I’m flying to New Zealand ! : ) My flight is from London. What a good opportunity to catch up with my local friends. Today I would like to suggest a few locations for a drink in London.
One of my favorite places for a drink is Aqua Shard in the skyscraper The Shard (also referred to as the Shard of Glass). It is situated in London Bridge, Southwark (near my old apartment by the way) and it’s the tallest building in London and one of the tallest buildings in Europe. It opened to the public in 2013 (just before I moved to London in January 2014).
I love breathtaking views from ‚somewhere high’ and since my motto is ‚why pay for the observation deck when I can go to the bar just underneath and have a drink PLUS the view’, I quickly discovered the Aqua Shard. It’s a bit fancy and it has a dress code but it’s also the perfect place to relax after a long and stressful London working day. Cocktails can be a bit expensive but wine, coffee and juices are the same price as ‚down on the street’. Try to avoid entrance just after working hours if you don’t want to queue.
Duck and Waffle is also worth mentioning when speaking of fancy. Located atop a 40-storey skyscraper near Liverpool Street it’s the highest restaurant in the UK. A glass lift brings you to a modern restaurant with innovative cuisine serving British and European dishes 24/7! The signature dish is, as the name of the place lets you guess – the Duck & Waffle – a crispy duck leg confit served with a fried duck egg on a waffle topped with mustard maple syrup. Strange but yummy! Also worth trying is the foie gras crème brûlée! Fantastic! They also serve champagne cocktails – something I personally LOVE. I went there for the late night experience and admired the view of London by night through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Attention, no sport shoes!
If you like quirky bars and if you are a cocktail connoisseur you should go to Lounge Bohemia in Shoreditch. You step from the street into the basement and find yourself in Prague in 1970s.
It’s a laid-back cocktail bar with friendly staff, no dress code and an amazing selection of creative cocktails. The decor of the bar is a bit kitsch, living room-style with sofas and paper lamps. Very cosy though.
The names of the cocktails are ‚under the sea’, ‚into the woods’, ‚queen of hearts’, ‚snow white’, ‚purple brain’ etc. They all come in an unusual presentation and with their own story. It was a nice surprise when the cool waitress came with my drink and started to tell me a poem. I felt a bit awkward until I realized that EVERY cocktails comes with a poem or a little story. My company and I had 4 cocktails that night – all of them very yummy, the presentation was stunning and the girl serving them was an actress! A bonus was that we saw Jonathan Ross, an English television and radio presenter (‘Friday Night with Jonathan Ross’) in the bar – apparently a frequent guest.
Maybe you like something hidden, with a little bit of mystery? Then I recommend The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. One night my friends took me to a ‚random’ bar/restaurant – the Breakfast Club.
I was wondering why we were there since we already had dinner and we opted for some cocktails. Breakfast Club is ok but it’s not a place you would go for a cocktail. Since I was engaged in a conversation with a friend I didn’t notice the secret atmosphere around us. Initially I had the feeling as if we were waiting for something but since nothing happened for a while I just continued with my conversation and was pretty surprised when someone came up to us, saying ‚you can go in now’. Huh?! Go in where? We stand up and there in front of my eyes the Smeg fridge opens and we go inside! (I knew I saw someone going in there where we arrived but I thought I was just drunk;)). We went down the stairs and found ourselves in a tiny, dimly lit basement bar. How quirky is that ?! I also liked the cocktails there. I had some delicious whisky-bubbles creations. Very nice!
Let’s not forget the typical British pubs of course!
Once in London you should definitely go one of the historic pubs for ‚the English experience’. London has plenty of centuries-old places to offer where the walls can tell you stories from the Victorian times or even from the time before Shakespeare, while you are sipping on your pint.
Here is a small selection of the pubs in the heart of London:
The French House is a pub in Soho, held in a Gallic style. There is no TV and mobile phones are not allowed. It was used as a meeting place for members of the French Resistance, including General de Gaulle during the Second World War. Later, its bohemian clientele included journalist Jeffrey Bernard and Suggs (Madness singer).
The Star Tavern, built in the early 19th century. A lovely and welcoming place in Balgravia with a good selection of Fuller’s beers. A pub with history and prominent guests over the 19th and 20th century, such as Peter O’Toole, Diana Dors, Alexander Korda and Bruce Reynolds.
The Viaduct Tavern is the last surviving Victorian gin palace in London. The pub opened the same year (1869) as the nearby viaduct. The interior is elegant and rich in glass panels, wooden carvings, paintings and portraits. Its beer cellars are supposedly former cells of a prison which once stood nearby.
The Nag’s Head – a little pub in Knightsbridge where you feel like you are in a different world with its assembly of portraits, bric-à-brac and curiosities. No mobile phones are allowed here. You feel in here like you sat in a time machine and went back in time to sit in a public house centuries ago.
The Grenadier is a cosy pub since 1818 but the building dates even from 1720. It was originally used as an officer’s mess for the Foot Guards regiment. Apparently the Duke of Wellington used to frequent the pub and also Madonna liked to come here for a post-gig celebration. People say the Grenadier is haunted by the ghost of a former soldier who was murdered after cheating in a game of cards. Huhuuuuu.
The Lamb and Flag is a traditional Georgian pub in Covent Garden and was once known for bare-knuckle fights. The pub is a former haunt of Charles Dickens and also the 17th-century poet John Dryden used to come here for his refreshments. A very charming traditional place.
Also The Grapes and The Mayflower are with mentioning although a bit outside of the city center. The Grapes (formerly ‘The Bunch of Grapes’) is situated in Limeshouse. This pub dates from 1583. It was formerly a working-class tavern serving the dockers of the Limehouse Basin. It was known by Samuel Pepys, and by Dickens. The opening of Dickens’s ‚Our Mutual Friend’ is supposedly based on it:
A tavern of dropsical appearance… long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.
Lovely atmosphere, view of the Thames and a Sunday roast. That’s the Grapes of today.
The Mayflower is also situated on the South Bank of the river, in Rotherhithe. Very old pub which was a stopping point for the pilgrim fathers as they emigrated to America. You can enjoy a cheese platter and a glass of red overlooking the Thames. I love it there!
The last two I discovered when staying with my boyfriend in his place near Canary Wharf. Speaking of which – Canary Wharf also offers a lot of opportunities for a refreshing drink. Boisdale for example – a Scottish restaurant / bar serving whisky and oysters, with a cigar terrace and nightly live music, or The Gun – a gastro pub with a chimney and modern British cuisine served in an elegant, white linen dining room overlooking the river and the O2 (also good for Sunday Roast).
Last but not least to mention are the bars (also also restaurants) on Bermondsey Street, my favorite Street in London. I used to live for a while on Bermondsey Square between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, at the bottom of Bermondsey Street. This street was my every day walk to reach the London Bridge underground station and/or the south riverside. Shortly after arriving to London I walked down the street for the first time on a sunny Saturday afternoon when looking for flats and straight away fell in love with the vibe there. Art galleries, bars, restaurants, cafes, a fashion museum, a little park, cute little boutiques, an independent cinema, an unconventional yoga place (you practice your asanas between the hand made ‘treasures’ of an arty little boutique), a little old graveyard with a bakery in the former mortuary (or is it only my imagination?!)… I knew instantly I wanted to live there. Luckily the flat I was about to visit was available (and nice) and soon after I moved in (ok it was a bit overpriced but what isn’t in London?). I loved that area! Especially when I discovered that there was an antiques market on ‚my square’ every Friday!
Anyway, back to the bars on Bermondsey…
I like Village East – cool environment with ‚industrial’ decor and good cocktails.
Also nice is The Woolpack – a quirky bar with artsy decor (tiling and ceiling) and a beer garden.
214 Bermondsey is an underground gin and cocktails bar with a relaxed atmosphere.
Hmmm, what else is there?
The Hide – a warehouse cocktail bar with a large selection of yummy cocktails and Simon The Tanner – a nice pub with live piano music.
If you get hungry there are all kinds of good restaurants to your left and to your right:
José – a Spanish tapas bar (created by José Pizarro, formerly co-founder and head chef of Brindisa), Casse-Croûte – a French bistro with traditional red-checked tablecloths and menu of French classics such as Coq au vin. There is Antico – traditional Italian comfort food, Pizarro – Spanish dining (by the very same José Pizarro mentioned above)… And last but not least my favourite: The Garrison – a lovely gastropub with exposed brick walls, vintage chic fittings and delicious food.
Also a personal tip: B Street Deli – a cute little deli with fine food and and nice atmosphere. Basically an épicerie and also a casual wine bar. It used to be a flower shop so additionally to the food you can also grab a cute little flower arrangement. The best way to enjoy the Deli is to sit on a bar stool, have a glass of wine with some antipasti and a little chat with the guys behind the counter. I went there once with a girlfriend after our yoga class; it was late in the evening and since they were closing soon and we had a friendly chat with the staff they ended up serving us little canapés for free (better then throwing them away right? Makes the client happy! :))
If you’re just looking for a coffee, go to Fuckoffee (or actually F*ckoffee, since they had to change their name after receiving a letter from their landlord’s lawyers to remove the ‚offensive sign’). A colourful cafe with creative lamps, funny wall papers and comfy sofas. Nice vibe and an extensive menu of organic coffee and cake. A typical London coffee place when you can wear and do what you want and no one cares! The only thing that matters is only that you enjoy your coffee!