London’s Booze-Free Venues For A No-Alcohol January

Anyone doing Dry January will tell you that staying sober while socialising is the hardest part.

You might start the month with the willpower of a saint but, after spending a couple of nights drinking Coca Cola, you soon find yourself dreaming you’re being seduced by a talking pint of stout.

It’s surprisingly difficult to plan a night out without writing alcohol into the equation. For instance, there aren’t any bowling alleys in London without bars, which is baffling. Places that might have been a chaste date venue for teenagers in the 1950s are now just another place for Londoners to neck vodka milkshakes.

If during this long dry month you’re dating or meeting up with a friend, this list offers a selection of alcohol-free venues and ideas. There’s no way we can be comprehensive, though, so please add to the list by leaving your tips in the comments section.

Head for a coffee shop, or a ‘dry’ bar

Redemption (Trellick Tower, Weds-Sun) is London’s only dry pub, and gets great reviews. Mocktails are £3, and it does food.

Dating in destination coffee shops is the most straightforward way to avoid the pub. Brick Lane Coffee, for example, is open til 8pm on weeknights, as is Sacred Café on Ganton Street. None of the aforementioned sell booze. The Café at Foyles on Charing Cross Road is open until 8.30pm and only serves alcohol with food. If you’re not sniffy about chains, Caffé Nero on Frith Street is open until 2am (or 4am on Fridays and Saturdays) and Benugo on Cannon Street is open until 7.30pm.

If you want to go on a winter walk but need to avoid ending up in the pub afterwards, traipse towards a park-side café such as The Larder (near Victoria Park), HR Higgins (near Hyde Park), and Ginger and White (near Hampstead Heath).

Eat in a no-booze venue

Lots of people will encourage you to dine out somewhere without booze, like a curry house. It’s a great idea, but if your date brings a bottle of wine then you won’t stick to the lemonades for long. What you really want is somewhere with a decent non-alcoholic drinks menu — Maida in Bethnal Green, for instance, serves great milkshakes (just check out Jay Rayner’s review), and Tayyab’s lassi is off the chain. Sites like Zabihah maintain a list of halal restaurants in London, which don’t serve alcohol.

Veggie restaurants Food for Thought in Neal’s Yard, Govinda’s in Soho and The Bonnington Café in Vauxhall have all left alcohol off their menus.

Go for breakfast or brunch. True, usually a staple of a ‘morning after’ date but sometimes you can dissuade people from drinking before noon. E Pellicci’s is a classic, and won’t try to flog you a mimosa with your fry-up.

You could also wander out for gelato — there are plenty of venues on Old Compton Street and round Covent Garden, and not a beer tap or cork in sight. For a grown-up treat, visit an Amorino on Old Compton Street or Garrick Street (open till 12am) or Gelupo (open till 10.30pm).

Visit an exhibition

All the big museums and galleries serve fabulous beer and wine. Drat. But Benugo has a non-alcoholic venue, the Shake Bar, in the Science Museum.

London Transport Museum's Upper Deck cafe does serve alcohol, but it also includes these delicious tube-themed smoothies. Image by M@.

London Transport Museum’s Upper Deck cafe does serve alcohol, but it also includes these inventive tube-themed smoothies. Image by M@.

Smaller venues like the Flowers Gallery in Hoxton are too little to have their own caffs, but are conveniently close to cute coffee shops such as Paper & Cup. Other no-frills galleries include the White Cube in Bermondsey (near a nice Monmouth Coffee shop) or Blain Southern (near a nice Taylor Street Baristas).

Learn something

Places that normally offer light-hearted evening craft classes are a no-no if you can’t resist temptation — for example, Drink Shop Do in King’s Cross is boozy, and so is The Book Club in Shoreditch. But if you want to learn something other than the best way to shot flaming sambuca, you could make sushi in Soho with Yo Sushi (the ‘Rice and Rolls’ class £50 for two people)…

…Or attend drop-in pottery classes at Hackney City Farm (Wednesday and Thursday evenings, 7pm-9pm, £20 for two).

Alternative London is one of several companies offering guided tours of some of the capital’s best street art. These begin and end in Spitalfields, conveniently near the alcohol-free Nude Espresso on Hanbury Street.

Get active

Scale the dizzy heights of love at the Mile End or Castle Climbing Centres — both have an unlicensed café on the premises if you want to have a coffee afterwards.

Hop on a Pashley in Waterloo and take a Tally Ho! bike tour of London

Appoint yourself as the designated driver and enjoy a cast-iron excuse to turn down booze. Top tips for winter trips would have to include eating fish and chips in Brighton or Bexhill, sipping tea in Hampton Court, or walking in the Chilterns.

Two of the outdoor ice rinks are still open, but you’ll have to dodge a Heineken bar at the Canary Wharf rink (open until 16 February) and a full bar at Hampton Court rink (open until 12 January). If you really can’t stand the temptation to booze, the Lee Valley Ice Centre in Clapton has only a saintly Starbucks on site.


Obviously, we can only offer a snapshot of what London has to offer here. So let us know where else one can avoid the booze during Dry January.

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ellie

Article by Ellie Broughton | 8 Articles | View Profile

  • Thomas McKay

    Well done, I was send this as a joke from my smug (and hungover) boss but the last laugh is on him – These ideas are great!

  • Giac0m0

    Late night coffee/tea shops are always welcomed, never any great places to hang out and relax that doesn’t involve sports TVs, happy hour crushing and no free tables…

  • Daniel Jones

    Thanks, really useful list for those of us desperately trying to maintain willpower in the face of bottles of leftover Christmas port.

    South of the river, I can wholeheartedly recommend Camberwell’s Maloko as a homely place to spend the evenings, with marvellous buckwheat galettes and fresh beetroot, apple and ginger juice, plus a superb collection of books that the owners are only too happy to let you while away hours reading (and even take home, if you can’t finish them by the time they gently close the doors).

    And in New Cross, Chinwag cafe opposite Goldsmiths is also open till 9 or so. If you can resist being riled by their expensive faux-cobbled-together decor, they do damn fine hearty salads and good coffee. They are apparently applying for an alcohol license though, so this might just be a matter of time.

  • Wiz

    You lot really need to check out this new gaf in whitechapel, just off brick lane. It’s called the Urban Chocolatier. Coffee shop meets dry bar meets chocolate lounge. It’s totally off the chain!

    • fearne bailey

      Yes mate, ive been there. its actually really quite nice. Its a nice, cosy little place and they do tonnes of mocktails and non-alcoholic beers and champagne. The Urban Chocolatier gets my two thumbs up.

  • Jen

    Vitao on Oxford Street is a good choice too, it’s vegan but the food is great and they do gorgeous ‘vocktails’ with all natural ingredients. It’s right next door to Tottenham court road station. OR, just go to the pub and sample the alcohol free beers on offer. A lot of pubs serve them now and they’re a pretty good alternative.

  • Lynyrd Cohyn

    Hopefully the dry bar has a sign up requesting that you make some fucking noise as you leave the premises.

  • Aileen

    Meat & Shake (awful name but nice place) by Tooting Bec tube has does very good burgers, ribs and shakes – doesn’t serve alcohol but has an extensive range of soft drinks including non-alcoholic beer, wine and cider as well as all the Fentiman’s range.

  • Rehana

    Oh wow, Ellie! how could you forget Urban Chocolatier. They should have been at the top of your list!

    • Gemma

      Ohh i certainly agree with Rehana. Get down there Ellie :-)

      • Ellie

        Thanks for the comments! Sounds like a great tip :)

  • Baristabarbar

    Come and do barista training or a coffee roast course and drink lots of coffee!

  • Gemma

    Whats all this hype about the Urban Chocolatier? might have to check it out. Their instagram pics look quite lush. Im getting all hungry now.

  • Shazaa

    Good ideas…..