Monday, 15 December 2014

Accidental Reads: Drink London - 100 best bars and pubs

Without wishing to sound like a raging alcoholic, I have been for a lot of drinks since I've lived in London. The city is stuffed with watering holes; from the hip, hidden speakeasy, staffed by chaps in bowlers and braces, to the quintessentially English pub, full of half-drunk pints and old baize pool tables. Some are short-lived pop-ups, some ever-full hotspots. Plenty have been around for hundreds of years. (I visited several of the city's most ancient hostelries with Charlotte of Best LDN Walks over the summer on her excellent Secrets of London pub tour.)

Of course, everyone has their personal views on drinking spots. Some people like them buzzy and busy, others like a peaceful pint. A familiar favourite can be just what one needs for a cosy weekend drink, but sometimes you fancy somewhere different; a place you can scour an imaginative drinks list for a tasty new tipple. And if you're in need of some alchoholic inspiration, you could do worse than get yourself a copy of Drink London by Euan Ferguson. Published by Frances Lincoln Limited, Ferguson brings the reader 100 handpicked places to drink all over the city.

Drink London even helpfully arranges the city's best drinking for you, categorising bars and pubs into several different chapters; offering something for wine fans, pub lovers, cocktail drinkers, and craft beer aficionados. The intriguingly named 'With A Twist' chapter gathers together the entries for places that aren't your average British pub or bar. Often when you hear about the latest hot bar, or quirky drinking experience in London your next question is 'But what's their gimick? Do I have to sip my pint out of an old tin can or drink in the dark or only drink Malibu-based beverages?'. Fortunately however Ferguson's 'With A Twist' bars are not gimicky. They are just places the author would love other people to appreciate for their unique character. They are eccentrically decorated, hidden away so you might never discover them on your own, or well and truly stuck in a time and culture warp.

There's no hard sell on any of the venues in the book, just a few lovely photos, handy address and contact details (including notes on the nearest tube), and some facts about each place; about the building, the owners, the atmosphere, and of course, the drinks. As a well-seasoned London drinker I spotted plenty of my own favourite spots in the book. (Mostly in the 'Cocktails' chapter...!) Colebroke Row was where the Accidental Boyfriend and I went for our first date, for cocktails in one of the city's first prohibition-era-style bars. Post-work drinks have been drunk in Nightjar, which has a similar vibe to Colebroke Row, but is larger, and situated under ground, alarmingly close to the Old Street roundabout. Callooh Callay in Shoreditch reminds me of Narnia. Inside it looks much like a standard East London bar (although their negroni is definitely above average). But step through the wardrobe against the back wall and you find yourself in a secret bar within a bar. There is even a secret staircase in this second bar, leading up to yet another space. Maybe Narnia isn't quite the right comparison...the place is more like a set of Russian nesting dolls. I mean, nesting bars.

Whilst local boozers are less my preferred drinking style, I was pleased to see one pub near me, the Pineapple in Kentish Town, had made the Drink London cut in the 'Legendary Locals' chapter. It's a sweet little place, with decent beer, always a busy crowd of locals, and a somewhat surprising Thai food menu. Of the 'Craft Beer and Ale' suggestions, I'd visited a couple, although I'd been somewhat underwhelmed by the ambiance within them. Cask in Pimlico, for example, is a great spot for beer fans but don't go taking anyone down there for a romantic evening beneath the walls covered in old beer mats and atop the world's stickiest floor.

The book gave me plenty of inspiration for future celebrations and quiet catch-ups too. I'm rather keen to check out the Clapton Hart, located in a haunted joke shop in Hackney. And I have still yet to sample a cocktail or two at the American Bar at the Savoy. Ooh and Soho's Portobello Star, the only gin museum in London...I've got to give that place a try. Fortunately Drink London also comes with a handy checklist to record one's progress through its pages. I reckon you'll need it after a drink or two...

The perfect Christmas present for the boozy Londoner in your life, Accidental Londoner readers can order Drink London at a discounted price of £7.99 including p&p* (RRP: £9.99).  Call 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG219.

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas 


  1. I will happily join you at the American Bar or Portobello Star! The haunted joke shop sounds a little too scary for me : ) Just off to get some lunch and now feeling a little thirsty...x

    1. Next time you're over I'll have a little riffle through Drink London and see what I can find...! x


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