

A nineteenth-century pub has been given an update by the folks behind Bermondsey bar Nine Lives, where a seat in the garden is prime real estate. They’ve kept original details indoors, but have added modern touches and twists – this includes a barber shop on the top floor (which could well be risky business after a few drinks). The food menu has a New Orleans vibe and some of the cocktails come in cans (v modern).

Hester's Hideout

4 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Clerkenwell

If you needed proof that London’s cabaret scene is alive and (positively) kicking, take a trip to Hester’s Hideout under Paesan restaurant. Drinks are just as entertaining as burlesque and cabaret acts. Bread and Salt includes a thick, butter-washed gin. How’s that for razzle-dazzle?

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Oriole

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Farringdon and Smithfield

This may just be London’s most beautiful bar, dressed in an exotic palm print that runs along one wall and filled with weird artefacts from far-off lands. The drinks are also something to behold – cocktails dressed to the nines and with a full-on flavour to boot. Live jazz seals the deal for a stylish night out just moments from Smithfield’s meat market.

Polpo Smithfield

4 out of 5 stars
Restaurants Italian Farringdon and Smithfield

This Venetian-inspired mini-chain of bàcari is holding a Negroni bar in its basement that’s a bit of a secret to many. Come down for classic Italian aperitivi – from those aforementioned Negronis to Bellinis and Spritzes – as well as meat balls, arancini and other much-loved Italian morsels.

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The Vestry

3 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Wine bars Farringdon and Smithfield

Tucked away on Charterhouse Street, this Farringdon wine bar once acted as a vestry for the parish of St Sepulchre’s. Now it worships wine, with an enomatic machine meaning you can sample some pricier tipples by the glass instead of forking out for a whole 750ml. Beer enthusiasts aren’t forgotten, either, with a good range of local London brews.

Vinoteca

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Wine bars Farringdon and Smithfield

Farringdon has a dinky branch of Vinoteca fit for delicious grazing washed down by wine from all around the world. There aren’t many places in the capital where you can order a glass of black of Kalavryta from Greece – or you can choose something equally pleasing from the 285-strong list to take home (at shop retail prices). Enthusiastic staff are happy to make recommendations.

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The Zetter Townhouse Clerkenwell Cocktail Lounge

5 out of 5 stars
Bars and pubs Clerkenwell

Zetter Townhouse’s cocktail bar remains one of London’s most singular drinking experiences, where lavish guests sip on Martinis or wilder concoctions in among antiques and knickknacks – it’s decorated like an eccentric collector’s country house and the short cocktail list is devised by Tony Conigliaro (of 69 Colebrooke Row, Bar Termini and Untitled).

Venue says Afternoon tea has landed in Clerkenwell! Try Aunt Wilhelmina’s dainty 'Traditional Tea' or Uncle Seymour’s heartier ‘Gentleman’s Tea’.

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