In Waterloo? Don't drink in overrated, overly-commercial joints. These bars will fix you a decent wine or cocktail.
Sitting snugly inside Royal Festival Hall is the 1950s-style Skylon Bar. It's a Mad Men-esque setup — perfect for sipping a martini and watching Old Father Thames roll by. If cocktails aren't your bag, the bar has a really extensive wine list (it's 36 pages long [pdf] and includes the likes of a 1955 port, for £350 a bottle). Despite its swank, Skylon Bar attracts a diverse crowd of both culture vultures and after works drinkers. The place always has a buzz about it.
Skylon Bar, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, SE1 8XX
The Cut Bar
Some cutting edge theatre is so cutting edge, you need a stiff drink before you watch it. And another at the interval. That's the idea at The Cut, The Young Vic's minimalist, mezzanine-d bar. You don't have to be here for a play though — a thirst for a quality cocktail is excuse enough. A favourite drink is the eponymous The Cut: Chambord, vodka, raspberries and prosecco.
The Cut Bar, Young Vic Theatre, 66 The Cut, SE1 8LZ
Spotlight on The Refinery's cocktail Milk & Cookies: it's milk and cookies just as your seven-year-old self remembers them, but with one excellent addition: bourbon. This drink sets the tone for The Refinery — innovative but unpretentious. Learn how to be a dab hand behind the bar yourself, with one of their cocktail masterclasses.
The Refinery, 110 Southwark Street, SE1 0TF
Tucked away beneath Waterloo Station in the Leake Street tunnel — you know the one that always smells of paint fumes thanks to all the inventive graffiti — is Draughts. Imagine a board game café. Then replace the word café with bar. Now you've got it. All the cocktails are named after board games, our favourite is the Sours of Catan — a play on the greatest board game of all, Settlers of Catan. Obviously this is an excellent spot for board games, but even if you're just after a drink you could do much worse. And the food from Jones & Sons is a worth a try too, especially the Grilled Pepper Quesadilla stuffed with melted cheese.
Draughts, Arch 16, Leake Street, Lambeth, SE1 7NN
When a glass just won't do, it's time to order a jug. No, Cubana is not some dodgy student bar whose best asset is the graffiti in the toilet cubicle. This Cuban-themed bolthole bills itself the 'home of mojitos'. It makes classics, passion fruit, strawberry, ginger and various others — all available in pitchers to share with your pals. The rum selection's rather tasty too.
Cubana, 48 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG
Sat snugly under Waterloo's railway arches Jack's Bar is a cosy spot to catch up with old friends. The drinks list is solid, starring London craft beers and affordable cocktails. Hot dogs and wings will deliver you from hunger. The bar's atmosphere changes throughout the week; on Mondays, use your cat like-reflexes in a game of ping pong (espresso martinis definitely help). As the weekend approaches, Jack's DJs will spin you into Saturday.
Jack's Bar, 96 Isabella Street, SE1 8DD
Café Del Marsh
Café Del Marsh is a real labour of love for its owner James. Part of the attraction is the personal touch he gives the place, and whatever music he's chosen as your night's soundtrack. Pop in for a swift espresso, stay for a few Italian craft beers. Those who know this joint are incredibly protective of it. Some are loathe to even tell others about it. Apologies to those people.
Café Del Marsh, 44 Lower Marsh, SE1 7RG
Blackfriars Wine Bar
Blackfriars Wine Bar is a bit of a misnomer. The railway arches it sits beneath actually come from trains that go to and from Waterloo, rather than the equally nearby Blackfriars. Once you're in the bar itself, the rest of its name isn't so misleading — this place has wine and lots of it. It's a homey, unpretentious place; prices start at around £20 a bottle, although the opportunity splash out is there. Oh, they do fish and chips too. Blackfriars Wine Bar's only downside is its popularity. If you're planning on sitting down it's best to get there early.
Blackfriars Wine Bar, 80 Scoresby Street, Blackfriars Rd, SE1 0XN
We enjoy a themed bar, especially when that theme is rather niche. Step up Scooter Caffè, where the walls are adorned with vintage scooters (alongside various other gimcrack). So much so that there isn't very much space inside. But the slightly cramped nature is all part of the charm — along with strong negronis and a lovely resident moggy. Bonus: Scooter Caffè has a terrace out the back to make up for the lack of indoors space. But who cares anyway? Sip on vino and stare at Vespas, we say.
Scooter Caffè, 132 Lower Marsh, SE1 7AE