Yes, I realize that I am missing quite a few important bars on this list. Off the top of my head, I still must visit The American Bar, Connaught Bar, Gong at the Shard, Nightjar, Untitled, Callooh Callay, Happiness Forgets, SAGER+WILDE, and Three Sheets. But dear cocktails fiends, have no fear. I will one day return to the cocktail capital of the world. In the meantime, here are my favorite drinking experiences in London.
This is it friends: your new favorite bar in London. An easygoing neighborhood bar vibe with the best drinks ever in London (cit.). Together with Rusty and the Singapore crew, we tried almost the entire drink list. Our favourites were Apples, Ramos/gin/figue and of course, the world famous Champagne Pina colada.
Chris Moore is one of the most down to Earth guys I've met. Daniel Schofield as senior bartender not only executed Chris' drinks to perfection but was such a pleasant guy. He immediately memorized our names and was a hero for charging my phone in the middle of a drink order.
Upon entering Scout, I was impressed with the intimate and modern space. Charles was a great host, guiding us through the odd menu developed by bartending genius Matt Whiley at Scout. Just like Luke at Operation Dagger in Singapore, the boys at Scout leave the base spirit off the drink descriptions, so you aren't tempted to choose your favorite whatever as long as there's whisky in it. In fact, the menu might look more like a light food menu with cocktail names like carrot, wheatgrass, beetroot and gooseberry, named after the primary ingredient in each drink. Impressively, all ingredients are sourced/foraged from within the UK.
The cocktails, made with the modern lab-style methods, were complex and beautifully layered. If you have the chance, ask to visit the laboratory downstairs. Although Scout's drinks are sophistacted, the four that we tried were all very approachable. My favorites were the savoury and floral Fig leaf (fig leaf, fermented gorse flower, vetiver) and the vegetal and refreshing Green pea (green pea, sorrel, carraway). Also be sure to check out the latest fermented drinks. I really enjoyed the hops and sourdough wine and I'll soon be cracking open the bottle of Strawberry mint that they politely gave me to bring back to Italy.
The one test of a good cocktail bar is that if you leave with a smile on your face. Scout will sure to be winning many accolades for their refreshingly innovative approach to the cocktail bar.
The Gibson is exactly what a cocktail bar should look like: an intimate, dimly-lit space, a sizeable but not overly long bar counter, and a vintage piano, complete with a talented pianist. I tried the signature Gibson martini – it was one of the best of my life. A great bonus at Gibson is the jar of pickles and small plate of cheeses served alongside your drink. Marian is a sight to behold as he prepares his cocktails, which vary from twists on classics to wild new creations. I’d like to give a special mention to the staff, who were extremely polite, always kindly asking permission before passing by our big crowd standing up at the cramped bar.
One of the best entrances in the world leads down the stairs to Oriole, a magical "speaky tiki" bar. Although I only had a very short visit, I was enthralled by the experience up at the bar - with two world class drinks, presented beautifully on the best coaster in the game. Luca Cinalli is mesmerizing to watch. His style and technique will blow you away. His elegance and speed while preparing his drinks and his signature crossed wrist shake will leave you in awe.
Bar Termini is a simple but brilliant idea. It aims to be a slick Italian café, but situated in London’s Soho district. And the baristas at Termini pull it off. The team are all dressed in beautiful white aprons and will trick you into thinking you’re in a Roman café. Cafés in Italy are actually called “bars”, and typically offer not just coffee and cornetti, but panini, cold cuts and great mixed drinks at aperitivo time. The same is true at Termini, but each of these offerings is executed to perfection. I recommend trying one of their famous Negroni variations. Congrats to Marco Arrigo, Gregory Camillò and the team for their awesome top 10 finish!
Across the street from Termini is the slick and sexy Swift. The bar features both an Upstairs bar for a casual visit, or the Downstairs bar for a more involved sit-down experience. Although we only visited for 30 minutes, Swift really impressed me with its simple but tasty beverages and jovial staff and customers. It will be at the top of my list for my next visit to London.
Walking into Dandelyan, I expected to find another typical stuffy hotel bar but it was completely the opposite. The whole night was pure happiness. From the greeting at the door, to my great interaction with the bartenders still had time to chat despite the speed at which they had to pump out drinks, it was a truly night to remember.
The drinks are world class at Dandelyan and are based on the Ryan Chetiyawardana and Iain Griffiths philosophy of sustainable practices. The menu is beautiful, with the last page organizing the cocktails into four quadrants to help you choose your concoction: on the Y axis drinks are sorted from lighter to richer while on the X axis, drinks are categorized based on the time of day.
My favorites drinks at Dandelyan are the silky and sumptuous "Sweetheart Sazerac" (Jameson, Redbreast, dock leaf, absinthe and nettle) and from the exclusive Cellar menu, the meditation-worthy "Patron agave sherry" - fermented agave fortified with tequila and rested to give added complexity to the cocktail.
Of course there's not shortage of great food in London. My main focus was on restaurants in the Shoreditch area given that's where my AirBnB was. Here are my favorite culinary experiences.
Som Saa offers out of the ordinary Thai food in a dimly lit and welcoming setting. The hospitality was excellent with the lovely hostess one of the best I've encountered in a similar setting. The neua parlow (five spice braised beef cheek and mustard greens with chilli vinegar sauce) was delicious. I also had the honor of meeting bartender Billy who made me a great cocktail based on gentiane aperitif.
On my return visit the next day, my bartender was the lovely Karla who suggested I try the naem pad woon sen (stir fried glass noodles with fermented pork, egg and holy basil and gung golae (grilled prawns in a southern style coconut marinade served with ajut salad). Both were delicious, and I washed them down with the signature Som Saa version of a Bloody Mary with thai spices.
Thanks to Alexx Mouzouris and Nicola FernetMan Olianas for this stellar recommendation.
Left: Naem pad woon sen, Right: Som Saa bloody mary with thai spices
Dishoom is the likely the best Indian restaurant n London but a word of warning: if you come here at night, be prepared to wait for an over an hour for your table. A must try is the Chicken ruby with makhani sauce, the best Indian dish I've ever had. The Indian-style breakfast is also highly recommended.
For more typical Thai food, Kinkao is a great choice. The pad thai is one of the best around and their green curry with chicken is very savory even if it was nowhere near as spicy as I'd like.
For great specialty coffee and one of the best avocado toasts in Shoreditch, hit up Allpress on Redchurch St.
Ozone, one of London's best coffee roasters, also serves delicious food. Try their buttermilk fried chicken, the hipster equivalent of crack cocaine.
Walking through Shoreditch, my attention was drawn towards a storefront because of some Italians I could hear chatting inside. Studying the signage outside, I realized I had serendipitously discovered the new London location of Seven grams, the cafe and barista training outfit from Milano. I thoroughly enjoyed their coffee but even more memorable was the friendly vibe and Italian-English conversation with the staff and customers in this neighborhood coffee spot.