The Best Bars for a First Date in London

There are many decisions when it comes to a first date…what to wear, what to talk about, where to go? The pressure is on! Here is our pick of the best bars for a first date in London to take the stress out of the occasion, leaving you to concentrate on the conversation flow and securing date number two.

The Punch Room, London Edition, Fitzrovia

The understated glamour of The Punch Room, hidden at the back of the London Edition, makes for an intimate and cosy first date.

The Punch Room

Impress your date with your insider knowledge when it comes to this discreet, oak panelled room and its punch menu, but be sure to book in advance.

The Coburg Bar, The Connaught, Mayfair

If you are looking to impress your date, look no further than The Coburg Bar in one of London’s hotel greats.

The Coburg Bar at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

The warm and homely atmosphere will do wonders for settling first date nerves and if you need a little more to relax, the cocktail menu is impressive, showcasing the finest drinks throughout history.

Aqua Shard, London Bridge

Pull out all the stops and take your date up to the glamorous atrium bar at Aqua Shard.

Aqua Shard Bar

This enchanting bar makes for a romantic setting, especially at night, when you and your date can admire London’s landmark monuments glinting below with a glass of Champagne in hand.

The Gilbert Scott, Kings Cross

Impress your date at the elegant Gilbert Scott, one of the best cocktail bars in London. This grand bar has a magnificent bell chandelier and ornate décor and there is an excellent cocktail menu to match.

The Gilbert Scott Bar

Make your way through the innovative concoctions and see where the evening takes you, Paris is but a train ride away…

Dukes Bar, Dukes Hotel, St James’s

The legendary Dukes Bar lends itself very well to a first date; timeless and intimate, this place is traditional and arguably serves the world’s best Martini.

You will feel as though you have entered the world of James Bond and rightly so, Ian Fleming used to frequent Dukes Bar and apparently this is where James Bond’s Vesper Martini originated.

Artesian, The Langham

Artesian is a sleek and sexy bar that will add a little West End glamour to your date with its luxurious interiors and renowned cocktails.

Artesian Bar at The Langham

Recently voted the world’s best bar, Artesian boasts 50 types of run and experimental cocktails that can only be found here.

The Luggage Room, Mayfair

The Luggage Room is a discreet speakeasy in Mayfair; the modern stylish décor, great cocktails and warm and intimate ambiance will really impress that first date.

The Luggage Room Bar

Expect soft leather, dark woods and impeccable service that is both friendly and laidback and will put you at ease so you can make the best first impression.

Kettner’s Champagne Bar, Soho

The Champagne Bar at Kettner’s boasts over 100 varieties of Champagne, one of the most extensive Champagne menus in London.

The best champagne bars in London

The relaxed glamour of the bar with its lavish décor and plush seating will be sure to win over any first date.

Oskar’s Bar, Dabbous, Fitzrovia

Oskar’s Bar in the basement of Dabbous, Ollie Dabbous’s successful first restaurant venture, exudes a cool and stylish vibe.

Oskar's Bar at Dabbous

Treat your date to some of the best cocktails made from foraged herbs and flowers and some exquisite canapés in this relaxed yet smart setting.

Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London, High Holborn

Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London, which opened in October last year, is a snug and cosy choice for a first date.

Rosewood London cocktail bar

Grab a comfortable wing-back by the roaring fire and make your way through the great cocktail list in this stylish and homely bar. The daily live music makes Scarfes Bar one of the best bars for a first date in London.

Vinoteca – Soho, Marylebone, Farringdon, Chiswick

Take your date to one of the four buzzy Vinoteca wine bars if you want to show off your inner oenologist. With a choice of nearly 285 wines this is the place to sample new and unique flavours and if your date finds one they love, why not treat them to a bottle to take home from the wine shop?

Note: Nobody has paid to be featured or offered anything free to be included. These are our own thoughts on the best venues for first dates in London. Click here to view our editorial policy.

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The Best New Bars in London – 2013

Earlier this week we listed our favourite new restaurants of 2013, and now we turn our attention to the best new bars in London for 2013. From some fantastic new hotel bars to a premium wine bar and a trip around the world via Mayfair in 80 days, read on for our guide.

Scarfes Bar at Rosewood London

Scarfes bar at the recently opened Rosewood Hotel in Holborn is a welcome addition to the London hotel bar scene. With a great cocktail list and live music performances, this clubby bar is both stylish and homely.

Rosewood London cocktail bar

Comforting elements such as the roaring fire, wingback and rocking chairs and bookshelves for walls combine to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere.

Aqua Shard

Aqua Shard’s sky-high bar is a glamorous spot to admire many of London’s iconic landmarks whilst sipping on a British-inspired cocktail or a glass of fizz.

Aqua Shard Bar

The enchanting atrium bar impresses with a spectacular double heighted ceiling and sweeping staircase, friendly service and an excellent cocktail list.

The Ape and Bird

The latest venture from the team behind the successful Polpo restaurants has arrived at Cambridge Circus on the Soho / Covent Garden border.

The Ape and Bird

The Ape and Bird encompasses a 120 cover restaurant and 4 rooms over 3 floors including a traditional pub and a cocktail bar in the basement.

The Punch Room at The London EDITION

Another recent addition to the London hotel scene, The London Edition is the latest hotel from Ian Schrager in collaboration with Marriott Hotels. The lobby bar is gorgeous with high ceilings and a dramatic chandelier in the centre of the room.

The Punch Room

If you remember to book in advance, try The Punch Room bar at the back of the hotel – an intimate space designed in dark woods, creating a stylish bar that makes you feel like you’re one of the few that know the secret.

Mr Fogg’s

Named after Verne’s literary creation, Phileas Fogg, Mr Fogg’s is an eclectic affair with a host of artefacts and trinkets from the protagonist’s fictional trip around the world in 80 days.

Mr Fogg's Mayfair

The piano and fireplace create a welcoming ambience and the inventive and well-executed cocktails make for an enjoyable and worldly evening.

Sager + Wilde

Sager + Wilde is a wine bar brought to you by husband and wife team Michael and Charlotte Sager-Wilde in the wake of last year’s successful pop-up on Old Street.

Sager and Wilde

The no-frills interior of reclaimed German station lights, a cast-iron grating bar, exposed brick walls and marble tables casts the spotlight on the extensive wine list.

With an emphasis on premium wines, including several rare wines exclusive to Sager + Wilde, there are flavours to suit every palate.

Blind Pig at Social Eating House

The Blind Pig, on the first floor of Social Eating House in Soho, is a smart vintage cocktail bar serving nicely presented cocktails courtesy of resident mixologist Gareth Evans.

The Blind Pig Bar

The bar serves an array of tempting bites and jars, such as duck fat chips, pork rillettes and smoked mackerel pâté.

Which are your favourite new bars of 2013? Comment below to let us know! If you liked this feature on the best new bars in London, click to read our guide to the best new restaurants in London for 2013. Subscribe to the journal at the link below:

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New London Bars and Pop-Ups – Summer 2013

We have compiled a list of new London bars and pop-up events that we think would be of interest to our readers over the coming months.

Travel around the world with Mr Fogg’s in Mayfair or on the great Indian peninsula railway or stay in London and take in the view at Aqua Shard or the Sky Lounge. Do you have your own favourite new bar? Comment below to inform us!

Mr Fogg’s, Mayfair

Travel around the world via Mayfair at Mr Fogg’s, a new bar designed to recreate the home of the fictional character, Phileas Fogg. Mr Fogg’s is the latest project from Inception Group, who are also behind Chelsea speakeasy bar, Barts, among other venues.

Mr Fogg's Bar

Mr Fogg’s is filled with artefacts and trinkets that the explorer might have collected on his travels, while a piano and an open fireplace create a welcoming, homely atmosphere.

The bar is under the direction of Mark Jenner, (formerly Bar Manager of The Coburg bar at The Connaught Hotel), so cocktails are inventive and well executed.

The Rum Shack at The Skylounge

If you’re looking for a rooftop bar near Tower Hill, head 12 floors up to the Skylounge at the Hilton Doubletree Hotel. With 2 rooftop terraces with the Gherkin and The Shard within touching distance, this is a great find for the summer months.

Rum Shack at the Skylounge

For the summer of 2013, the south roof terrace has a pop-up Rum Shack with mojitos, daiquiris and sangria available by the jug alongside wines and beer. The Rum Shack has a casual vibe with drinks, food and tables designed for sharing.

Aqua Shard

One of our favourite new London bars, you enter Aqua Shard on the 32nd floor of The Shard and are immediately greeted by a spectacular double heighted ceiling and a dramatic staircase.

Aqua Shard Bar

Head one floor down to the bar and pick any seat as each one will give you truly mesmerising views of London from all directions. While the view should be enough, we’re happy to report of a good cocktail list, a lovely range of wines and absolutely delightful service.

5CC Cocktail Bar

Looking for somewhere refreshingly different to go for a drink? Take a trip to trendy Clerkenwell’s Exmouth Market and venture upstairs in the Exmouth Arms to the 5cc Cocktail Bar.  Hidden away on the first floor, 5cc can be found all the way down the wooden corridor, giving it an illicit, stealthy feel.

The American prohibition vibe, the beautifully restored shutters and the brown leather banquettes all make for a splendidly different drinking experience.

5CC Cocktail Bar

Mixologist Piyush Chavda has crafted a superbly original selection of cocktails, including the Forgotten Range which consists of individual, self-pour vintage perfume bottles that are housed in an original apothecary cabinet.

We opted for the aromatic Li Chi – lychee liqueur and raspberries, blended with coconut rum, and the Lavender Fizz – home-infused gin and lavender sugar, shaken with egg white.

The Great Indian Peninsular Railway at Kitchen Party

We recently told you about the Kitchen Party pop-up in Clerkenwell from the Bourne & Hollingsworth team, and the latest experience is The Great Indian Peninsula Railway, a seven-course culinary journey from one side of the Indian Empire to the other.

Great Indian Peninsula Railway

Set in a colonial railway carriage, there will be a range of entertainment on offer to reflect the Indian subcontinent. Tickets are £65pp for a 7 course tasting adventure, tea infusions and a complimentary cocktail on arrival.

Menu Deluxe at Harrods

Luxury Knightsbridge department store, Harrods, is offering a sumptuous ‘Menu Deluxe’ at several of the store’s restaurants.  Various luxury gourmet dishes made using the very best ingredients will be priced at £100 each until 14th September.

We sampled the seafood platter, which included lobster, king prawns, sea bream, battered cod and scallops – divine!

Harrods Menu Deluxe

Other options include a Josper-grilled Wagyu côte de boeuf with green peppercorn sauce, béarnaise sauce, spring sautéed vegetables and truffle mashed potato, carved at the table by the maître d’ whilst enjoying a chilled glass of Champagne on the Harrods Terrace.

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The London Guide From Bon Vivant

We hope that our members and readers enjoy our regular blog posts – we try to make sure we tell you about the best venues and experiences to help maximise your free time and to ensure you are ‘in the know’ before anyone else.

The London Guide from Bon Vivant

In addition to the blog, we have launched a new section on our main website called The London Guide – your one source for the best hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, exclusive events and cultural highlights in one of the greatest cities on Earth – London.

The London Guide from Bon Vivant

Whether you want to know about the best London hotels (luxury or boutique), want to find a suitable London restaurant for the right occasion (brunch, afternoon, business lunch or private dining room, for example) or need inspiration for somewhere to go for a drink (cocktail bar, rooftop bar or champagne bar).

Bon Vivant’s London Guide hopes to be your one source to return to time and time again for inspiration on the best that London has to offer – it has our best content in one place, easily accessible and in an easy format to navigate.

The London Guide from Bon Vivant

We also have a section on London neighbourhood guides and a selection of holiday destination and travel guides including the Caribbean, Mallorca, Barcelona and the South of France.

Bon Vivant’s London Guide will tell you what you need to book, for whom, when and how. Click here to read The London Guide.

If you would like us to cover any content that we currently don’t have, please email us or leave a comment below – we would love to hear your thoughts. If you don’t already subscribe to our blog, enter your email address below:

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The Best Champagne Bars in London

Few drinks have the same emotional effect as Champagne – the perfect celebratory drink and the focal point for a great birthday, party or gathering with friends and family. Read on for Bon Vivant’s guide to the best champagne bars in London.

Oscar Wilde Bar at Cafe Royal

Oscar Wilde Bar at London’s latest luxury hotel, Café Royal, has been restored to its original Louis XVI style and it looks stunning.

champagne bars in London

The opulent room has seen its share of history and scandal, and is now, thankfully, open again as a champagne bar with a great location on the fringes of Mayfair and Soho.

Bob Bob Ricard

champagne bars in London

Bob Bob Ricard in Soho is designed in the style of a train with booths for 4 to sit for dinner with plush curtains separating the booths. It oozes Art Deco decadence with its buzzy atmosphere, and there’s a “press for champagne” button on your table to press when you need a top up – perfect!

Bubbledogs

Bubbledogs was one of the big restaurant hits of 2012 specialising in hot dogs and champagne on Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia. Bubbledogs features a menu of ten hot dogs served on traditional steamed buns and a selection of grower Champagnes.

Bubbledogs offers a cool alternative to the grand champagne bars in London.

Kettner’s Soho

The best champagne bars in London

The Champagne Bar at Kettner’s has an extensive range of champagnes. The bar has a wonderful Soho buzz and has two ‘nooks’ that are ideal for an evening with a group of friends.

Keep reading for our tips for some of the best champagne bars in London…

Champagne and Fromage

As a Champagne bar, shop and bistro, Champagne and Fromage has a no fuss, warm and welcoming ambience.

Champagne + FromageAll the grower champagnes served at Champagne and Fromage are sourced by the owners from award-winning family owned producers.

The Vaults at Voltaire

Once housing the treasures of the former bank above, the old stone vaults have now been converted into a unique bar area, The Vaults at Voltaire. The Vaults offer private alcoves with i-pod docks and decorated in silks and furs, with service from your own private waiter.

Archer Street, Soho

Set over two floors with a ‘shabby chic’ design on Archer Street in Soho, Archer Street (the bar) has a dedicated Billecart-Salmon champagne bar on the first floor, the only one in London.

Archer_Street_Champagne

They have also recently launched a new bar downstairs called ‘Chukka’ as a nod to London’s summer polo season. With an overall capacity of 440, Archer Street would make a good space for a large private party.

St Pancras Grand Champagne Bar

Known as one of Europe’s longest Champagne bars, the St Pancras Grand Champagne Bar is  located on the terrace of St Pancras International station, alongside the Eurostar train carriages.

Marvel at the station’s stunning architecture and roof while you wait for your journey to Paris with a glass of champagne

Texture

Texture is a Michelin starred restaurant, combining British ingredients with Scandinavian influences. The Texture Champagne Bar offers five Champagnes by the glass and a further 110 by the bottle, making this an ideal spot for a pre-dinner drink or to make your way through the extensive champagne list!

Vertigo 42

Vertigo 42 is located on the 42nd floor of Tower 42, the former NatWest tower in the City. Vertigo 42′s Champagne Bar offers a stunning view of London while you enjoy a glass of champagne.

The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy

The Beaufort Bar is an Art Deco gem with opulent black and gold furnishings. The bar has an extensive list of champagne by the glass and by the bottle including rare vintages from Louis Roederer and Cristal.

best champagne bars in London

The Beaufort Bar has live lounge singers on select evenings and a monthly evening of cabaret and burlesque.

Aqua Nueva Cava Bar

Aqua London in Soho has launched a new cava bar in its Spanish restaurant, Aqua Nueva, showcasing 15 Cavas at the tapas bar.

The new cava bar has the largest cava selection in London. Aqua also has two lovely rooftop terraces to enjoy in the summer months.

Copa de Cava, Blackfriars

Housed within brick vaults near Blackfriars, Copa de Cava, the UK’s first dedicated Cava bar, is reminiscent of the Catalan bodegas.

Copa de Cava - Cava bar

Although this is not strictly a Champagne bar, the long and laborious Cava process results in an impressive range and complexity of flavours that will satisfy the most discerning oenologist. Make your way through the extensive Cava and tapas list or attend one of their tasting master classes.

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Clerkenwell Restaurants and Bars: London Neighbourhood Guide

Bon Vivant’s Emyr Thomas has lived in Clerkenwell for 10 years and knows its restaurants and bars inside out. Here’s a selection of his favourite Clerkenwell Restaurants and Clerkenwell Bars.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: Caravan

Caravan offers one of the best brunches in London on the weekend in a relaxed and effortlessly cool setting on Exmouth Market in Clerkenwell. When the weather warms up, the door and windows open and diners spill out into the street.

clerkenwell restaurants and bars

The New Zealand influenced restaurant has its own coffee roaster, so flat whites are very popular too. Caravan has a second outpost, Caravan King’s Cross.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: Morito

Moriton is a small tapas bar right next door to its big sister, Moro, the acclaimed Spanish restaurant on Exmouth Market. This is one of my favourite tapas bars in London – it’s small, casual and has an excellent selection of authentic and inventive tapas dishes.

Clerkenwell Bars: ZTH Bar at The Zetter Townhouse Hotel

The Zetter Townhouse bar is designed around a fictional crazy aunt whose artefacts from around the globe fill up the room.

clerkenwell restaurants and bars

The setting in a townhouse on a beautify square in Clerkenwell is delightful and the cocktails are excellent.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: The Modern Pantry

Right next door to the Zetter Townhouse is Anna Hansen’s Modern Pantry, which serves excellent food in light, bright surroundings. The restaurants also has a large terrace to make the most of the sunshine in the summer months with alfresco dining and a few lovely private dining rooms upstairs.

Clerkenwell Bars: The Peasant

Clerkenwell has its share of gastropubs, including the Coach & Horses and The Eagle, but The Peasant is one of my favourites. The downstairs bar area is full of character, serving a long list of ales and beers, with plenty of room for both drinkers and diners.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: Polpo Smithfield

A recent addition to Clerkenwell, Polpo Smithfield opened near Smithfield Market in the summer of 2012. Polpo Smithfield is the latest restaurant from Russell Norman, whose restaurant empire started with the original Polpo in Soho.

clerkenwell restaurants and bars

Polpo Smithfield also has a basement Negroni bar.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: Portal

Portal is a modern Portuguese restaurant and bar on St John Street. Architecturally, the dining room is stunning: a glass conservatory within a brick courtyard with atmospheric and beautiful up-lighting creating a dramatic backdrop.

clerkenwell restaurants and bars

The Iberian cuisine is top notch with some wonderful Portuguese wines.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: Bistrot Bruno Loubet

Bruno Loubet returned to the London restaurant scene with Bistrot Bruno Loubet at The Zetter Hotel. The tables are packed in next to each other, but the crowds keep flocking here for the rustic French cooking with intense flavours.

Clerkenwell Bars: Nightjar

Although not strictly in Clerkenwell, Nightjar is a beautiful bar hidden away in a basement in Old Street, which does technically have an EC1 postcode.

Clerkenwell Bars

Nightjar is a great place to relax with a drink alongside laid back jazz and brilliant live music on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Clerkenwell Restaurants: St John Restaurant

A guide to Clerkenwell’s restaurant wouldn’t be complete without a mention of St John, the famous ‘nose to tail’ restaurant that uses every possible part of an animal. St John is a bit of a Mecca for London’s ‘foodies’ and certainly worth a visit at least once.

Other notable restaurants include French restaurant Morgan M, the relaunched Quality Chop House and the Fox & Anchor pub on Smithfield Market.

If you need a strong coffee after visiting all the restaurants and bars, try Workshop Coffee Co, which features on our guide to the best coffee shops in London.

What are your favourite Clerkenwell restaurants and bars? We would love to hear your thoughts below.

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London’s Best New Cocktail Bars – 2012

London saw some excellent openings during 2012, with another handful of great bars we’re sure will stand the test of time and become must-visits in the capital. Read on for our guide to the best new bars in London.

Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous

Dabbous is the brain child of chef Oliver Dabbous and bartender Oskar Kinsburg. It may take months to get a reservation in the restaurant upstairs, but take note, Oskar’s bar in the basement is rarely full – a hidden gem.

the best new bars in London

Industrial in style, the bar is beautifully decked out, if a little dark. The menu consists of classic cocktails and Oskar’s own inventions, including some beer based libations that we would definitely recommend trying.

The bar snacks are (unsurprisingly) second to none, mirroring some of the courses on the menu upstairs, making Oskar’s Bar one of the best new bars in London.

39 Whitfield Street W1T 2SF

London Cocktail Club

The first of our 2012 predictions to come true was the opening of a naval themed London Cocktail Club. The second LCC (third venue if you include Covent Garden Cocktail Club) JJ and James have brought their signature laid back atmosphere and feel good cocktails to Bloomsbury.

Rum is the name of the game here, with pin up girls and tattoo designs on the wall. The cocktails follow the same formula as the other venues, with all time classics alongside signature twists and bar snacks designed to complement your drinks perfectly. Go for banging drinks and a great party atmosphere at one of the best new bars in London.

224a Shaftesbury Avenue WC2H 8EB

Evans and Peel

Evans and Peel proved that, despite predictions otherwise, London’s appetite for speakeasy bars remained strong. This time entry comes via a detective agency, with a resident detective who will need to consider your case before allowing you in.

Evans & Peel Detective Agency

With a sweet little cocktail menu including infusions and an antique radiator that dispenses beer, expect unusual twists along the way.

310c Earl’s Court Road SW5 9AQ

Bounce

Indulge your competitive side by combining your cocktails with a side of ping pong at Bounce. With history on its side (the venue sits on the same site where the game was created in 1901) they’ve gone all out, with multiple ping pong tables including one used in the 2012 Olympics.

The bar, homage to a gin palace, stocks a range of spirits, with a short but concise cocktail list.

121 Holborn EC1N 2TD

Beard to Tail

The long awaited second venue from Callooh Callay came with a distinctly foodie twist. As the name suggests, the menu features all kinds of unusual cuts of meat from pig and cow. The drinks offering has a strong American influence with craft beers and lots of bourbon so expect to find juleps, Manhattans and sazeracs.

Their brunches are well worth a look, if just for their amazing bloody mary, served with a side of crackling at one of the best new bars in London.

77 Curtain Road, London, EC2A 3BS

Duck and Waffle / SushiSamba

If you love your cocktails with a side of epic view, Duck and Waffle and SushiSamba are for you. Gaze over London from either of the bars which sit at the top of the Heron Tower, just one super fast lift ride away. Part of the same venue but split over multiple floors each restaurant and bar has its own personality.

duck & waffle

Duck & Waffle sits up top, with an inside out bar of sorts, where you can stand alongside the bartender as they craft your drinks. SushiSamba sits beneath and has a stunning roof terrace framed around a beautiful tree, making it one of the best new bars in London.

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate EC2N 4AY

Bar Americain

It isn’t a speakeasy but Bar Americain at Brasserie Zedel oozes 1930s glamour – think Babette’s Supper Club from Boardwalk Empire. The cocktails keep to theme, with classics such as Sazeracs and Martinis on offer.

the best new bars in London

Visually stunning, although sometimes lacking a little in atmosphere, definitely pull up a bar stool when you visit.

Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, City of Westminster, W1F 7ED

2013 Predictions…

Looking to 2013, keep an eye out for the bar in the shard, sure to rival the heron tower for their views, expect multiple new openings from LCC as the boys build on their empire, and watch out for a potential new bar from Dabbous…

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Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour

Opium dens were prevalent in many parts of the world in the 19th century, but stepping away from the late 19th century and into December 2012 we can associate an ‘Opium Den’ with a lot less Morphine and a lot more delectable oriental-inspired liquid creations designed to provide a unique sensory experience once you step through the jade door at the Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour.

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour is the newest kid on the Gerrard St block, nestled appropriately amongst the hustle and bustle of Chinatown, and the sights and smells that make this little part of London one of the most vibrant.

Opium cocktail bar and dim sum parlour

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour features nooks and crannies spread over three floors, with all spaces lending themselves to a different feel – relaxed lounge style seating, an intimate boudoir drinking den for a close crowd, and open plan bars to spread out and escape the intensity of central London, each one providing a feast of flexible drinking and dining experiences.

When I got the opportunity to step into this lush hub of oriental eclecticism last week, I was taken aback by the vast contrast of standing on Gerrard St, then stepping into the dimly-lit, cavernous surrounds of Opium – it provided some respite from the noise outside, and offered the soft mumblings of friendly chatter inside.

I was positioned at the bartenders’ table, where you can watch the masters at work, mixing up luxurious cocktails.  It is really a bit magical – wielding apothecary-style bottles instead of wands, and serving up mysterious potions to satisfy even the most hardened cocktail connoisseur.

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour’s mixologist Dre Masso is the brains behind the stellar line-up of unique cocktails on offer at Opium, and going one step further, he has orchestrated a Cocktail and Dim Sum Pairing- matching his signature drinks to the selection of dim sum and roast meats that make up Opium’s fare.

Through a hint of science and a healthy amount of intuition, each pairing creates a taste sensation greater than the sum of its parts.

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour

I tried a couple of cocktails whilst I was there – the house special, Opium Cocktail No 1, which contains two types of rum, absinthe, mandarin juice, lime juice, kaffir lime juice, kaffir lime syrup, citrus bitters and a ginseng capsule.

It is served bubbling in an interesting drinking apparatus – the perfect blend of theatre, alcohol and perfectly balanced flavours.  A must have for the first visit but note the limit of two per person.  Something about being told that made me want to have three.

Now enter Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour’s Kung Fu Fiz (pictured above), a dinky china cup packed full of flavour that you are convinced will not work, but it does. It works. It works very well.  Champagne, parsnip puree, honey and malt vinegar, served straight up. The parsnip drew me in, and the sweet honey kept me there.

The Scallop, coriander and pea dumplings, pork and prawn dumplings and a couple of cheeky Chinese egg tarts topped off the Opium experience, and puts a much more appealing spin on the trusty ‘dinner and drinks’ combo.  Give me opulent Opium Den chic any day.

Address: Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour, 15-16 Gerrard Street, W1

If you like cocktails, read our guide to London’s best cocktail bars.

Courtney Smith works in the world of consumer PR by day with a passion for food, travel, whisky and all things alcohol related. Hailing from Australia, she travels as often as she can, writing about accommodation, dining and drinking experiences as she goes.

Evans and Peel Detective Agency – London Bar Guide

On Earl’s Court Square, off Earl’s Court Road, third door down past the launderette, there’s a discreet sign – “Evans and Peel Detective Agency”. The door is locked, so I start ringing the bell…

“Hello! I have an appointment at 9:30!” I shout when I hear a woman’s distant voice.

“There is an investigation going on at the moment, please wait on the stairs,” she tells me.

Five or ten minutes go by and finally I’m inside a 1920s detectives’ office (including ancient typewriter, phone and other gadgets). A beautiful lady dressed in a white fur coat sits behind her desk and asks about my case. I mumble something incomprehensible and tell her that a friend of mine will join me shortly.

The lady detective says my guest will have to discuss the case with her, then pushes a bookcase forward and a secret doors opens into a beautifully designed Prohibition-style bar. It’s low-lit, mysterious, warm and filled with delicious smells of smoked fish and meats.

Evans & Peel Detective Agency

The detective informs me that the tile and brick feature wall behind the bar at Evans and Peel Detective Agency was uncovered in the initial stages of renovation, its entire bar has been crafted from the 250 year old oak of claimed church pews, and theatre seats from the 1930s were shipped over from France.

Tables were made from scaffolding boards, placed on top of antique Singer sewing machine bases, and vintage glass cabinets had their legs removed and were mounted on the walls so that each spirit has its own dedicated cabinet. All tables, chairs, radiators, light fixtures and the eclectic crockery were sourced from flea markets and antique shops, along with the vintage fire extinguishers and taxidermy.

When my friend Konrad finally shows up at Evans and Peel Detective Agency, he tells me that the lady detective with the white fur coat asked him if he had known that I skinned cats. Only when he assured her it did not bother him, she let him inside. Konrad was very impressed with the secret door.

Evans and Peel serves ‘American tapas’ – small plates of rich things such as wedges (£4), mac & cheese (£5) and smoked goats’ cheese fritter with maple syrup (£4). We sampled “The Whole Caboodle” dish – a selection of treats that came on a three tier cake stand (£32). The detectives said that all food is locally sourced and smoking is done in-house using a custom built smoker called ‘The Flapper’.

A prohibition-style bar would never be successful without some fabulous cocktails (all Evans & Peel developed cocktails are priced at £9.50). Auntie May’s Pisco Flip (A Pisco Sour with apple and lemon curd) came in a tea cup and was dangerously delicious.

According to the menu, amateurs should beware of Only the Daring (Whiskey, Campari & bitters) that is for heroes only. G – Minus (Gin, lavender and Earl Grey with orange bitters) is a re-mastered G&T, that combines all English flavours.

There’s a no standing policy at Evans and Peel and they say all clients must be seated for their consultation. But the bar is not a members’ venue and a few tables are left every night for that urgent case solving.

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Join us as we review London’s best cocktail bars (including Evans and Peel Detective Agency) by following us on Twitter at @BonVivantLiving.

New Bars in London – Autumn 2012

Looking for somewhere new to enjoy a cocktail in London? Read on for our guide to London’s new bars opening this autumn. You may also want to read our guide to London’s best cocktail bars, which includes our old favourites.

Ling Ling at Hakkasan Hanway Place

The original Hakkasan, located at 8 Hanway Place, will launch their new bar ‘Ling Ling’ on Thursday 1st November.  Every week from Thursday to Saturday inclusive, at approximately 11pm until 2.30am, Hakkasan Hanway Place will move from a restaurant into a late night lounge.

Hakkasan Hanway Place

High profile DJs will play monthly and the full dining menu will be available until 12.30am and guests can choose from a signature Ling Ling menu of small eats and dim sum from 11pm until 1.30am.

Buddha-Bar London, Knightsbridge

Buddha-Bar comes to London’s Knightsbridge from 1 November. First established in Paris in 1996, Buddha-Bar London ‘will blend Far Eastern cuisine with Western tastes and influences’ offering a menu with Chinese, Japanese, Thai and other Eastern flavours. Buddha-Bar London is set over two floors with an excellent cocktail list and live DJs.

Reverend JW Simpson, Fitzrovia

From the people behind Bourne & Hollingsworth, Reverend JW Simpson is a new cocktail bar opening on Goodge Street in late October 2012. An intimate space with the cocktail list focusing on Fizzes, Flips, Cobblers, Smashes and Sours, the drinks are mixed and served at the table.

The bar retains the original room dividers, wall coverings, flooring and tiles of the apartment that originally occupied the site, subtly exposing the former building’s kitchen, bathroom, living room and bedroom. The bar will launch officially on the 25th October.

Baroque, Mayfair

The latest venture from nightlife entrepreneur Gerry Calabrese, Baroque is located on the ground floor of the Playboy Club on Old Park Lane and claims to have the most extensive vintage Champagne list in Europe!

Baroque London

Having undergone an extensive refurbishment, the venue has been transformed into a sumptuous space with lavish colours, heavy drapes, Louis XIV chairs and antique mirrors. Baroque opens on 4 October.

2 & 8 Club at Morton’s, Mayfair

Morton’s Club has relaunched its nightclub as the 2 & 8 Club, with Jake Parkinson-Smith and Carlo Carello, previously at Boujis, in charge. The club is open until 3am from Tuesday to Saturday.

Bounce, Holborn

Hot on the heels of Ping, which opened late summer 2012, Bounce is a new ping pong bar and restaurant from one of the co-founders of bowling venue All Star Lanes. Bounce will offer a mix of ‘table tennis, cocktails, dining and eclectic beats’.

Bounce London

There is also a private room available for exclusive hire featuring three specially commissioned ping pong tables alongside a private cocktail bar and DJ booth.

Join us as we tour London’s new bars by following us on Twitter @BonVivantLiving.