London's Best Bars

By Jon Price

From cocktail bars with ball pits to hidden pubs housing macabre basement museums, London is heaven for anyone who likes to enjoy a drink somewhere a little, well, different.  Here, we reveal five of the weirdest and most wonderful bars in the city.  

Criminally good cocktails

Fancy an immersive theatrical experience to go with your Cosmopolitan? If so, East London is the place to be – and prison-themed Alcotraz takes the concept of themed nightlife to a whole new level. Influenced by dramatised TV and film depictions of San Francisco’s notorious Alcatraz prison, this creative cocktail joint hands out orange jumpsuits to punters on arrival and locks them up – quite literally! Expect to step into a world of shady inmates, tales of liquor smuggling and crooked wardens on the lookout for misbehaviour. Take advantage of the tailored cocktails on offer – just be sure to be extra polite when you order.

How egg-citing!

Upmarket Mayfair is unlikely to feature on many lists of ‘Best hipster hangouts in London’ but that’s exactly why you should go. Probably better known for its high-end restaurant, Sketch (pictured) – a stone’s throw from Regents Street - is an ultra-posh pink and white club with an exclusive feel. But this swanky marvel hides a beautiful secret out back – the Eastbar & Pods, a series of egg-shaped capsules that look like art pieces straight out of Tate Modern. Venture inside to discover photo booths, individual toilet cubicles and other curiosities, but don’t be fooled into thinking that these alien-like pods are the only reason to visit – the drinks here are world-class.

Balls deep

Ever dreamt of going drinking with your friends in a giant ball pit? Perhaps not but sounds fun, doesn’t it? Ballie Ballerson is just the place – a wonderfully weird after-dark experience now in two locations: Soho and Shoreditch. Expect bright colours, fluorescent cocktails garnished with tuck shop-inspired sweet treats and a surprisingly generous selection of pizzas for those of you who might be feeling a little peckish. The ‘Hubba Hubba Bubba’ bubblegum margarita is a sugar explosion to die for.

Beers in the basement

If macabre museums or a little witchcraft are more your kind of thing, head on over to Hackney to visit The Last Tuesday society – a one-of-kind watering hole that hosts seances, taxidermy courses and lectures as well as housing one of London’s strangest museums in its basement.This peculiar pub is home to the Victor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art & Natural History, which is open from Wednesday to Sunday between 12 and 10pm. Expect shrunken heads, creepy dolls, a stuffed two-headed calf and other oddities. Don’t forget to sample the super-strong absinthe available upstairs before venturing below.

Cocktails and contortionists

Beneath Exmouth Market lies a secret speakeasy serving up Victorian-inspired cocktails to expectant guests waiting for contortionists, cabaret dancers and other fabulous performers to strut their stuff on stage. This classic Clerkenwell nightspot boasts delicious gin-based cocktails, moody, dimly-lit Prohibition vibes and circus-like performances that usually take place every Friday and Saturday night. The cocktail menu is extensive and the beautifully crisp Chinaman’s Nightcap’ is recommended.

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Image: Sketch/Martyn White