Whether you want a riotous night with the Royals, White Russians with the Wags, or a secret speakeasy experience, there's a perfect style bar somewhere in London. It's often a good idea to phone in advance and check on the door policy before you arrive, and even then be prepared to be disappointed - London's style bars thrive on turning away punters, making those inside feel even more fashionable and exclusive.
Finding a stylish cocktail bar that stands out in the West End is surprisingly hard given the reputation it enjoys for thumping nightlife. Leave it to the people behind Shoreditch success stories Loungelover and Les Trois Garcons to step up to the mark. Hassan Abdullah, Michel Lasserre and Stefan Karison bring their distinctive, dressy decor and chandeliers to this central restaurant and cocktail bar. The food is modern European with a Japanese twist but it's the perfectly mixed cocktails that really impress. Wasabi Kiss, which tastes better than it sounds, is an unusual mix of wasabi, basil, and fresh kiwi with vodka, coconut rum and Drambuie. The signature Loungelover comes in an elegant champagne flute and is based on a fig liqueur with vanilla and lemon and topped with Prosecco.
Enjoy dominoes and daiquris on Mondays from 5pm or sax on Saturday nights from 8pm at one of London's most glamourous hotel cocktail bars. When the landmark Langham celebrated its 140th anniversary in 2007 it was in the middle of a £50 million David Collins-design facelift. The Artesian kept its name but emerged more splendid and opulent than before. Where else would get such splendid idocies as "energised ice" that's "purer, colder and denser than regular ice" or water taken from a thousand metres below an extinct volcano in New Zealand?
The Connaught Hotel's Coburg Bar has been superbly updated, the handiwork of Parisian-based designer, India Mahdavi. Wood -anelled interiors and antique pieces are counterbalanced by modern art works by Julian Opie, plush velvet and leather seats and geometric print carpet. Cocktails at £12 are expertly made - an apple Martini uses the hotel's home-marinated cinnamon, pear and apple liqueur. No wonder this bar was voted the 'Best Bar in London' by Time Out in 2008. Film stars Sharon Stone and Lauren Bacall are among the celebrities who have sampled the Connaught's delights and its traditional Mayfair grandeur continues to charm in a way that's absolutely up-to-date.
The potent Daiquiri cocktails are the essential menu item in this impossibly chic Cuban-themed bar and restaurant. This dark basement is London's greatest tribute to Havanan style and culture. The waitresses, all backless dresses and big hair, set the tone from the start. Live music is played with Cuban bands taking centre stage and ensuring the dance floor fills up faster and more energetically than in most London style bars. With branches in Madrid, Moscow, Havana and London, Floridita is a thoroughly international enterprise, and it shows in faultless food, decor and drinks.
Between the Victorian elegance of
For a little refinement and an expensive tipple, the Sanderson hotel's Long Bar and Courtyard Garden is a very exclusive sanctuary. The courtyard is something of an urban oasis; modelled on a Japanese garden, it is crammed with colourful mosaics, Oriental flowers and streaming fountains. In the evenings the tiny little night-lights shine out from beneath the undergrowth. The Long Bar is hugely chic but is still one of the more accessible of London's many flashy bars. Inside, it's sleek, modern, starkly white, and - as you'd expect from the name - possesses one of London's longest bars, some 80-feet in length. Posh punters perch on eye-stencilled bar stools to see and be seen. Providing you're dressed to kill, you'll find the staff and clientele a little less aloof than in London's other high-brow establishments. The bar serves all manner of Martinis and champagne cocktails, including some outstanding house specials.
Final proof that London's nightlife was no longer led from the centre of town comes from the location of this extraordinary concept bar just off the Portobello Road. The design, from architects Fusion, is strictly sci-fi, but no movie ever looked as good as this, with great curves of silver sculpture and aged bronze bubbles studding the walls. On other floors, bright furs and rich carpets add to the impression that you've strayed into a set from Flash Gordon. The cocktails are magnificent and the food is also fantastic (though it comes in minute quantities). Service is impressively efficient - in spite of a loony layout that sees every item of food carried perilously across the dancefloor. The Lonsdale is also surprisingly laid-back for such a showy venue. There are plenty of beautiful people, there to see and be seen, but the fashions on display are cheerfully eccentric, and the busy seating layout is well designed to push people together and create an air of easy conviviality.
Due mainly to its unassuming location, this decadent, eccentrically styled bar has kept a reasonably low profile over the years. Functioning at one time as a meat-packing factory the building now functions purely as a late night fun factory for Brick Lane's party-loving fashion set. Opulence is the buzzword here - blood red drapes reflected in gilt mirrors and flaming torches surround antique Swedish and French furniture overhung with sparkling chandeliers. It's split up into different sections, each with its own unique style, and there's fun to be had moving from one to the other as the mood takes you: rustic, Baroque or day-glo, the choice is yours. Guests are expected to glam up to match the surroundings. Needless to say, the cocktails here are excellent, if pricey. The surreal artwork on display - including an eccentric collection of dolls' house memorabilia - takes on an even more disturbing aspect after a couple of vodka Martinis. If you're lucky enough to make it into the exclusive gated Private Room a camp collection of clutch purses and handbags awaits you. This is heaven for the glam at heart.
A favourite with young royals - Princes Harry and William, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie have been spotted here... all at the same time. And where the royals go the celebs follow and you're likely to see a few of them here too. Scarlett Johansson and Paris Hilton are among the A-listers who've dropped by when in town. Despite its popularity and ensuing publicity the door policy is really relaxed, there are no guest lists and the Polynesian vibe is chilled-out with Tahiti-inspired tropical cocktails. The Pina Coladas come served in frozen pineapples and the Coconut Bomb in a real coconut. If you're feeling like a party try the infamous treasure chest (a heady mix underscored by a litre of vodka and costing £100 a pop). It's a steep £800 for a table but you're better off just turning up - get there early and you don't need to book. Piers Adam and Nick House certainly know how to run nightclubs. Recommended.
With no number on its door, no name emblazoned outside, a ring-before-you-arrive guest policy, an underground location and some rather interesting house rules, this bar oozes mystery. Designed in the manner of a prohibition-era speakeasy, the land of milk and honey is, more accurately, overflowing with gin swizzles and champagne cocktails. The rules - no name dropping, no shouting, gentlemen will not introduce themselves to ladies - are only sporadically enforced, but they add to the general sense of sophistication. Clearly the less than inspired food menu is not putting off the rail thin ladies who typify the female Milk & Honey regulars - after all, a liquid supper suits them just fine. Access to non-members is by reservation only until 11pm. For members and their guests the bar is open until 3am six nights a week.
Roka's dimly lit, stylish basement bar is more seductive than the glass and metal restaurant upstairs and serves the same world class Japanese menu. Dark woods, giant barrels, candles and pottery create a chic modern take on rustic Japanese simplicity, with low couches for diners and plenty of pillows to prop yourself up on if you eat too much. What's more, the Shochu Lounge offers a selection of Eastern and Western liquors that are combined in an impressively unusual cocktail menu. The house speciality Martinis are a good way to kick things off - or perhaps a shot of 'Hard Wood' Shochu tonic, laced with the natural aphrodisiac Bois Bande.
Laid out over two floors, on the former site of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Sketch complex comprises two critically acclaimed restaurants, an art gallery, a salon de thé and two spectacular bars. It also features London's most talked-about toilets, a collection of bright white, egg-shaped, space-age pods. Don’t be fooled by the decidedly ordinary-looking, pale 18th-century townhouse building that meets you on approach, inside this is a pure sci-fi, space age fantasia. The Parlour, a restaurant and bar reserved for Sketch members, club nights and private events at night, is decked out in pinks, oranges and dogtooth prints and 60 different fabrics and crushed velvet. Sofas are a mix of Victorian, Louis XV and French day beds. Meanwhile, the East Bar, with its white leather walls is the ideal spot from which to sip a superbly dry (if extortionately priced) Martini chosen from a drinks menu designed in the style of a tabloid newspaper. From the drinks menus to the handwritten napkins the devil is very much in the detail here at Sketch. The lighting is similarly spectacular – in the bathrooms, front and backlit crystals and glass shapes produce a stunning shimmer, while gentle washes of colour bathe the cylindrical pods and sweeping staircases dotted elsewhere. Prices are sky high but you’ll spend so much time gaping open-mouthed at the décor that your sipping speed will slow down considerably.
Occupying former theatres, railway arches, factories and warehouses, many of London's major clubs started out as illegal part...London's Top Clubs