The five most unusual places in London to enjoy a great cocktail
Rejoice, cocktail fans. 13th May is World Cocktail Day and it’s time to celebrate. There’s a lot to be said for enjoying the classics – is there anything better than a perfectly-crafted martini? – but Cocktail Day comes only once a year, so it might be time to bust out of your comfort zone. From lavatory-themed bars to molecular gastronomy, here are the weirdest and most wonderful bars in London for something a little different.
This Breaking Bad-themed bar started off life as a pop-up and has now come to rest in an RV tucked away just off the Hackney Road. £30 will get you two hours of immersive experimenting with test tubes, potions and equipment last seen in your school’s chemistry lab, including a welcome cocktail and two drinks you can “cook” yourself. The attention to detail is mind-blowing (you even get your own hazmat suit), as is the riotous hip-hop soundtrack.
To book a table at ABQ, 455 Hackney Road London E2 9DY, call 0203 4881 678 or visit here.
Just off the hustle and bustle of Regent Street you can find this sprawling 18th-century townhouse, which really has something for everyone. The main space inside is a sumptuous pink tea room and restaurant serving chi-chi French food, with a second life as a cocktail bar in the evenings. Truly weird, though, is the bar in the back room, which gives off the vibe of having just landed from another planet. It’s shiny, white and plastic, with some seriously quirky cocktails and – best of all – toilets that look like alien eggs.
To book a table at Sketch, 9 Conduit Street London W1S 2XG, call 0207 659 4500 or visit here.
Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
This Spitalfields bar is entered via a Smeg fridge at the back of The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane. In terms of secret speakeasy entrances, it doesn’t get much better than that. Once you’ve emerged into the dim basement beyond, the pleasant sense of having found a secret hideaway will only be enhanced by an inventive series of cocktails with slightly suggestive names – Creamy Nuts, anyone?
To book at table at Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, 12-16 Artillery Lane London E1 7LS, call 020 7078 9639 or visit here.
Ladies and Gentlemen
This underground bar has been at the forefront of Kentish Town’s nightlife revival, and it’s revived something else as well: the neighbourhood’s long-disused public toilet. It’s a tiny venue, unsurprisingly, but it works well and the lavatory theme has been deployed just enough to be amusing rather than gimmicky. Ladies and Gents uses local ingredients as much as possible, and they even distill their own Highwayman Gin on site.
To book a table at Ladies and Gentlemen, 2 Highgate Road London NW5 1NR, visit here.
If you really like a challenge when you’re trying to get into a cocktail bar (Smeg fridges not enough for you?), Cahoots in Kingly Court is happy to oblige. This bar has a pretty elaborate theme – Blitz party in a tube station – and there’s a 1940s-style train station attendant in residence at the entrance who has to phone down to the bar below in order to let you in. The commitment to the theme is seriously impressive, and the drinks are both original and exquisitely crafted. The Cockney rhyming slang lessons in the loos are slightly alarming, but it’s all jolly good fun nonetheless.
To book a table at Cahoots, 13 Kingly Court Carnaby London W1B 5PW, call 020 7352 6200 or visit here.
Pollen Room pop-up at Perilla
Yes, we said five, but this is an article about oddity too so – surprise – we added a sixth entry. Wild flowers and greenery spill from the ceiling and walls give the effect of stepping into a herbalist’s cottage. Between this setting and the blossoms perching in your drinks, you may feel like you’ve wandered out of North London and onto a windswept patch of the South Downs, and that’s no bad thing in our book. Anya Montague’s herbalist roots and foraging skills come out in all the drinks, which are named for its most prominent ingredient, and a great place to start is with the delicately crafted aperitif Elderflower, designed to be served with seaweed bread and wild garlic butter. St Germain elderflower liqueur and brut cava are added to Lillet Blanc infused (via a sous-vide) with seasonal rhubarb, cherry blossom, pear blossom and rose blossom.
Pollen Room is at Perilla, 1-3 Green Lanes Mildmay Ward London N16 9BS, until 14th May 2017, for further information call 0207 359 0779 or visit here. Read our review here. Read our interview with Anya Montague here.