Hidden behind a small entrance, Zenna is cocooned in a darkened subterranean lair. Pitched as the first ever Indian-themed cocktail bar, this is a cocktail lover’s paradise. The bar is headed up by top mixologist Dan Thomson, and his expertise shows in the quality and ingenuity of the drinks served. The ambience is intimate with low lighting and wonderful boothed vaults where you can kick back and relax, but come the weekend it turns into a secret basement club with DJs and live music reverberating around the small space. The nibbles menu is an assortment of Indian snacks, from marinated prawns to the delicious lentil patties. Their signature cocktail is The Iliana, the world’s spiciest cocktail, containing a potent drop of pure chilli sauce. It’s so hot, they serve it with a gin-based “fire extinguisher”.
Address: 77 Dean Street, Soho, London. W1D 3SH
VOC may not be an obvious candidate for a list of stylish bars but sometimes great effects are achieved through contrast. Its dingy King’s Cross locale ensures this dark wood, brass and glass homage to the 17th century punch house is always a haven. In any case, as a Fluid Movement venture (the team behind Purl and the Whistling Shop), it’s always going to be the drinks that convey the style. Signature serves include barrel-aged beverages and a range of punches, grogs and flips but my favourite is the raspberry shrub. Served in a cork-stoppered flask, it’s a subtle, rum-scented mouthful that evokes a bygone era – a description equally apt for the bar itself.
Address: VOC; 2 Varnishers Yard, Regents Quarter, King’s Cross, London, N1 9AW
A lot of bars claim to have the best view in London. At Paramount they are telling the truth. Perched on top of Centre Point, 32 floors above Oxford Street, you will find a glorious 360 degree view of the city. Inside the bar is all autumn colours, slow music and beautiful couples. Furnishings are stylish but sparse – with views this spectacular it would be churlish to compete with them. The cocktails are made with real skill and care: the inspired pairing of cucumber and absinthe in La Fontaine Flower is worth trying, as well as the smoky charm of a Don Draper # 2. Go in the early evening to watch the sun set – and bring a date you want to impress.
Address: Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street, London. WC1A 1DD
If you’re looking to paint the town red then look no further than urban chic bar Graphic in Soho, where cocktails are served in customised paint pots and named simply after colours. The décor’s equally quirky: London-based street artist Ben Eine was enlisted to create graffiti-style shutter art to complement the interior’s stark, canteen-style décor. With one of the most extensive gin collections in the UK, Graphic’s five unique Paint Tin Punches are available in yellow, red, green and white, as well as a glitzy gold version. Order the latter and it will be delivered to your table to the chimes of Spandau Ballet’s eponymous classic blasting from a gold ghetto blaster. (Or, if you have a spare £15,000 to fork out, sung by Tony Hadley himself!) As a gin lover and interior design enthusiast, I’m in seventh heaven here! My current tipple and, coincidently, paint colour of choice, is the deliciously exotic and summery yellow; Tanqueray, Maraschino Dry Cherry Liqueur, fresh lime and pineapple juice, Peychaud bitters and Fever Tree Ginger Ale.
Address: 4 Golden Square, London. W1F 9HT
Behind an unassuming black door in China Town lies one of my favourite London speakeasies: the Experimental Cocktail Club. Finding the hidden doorway is definitely worth the effort but to get the most out of a visit I would definitely recommend booking ahead as it’s an intimate space and fills quickly. All the subterfuge and planning just adds to the adventure; beyond the unsuspecting door lies a stylish vintage interior and moody décor that conjures up understated 1920s glamour. The cocktail menu is excellent with some obvious standouts. My favourite is the Havana, an exotic cigar-infused sensory trip over to Cuba.
Address: 3A Gerrard Street, Soho, London. W1D 5PS
The Coburg Bar at The Connaught is one of London’s most elegant bars in one of its finest hotels. Not to be confused with the flashier Connaught bar just across the lobby, The Coburg – under the watchful eye of handsome manager Mark Jenner – offers an exceptional selection of champagnes, cognacs and cocktails in comfortable, clubby surroundings. Settle in to one of the distinctive velvet wing-back chairs and choose from a historically annotated list of cocktails dating from 1800 to the present day. A Piña Colada, the height of naff anywhere else is transformed at The Coburg into a thing of beauty.
Address: The Connaught, Carlos Place, Mayfair, London. W1K 2AL
There are style bars and there are bars with style. Cocktail bar 69 Colebrooke Row definitely falls into the latter category. Tucked off an unassuming side street in Islington, this cosy 40-seater room is the kind of local you’d happily move house for. On the décor front it’s simple – plain wooden tables, straight up and down chairs, chequerboard flooring and a smattering of low-key stools at the bar. Unassuming? Yes. Uninspiring? Absolutely not. That’s down to the intimacy, first-class service and a menu made up of off-the-scale drinks. Award-winning ‘flavourist’ Tony Conigliaro and his team approach the crafting of a cocktail with the precision and passion of artists. Expect quality drinks like a Bloody Mary taken to another level with horseradish vodka, pepper distillate and homemade pepper sauce.
Address: 69 Colebrooke Row, London. N1 8AA
Article Written by Carla Macedo