London never lets me down when it comes to new discoveries. No matter how many times I visit, there’s always a new bar or hangout with a new gimmick, and it’s very rare that I leave feeling anything but energised with the new experience.
This time round I’m focusing on my favourite watering-holes. When I’m away I always look for that sense of something different, whether it’s the decor, the theme, menu or the actual location. The below four bars score high on all counts.
- Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour
This is probably my best ever discovery in central London. It was a freezing day with the temperatures hovering around the 2 degrees. It was raining, of course, and I had no umbrella (of course). I had just walked out of an exhilarating one and a half hours watching The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the Duke of York’s, and I was buzzing with the gorgeousness that I had just witnessed on stage.
Walking around in a cold drizzle until it was time for our dinner reservation wasn’t part of our plans so we figured we’d drown our sorrows at the first likely watering-hole. This turned out to be Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour, literally on the next block. The aptly titled parlour is part of a bigger (and more ordinary) bar, but go all the way to the back and up the stairs and you’ll find yourself transported to an ‘Alice in Wonderland like’ area. Only, instead of tea, it serves any kind of gin you can think of. This is where I first discovered Malfy gin, which isn’t exactly rare – but you’ll find weirder stuff on the list of 200 gin labels. Including one that comes in what looks exactly like a fuel can. Book, because the space is quite small, but there are a few other Mr Fogg’s strewn around London each with their distinctive identity. New Row, Covent Garden.
- Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
This one was such fun, requiring a password and all. It’s part of the Breakfast Club Cafe group, which already had me with the 1980s vibes and all. The Breakfast Club itself does a mean ‘locally world-famous’ weekend brunch that I can vouch for, but if it’s good booze and good music you’re after, skip the food and walk straight to the Smeg fridge in the corner. Walk down the dark, dark stairs until you reach the basement, serving speak-easy vibes and some luscious cocktails.
You’ll need to book for this one, so don’t just turn up. And you will be asked for the password, so look sharp. Once you’re in, expect lots of danceable, singable 1980s music (naturally) and some world-class cocktails. The best part – you’ll need to leave through the ‘secret’ passage. 12-16, Artillery Lane, Through the Fridge.
- The Viktor Wynd Museum & Bar
This one is strictly for those with a penchant towards the distinctly weird. If you’re the squeamish, easily-impressionable sort this may not be the best one for you. The bar itself is in Hockney, but you’ll need to make some time for the museum before because trust me, it’s worth it. Viktor Wynd is, ostensibly, a real person who collects the weird objects you can think of and they’re all there on display at the cubbyhole underneath the bar. The cocktail bar itself is just as tiny, but the ample choice of Absinthe cocktails and the decadent decor more than make up for that. Reservations are required. 11 Mare Street.
- Phoenix Arts Bar
More of a club night out than an actual bar, although you can opt to go on quieter nights where there aren’t any events too. But why do that when there’s a super burlesque show and dancing to be had? The bar started life as the local hangout for WestEnd performers who wanted a drink after finishing work, but today it’s grown to being a lot more than that. We visited on a Friday night, for the cabaret event hosted by drag artist Vanity Von Glow. The place attracts a very mixed crowd but everyone was ready to sing and clap away to the super line-up of burlesque, comedy and cabaret acts. Stay on after the show, when the tables are cleared and the space turns into one awesome dance-floor belting out classics. 1, Phoenix Street.
Know any other quirky bars you’d like to share with us? Drop us a line so we make sure we don’t miss out on our next visit. For more Sunday Circle travel tips check out this piece about Fresh Finland or what to enjoy in Tallinn, Estonia.