Duke's, Mayfair; Emma Strenner - Beauty Director, ELLE
A proper dirty martini this side of the pond can be difficult to find. Not cold enough, not strong enough, not dirty enough... the list is endless. The martinis at Duke's are strong, and any more than two will have you weaving your way home in a wonky line. But, set against the backdrop of a proper old school bar where the seats are plush velvet and the bar snacks are served in immaculate small bowls on perfectly polished mahogany tables, just one after a long day at the office, is nothing short of glorious.
St. James’s Place, SW1A 1NY; Dukes.com.
Drink Shop & Dance, King's Cross; Patricia Campbell - Commissioning Editor, ELLEuk.com
It’s no secret that London’s edgier nighttime haunts tend to be hidden away in the scruffier parts of town. Over in King’s Cross, deep in the recesses of an old Victorian bathhouse, is a deliciously decadent and refreshingly unpretentious cocktail bar that goes by the name of Drink Shop & Dance. To find it, walk through the design shop at the front, take a sharp right and head down a bright red staircase, past a lit-up neon Adult & Erotica sign (a clue to the venue's former life as a sex shop). Suddenly you’re in a sumptuous art deco space, all black, white and silver with lashings of harlequin detail, exquisitely presented (and reasonably priced) gin cocktails and a secret dancefloor where you can dance the night away to anything from Disco, Electro and Pop to vintage Rockabilly.
9 Caledonian Road, N1 9DX; Drinkshopdance.com.
The Hansom Cab, Earls Court; Carrie Tyler - Editor, ELLEuk.com
I was not pleased on hearing my local pub was going gastro. But with Piers Morgan as its owner and a Tarquin behind the bar, it was only a matter of time. Now with Marco Pierre White on board The Hansom Cab on Earls Court Road has been made over to look like the interior of the Titanic. Very chic, very good ribs and oysters and heralding a new grown-up era for my friends and I of meeting in the pub with your heels on instead of trainers.
84 Earls Court Road, W8; Hansomcab.com.
Milk and Honey, Soho; Susan Ward Davies - Travel Editor, ELLE
Hidden away behind an unmarked door on Poland Street, Milk and Honey is the quintessential speakeasy: dark, atmospheric, with three floors of cosy booths, expert cocktails from some of the best mixologists in town (try the Albemarle Fizz), and, since last year, a bijou roof terrace. Sister to the famous Milk and Honey in NYC, it's the flagship of Jonathan Downey's empire that includes cool drinking dens like Redhook, Danger by Death, The Player, and now the newly relaunched Century Club on Shaftesbury Avenue.
61 Poland Street, Soho, W1F 7NU; Mlkhny.com/london/.
The Three Kings, Clerkenwell; Ben Cooper - Online Travel Editor, ELLEuk.com
You pretty much know you're onto a winner from the moment you see that the three 'kings' adorning the sign that hangs outside this Clerkenwell pub are Elvis, King Kong and Henry VIII. Inside, with a large stuffed rhino head on one wall and an assortment of other knickknacks and curios dotted around, the feel is lived-in and quirkily boho - cool enough, but not too cool for its own good (or to get in the way of just being a relaxed local boozer). On Saturdays they often have decent music nights on upstairs, and on summer evenings, drinkers spill out onto the pavement and sit on the steps of St James's Church opposite.
7 Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell, EC1R 0DY; Facebook.com/the-three-kings-in-clerkenwell.
And five more of ELLE's favourite hangouts that we just couldn’t leave out...
Freud Bar, Covent Garden; Sara D’souza - Travel Assistant, ELLEuk.com
You’d be forgiven for having walked past this bar plenty of times without even knowing it was there. Just on the edge of the Seven Dials on Shaftesbury Avenue, Freud Bar is a local New York-style neighbourhood hangout right in the centre of town. Descend the wrought-iron staircase off the street and you find a concrete-clad urban bunker full of old wooden furniture and loads of style. Most importantly, the drinks list is endless; the knowledgeable staff can all shake a very mean cocktail indeed and don’t bat an eyelid no matter how unusual the request. Plus, with cocktails starting at about £6, you won’t max out your credit card in the process.
198 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H; Freud.eu.
Experimental Cocktail Club, Soho; Bonnie Rakhit - Market and Merchandising Editor, ELLE
Only those in the know go to the Experimental Cocktail Club - after all, there's no sign outside and entry is through a scruffy little door off Gerard Street in the centre of Chinatown. Once inside there are two floors of speakeasy-style cocktail bar. The interior's clad in dark wood and is seriously seductive with dimmed lights and cosy corner sofas. And the best thing? The experimental cocktails, some of which come in ready prepared old school medicine bottles and vials, are all absolutely delicious. It's best to book, as it’s pretty hard to get in. That is if you can find it...
13A Gerrard Street, W1D 5PS; Experimentalcocktailclublondon.com.
The Lamb, Bloomsbury; Alice Watt - Fashion Assistant, ELLEuk.com
Shhhh. Please keep this a secret! I only discovered this pub recently but it’s quickly become a favourite/regular haunt. Easily rivalling my regular East London hangouts, the traditional British pub interior (complete with tartan carpets and original Victorian fittings), cosy rooms and a large beer garden - plus the fact that you're almost always guaranteed a seat - makes for one of the best pubs you’ll find in London.
94 Lambs Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3LZ; Thelamblondon.co.uk.
Archer Street Bar, Soho; Amy Lawrenson - Beauty Writer, ELLEuk.com
Archer Street feels like a sophisticated slice of Manhattan in the newly coined ‘South Soho’ area of London. Set over two floors, it’s best to head straight for the basement, which with dark wood flooring and sumptuous fuchsia and turquoise seating, is very inviting. There's always an animated, but never overcrowded, feel - even on a Friday night. And talented waiters and bar staff will happily break out into song and dance throughout the evening, proving that this bar really places fun far higher than pretentiousness on its list of priorities.
3-4 Archer St, W1D 7AP; Archerstreet.co.uk.
The Hemingway, Victoria Park; Laura Weir - Acting Fashion Editor - ELLEuk.com
With the weirdest stuffed animal heads around (you have to witness the fox/human hybrid for yourself) and the best burgers in town, The Hemingway is a little gem of a pub. The building has been lovingly restored and the facade is pretty impressive; plus it’s in the heart of the Victoria Park area of Hackney, which is residential and relaxed. On the food front, the burgers are cooked to perfection (we're pretty certain they're made from very high-grade ground beef), the buns are fresh and the chips are perfectly crisp.
84 Victoria Road, Hackney, E9 7JL; Thehemingway.co.uk