The best bars in Soho
This Greek Street wine and cocktail bar is a three-way project between experienced bar professionals, two from the cocktail side of things and one from the wine side. The ground floor is a wine bar, with a globetrotting list available by the glass, carafe or bottle. Unusual cocktails happen on the first floor, in a lovely warren of darkly lit rooms offering an assortment of seating options.
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.
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, both behind the bar and front of house, though. And they’ve kept the beautiful art deco decor and the widely spaced tables, which are a major factor in keeping noise levels down even when the place is full. We love the brevity and simplicity of the cocktail list: just 18 drinks and most of them tried and tested classics.
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.
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. Order the exceptional l’Entrée des Artistes, a milk-based rum and sherry cocktail infused with salted caramel and bitter notes of coffee.
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 puns are employed with abandon on the cocktail menu: Slap ’n’ Pickle, Kindergarten Cup or Robin Hood, Quince of Thieves, anyone?
There are no great surprises in the styling of this latest 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, was the food. It cements this bar’s position as more than just another post-work beerathon.
A quirky tube-themed cocktail bar that’s hot with tourists. It’s a little confused about what 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.
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.
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?
Venue says The fresh Mexican grill that brings a little bit of Baja California to London. Why not check out our secret basement bar The Pink Chihuahua?
As bar after bar opens using the rather tired ‘Brooklyn Prohibition’ template, Experimental Cocktail Club seems ever more original – it’s hard to find, sure, perhaps more so than any other ‘speakeasy’ in London, but inside remains opulent and elegantly aloof to trends. It’s arranged over three floors of an old Chinatown townhouse, flatteringly lit and expensively decorated.
Historic Soho hangout Kettner’s now falls under the wing of the Soho House group, but they’ve been sensitive in their renovations. In the champagne bar in particular you get a real sense of the glamour that once attracted the likes of Oscar Wilde through the door. Surprisingly, you can get a cheap glass of fizz here too, if you time your visit between 5pm and 7pm. A glass of blanc de noirs will cost you £7 – we’ll drink to that.
Light features prominently in the decor, with sparkly chandeliers reflected on lots of glass; it looks a little disco-like. There’s also something retro about the revealingly dressed cocktail waitresses, who are smiling and enthusiastic about their work. There is glorious daylight if you go early evening, at least in summer. Bag a window seat, especially at the corner of the room where Newport Place meets Lisle Street.
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.
The basement at Hix Soho is consistently busy in the evening. And we understand why: this is a first-rate bar in nearly every respect. The historical drinks are both interesting and good, especially those in the Cocktail Explorer’s Club list; rum drinkers should make a beeline for the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club: Mount Gay Barbados rum with orange curacao, Mark’s own falernum and lime juice. The selection of scotch would take several months to drink through.
This, the urban myth has it, has long been one the best bars for cocktails in London. It might well be, but it’s hard to tell unless you have night vision like an owl – the lighting is turned down so low you’ll need to borrow a candle to read the drink list, let alone see your drink, and you may not even recognise your drinking companions across the table. And then there’s the difficulty of getting in. But still, it's one for the London bucket list.
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.
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.
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.
Gin infusions are what’s on the menu at the ground floor of Six Storeys. The so-called Lobby Bar serves them in martinis, but you’re best off sticking to G&Ts for the best bang for your buck. Just maybe give the venison and truffle gin a swerve in favour of a more classic rosemary or lavender infusion.
Soho Grind serves coffee by day and caffeine fuelled-cocktails in the basement bar by night. This (trend overload alert) speakeasy-style bar also serves straight prosecco, wine and beer. Either way you’re definitely leaving with a buzz.
This smart bar split across two floors picked up Time Out’s prize for the best new bar in 2017. That’s thanks to affordable, simple, stand-out aperitivi up top and deliciously dark spirit-based cocktails in a brooding basement down below. If you’re into cocktails, Swift has to be on your London bucket list.
If you like your cocktails with an oriental twist, The 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.
There is a rather splendid touch in the entrance to this basement bar under Milroy’s whiskey specialist – you enter via a ‘hidden’ door in a fake bookcase. The main cocktail list is heavy on experimentation, and the bartender’s evident expertise might make it worthwhile dipping in there. Soho’s not short of cocktail bars, but Milroy’s has lit a bright new spark in its underground cavern.
Venue says The Vault serves up unpretentious, original and unforgettable cocktails in a welcoming basement bar hidden under the streets of Soho.
This wine bar is definitely committed to the grape but that doesn’t mean it’s stuffy. Vinoteca offers 25 wines by the glass, 300 by the bottle, all available to take away. The on-tap prosecco is particularly popular with the after-work crowd who cram in to the informal ground-floor bar; charmingly yet sparingly decorated, with bare brick walls and huge old French advertising posters. Just bear in mind you'll have to order food with your tipples at peak drinking times.