When it comes to premium bars, there is no shortage in the United Kingdom, especially if you are fortunate to live in one of the big cities. London, as the capital, is especially well off – and last year, five of the top ten in the annual list of The World’s 50 Best Bars were in London.
Here, we take a look at some of our favourite themed premium bars in fair Londinium (as it was known back in Roman times).
We begin with the ICEBAR (pictured), located right in the heart of London on Heddon Street in Mayfair. It is billed as the UK’s only permanent bar made of natural ice, and each year gets a new theme, the current one being “Wild in the City” – previous ones have included “Frozen Architecture” and “Galactic Frontiers”.
Whether it is at the height of summer or the depth of winter, it is always kept at a cool -5℃, so if you are planning to go, dress appropriately for the occasion, although the price of entry – starting from £13.50 – does include gloves and a “designer thermal cape with a hood” to help keep you warm, in addition to a free spirit-based cocktail. Also, don’t forget to make a booking via phone or online via the Icebar website, especially if you are planning to go during a weekend, as tickets are sold in 40-minute slots.
Next up on our list is Oxo Tower, named earlier this year as one of the most romantic bars in London by the Evening Standard. It’s also a good walk from the ICEBAR – around 35 to 40 minutes – with a rooftop bar, restaurant, and brasserie on the eighth floor.
Oxo Tower opened back in 1996, and the stunning views of the Thames, St Paul’s, and the City of London are the main selling point. No reservations are needed, and if you time it right you can experience some live Jazz music, too.
If you are after something really exclusive, then a trip to the Nightjar should fit the bill – it’s number 19 incidentally on 2016’s list of The World’s 50 Best Bars. It is a 15-minute walk from the Barbican and is right in Shoreditch.
The Nightjar is very exclusive and reservations are a must. Indeed, it can be fully booked up to six weeks in advance and there’s no standing at the bar. It sells Prohibition–era drinks and is similarly clad out – very Boardwalk Empire and you can just imagine stars like Steve Buscemi, who played Enoch “Nucky” Thompson in that hit HBO series, playing that said character in this sort of setting.
Another one we like for a completely different reason is The Four Quarters – although you will need to travel out to Peckham, the land of Del Boy and Rodney of Only Fools and Horses fame – if you want to escape the hustle and bustle and take in this particular venue. It is worth the trip, though.
The Four Quarters is allegedly London’s only arcade bar – and while we’re not sure that’s necessarily true – it serves some great craft beer, and there is also a good selection of classic and retro games to play, like Pac–Man and Street Fighter II, guaranteed to transport you back in time to when, for example, fruit machines were themed around programmes like The Wheel of Fortune and Sex in the City, and when movies like Rocky and when Amigas and ZX Spectrums were in. The Four Quarters very much aims to take advantage of such nostalgia.
Staying with nostalgia, we should also mention Cahoots. It is in fashionable Soho and transports you back to the 1940s to a disused underground tube station. There’s a lot of live entertainment and even some piano sing-a-longs. A history lesson if you like, but with cocktails, rations, and music thrown in. Five rather very different ways to spend a night in London, each memorable for different reasons and each a premier night out at a premium bar.