Looking for quirky bars for your next London night out? We’ve got you covered.
We’ve rounded up some of the coolest London bars for a seriously quirky night out. We’ve even listed them according to their location, because convenience.
East London bars
1. Callooh Callay
O frabjous day! Named after a line from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’, Callooh Callay has drinks that will make you chortle with joy. The intriguingly titled Gorilla Panic catches the eye, whilst the Saint Hellier looks strong enough to take down a frumious Bandersnatch. Find it at 65 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3AY.
2. The Last Tuesday Society
Hidden within Viktor Wynd’s Museum of Curiosities, this cocktail bar has a magical menu of weird and wonderful drinks, each inspired by a strange artefact that can be found inside the fascinating museum. The Last Tuesday Society is very big on absinthe, and you’ll find a relatively large menu of different varieties, all served the original way with a brown sugar cube, an absinthe spoon and an ice fountain. Find it at 11 Mare Street, Hackney, E8 4RP.
3. Looking Glass Cocktail Club
Another bar that loves a bit of Absinthe, Looking Glass Cocktail Club is Alice in Wonderland-themed and bills itself as a “haven of debauchery”. To enter, you’ll have to step through a looking glass (i.e. a big mirror) and you’re likely to be there until the early hours, cocktail in tow. Find it at 49 Hackney Road, E2 7NX.
Make your way to The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane and inform a member of staff that you are “here to see the Mayor”. They will then direct you to the normal-seeming Smeg fridge, which you’ll have to walk through to enter the dingy, candlelit speakeasy. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town is filled with vintage furniture and bizarre wall art, while the cocktail menu is brimming with weird and wonderful drinks. Find it beneath The Breakfast Club, 12-16 Artillery Lane, E1 7LS.
5. TT Liquor
Nobody wants to end up in jail, but what if we told you you could come and go as you please and drink as much booze as you like? TT Liquor on Kingsland Road is an old Victorian police station, converted into a three-storey haven dedicated entirely to high-quality liquor and damn good cocktails. If you were just walking past, you’d probably mistake it for a humble old liquor store (and we wouldn’t blame you) but, lo and behold, if you had just popped in and made your way downstairs… TT Liquor is more than just a store or a bar, it’s a bit of history and a whole lot of fun. Find it at 17B Kingsland Road, E2 8AA.
Central London bars
Hidden beneath Covent Garden is London’s very own Garden of Eden. This bar is full of temptation, indulgence and hedonism. With a huge list of inventive and beautifully presented cocktails, as well as some seriously stunning interiors, Eve is pretty close to being Heaven on Earth. Find it at 34 Southampton Street, WC2E 7HF, and read all about it here.
Is there any better combo than dim sum and cocktails? Head to Opium; the oriental themed cocktail bar and Dim Sum parlour in the heart of Chinatown. Made up of three bars spread across two floors, Opium is inspired by 1920s Shanghai with a twist of modern indulgence. It’s not to be missed. Find it at 15-16, Gerrard Street, W1D 6JE.
8. Blame Gloria
Introducing the all-new, all-vintage nightspot in Covent Garden: Blame Gloria. Inspired by ‘an opulent nana with a groupie past’, the Bedford Street basement cocktail bar aims to offer an eclectic, loose and outrageous vibe. Expect fabrics inspired by Jimi Hendrix outfits and Peter Blake, boho, and Bowie influences; all generating more groovy ‘gram opportunities than you can shake a stiletto at. Find it at 20 Bedford Street, WC2E 9HP.
Not only does this bar boast stunning interiors, but its cocktail menu is also a glorious work of art. Arguably made for Instagram, Oriole is inspired by all things tropical. The walls are adorned with palm trees, and the drinks are made with obscure and exotic ingredients that you may not have heard of, let alone be able to pronounce. Find it on East Poultry Avenue, EC1A 9LH.
10. Basement Sate
Choosing between cocktails and desserts is a thing of the past at Basement Sate, where you can pair your drinks to a decadent dessert. It’s a place where a banoffee pie might come with a bourbon and honey concoction, and diets don’t exist. Intrigued? Get the full picture here. Find it at 8 Broadwick Street, W1F 8HN.
11. The Escapologist
Once the headquarters of a Victorian Secret Society, The Escapologist still parties like it’s 1899. Get some friends together for pizza, drinks and some serious skulduggerous behaviour. Find it at 35 Earlham Street, WC2H 9LD.
12. Reverend JW Simpson (currently closed)
This cosy cocktail bar in Fitzrovia was once a vicarage, and they haven’t made much of an effort to restore it since Reverend JW Simpson was a tenant. But it all adds to its character. The dimly-lit room, with its divine cocktail menu and attentive table service, is the perfect place for an intimate date night or quirky after-work drinks. Find it at 32 Goodge Street, W1T 2QJ.
13. Studio 88 (reopening October 2020)
Studio 88 is the late-night spot where the music never stops. A live band will play all night long, and they’re taking requests. Want to hear Ed Sheeran, followed by Eminem, followed by Lionel Richie? It’s an eclectic playlist, sure, but if it’s what you want to hear, they’ll play it. Find it at 47 Whitcomb Street, WC2H 7DH.
An air-raid shelter in a previous life, Cahoots pays homage to the Londoners forced to seek shelter underground during the Blitz. As in the 1940s, there’ll be plenty of liquor and sing-a-longs to keep morale high. The bar is modelled on a Bakerloo carriage, but, unlike the real Bakerloo line, drinking is positively encouraged on board. Find it at Kingly Court, Carnaby, W1B 5PG, and read all about it here.
This intimate hidden bar is located beneath Aldwych in an underground space that used to be a public toilet, and you can expect live entertainment in the form of cabaret, blues and burlesque shows. CellarDoor even transforms into a secret cinema every Sunday afternoon, featuring a cult movie and a classic silent comedy with a beautiful live pianist. Find it at Wellington Street, WC2E 7DN.
16, 17, 18. Mr Fogg’s
Each themed around Phileas Fogg and his adventures around the world, Mr Fogg’s bars and taverns are about as quirky as they come. While Mr Fogg’s Tavern is filled with beer and various knick-knacks from around the globe, his House of Botanicals is a paradise of greenery and gin. There’s also Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration (reopening October 8), where you can drink cocktails in a Victorian train carriage.
South London bars
Tonight Josephine is perfect for cocktails and hedonism. It’s a fuchsia temple filled with glitter and neon, and even its toilets are worth Instagramming. Find it at 111 Waterloo Road, Lambeth, SE1 8UL, or head to a sister spot in Shoreditch if you’re out east.
20. Bar Elba
Bar Elba is London’s answer to a blissful party island. Embark on a colourful ascension into paradise, admire the arty witticism along the way, and grab yourself a cocktail. Find it above Mercury House at 109-117 Waterloo Road, SE1 8UL.
21. Call Me Mr Lucky
Much like The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, this bar is also hidden beneath a Breakfast Club. Only this time you should announce to a waitperson that you’re “here to get lucky” and all embarrassment should be left at the door. You’ll walk downstairs, through a bustling underground kitchen, and into this secret speakeasy, ready to get up to some serious mischief. Take a date and sit amongst kitschy interiors with a crazy cocktail. And then stay for another. Find it at 11 Southwark Street, SE1 1RQ.
22. Vaulty Towers
This wacky boozer is owned by the people behind The Vaults, Waterloo’s incredible hidden arts venue. Adorned with props from previous ventures, this drinkery is about as mad as they come. Think treehouse tables and comically high bar stools, as well as espresso martinis and negronis on tap. You could visit Vaulty Towers a thousand times and still find something new each time you’re there. Find it at 34 Lower Marsh, Lambeth, SE1 7RG.
23. Little Nan’s
Tucked away in the arches of Deptford Market Yard, Little Nan’s is a super kitsch bar filled with one lad’s grandma’s furniture, ornaments and treasured heirlooms. Known best for its off-the-wall cocktails served in various zany vessels – including teapots and vases – Little Nan’s is a firm favourite in south-east London. Find it within Arches 13-15, Deptford Market Yard, SE8 4BX.
24. Near & Far
This Peckham bar boasts wacky interiors, quirky drinks and some lovely panoramic views of London and, as a classic example of that “gentrification” everyone keeps talking about, it used to be an old Peckham car park. Read more about Peckham Levels here. Find it on Floor 6, 95A Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 4ST, or visit a ground-floor sibling in Camden.
25, 26. First Aid Box and Blinder (currently closed)
Irony at its very best, First Aid Box in Herne Hill makes extraordinary cocktails inspired by medicine. The pharmacy thing is laid on thickly, with cocktails served in saline drips, syringes and plastic lungs. Also, rather randomly, they have a Peaky Blinders-themed bar out the back that is open on Friday and Saturday nights. Find it at 119 Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, SE24 0NG.
27. Four Thieves
If you’re done with darts and find pool a pain, The Four Thieves pub in Battersea is surely home to your new favourite pub sport. This much-loved boozer is home to a thrilling games room, and taking pride of place is its own multiplayer racetrack. Reminiscent of the old Scalextric, the Moonshine Raceway allows punters to race against each other with a beer in hand. Under the same roof, you’ll find a bunch of classic arcade games, a glow-in-the-dark Plonk crazy golf course, and an in-pub escape room experience they call Lady Chastity’s Reserve. Find it at 51 Lavender Gardens, SW11 1DJ.
West London bars
28. Trailer Happiness
Rum lovers should head to Ladbroke Grove, because this tiki-style bar has a lot of it. Filled with ‘cosmopolitan kitsch’ vibes, Trailer Happiness will amaze you with its cocktail menu and guarantee you a good time. Find it at 177 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, W11 2DY.
29. Evans & Peel Detective Agency
This is another one that isn’t just a simple ‘walk through the door’ affair. You have to make an ‘appointment’ to see a detective, ring the doorbell to enter, and step into their office to present your case. Not for the anxious or shy, but worth it for the cocktails once you get inside. Find it at 310c Earls Court Road, SW5 9BA.
North London bars
30. Bobby Fitzpatrick
Get ready to feel nostalgic as you step into your nan’s living room, or rather this 70s-inspired cocktail and pizza haunt. The decor of this place is so spot on that it’ll have you second guessing what year you’re in. Go for the banana cream pie and stay for the rum cocktails and deep fried pickles. Find it at 273 West End Lane, NW6 1QS.
31, 32, 33. Ladies & Gents
Ladies and Gents is an old bog turned boozer in Kentish Town, and it’s a pretty good place to spend a few pennies on a few cocktails. They serve up a fine selection of cocktails created by master mixologists, including the very sophisticated Rhubarb and Custard, presented in a classic Bird’s custard can. Not only do Ladies and Gents boast a fantastic array of drinks, but they also make their own gin in the old water closet. Their Highwayman Gin (or “Kentish Town Gin”) is distilled behind the bar using a 16 litre copper still. Find it at 2 Highgate Road, NW5 1NR, or in Camden and Kings Cross.
BYOC Camden not only gives you the thrill of entering a bar though an inconspicuous, unmarked doorway, it also gives you the opportunity to indulge in all-you-can-drink cocktails made with a spirit of your choice. A slightly different way to drink, this bar asks you bring along a bottle of your favourite spirit and pay a flat fee of £25 on arrival, in exchange for a tailor made cocktail experience. Once you’ve got yourself settled you’ll have a series of spirit-specific cocktails whipped up for you by one of their expert mixologists. Find it at 11-13 Camden High Street, NW1 7JE.
35. Knowhere Special
Knowhere Special is actually somewhere pretty special. Walk along an indistinct corridor just off the high street, down some stairs and through a slightly sleazy I-could-easily-be-walking-into-a-strip-club-right-now red curtain. Behind the curtain you’ll find a cosy living room-esque bar, with casual vibes, former jail cells turned to booths, and an ah-mazing list of cocktails – however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they’re operating an outdoor seating area for the time being. Find it at 296 Kentish Town Rd, NW5 2TG.
Still craving the quirky after all those? Check out our guides to London’s quirkiest restaurants and most unusual coffee shops!
Also published on Medium.