Some of the city’s coolest creatives opened awesome places for people to drink in 2019. In fact, we were truly blessed with great new bars this year – and that’s despite it being a bit of a dicey time for hospitality in London right now. So let’s raise a glass to the trendy taprooms, dazzling cocktail bars and specialist spirit spots London gained this year. We got hotly anticipated watering holes from drink world luminaries as well as rising stars on the scene. Plus, a new rooftop bar, a circus-themed pub and London’s first agaveria. When it comes to drinking, we’re ending the decade on an absolute high.
London’s best new bars in 2019
A bar launch that lived up to the hype, Alex Kratena (head bartender at Artesian when it was consistently named the World's Best Bar) and Monica Berg (Nordic drinks super star) opened their very first bar, an ambitious two-part project serving cult-like katsu sandos on the side of cocktails. And what cocktails they are, including slushies and classics on tap in Elementary, and incredble, elevated cocktails in Tayēr that change so regularly, you’ll never have the same experience twice.
Going from pop-up to permanent in a functioning pie-and-mash shop, Walthamstow’s Jellied Eel has a pretty unique story. But it’s also fast become one of London’s cult drinking experiences by serving the perfect pairing of cocktails and croquetas to its punters. Every Friday and Saturday night, the lights turn red and people far and wide fill into creaking booths for one of this city’s most unique nights out. It’s a whole new look at liquor.
Venue says Having a birthday celebration? Get in touch to reserve an area or even the whole venue!
London’s leading mixologist Mr Lyan, aka Ryan Chetiyawardana, threw open the doors to a brand-new London bar on the exact same site as his previous place. And we’re talking about Dandelyan here, a place that closed weeks after being named the World’s Best Bar. It’s fair to say Mr Lyan doesn’t rest on his laurels. With Lyaness, you dive into cocktails just as out-of-this-world, made from ingredients like ‘Infinite Banana’ and ‘King Monkey Nut’. Another roaring success.
Venue says Lyaness is launching Fancy Tea, a tongue-in-cheek take on a high-end 80s dinner party with a bold Lyan twist & cocktails created by the team
The first solo venue from Erik Lorincz – the American Bar’s former head bartender (a position in bartending the equivalent to captaining the England team) – looks like a secret gambling den, complete with bartenders in crisp white suits. It’s got more than a touch of the Casablancas about it, and may just be the most beautiful new bar in London. The drinks aren’t a matter of style over substance, either – but they will set you back a bit. Come for cocktails for your next special occasion.
Deptford taproom Little Faith is tucked away along Creekside. Although you won’t find them brewing here, you can work your way through the Bermondsey beer crew’s range in a rustic setting. There are 15 taps to choose from, which also showcase Little Faith collabs with fellow brewers, as well as guest ales from the likes of Hackney Church Brew Co. If this bar is a room you like the look of, you can pick up some of the antique furnishings to take home, too.
Finally, in 2019, London got its first ‘agaveria’. Tbh, we didn’t know it needed one until we actually visited Hacha, a light, bright bar on Kingsland Road specialising in tequila, mezcal and other Mexican spirits derived from the god-like agave plant. There’s a shelf with 25 different bottles to sample, and a team keen to talk you through what’s on offer. Drink them straight up, or get onto the cocktails – the ‘Mirror Margarita’ is without doubt the best cocktail of the year.
Black Rock did a lot for whisky’s rep when it first launched in Shoreditch in 2016, making the spirit seem more accessible and almost edgy to consumers. The bar gained such a following, that launching a spin-off dedicated to whisky on the floor directly above was the next obvious step. Black Rock Tavern is a more casual place to try the brown stuff, with a cool izakaya look, vegan haggis sausage rolls for bar snacks and beers on tap as the perfect chasers. Whisky is also served in highball form for a very on-trend way to get the dram good stuff in your life.
No, you haven’t stepped into the Transport Museum. This bar with its ‘TfL-inspired’ interior is at the Standard Hotel and it’s one of London’s coolest new hangouts. Staff are dressed in an Ivy Park-style uniform, the soundtrack is on-point and the crowd is a surprisingly hip mix for King’s Cross. Order American-leaning cocktails or top craft beers, ace for washing down mustard-smeared mini hotdogs and the like that prove the Americans still have it better than us when it comes to snacking.
London’s first pub on a council estate was built in Bellingham to serve heroes returning from WWI, and became a community hub and performance space – Fleetwood Mac and Eric Clapton were among those who took the stage. Following this year’s £4 million restoration, you’ll find a state-of-the-art cinema, grub from residents White Men Can’t Jerk and a handsome look that the locals seem to love.
The best new rooftop of 2019, Forza Wine combines awesome views from Peckham with food and booze. The bar is a spin-off from much-loved Italian restaurant Forza Win (see what they did there?), and the drinks and snacks fly il Tricolore. Cocktails like the Garibaldi suit lunchtime imbibing, a cracking wine list takes the grape stuff (mostly Italian) very seriously and snacks are substantial enough to build a meal from. Molto bene.
Located on an industrial estate, Fourpure Brewing Co is technically part of Bermondsey’s renowned Beer Mile – although it’s on the outer reaches compared to other breweries rubbing shoulders along Enid and Druid Streets. The brewery’s been here for a while, but 2019 saw it relaunch its taproom after major investment. Now, there are enough beers to explore from behind a horseshoe bar and in plenty of space – there’s even a mezzanine and cocoon chairs hanging from the ceiling. Never mind basecamp, this might be totally new heights for craft beer in London.
The verdant venue on the ground floor of the Trafalgar St James hotel is far from a dimly lit stereotype. Instead, it’s all high windows, tropical drapery and lush green foliage. This gives the impression of a breath of fresh air, not an easy thing to do on an exhaust-choked corner of Trafalgar Square. They’ve skipped the gimmicks and instead focus on genuinely good cocktails with a bit of a tropical feel. It’s primed for a spot of escapism.
By day, the room is Spelzini, a low-key Italian café; by night it’s Luigi’s. Wide windows let you see out to Shoreditch High Street, and if you sit on the sofas, you feel a bit like you’re in an advert for the great east London dream. A clever, edited-down menu tells you what’s what from the offset – pick from wine or vermouth of the day or choose from an Italian-tinged list of cocktails. Who doesn’t want their Martini served with a sliver of parmesan and a couple of drops of truffle oil on its surface.
Ever heard of a pub with an artistic director? That’s what you get at Catford’s Ninth Life, which has all the energy of a festival about it. Disco plays out, drag queens and performers roam around and artwork is on display in a miniature gallery. It’s pretty trippy and perhaps not for everyone – but if you’re bored of bog-standard drinking, you’ve come to the right place. And in terms of the drinking, you can get stuck in on some cracking local craft beers. Oh, and did we mention the pub stays open until 2am on weekends?
This combo of natural wine bar, pizza joint and nightclub is a buzzy addition to East Dulwich, with plenty of neon and plants suspended from the ceiling. It’s like Peckham has spilled into the villagey neighbourhood, and the locals seem to love it. While the drink offering is forward-thinking and the pizzas are pretty spot-on, it’s the lovely French owners who make this individual watering hole so easy to love. And don’t miss the gallery of legends – from Margaret Atwood to Spike Lee – on the wall in the toilets. This bar clearly has good taste.
The Little Creatures brewery was at the forefront of Australia’s craft-beer boom when it launched in Fremantle back in 2000. And now it’s opened a branch around the back of King’s Cross. Five tanks filled with old faves and experimental offerings sit behind the bar, complementing an industrial look. But with plenty of sociable tables, the roomy space is reminiscent of the rural taprooms you’ll find Down Under, cultivating a laidback vibe less natural to us Brits. For those uninitiated in all things Little Creatures, you can sip a range of six brews by the paddle. Time to get stuck in.
Much like perennially crowded sister pub The Culpeper, The Buxton tends to be teeming with drinkers, its patio doors thrown open for maximum impact in the summer. It’s totally gorgeous inside, with heaps of marble and brass, but this place is less pub more bar-with-amazing-food; less pints and pies more pinot noir and pappardelle. Luckily, it does the food and drink stuff incredibly well. Grab a seat at the bar – if you can find one.