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laki kane

Fun bars in London

Not everything needs to be serious. These are the best bars for having some good old-fashioned fun in the capital

By Bobby Palmer
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London has no shortage of bars taking themselves very seriously. You know, bars on rooftops or in hotel lobbies, where waiters in waistcoats serve up £20 cocktails and scoff at you for not knowing how to pronounce crème de menthe.

But what of the fun bars? The bars with garish wall decorations and double entendre cocktail names, where Rick Astley blares from the speakers and bartenders model themselves on a cocktail of ‘Cocktail’ and ‘Coyote Ugly’? Sometimes, all you want in life is a good bit of silliness. So, will the real fun venues please stand up?

London’s fun bars

Four Quarters South

Bars and pubs Sports bars Peckham

A dedicated classic and retro arcade games bar, the Four Quarters in Peckham (there’s another in Hackney Wick) is the place to go if you want to brush up on your Donkey Kong skills or mainline Pac Man until you’re seeing floating neon ghosts every time you close your eyes. It serves primarily as a bar, but also opens as a café in the afternoons before the booze starts flowing in the evenings. There’s a good selection of craft beers alongside the usual favourites, plus hearty pub food. 

Venue says Reopen for bookings from July 9th, with table service and very limited capacity. Booking strongly advised!

Alfred Le Roy

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Hackney Wick

Crate Brewery’s good ship Alfred Le Roy is a very good ship indeed, serving drinks while moored and taking pre-booked passengers on two-hour booze cruises. Aboard the pretty blue boat you can expect old-school house hits, quirky cocktails and barrels of Hackney hedonism. Book a cruise for maximum enjoyment – forward-planning might not exactly be the pirate’s way, but it’s worth it in this case.

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Doodle Bar Bermondsey
Doodle Bar Bermondsey
© Jamie Lau

Doodle Bar

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Bermondsey

When this place first opened in Battersea in 2009, you could write on the walls, along the tables and even on the waiters’ whites. At its permanent Bermondsey branch, you can only scribble on the walls – but don’t let that deter you. After all, there’s also foosball, ping pong tables and a street food van parked up at the entrance on weekends. A short list of decent cocktails is joined by a well-curated wine list and the bar’s own pale ale. 

Laki Kane

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Islington

If any beachcombers find themselves washed up on Upper Street, Laki Kane could be their urban retreat. A bijou bar with a tropical  theme laid on factor 50-thick, you can expect kitsch and sunny paraphernalia in every corner, and tiki-style drinks served in custom-made ceramics. Tables are named after far-flung resorts such as Honolulu, and each has its own bell that syncs up to watches worn by Hawaiian-shirted bar staff. 

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Little Nan's Bar, Deptford
Little Nan's Bar, Deptford
© Rah Petherbridge

Little Nan's Bar

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Deptford

This retro living room parody in a railway arch at Deptford Market Yard is brimming with shining china and Pat Butcher references aplenty. It’s full-throttle ’80s front-room fetishism, with cat-covered cushions, cocktail menus hidden inside Charles and Diana memorabilia books and mocktails served in leopard-print mugs. Where better to order cocktails by the teapot?

Copeland Social

Bars and pubs Café bars Peckham

Kiln rooms, artists’ studios, co-working spaces, a club in a record store and spaghetti in a shed: it’s hard to imagine a cooler part of town than Peckham’s Copeland Park. Upcoming events include cycle-powered film screenings and Japanese sake-brewing workshops. At its centre is Copeland Social, a youthful drinking spot with a banging soundsystem. It’s simple stuff: cocktails for £7, glasses of wine and pints from The London Beer Factory for a fiver. Order a hefty Peckham Punch, a fruity cocktail with four rums in the mix. 

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Genuine Liquorette

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Fitzrovia

This cheesy (in a good way) establishment takes its name from a pair of bars in New York, themselves inspired by the liquor stores lining the Californian coast. All of that is a tad lost on the edge of Oxford Street, but it’s got a neat, retro look, with mirrored walls, neon signs and plenty of pictures of Tom Selleck in the women’s bathrooms. Like boozy bingo, there’s a form you fill out to make your order, and cocktails come quickly since they’re pre-batched and served on tap. The best is the Cha-Chunker, which uses a nifty bar-top machine to slice off the top of the soft drink can from which crazy cocktails are served.

Every Cloud

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Hackney

Silver lining? Every Cloud definitely has one. But this sweet, bijou Morning Lane cocktail joint should really get a gold star for effort. The small, simple and seductive room is fitted with padded benches and stools, but most people perch at the bar to trade zingers with the famously witty bartenders. The menu has more of that easy humour in store, as every cocktail comes with its own wryly comic description. Case in point: the espresso martini is ‘an Irish coffee on a horrible gap year’. 

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Cocktail Trading Co

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shoreditch

This wood-panelled drinking room in Shoreditch is two parts classy cocktail bar to one part comfortable pub, stirred with a dash of wink-wink, owl-heavy retro kitsch. Then there are the drinks: an inventive cocktail list two-dozen-strong at £9 apiece. These include the American Pie, served in a pie dish, and the Dune Bug, garnished with a watermelon ice lolly. Even the menu is a tiny treasure, pocket-sized so you can take it home. Which, believe us, you’ll want to do.

Bobby Fitzpatrick

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars West Hampstead

This ’70s-themed cocktail bar in West Hampstead takes nostalgia to new levels, with natty wallpaper, a stucco ceiling, a vintage playlist and way too much wood. But once you get over the weirdness of watching north Londoners in their shirtsleeves perched on old folks’ home armchairs, there’s something weirdly comforting about escaping this decade for the evening and getting drunk in another one.

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Mr Fogg's Residence

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Mayfair

If you thought you’d collected a lot of crap on your holidays, wait until you see Mr Fogg’s. This place is literally stuffed with the detritus of the titular (admittedly imaginary) Victorian explorer: every wall is covered with hunting rifles, stuffed animals, weathered flags and tattered maps. Cocktails don’t come cheap – this is Mayfair, after all – but for sheer spectacle Mr Fogg’s is hard to beat. Other branches in Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Liverpool St.

Four Thieves

Bars and pubs Breweries Clapham Junction

The downside to this trendy Battersea boozer? It’s impossible to describe to your mates without it sounding like some kind of ropey hipster hangout. They’ve got their own micro-brewery. They distill their own gin. They keep an escape game in the basement. There’s even a retro gaming room upstairs that lets you project Street Fighter 2 across an entire wall. ‘Jesus Christ!’ your mates will probably exclaim: ‘What’s it called? The Artisanal Sourdough?’

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TT Liquor

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Shoreditch

While it doesn’t look like much from the Kingsland Road pavement, there’s a whole world of bevvying to be had inside this converted police station. Past the front-room ‘liquor store’ you’ll find a wood-panelled drinking parlour. In a further space upstairs, TT hosts supper clubs and pairs cocktails with cult movie screenings: think ‘The Big Lebowski’ with White Russians. Then there’s the main event: a speakeasy-style bar tucked away in the cellar, its brick walls lined with caged bottles. This is the former lock-up, now a drunk tank of a much more upscale variety.

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