It's no secret that us Londoners quite like a drink, and we're more than spoilt for choice when it comes to popping out for a quick one (or two...). We've got craft beer pubs, cosy boozers, gin caves, wine bars and cocktail bars for all our drinking needs.
However, tucked away in basements, or hidden behind fake shop facades you'll find some of the capital's quirkier joints. In these, you can sip on drinks in an old tube carriage, find a bar behind a fridge door, be prescribed tonics in a 1920s chemist and even party with Pat Butcher (just don't forget your statement earrings).
To help make things more adventurous, we've rounded up the coolest, most off-the-wall bars London has to offer so you can wet your whistle with the right amount of weird.
Cool & quirky bars in London
A bar on a boat is what you get from the great Alfred Le Roy, a blue barge associated with the ever-popular Crate Brewery. Gather a crew and get all aboard for a cocktail tour of town that journeys through east London’s canal network. Some of the drinks served even contain kombucha brewed by the company. There’s space for around 40 seated shipmates, and when the bar is stationary in the summer months, it’s well worth hopping on for a quick tipple. Aye aye.
Welcome to Bobby Fitzpatrick: a ’70s-themed cocktail bar in West Hampstead that takes nostalgia to new levels. Think natty wallpaper, a stucco ceiling, a vintage playlist and way too much wood. Imagine a shag pad fit for Austin Powers. There’s something weirdly comforting about escaping our decade for the evening and knocking back retro cocktails. Very groovy drinking.
Bunga Bunga is famed for its quirks – from the stairway pastiche of the Sistine Chapel and the vintage mopeds hanging from the ceilings to the sudden parades of dancing girls and the Eurovision-happy karaoke. But what do you expect from a bar named after former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s infamous sex parties. Cocktails are served in novelty vessels, too – from a model of the Leaning Tower of Pisa to a bust of Mario Balotelli.
This disused air-raid shelter has been reinvented as a post-war tube station complete with vintage bric-a-brac, staff enthusiastically in character, and inventive cocktails that nod to rationing. War – what is it good for? Inspiring sunnily nostalgic themed bars, it seems. Don’t miss the envelope at the back of the menu marked ‘Do Not Open’ – it’s full of black market specials served surreptitiously.
This fantasy and sci-fi-inspired pop-up cocktail experience is back for another year for all things magical. In what is truly the most unique cocktail experience in London, ticket holders have the chance to make the impossible happen and brew their own potions with an interactive magic wand.
Venue says Don't miss out on new molecular potions with even more magic in an enchanting forest-Last few weeks available!
This tiny basement bar – a former public convenience – squeezes a lot of gender-bending fun within its walls, including nightly cabaret, burlesque and drag acts. It’s camp, it’s quirky, and it’s not afraid to call one of its cocktails ‘Starbucks must die (although impeach Trump first)’. Or order a snort of snuff, which is sold at the bar in various flavours for £7.50 a pop.
This supposed firm of private investigators is the Robert De Niro of the speakeasy world – it’s so method, you’ll feel like you’re an extra in ‘LA Confidential’. Don’t be fooled – the ‘curious cases’ are all potable… and it’s down to you to solve them. Head along for evenings of suitably retro entertainment, from cabaret and burlesque to ‘Chicago’-style gin and jazz nights.
The sister spot to the ‘detective agency’ housed in what looks like a 1920's chemist but is actually a speakeasy with brilliant and experimental cocktails that you'll want a prescription for. There's also American bar food that'll help keep the sickness at bay.
The clue, as they say, is in the name – this modern café and cocktail bar serves excellent hard drinks that have been doctored, either with health-boosting vitamins and superfoods. Pharmacological paraphernalia abounds, too. Sit up at the bar for banter with the barmen – and the best view of these night nurses preparing customers’ ‘prescriptions’.
Remember when a sesh at the arcades was the best thing you could do with your Friday night? At this London arcade bar, it still can be. Lose yourself to the retro delights of ‘Pac-Man’, ‘Space Invaders’, ‘Street Fighter’, et al. There’s nothing retro about the drinks list, which features loads of local craft beers. Committed gaming geeks should opt for the bottomless filter coffee.
Venue says Situated on Peckham’s bustling Rye Lane, London’s first arcade bar boasts more than 15 original arcade cabs along a selection of craft beers
Everyone loves a dive bar because it means you can get a little sloppy and nothing says sloppy like a, er, former public toilet. Ladies & Gentlemen Camden, the sibling to the original Kentish Town branch, offers a very unique drinking exprience with 12 drinks to choose from on its cocktail menu. If you're feeling suave (despite being in Camden's bogs) order the Paloma, which comes in a fancy glass with some popcorn on the side.
A bar that’s actually dedicated to Pat Butcher. That’s just one of the many quirks you get in the bargain at Little Nan’s Bar in Deptford. The non-stop-fun spot also does leopard print galore, teapots filled with sugary cocktails, royal family memorabolia, pop anthems (and the odd sing-a-long) and sparklers in your cheesy chips. Bow down to Queen Pat.
Compared to its sisters, this Fitzrovia version (somehow) feels a little pared back. Housed in a tall-ceilinged townhouse filled with doily-topped dining tables and with a fixation on the Princess of Wales (as opposed to a more general penchant for the royals), there's even a surprise basement room filled with 1990s memorabilia, including a Mark Owen collage. Cocktails remain splendid, however, and the food is a treat, too.
This is one ‘cool’ (hint hint) speakeasy hidden behind the innocuous-looking Smeg fridge in the Spitalfields branch of all-day diner The Breakfast Club. Once inside, you’re transported to a trapper’s log cabin and plied with quality cocktails pepped up with artisan shrubs and bitters. If you're a rum love, go for ‘The House Above The Clouds’ which is made with Zacapa 23 rum, Wray & Nephew rum and white cacao.
Drinking at a Mr Fogg's bar is more than just drinking – it's an experience. And the latest venture, Mr Fogg's Society of Exploration is no different. Offering a whistlestop tour of the world, the menu is split into different destinations such as the North Pole and the Sahara desert, with drinks inspired by each. Try the Palette of Life, made with gin, Rinomato aperitif and pale ale and served in a (fake) elephant's tusk.
If you’re after a romantic tipple, tiny French bar Tabac is right up your rue. The charming Kentish Town spot will make you feel you’ve been transported to mid-century Paris, with memorabilia, sliding ladders in front of bookshelves and lots and lots of candlelight. Lock eyes with a loved one (or a stranger, no judgment here) over a Lemon Garden, a smooth gin martini with bitters and a sprig of lemon thyme.
Venue says Halloween Party 31st of October! Spooky vibes, fancy dress, special cocktails & DJ from 10pm till 2am. https://www.tabacbar.co.uk/events
‘Why the fuck can’t I have fun all the time?’ asks a sign outside. ‘Well-behaved women don’t make history,’ screams a neon sign at the bottom of the stairs. ‘Wear the pants, boss lady,’ insists the wallpaper. In millennial pink? You bet. This tiny basement bar is plastered in cyber-sayings and meme-material. It’s silly, sassy and utterly shameless. It wants you to be too – and then to post about it on social media. Time to get sassy.
Part pub, part theatrical production, this Waterloo-based boozer is owned by the brains behind The Vaults – and you can tell. The place is littered with humungous props that whisper of onstage antics. There’s espresso martini on tap, draft negronis (from a tap shaped like a miniature barrel) and boozy lychee or Pimm’s slushies. Anyone who can’t decide what cocktail to have will find themselves offered a spin on a ‘Wheel of Fortune’-esque pointer.
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