While most of our great metropolis shuts down by midnight, you can still play till later at an increasing number of places, if you know where to look. Here’s our pick of the capital’s best late-night drinking dens, arranged by type.
Late Night Cocktail Bars
The Bar with No Name (’69 Colebrooke row’)
This Angel haunt was recently listed as the #27 best cocktail bar in the world, and boasts its own (offsite) lab to conjure up reductions, syrups and infusions. ‘The Bar with No Name’ is home to world renowned molecular mixologist Tony Conigliaro, who not only curates a menu comprising twisted classic and original cocktails, such as the Prairie Oyster, but also hosts classes. The vibe is one of an intimate, vintage 1920s jazz-age hangout, ‘intimate’ being your signal to ensure you have a reservation.
69 Colebrooke Row, London N1 8AA
Sunday to Wednesday 5pm–midnight, Thursday 5pm–1am, Friday & Saturday 5pm-2am
Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown
Behind an unassuming chipped green door on Chinatown, Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown (ECC, as the kids say) lives on the upper floors of a sophisticated three-story townhouse, where blacked out windows, spiralling staircases, plush midnight blue sofas and multi-mirrored surfaces – from the ceilings to the table tops — add touches of retro-glamour. A bar with an ever-changing selection of cocktails, it’s regularly packed so booking is strongly recommended. If you’re betting on walking in, be aware they operate a door policy so pull your best ‘I’m sober’ face and keep your group small.
Experimental Cocktail Club Chinatown, 13a Gerrard St, Chinatown, London W1D 5PS
Monday–Saturday 6pm–3am, Sunday 6pm–midnight
Considered the original London ‘speakeasy’ basement bar, this slice of style next to Old Street roundabout offers a sultry, wood-panel and brick interior and innovative concoctions with ornate garnishes unseen anywhere else in the capital. Going for a drink here isn’t just grabbing a quick cosmo – it’s an experience, so take the time to work through the menu and its exotic, often complex, contents. Live music plays throughout most of the week, so plan your visit according to preference. As you’d expect from a venue that just bagged the #2 spot on the 50 world’s Best Bars list this year, booking is absolutely essential.
The Nightjar, 129 City Road, London, EC1V 1JB
Friday and Saturday 6pm–3am, Thursday 6pm–2am, Sunday–Wednesday 6pm–1am
Worship Street Whistling Shop
Inspired by Victorian drinking culture in London, this low-lit, underground den has an extensive selection of gin, in keeping with the infamous craze for a drop of mother’s ruin. The second bar on our list to feature an in-house lab, other quirks that work include two private spaces, one a cocktail emporium and the other an 18th century Dram Shop — a rentable honesty bar to drink as much as you
can want from vintage bottles. No doubt a bargain Elysium for many, and a socially awkward, surreal Kafkaesque nightmare for others.
Worship Street Whistling Shop, 63 Worship St, EC2A 2DU
Tuesday 5pm-midnight , Wednesday–Thursday 5pm-1am, Friday-Saturday 5pm–1.30am
Accessible Members Clubs
For the discerning drinker, more of London’s top establishments are staying open until 3am with events and members-only entry after midnight and the best part is, they’re free to join.
The first venue outside of North America to be adorned with the Seal of the Sazerac for promoting both the eponymous tipple and New Orleans culture, east London’s NOLA is tucked away above street level in Shoreditch central (AKA Rivington Street). The emphasis on having fun — smooth tunes, strong cocktails, comfy booths, smokes on the terrace and good times await.
Membership: To apply, pop in for a drink and a chat. If you’re a serious imbiber (by which we don’t mean challenge the entire staff to shots, throwing up on yourself) and you’re accepted, you make a donation which goes to the ongoing relief efforts in New Orleans, and can continue to while away the small hours.
NOLA, 66-68 Rivington Street, EC2A 3AY
Tuesday–Saturday 5pm–midnight, Members midnight–3am
Chinatown dim sum parlour and multi-storey cocktail bar Opium has an impressive selection of Asian inspirited signature cocktails, and garnishes with flair. Sociable types should head to the ‘Bartender’s Table’, where conversations with strangers and chats with the staff are inevitable – think of it as hanging out in your friend’s kitchen.
Membership: The Rising Sun Club caters for dedicated enthusiasts, serving specially curated off-menu cocktail lists, bespoke in-house events and tastings. Club members can drink from midnight until 3am. Just drop them an e-mail or give them a call and you’ll be signed up. Be sure to RSVP to events.
Opium, 15-16 Gerrard St, W1D 6JA , 020 7734 7276
Monday–Tuesday 5pm–midnight, Wednesday 5pm–1am, Thursday 5pm–2am, Friday–Saturday 5pm–3am, Sunday 2pm–10.30pm
The Pink Chihuahua @ El Camion
If you’re up for a dance, Mexican vibes and a damn good time, head to The Pink Chihuahua (‘Dick’s Bar’), quite possibly the friendliest bar in Soho, with warm welcomes and staff with a talent for remembering names and favourite drinks. So it’s kind of like Cheers, only with kicking Tequila-based cocktails and bartending legend Dick Bradsell instead of Mr Danson. He tends Wednesday to Saturday, so you can go thank him for inventing the Bramble and Espresso Martini in person, if you’re the geeky type. While everyone is welcome, it’s heaving over the weekend, when it becomes pretty much a members-only affair.
Membership: Swing by for some food early in the week, ask the staff and they’ll sign you up.
The Pink Chihuahua, El Camion, 25-27 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0RR
Live Music Bars
Sometimes, you just want to grab a beer, listen to something loud and rock out a little. This is where these guys come in:
Ain’t Nothin’ but…
If the throngs that regularly clamour on Kingly Street are anything to go by, Londoners have got the Blues, big time. Parallel to the oft-congested Carnaby Street, this tiny English/US hybrid has been introducing city folk to straight blues, while exciting more knowledgeable fans for over 20 years. Electric atmosphere, reasonably priced drinks, dancers, and top acts (in some cases flown in from the States) keep pulling ‘em in and spilling out the door.
Ain’t Nothin’ But…, 20 Kingly Street, Soho, London, W1B 5PZ
Monday-Thursday 5pm–1am, Friday 5pm–3am, Saturday 3pm–3am, Sunday 3pm–midnight
Alley Cat Bar & Club
This Turkish bar turned live space is steeped in rock ‘n’ roll history, nested below the famed Regent Sound Studios, which played host to the likes of the Rolling Stones and The Kinks. A varied programme of events sees a New Orleans jam session every other Tuesday in addition to nights of blues, jazz, poetry readings, book and album launches. An easy-going and mellow subterranean hotspot, it serves classic and fuss-free cocktails, such as mojitos and sex on the beach (£5/£7.50).
Alley Cat Bar & Club, 4 Denmark St London WC2H 8LP
Monday–Wednesday 5pm–2am, Thursday–Saturday 5pm–3am, Sunday 5pm–midnight
If you’re not a member or just not up for an uber-late one, but want to stay out past midnight and chill out, here are a couple of our more refined favourites:
The Red Bar @ Bam-Bou
An elegant, engaging bar nestled away on the very top floor of Bam-Bou, The Red Bar is a relaxed, yet vibrant spot, and guaranteed a mixed clientèle. With an extensive menu set aside purely for Japanese whisky aficionados, boosting an impressive 70 plus bottles of Yamasaki, Hakushu and Hibiki, it’s a destination for connoisseurs and novices alike. If you’re a cocktail sipper partial to sours, go for the Rising Sun with plum wine — you’ll never look back.
Bam-Bou, 1 Percy Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 1DB
Le Salon Bar @ L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Le Salon bar is an equally elegant and lesser known retreat, above much-feted Michelin-starred L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon in Covent Garden. The winning combination of a veiled and heated terrace, in-house-created cocktails and expansive wine list will have you lounging around and knocking back the fizz until you take your leave.
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, 13-15 West Street, London, WC2H 9NE
Monday-Sataurday noon–2am, Sunday noon-10pm
The Last Word: Hotel Bars
With so many truly outstanding hotel bars in the capital, a concise list here is impossible, as we’re inclined to pop into anywhere that does a decent martini. Quite a few of them close at a conservative pre-witching hour. However, at a (geographical) push to make recommendations we’d say a slow-sipping Jasmine Gimlet at Zetter Townhouse (1am) hits the spot. Bar at One Leicester Street (1am), and the Lounge at W Hotel (2am) are a few doors apart, and of course the Artesian (1.30am) at the Langham Hotel, which was voted the best cocktail bar in the world for the second consecutive year.