Forget starchy and old-fashioned. London’s best wine bars are bringing the humble grape to cool crowds of discerning drinkers. Find cosy, bistro-style settings, sophisticated bars that are great for date night, or hip Hackney hangouts where wine is the drink du jour. Discover everything from natural wines to grapes from far-flung vineyards, plus service from knowledgeable, approachable staff. One thing is for certain, you’ll find more than a bargain bin Sauv Blanc at these great little grape-peddlers.
The best wine bars in London
Chances are that when you think of wine bars, you think of French-style bistros, clad in wood and filled with cute little tables à deux. Take a trip to The 10 Cases to have your dreams fulfilled. There are 20-ish wines on the list each day, available by glass, carafe or bottle. Devour food from a modern European menu or head to the shop, where an enomatic machine keeps samples fresh. They’ve even developed Drop, a wine delivery app that brings the 10 Cases experience direct to your door.
There are three 28-50 wine bars to choose from around town, each pouring from a menu of around 15 different reds and 15 different whites. Work your way through the list if you like, with 75ml serves on offer. The list was put together by sommelier extraordinaire Xavier Rousset (who moved on from 28-50 in 2015). The Marylebone branch is a chic choice, with a gleaming island bar in the middle, light bouncing from glasses hanging above.
You can slurp wine in an art gallery (you sophisticated bastard), at the evening operation of the Whitechapel Gallery, from the team who brought you 10 Greek Street and 8 Hoxton Square. The list is arranged from light to heavy for ease of access, so you won’t embarrass yourself in front of a cool, arty crowd if you’re lacking wine know-how. Time your visit carefully, though; After Hours is open until 11pm, but only on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
This wine bar has been a Shepherd’s Bush institution for long enough to have inspired the setting for ‘EastEnders’: you know, Albert Square. It’s a charming, rustic space filled with locals young and old, and staff guide you through a selection of around 20 wines – predominantly Old World – by the glass. Pair with Parma ham and cheese for proper Continental vibes.
It’s a super-chic space for quaffing wine in the middle of Neal’s Yard. But you wouldn’t expect any less from the Parisian team who brought you Chinatown’s Experimental Cocktail Club. Cosy up on a plump-cushioned sofa and work through champagne, small plates and beaucoup fromage. It’s a pricey place, so save it for special date nights. The romantic setting should just about justify the price tag.
Hackney’s oddly named Farley Macallan claims to be ‘reinventing the local’ on its bold neon sign. It does so with brunch, small plates and two wine lists: one covering biodynamic wine and the other list titled ‘easy wine’. The latter list is populated by anything from Primitivos to Picpoul de Pinets, available by the glass for a fiver.
Furanxo doubles as a Spanish grocery store (or an abacería, to those acquainted with the concept), so you can pick up a tin of sardines before tucking into natural wine. They’re all very interesting tipples, sourced from across the Iberian Peninsula, with just four available at any given time by the glass. There’s not much room for sitting and sipping, so get up close and personal with other punters, as is the Spanish way.
There are 200 varieties by the bottle at the Fleet Street branch of Humble Grape. They’re easy enough to get your head around, though, thanks to an insightful menu serving up advice like ‘virtually unpronounceable, completely unforgettable’. Booze for your buck is strong here, with a flight of four wines costing £13 in total. Or visit on Mondays, when bottles are sold without the mark-up.
Wine shop down below, stunning restaurant and wine bar up above, The Laughing Heart has a wine list that begins with a Keats poem, such is its beauty. Wines are sourced from lesser-known vineyards, are all organic and are all fantastic. Small plates are adventurous and pair perfectly with these drops from around the world. Don’t be surprised to hear wine buffs chatting tannins and such all around the room.
This place’s name is wine-lovers’ slang for the streaks you get on the inside of your wine glass. But don’t expect this Hackney bar-restaurant to be packed with uptight wine snobs. It’s a cool, young crowd to match the punky staff, and they pore over bold, experimental dishes as well as wine from small producers across many up-and-coming growing regions.
Cocktails more your thing?
So many cocktails, so little time. So just stick to the best cocktail bars in London by using our ranked list below. You'll find everything from dark and dirty speakeasy joints and secret bars to bold and brash party spots meant for a night out on the tiles. What they all have in common is mixed drinks that will blow your mind – and hopefully not your budget.