Traditionally if you wanted a great cocktail in South Kensington, you made it yourself. Now the tide has turned and some of the best bars in South Kensington are some of the best bars in the world. Not only have they become part of the neighborhood, but they are also winning awards for their cocktail creations!
Perfect for a special occasion, date nights, happy hour or a relaxed drink, these bars are only steps away from the Royal Albert Hall, the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Science Museum and the Natural History Museum. Come for the dinosaurs, stay for the daiquiris!
Where is South Kensington
Just to get your bearings, the main road in the heart of South Kensington leading west and out of town is Cromwell Road. Other roads that make up the area are Fulham Road, Old Brompton, Queensgate, Exhibition Road, and Gloucester Road. Earls Court is the farthest east South Ken goes.
If you are on Kings Road, you are in Chelsea, with its own set of great bars and Kensington Church Street off of High Street Kensington will lead you up to Notting Hill Gate.
The bars that make up my Lush Guide to the Best Bars in South Kensington have all been tried and tested by me!
(In alphabetical order)
The newest addition to the South Kensington scene, located on Kensington High Street and a hidden gem among the takeaways and pharmacies, Amaro is not to be missed. Their pedigree is without fault. Former Head Mixologist of the Savoy’s Bars, Elon Soddu, has moved into town and wIth him, he has brought a slew of slingers who formerly worked at HomeBoy, Kwant and 69 Colebrooke Row.
You can order any of their signature cocktails you want or choose from their cocktail masterpieces – they don’t call them that, I do! They have not put one foot wrong with their Pomegranate Negroni, Pomelo and Peach Gimlet, Pear Old Fashioned and every other one on their signature cocktail list. If you are feeling flush, there is a vintage cocktail list on hand if you fancy a 1970 Hanky Panky.
- Amaro, 15 Kensington High St, London W8 5NP
Can a bar ride on the fact that it was the venue for the launch party of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album! You bet. Bar 190 has definitely not lost its coolness after all these years. In fact, it’s only getting better. A few years ago, Bar 190 would not have made the Lush List, but now they’ve shaken off the dust, hired some great bartenders, and are making some fabulous cocktails.
Make sure you head there immediately after the Royal Albert Hall lets out or you will be sent away. More than one famous performer has been disappointed when being told there was no more room! I saw it with my own eyes!
Top Tip(ple)🍸: Don’t miss the art work!! Yes! Those are photos from the original Rolling Stones’ party in the 70’s!
- Bar 190, 190 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5EX
Callooh Callay Chelsea
Although this bar is technically in Chelsea, it is close enough to South Kensington that it deserves to be on this list! For those of you who might not know of Callooh Callay, get yourself down here or to their bar in Shoreditch asap. It is really one of London’s most respected establishments, not only known for great drinks, but also their award-winning cocktail menu design. (Learn more by tuning into my podcast with Rebekkah Dooley, the designer of one of my favorite menus, The Callooh Callay Mixed Tape presented in a cassette tape holder).
Their new menu in Chelsea (as of October 2022) is up to par with the others and, for this lover of old letters, might usurp the cassette tape! I don’t want to spoil all the fun, but I will reveal that it arrives in an envelope and is entitled “To Whom It May Concern” and is a homage to all the great love letters of the past.
Spearheaded by the Head of Bars for Callooh Callay, Emily Chipperfield, each cocktail is a masterpiece of invention and creativity, as well as downright fantastic. To make it easier for the customer, the name of the cocktail is followed by a short description of the type of cocktail it is, e.g. “Doctor’s Note” / Apple & Pear Collins or “Right to Parlay” / Lilt Daiquiri. Of course, the super-helpful staff is on hand to answer any questions you may have.
These 15 signature cocktails have been created with passion and care and this menu should no be missed if you are in London. Also I can’t not mention the new food menu – from fried chicken bites to shrimp tacos, a perfect pairing for these incredible cocktails.
Top Tip(ple)🍸: Even though every drink I had (5!) was superb, I adored the story of the “Norwich!” During WWII, a naughty soldier might drop in the word “Norwich” in a letter to his loved one. It was an acronym for: (k)Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home!”
- Callooh Callay Chelsea, 316-318 King’s Rd, London SW3 5UH
Hidden underneath 100 Queensgate Hotel is the Esq Bar. Don’t think this is any boring hotel bar. They are cranking out some pretty good cocktail here! The bar is launching a revolving concept menu which changes to a new geographical location every six months. Right now, we are in Asia with a delicious Asian-inspired food and cocktail menu. Using Asian spirits, the cocktails are fresh and innovative. Giacomo, Zach and the rest of the team are a delight!
Top Tip(ple)🍸: Read the menu from cover to cover. It is a delight!
- ESQ Bar, 100 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5AG
The Franklin Bar
How apropos of The Franklin Bar in South Kensington/Knightsbridge to use the Grand Tour as its inspiration for their new cocktail menu. I’m not talking about the Jeremy Clarkson Amazon TV show, but the original Grand Tour – that rite of passage for every upper-class British gentleman from the 17th to almost the early 19th-century.
Heading out to see the world, these lucky Brits would travel from Britain to Italy and further abroad to continue their education. Think of it as the grandest gap year (or years) ever. I’m sure many vivants of the Franklin Hotel’s chichi neighborhood had their bags packed and were ready to go as soon as they turned 21.
The bar team at the Franklin led by Head Bartender Antonio Papariello have created a fabulous new menu (as of October 2022) that reimagines the Grand Tour for the 21st Century. Each guest is asked to choose what type of traveler they are: Collector, Early Bird, Pioneer or Escapist. A different British vehicle is assigned to each type of traveler: a Mini Copper, Range Rover, Aston Martin, and Jaguar – no horse and carriages needed for this Grand Tour. Then you pick from one of the signature cocktails in your group named for the Italian city you are headed to!
Now in the Summer of 2023, we are invited to head off on the Grand Tour Chapter 2 – driving thought the South of Italy from Rome to Calabria, with a stop off on Italy’s islands!
The Roma celebrates its seven hills and its famed amatriciana pasta by using Seven Hills Gin and guanicale as ingredients! The Amalfi wouldn’t be right without a touch of its famed lemons, which appear in its use of Staibano Limoncello, lemon curd, and lemon juice. The islands get their due with the Palermo, the Porto Cervo and the Cagliari to name a few! The hard work and creativity dedicated to this menu shines through – they just don’t sound good on the page, they taste truly fantastic.
It sounds a lot more complicated written down than it is. Really it’s just a bit of fun that you will be delighted to play along with because the cocktails are so worth it. Of course, you don’t have to play along, but that would be missing out on the immersive cocktail experience they’ve work so beautifully to create.
I highly recommend you seek out the Franklin even if you just want to have a classic cocktail that is not on their Grand Tour. It’s a jewel of a bar in a gorgeous boutique hotel. In the summer, the garden is in fully bloom and you can sit outside. Also the bar snacks are a cut above, thanks to the genius of Michelin-starred Chef Alfredo Russo overseeing the menu – still dreaming about the ‘Nduja Arancini.
- The Franklin Bar, 24 Egerton Gardens, London SW3 2DB
Baccarat Bar at Harrods
They say that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but how about a cocktail by its glass? I think its safe to say that at the Baccarat Bar you can and you must!
It is fitting that one of the chicest bars in South Kensington, or even I would go as far as to say in all of London, is nestled below Harrods, the iconic British retailer. This magnificent bar is a collaboration between Harrods and Baccarat, the prestigious French crystal manufacturer and the cocktails are as fabulous as the glassware they inhabit!
The divine Bar Manager Michal Janusz Maziarz welcomes you in and, if you aren’t familiar with Baccarat and their new Metamorphosis Menu, he makes sure you are by the end of the night. His passion and dedication to not only the bar, but also the new menu is contagious. It was inspired by the ability of Baccarat’s craftsmen to transform simple materials into objets d’art. The bar team took that know-how and brought it to their own techniques, turning simple ingredients into innovative cocktails.
They’ve employed 12 different methods, including fermentation, caramelization and oxidation, to create a 16 refined cocktails and four non-alcoholic serves. Of course, each of these is presented in its own fabulous Baccarat crystal glass.
Not only are the cocktail exquisite, but the bar itself exudes sophistication, adorned with Baccarat’s exquisite crystal chandeliers, glassware, and decorative pieces! The banquettes and seats are plush and comfy and the whole staff is knowledgeable and passionate, not only about the cocktails but well-versed in the history and heritage of Baccarat!
Don’t forget you can always purchase a glass or two for your home bar after your gorgeous evening here!
Top Tip(ple)🍸: Don’t miss the Coalescent – a bubbly subtle twist on a Pornstar Martini – but not bubbly just from champagne, but a heady foam of bubbles that make drinking it all the more fun. You have to experience it to believe it!
- Baccarat Bar at Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Rd, London SW1X 7XL, United Kingdom (Lower Ground Floor via street-level access on Hans Crescent or in-store (Door 5a))
One of the best hotels in the area has to have one of the nicest bars, right? Right! Sitting on the corner of Queensgate and Old Brompton Road is The Kensington Hotel, part of The Doyle Collection. Bustling and full of life, The Kensington Hotel and its K Bar is always busy and it’s rare to find a table free come cocktail hour. Still there is a relaxed atmosphere and you can settle into their comfy leather armchairs and watch the world go by.
It’s full of locals and visitors alike and it’s definitely one to visit even if you aren’t staying in the hotel. You have to love a bar that opens at 12:00 on a Saturday and Sunday!
Top Tip(ple)🍸: Their classic cocktails are truly classic, with a Corpse Reviver No.2 and Brandy Crusta on the top of the list. Don’t miss trying these as you can’t get them made better anywhere else.
- K Bar at The Kensington Hotel, 109-113 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5JA
The opening of Publiq during the pandemic changed everything in South Kensington. Co-owners Greg Almeida and Charles Montanaro have created the perfect neighborhood bar – great cocktails, great atmosphere, and innovative food. They were just awarded as one of the top cocktail bars in the city and that is due to their hard work, hospitality and fabulous drinks.
Steps away from Hyde Park, Publiq’s menu changes seasonally, beckoning you in with its heavenly mulled wine in the colder months and their boozy slushies in the summer months. Their signature cocktail menu has something for every palate and there are craft beers and natural wines as well.
Greg’s enthusiasm is infectious and by the time you leave, you will be regulars!
Top Tip(ple)🍸: You can only really choose the cocktails on their menu, but that is no hardship. They are constantly changing up the menu and there is something for every spirit lover.
- Publiq, 1 Palace Gate, South Kensington, London W8 5LS
There are too many South Kensington pubs to call them all out. All have a great selection of craft beers, cask ales,wine and nibbles. On Old Brompton are The Drayton Arms and The Duke of Clarence. The Builder’s Arms right off Kensington Square is gorgeous. The Hereford Arms is the closest to Gloucester Road. The Anglesea Arms found on Selwood Terrace in South Kensington is where Charles Dickens once lived and its terrace is packed in summer. Although not technically in South Kensington, I will give a shout out to the Churchill Arms as one of the best pubs in the West London!
Food for when you leave the bar
Bute Street is a short walk from the K Bar and has a selection of great restaurants. If you are in the mood for chicken wings, there is Wingstop and Dirty Bones. Also some of the best Spanish Tapas can be found on Fulham Road.
I have to admit that Janet’s Bar holds a special place in my heart. It’s a classic and been around forever. I was so sad to discover that it is closed for now. Will keep you posted if that changes.