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Photograph: Addie Chinn

The best bars in Soho

Soho is jam-packed with some of London’s classiest and coolest drinking spots

Sarah Cohen
Written by
Laura Richards
&
Sarah Cohen
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Some of the London’s best bars are in the district known as Soho. Heck, the proliferation of decent drinking spots is why it fills with people every evening. Whether you bar-hop up and down its famous network of streets or just settle in for the duration at one of its legendary drinking dens, you’re guaranteed a brilliant, boozy night out. Head to the heart of the West End to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

RECOMMENDED: Find more fun in the neighbourhood with our area guide to Soho.

The best bars in Soho

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

This smart bar split across two floors is one of the best places to drink in London. That’s thanks to affordable, simple, stand-out aperitivi up top and deliciously dark spirit-based cocktails in a brooding basement down below. There’s something here for everyone – even Irish coffee. If you’re into cocktails, Swift has to be on your London bucket list.

Bar Termini
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

When someone calls two people a ‘dream team’, the hype-detector lights up. But with Bar Termini, the DT moniker seems fitting. Bar Termini does two things: coffee and cocktails. Coffee is overseen by Marco Arrigo, head of quality for Illy, who has probably trained more baristas – and trained them rigorously – than anyone else in the UK. Cocktails are supervised by Tony Conigliaro, the alco-alchemist behind 69 Colebrooke Row and Zetter Town House, among others. Italian aperitivos and nightcaps are done very well indeed.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

This wonderful bar occupies the hallowed ground that began life as Dick’s Bar, when Brasserie Zédel was the Atlantic Bar & Grill and the late, great Dick Bradsell was the man behind the bar. Zédel has installed a great crew, of both bartenders and front of house staff, though. And it’s kept the beautiful art deco fittings and the widely spaced tables, which are a major factor in keeping noise levels down. We love the brevity and simplicity of the cocktail list: just 19 drinks and most of them tried-and-tested classics.

Blind Pig
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

Technically an upstairs adjunct to Jason Atherton’s celebrated Social Eating House, The Blind Pig is a worthy destination in its own right. It’s not immediately obvious how to find it at street level: look under the vintage ‘Optician’ sign for the blindfolded hog doorknocker and boom, you’re in. The decor is authentically retro but never schmaltzy, and creativity with the names on the cocktail menu is employed with abandon: Dill or No Dill, anyone?

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The Mulwray
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

A sharply turned-out cocktail lounge on the edge of Chinatown filled with pastel pink and baby blue. It’s part of The Blue Posts, a revamped pub from the The Palomar and The Barbary restaurant team, and it’s a gorgeous spot for cosseted drinking. The drinks list is seriously on trend: choose from a sherry list, a vermouth list, an alcohol-free section, rum served by the carafe and delicious cocktails galore.

El Camion
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Mexican
  • Soho

The Pink Chihuahua (hidden below El Camion) is Mexican-themed but, unlike the kitsch Baja Californian restaurant above, it’s more a discerning basement drinking den where Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) iconography sits above a series of snugs. It’s a temple to tequila and rum, there’s swift and smiling table service, and it’s open late – what’s not to like?

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

A quirky tube-themed cocktail bar that’s hot with tourists. It’s a little confused about which era it’s portraying, but you’re not really looking for historical accuracy – Cahoots sure isn’t taking itself seriously. You’re allotted two hours of drinking time, so book in advance. Our advice: ask for a seat in the carriage, the best spot in house, and save a trip for when friends visit from out of town. The bar has recently extended to incorporate a ‘ticket hall’ too, so your chances of getting a table – sorry, carriage! – have increased. 

Basement Sate
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho

This Soho nightspot offers a compact list of cocktails, the promise of desserts, and a rota of DJs throughout the week. Half the menu lists ambitious desserts; the other half is a roster of hit-and-miss cocktails. Some are truly exceptional, others less so. Try the Cosa Nostra, an Aperol-based cocktail that swaps out the usual prosecco for a champagne syrup.

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Brewdog
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

There are no great surprises in the styling of this Brewdog, it has the same prison-yard chainlink-and-concrete thing as the other bars. No surprises in the craft beer selection, either – it’s typically great. There’s something for the hesitant lager fan as well as the dedicated explorer of craft beer’s outer reaches. What is surprising at Brewdog Soho, however, is the food. It cements this bar’s position as more than just another post-work beerathon.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho

This new Soho drinking den is so named because it aims to emulate the old, infamous louche Soho culture’ of times past. Devised by the team behind Old Street Records, Venn Street Records in Clapham and Northcote Records in Battersea, it’s definitely ambitious. Housed in an old three-storey townhouse, it has space for 260 punters, two bars serving classic and bespoke cocktails, and two stages for live music and cabaret.

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Experimental Cocktail Club
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 3 of 4

While the 2010s saw wave after wave of bars launch under the ‘Brooklyn Prohibition’ template, Experimental Cocktail Club was one of the OGs. It’s hard to find, sure, perhaps more so than any other speakeasy in London, but inside remains opulent and elegantly aloof to trends. Although no longer as zeitgeisty as it once was, it’s arranged over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse, flatteringly lit and expensively decorated.

Opium
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Chinatown
  • price 2 of 4

Someone’s gone to a lot of trouble to make this Chinatown cocktail bar and dim sum parlour look shabby. The design is Eastern smoking den meets Western hipster hangout, with Chinese vases and burning incense mixed with deep funky beats and retro armchairs straight from granny’s sitting room. Be sure to visit the loo: there are motion-activated lights and the speakers will blast you with terrifyingly loud Mandarin announcements.

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The Vault
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

There is a rather splendid touch in the entrance to this basement bar under Milroy’s whisky specialist – you enter via a hidden door in a fake bookcase. The main cocktail list is heavy on experimentation, and the bartenders’ evident expertise might make it worthwhile dipping in there. Soho’s not short of cocktail bars, but Milroy’s has a bright spark in its underground cavern.

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

Book a table here for date night and things are sure to smoulder (request a space in one of the plush pink booths for extra blushes). The basement bar has a slightly convoluted cocktail menu, but stick with classic Martinis to feel classy as hell in what is mostly a pretty glam setting.

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Rum Kitchen
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho

It’s Caribbean for the loafers-and-gilet set, for sure. With carefully distressed driftwood, the don’t-worry-be-happy slogans on the walls, the fancied-up versions of Caribbean classics on the food menu and the all-rum cocktails. If you’re planning on weighing anchor here for a spot of grog, however, take heed: this Rum Kitchen is more kitchen than rum – the drinking area is small, seating only a few at the bar.

Soho Grind
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Restaurants
  • Coffeeshops
  • Soho

Soho Grind serves coffee by day and caffeine-fuelled cocktails in the basement bar by night. If coffee in your booze isn’t quite your thing, this (trend overload alert) speakeasy-style bar also serves a range of fruity cocktails, straight prosecco, wine and beer. Either way, you’re definitely leaving with a buzz.

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Aqua Spirit
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

It’s quality cocktails in a lacklustre sky-high setting at Aqua Spirit. But it’s a rooftop bar in Soho, so it’s worth knowing about. The roof terraces are set awkwardly at the opposite end of the room to the lift entrance and can only be accessed by sashaying through the slick Japanese restaurant. It’s a shame the terrace doesn’t have the same chic international style as the dark, sexy interior bar, circular in shape and ideal for perching and people watching.

The London Gin Club
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 2 of 4

The Gin Club sells nearly 200 gins, and there are four ways to order it. G&Ts are poured in double measures and start from £8, but breaking the two-digit barrier gets you more unusual gins. Served in whacking great goblets, each gin with a particular brand of tonic, they look fabulous and make a foolproof Friday-night muscle relaxant. For the hardcore curious, there are tasting menus. If this all sounds a bit gin-geeky, don’t be put off. The atmosphere is that of a bar not a lab, all high ceilinged and dimly lit.

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Wun’s Tea Room at Bun House
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars
  • Soho
  • price 3 of 4

If you like your cocktails with a twist, Wun’s Tea Room serves them up in relaxed style underneath Bun House restaurant. Many of the drinks on the list are filled with baijiu, China’s national spirit. Get to know it in the glow of neon and to a soundtrack of ’60s hits straight out of Hong Kong.

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