London's status as a 24-hour city is... questionable. It doesn't really match many of its European brethren, and though steps are being taken to remedy this — woop, night tube! — for the most part London snores the night away. That leaves just a handful of magical spots where the night owls congregate to drink, be it a boozy cocktail or a warming cuppa.
We've excluded clubs from this list, because we're focusing on places you can drink while not having to yell at the top of your lungs to conduct any sort of conversation.
Bar Italia, Soho
Wander through Soho at any hour and you can rock up at Bar Italia. London's longest running coffee shop opened at a time when Soho had a huge Italian community. Those regulars might've left but Bar Italia's popularity endured, as the word spread about its dedication to quality coffee. It serves booze too — our perfect night at Bar Italia consists of Aperol Spritz at 2am, negronis at 4am, and a cappuccino at 7am for breakfast, to begin the day again.
Plenty of people who haven't been to Bar Italia still know the name, thanks to Pulp's tune from their seminal album, Different Class. The building also has a historical gem — the upstairs room hosted the first public demonstration of television, by John Baird.
Bar Italia, 22 Frith Street, W1D 4RF. Open 7am-5am (excluding Sundays)
Balans Soho Society, Soho
Sticking with W1D, another haunt catering to night-owls is Balans Soho Society. On its outside canopy, the hustling joint claims to be open all day and all night, but that isn't quite true. Opening times vary by day, but even in the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday morning, it closes for a hour and a half between 6am and 7.30am. It barely seems worth closing for such a short period does it, and the closure must be especially grating for those looking for a 6.30am absinthe — oh yes, the green fairy resides here.
Balans Soho Society, 60-62 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UG. Times vary, but it's open until at least 5am (excluding Sundays)
Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square
It's not the first thing that springs to mind when searching for a late night drinking hole, but the Hippodrome Casino is open 24/7, as is its bar. Don't worry about feeling out of place if you're here for a drink rather than a gamble — the casino's patrons are often split evenly between gamblers and those hunting down food and drink.
Hippodrome Casino, Cranbourn Street, WC2H 7JH. Open 24/7
Duck and Waffle, City of London
The high end option. Quite literally, as Duck and Waffle is up on the 40th floor of Heron Tower, providing glorious views of London 24/7. Late at night, the main punters are the post-clubbing crowd from nearby Shoreditch and Farringdon, who want something a little finer than a dodgy doner kebab. As they devour the delightful food, they sup on something from the extensive drinks list. Or skip the grub and have a liquid midnight snack at the bar.
Duck and Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY. Open 24/7
Polo Bar, Liverpool Street
A hop, skip and jump down Bishopsgate from the towering Duck and Waffle, this is a very different kind of 24/7 venue. Polo Bar dates back to 1953 when Bruna Inzani opened a cafe serving proper British café food. Over 65 years later not much has changed, apart from the addition of a 24-hour alcohol license. In the wee hours of the morning, a cavalcade of characters come through that... well not the door — it doesn't have one — proving how perennially open it is.
Polo Bar, 176 Bishopsgate, EC2M 4NQ. Open 24/7
Blackheath Tea Hut
Blackheath Tea Hut is one of those quintessentially London spots. On Blackheath Common next to the A2 there is, for some reason, a tea hut that's open 24/7. It's popular with the emergency services, bikers and other motorists looking for that 4am cuppa to keep them going. Your tea here is going to be more builder's than matcha, but then there aren't many hipsters about looking to drink the exotic stuff at 4am. There's also a selection of classic 'hut foodstuffs' — think burgers and baps.
Blackheath Tea Hut, Goffers Road, Blackheath, SE3 0UA. Open 24/7
It's all in a name. VQ's is a subtle hint to its opening hours — Vingt-Quatre means 24 in French, ie. open 24 hours. Well, that's at least true for three of the mini-chain's venues. But for the Euston, Clapham and Notting Hill branches, the name VQ is little more than a bare-faced lie.
VQ, locations in Bloomsbury, Chelsea and Aldgate are open 24/7
Canavan's Peckham Pool Club
Canavan's in Peckham is a bizarre mash-up of pool club and nightclub — and yes, we said we weren't including clubs, but this one's worth the exception. Firstly, it's cheap, something that's not guaranteed in Peckham since trendy millennials started flocking there. Secondly — as the name suggests — this is a pool club, a place where you can do your best Ronnie O'Sullivan* impression and cruelly embarrass your mate in public, revealing his shortcomings with a cue. Thirdly, it's soundproofed with bulletproof glass. OK, that's less of a reason to go, more of a fun factoid.
*For pedants: we know he plays snooker not pool, but the analogy still stands.
Canavan's Peckham Pool Club, 188 Rye Lane, SE15 4NF. Open 6pm-4am daily
Know any more (extremely) late night drinking spots? Comments below.