1. The World’s End, Camden
Allegedly the largest pub in the world, it’s all too easy to get lost on a Friday night into the depths of this Camden haunt, which includes a entire music venue wedged beneath it. It even inspired the name of Simon Pegg’s latest film (*not true).
2. Cellar Door, Aldwych
Easy to miss, this is a converted Victorian loo, with lounge singers, cabaret and drag acts. Snuff also available (snorting straw available on request).
3. Vinopolis, London Bridge
Since its refurbishment in 2012, Vinopolis has become the best London destination for wine. Partially for the spectacular surroundings, but mainly for the wine robots. All the serving is electronic, and if there was ever a reason to be glad it’s the 21st century, it’s automated alcohol delivery.
4. Boundary, Shoreditch
Want to drink outside, but the weather causing problems? The Boundary has a waterproof canopy to solve all your issues. Also provides some excellent drinks.
5. The Jerusalem Tavern, Farringdon
A classic pub – great beer, cheap beer, with tables stacked in corners and up steps, and a pavement covered in well-meaning patrons. There aren’t many places with a smaller bar and as many friendly barstaff.
6. Ping, Earl’s Court
Admittedly, Boris Johnson would have it called Wiff, which may be a better name, but the truth is ping-pong can make for a really fun night. Including an original table from the Olympic Games alongside dozens of others, great fun can be had playing, drinking, or lobbing loose balls at any over-enthusiastic players at this location.
7. Craft Beer Company, Clerkenwell
This one’s all about the beer. 37 on tap, and dozens more available, the best strategy is to pick the best name, and worry about the rest later. Old Brown Dog Ale? Molotov Cocktail? Wet Dream? All an option, and now with locations in Clerkenwell, Brixton and Islington.
8. Booking Office, St. Pancras Station
Pictures don’t do it justice. Soaring ceilings and epic arches make this an architects dream.
9. Quinn’s, Kentish Town
More for the traditionalists, this one. Having been in the Quinn family for decades, original owners Mr. & Mrs. Quinn still man the bar. It was the only pub in North London open during the 2012 riots, ably protected with a rounders bat and raw enthusiasm. With its rapidly rotating cast of barstaff and a mainly mysterious beer selection, the only constant is the ancient decor (circa 1991), and very tall tales (son Kevin Quinn has a close relationship with the Nepalese Royal Family, apparently).
10. The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town, Spitalfields
Not heard of this one? Surprising, since it’s the best known ‘secret’ bar in the city. Accessible through a fridge in the cafe upstairs, it actually makes a great cocktail, and is definitely worth sneaking into.
11. Whirled Cinema, Camberwell
Technically, a cinema, but it’s cool enough that we’ll overlook that, since you can drink there. Situated in under the railway arches between a boxing gym and a mechanics, and only accessible with an Oyster card for some reason, this is one for the locals. Seek it out and be rewarded with a unique film viewing experience. And a drink from it’s resident mixologist, of course.
12. Bar Kick, Shoreditch/Cafe Kick, Clerkenwell
Yes, it’s a bar dedicated to Table Football. Yes, it’s covered in flags from obscure European football teams. Yes, its clientele is mainly Italian and/or drunk. But add in some surprisingly diverse beer options, and two different locations, and there are worse ways to spend an evening.
13. Portside Parlour, Hackney
Rum pop-up only accessible through a toilet. But don’t all the best nights start with you leading someone into a toilet?
14. Doodle Bar, Battersea
Ever fancied a doodle while you drink? No? We’ve got you covered anyway. Come for the quality organic wine, stay for the drawing, return to find out that the whole place looks different the next day.
15. Mes Amis, Hammersmith
Another hard to find location, the decor is a wondrous clash of everything. Stuffed toys, teapots, masks and lanterns crowd the surfaces, a jungle made by the slow accumulation of stuff. Everyone seems to know each other, and the Lebanese food and drink is mouth-watering.
16. Happiness Forgets, Hoxton
‘High end cocktails, low rent basement’ runs the tagline, and it’s pretty accurate. The light might be too low to read the menu, but the bar doesn’t seem to close, so stick with it for a great night.
17. Euston Tap, Right Outside Euston Station
If you’re ever travelling from Euston station, get there 40 minutes early and try a pub from the days when travel was a luxury. Two tiny stone buildings with dozens of drinks, including specialist ciders and mead, and a wrought iron staircase to the upper balcony. Just don’t miss your train.
18. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street
Historically frequented by Mark Twain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens, (even mentioned to in A Tale Of Two Cities) the pub has been on its current spot since 1538, with the exception of the occasional Great Fire of London. Previously used as a brothel (probably), with a basement built from an old monastery, the current brewery ties also mean it has some of the cheapest pints in London.
19. Jamboree, Limehouse
Miraculously, this bar still exists, thanks to protracted legal battles fought to save it. Located in an old sweet factory now occupied by artists and activists, the atmosphere is somewhere between French Resistance hideout and cabaret club. If you get bored of it’s live music experimentations (West Coast Dark Psych-folk anyone?), there’s always a club across the courtyard.
20. Vertigo 42, Bank
Possibly the best view from a bar in London, but you’ll have to pay for it. Make a reservation, get through security and wend your way up the tower to a 360 degree panorama over the city, while enjoying some highly priced champagne. Worth it, just.