With thousands of watering holes in London, you should never settle for a bar that’s simply ordinary. Even a casual after-work drink can become a night to remember at the right spot – and it’s especially exciting to go somewhere quirky and characterful for a first date, or when seeing friends after a long time […]
With thousands of watering holes in London, you should never settle for a bar that’s simply ordinary. Even a casual after-work drink can become a night to remember at the right spot – and it’s especially exciting to go somewhere quirky and characterful for a first date, or when seeing friends after a long time apart.
Although they may seem elusive, many of London’s most unique and unusual cocktail bars sit right alongside its biggest pubs; it’s just a matter of knowing where to look! That’s why we’ve put together this list of the ten best quirky bars in London, so you can experience the magic (and the cocktails) for yourself.
The Little Orange Door, Clapham
If you love a house party but don’t fancy the planning that comes with it, take your pals to The Little Orange Door. Newcomers are always welcome at this South London bar, which masquerades as an ultra-cool flat! In addition to evening house parties hosted by the resident DJ, there’s also bottomless brunch, Thursday supperclub and Aperol Spritz happy hour from Tuesday to Friday. You’ll find activities ranging from poetry readings to celebratory shots, and a sun-soaked terrace where you can linger as the day fades into night. Once you’ve danced your worries away, just head on home… without worrying about the ensuing cleanup. Heavenly!
Laki Kane, Islington
Dreaming of a tropical escape? Skip the long-haul flights and try Laki Kane, where you can unwind in a decadent tropical paradise. This atmospheric tiki bar incorporates not only Caribbean, but also Indonesian, Polynesian, and Thai culture. Upstairs you’ll find the Beach Room, where you can dine in style under the fronds of palm trees, and the Distillery, where you can try your hand at rum-making or a tropical cocktail masterclass. There’s also a mouth-watering Pan-Asian menu, best enjoyed with bottomless cocktails at a Spirit of Tiki brunch – though you also can’t go wrong with Laki Kane’s nighttime entertainment of fire dancers, magicians and stunning burlesque performers.
Swingers, City of London
Classy surroundings, exciting crazy golf, gourmet street food and luxury cocktails: what’s not to love about Swingers? With its elegant 1920s British theme and Gatsby-esque decorations, this crazy golf venue is sure to give your afternoon or evening a memorable aesthetic. And whether you’re looking to lounge and sip specialty drinks – like the “Fairway to Heaven,” made of Chase Pink grapefruit gin and apricot brandy – or get moving on the crazy golf course, you’ll find something for everyone at Swingers City. There are two magnificent courses, five street food vendors and four enchanting cocktail bars. If you’re going on a date, catching up with friends or entertaining family, Swingers is the place to be.
We’ve all lost track of time in a pub before, but for a truly immersive experience, lock yourself up in Shoreditch’s Alcotraz (a portmanteau of “alcohol” and “Alcatraz” – get it?). Don’t worry, you won’t have to commit a crime to get into this prison-themed cocktail-making experience. You will, however, want to conspire with the guards and other felons in order to smuggle in your supply of booze (that’s right, it’s BYOB). From the moment you don your prison jumpsuit, you’ll forget all about freedom and have a fantastic time as an Alcotraz inmate, sneaking around and making secret cocktails at this cleverly themed “bar behind bars.”
Four Thieves, Battersea
Though it sounds like a similarly illicit spot, Four Thieves puts a modern spin on the classic cocktail bar by offering up arcade games, miniature track racing, and even virtual reality experiences. (Seriously, your tech-loving friends are likely to adopt it as a second home!) Glowing with neon lights and screens, the arcade is the perfect setting for an adrenaline-fuelled night. You can race with friends on the exhilarating Moonshine Raceway, try a VR booth, attempt some Gopher Racing golf and play on retro arcade machines. And if you’re able to tear yourself away from the games, there’s a great bar downstairs with craft beers, artisanal gins, pub grub and Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
Tucked away beneath Soho’s Kingly Court, an abandoned underground station has been breathtakingly transformed into a vintage speakeasy. This train-themed bar is decked out with classic, distinctively patterned tube seats and a staff in all 1940s attire. You can order brilliantly original cocktails, like the tequila-and-wasabi “Enemy of the State” or the surprisingly sweet “Winston Churchill,” and enjoy tasty bar snacks if you’re feeling peckish. Don’t miss live music on the weekends or monthly swing dance lessons in the Control Room – and if you do attend on a special occasion, make sure you’re smartly dressed in your own 40s gear.
Moonshine Saloon, Aldgate
The Wild West has come to London, and you can grab it by the horns at the Moonshine Saloon! In this immersive experience, you’ll discover a secret bootlegging operation, try out “illegally” smuggled liquor and watch as the story unfolds around you. Bandits have been known to pass through, so you’ll get your own cowboy hat and clothes to blend in with the locals – and can even choose your own character, like the Deputy Sheriff of the Brothel Keeper, to really get into the Wild West spirit. There’s also dice and card games to keep you entertained, and of course, bespoke cocktails to keep you liquored up. Just don’t turn your back on anyone drinking whisky and glowering from beneath a ten-gallon hat.
Four Quarters, Peckham
Four Quarters has a plethora of classic arcade machines that will make any gamer’s day, not to mention provide hours of enjoyment for the rest of us! Here you’ll find everything from Pac-Man and Tekken to Crazy Taxi and Point Blank – meaning there are plenty of options, whether you’re playing by yourself or with a group. And while some will be thrilled by the games alone, there are also some very creative house cocktails available. These include the delightfully purple Donatello, the fruity Rainbow Road and Donkey Kong’s Tropical Punch. Watch out for this last one in particular; like a banana peel in Mario Kart, it’ll leave you spinning if you’re not careful!
Callooh Callay, Shoreditch
This splendid bar is a veritable wonderland for cocktail lovers. Step inside and you’ll find a curious layout, with three low-lit lounges decked out in chic period colours and furnishings. Be adventurous and try a new cocktail or two – whatever your tastes, there will surely be something to excite you at the well-stocked bar. You won’t be disappointed with any of the peculiar yet delectable creations mixed by their expert staff! And if you’ve been staring at the menu too long, opt for “2 Truths and a Lie” – our personal favourite, made with citrus liqueur, pineapple juice and champagne.
Evans and Peel, Earl’s Court
We’ll end with a bang (and on a whodunnit): the Evans and Peel Detective Agency is a prohibition-themed speakeasy with a twist. Once you’ve come through the discreet main door, you’ll meet the detective assigned to your top-secret case. You’ll then be allowed to enter a low-lit underground bar, where you’ll sip beer in brown paper bags and try gangster-themed cocktails prepared by vigilant bartenders. As you absorb the authentic speakeasy setting, complete with candles and quirky props, your detective will scour the room for clues. By the end of the evening, you’ll have cracked the case once and for all – the case of the best detective bar in London, that is.
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