Although the City of London is technically only a mile square, there are some of the best bars in all of London hidden away in its windy streets.
It can get a little confusing. The “City of London” is the heart of and forms the oldest part of London. It was founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago! From there, the rest of London grew to be the city we know and love. There are all types of drinking establishments in its famed square mile, from wine bars, cocktail joints, and ye olde pubs.
Where exactly is the City of London
On the south, it starts from Temple Tube, then travels across the Embankment, past London Bridge, then onto Tower Bridge. The northern border is more or less from Chancery Lane to Liverpool Street Station in East London. Bank Underground Station and St Paul’s Cathedral are right in the middle. If you look on a map – or your phone – you see it makes one big circle or mile squared!
For my Lush guide, I am concentrating on the stand alone cocktail bars and a few iconic pubs you just can’t miss!
(these are in alphabetical order!)
Don’t get scared if the man behind the bar snaps at you. He snapped at us. You have to take a seat or he just won’t serve you. For a tiny bar with a massive shuffleboard table taking most of it, it can be a little tough to find a seat, but it’s definitely worth the wait for that bar stool. He just wants to make sure every guest is comfortable and has enough room to enjoy their cocktail in peace. There is nothing wrong with that.
You’ve walked into the Black Parrot – a tiny piece of ye olde heaven for rum lovers. Tucked into a tiny alley off Fleet Street and Blackfriars Bridge road, it’s a true find. It’s all about rum here really – all the greats are represented – Foursquare, Doorly’s Trois Rivieres and hundreds of others.
If you are not into sipping rum neat, then you are in for a real treat. The cocktails are fabulous and the drinks menu is a work of art. One of my favorite drinks on the menu is the Dove Orchid – a holy combination of Rum, Fresh Passionfruit, Lime and Pink Peppercorn Syrup – WOW. Get there early so you can grab your seat! It’s worth being snapped at with cocktails this good.
Black Parrot, 8 Bride Ct, London EC4Y 8DU
As much as Black Parrot is a haven for rum lovers, Black Rock is a destination for all you whisk(e)y lovers. Right behind Liverpool Street Station, you could easily miss Black Rock if you didn’t know it was there. Down a hidden staircase, you open the door to find a log! Yes, a big log taking up the centre of the tiny bar acting like a table.
This log has been cut in half and turned into a super chic communal table. Take one of the seats around the table and you’ll discover that the log has been filled with whisky and there are taps at each end. How divine is that!
You can order a dram of the liquid inside or if you are more of a whiskey cocktail lover, then no problem – just order one of their amazing signature whiskey cocktails. Don’t go here if you are looking for a clear spirit!
Black Rock, 9 Christopher Street, London EC2A 2BS
City of London Distillery
Down another staircase, this time in the shadow of St. Bride’s Church, is the City of London Distillery, which you can hear all about on my Lush Life episode with General Manager William Borrell. Let’s just say they take their gin very seriously, and in the part of town that invented what we know of as London Dry Gin, that is very important.
It was the first gin distillery in the City of London after 200 years and they are one of the few businesses allowed to use the livery of the City of London which you can find on every bottle. You can also take a tour of the distillery and make your own gin there as well.
If gin is not your tipple of choice, don’t worry they do have other spirits to whet your appetite, but I would go for the gin. They make it there! I think even Hogarth’s sentiments toward gin would have been different had the City of London Distillery been around in the 18th C.
City of London Distillery, 22-24 Bride Lane, EC4Y 8DT
I’m always happy when a bar brings me nuts to go with my cocktail (or popcorn for the matter), but these nuts were unlike any other. I was blown away and then I took one sip of my cocktail. WOW. What a team, what a bar, what cocktails. Silverleaf is set to conquer the City of London, if not all of London!
The power trio of Chris Tanner, Liam Broom, and former Lush Lifer Simo was bound to be great, but this cool, this hip, and most importantly this friendly! Design buffs will also love that the menu is a work of art in collaboration with Tom Dixon, as was the entire bar! Head down there to see what I’m on about. Remember the proof is in the pudding (or I guess in this case the pecans)!
Silverleaf, 80 Houndsditch, EC3A 7AB
What can I say about Oriole that hasn’t been said already. A gem, an award winner, home to Lush Life Book Club. It’s a magical place run by talented people and one of the best bars in the world and I am not exaggerating. Another bar that you might miss if you were just passing through, Oriole is nestled into Smithfield Market. There is a sign above the door and a person outside that door with a clipboard making sure you don’t miss it.
Down the stairs you go into another era. The music, the lighting, the decor all send you back to a time when cigarette holders and coupe glasses were de rigueur. The cocktails are most definitely stuck in the past. You are sipping drinks that changed everything. They are rebellious and refined – even revolutionary!
It does take awhile to sift through the extensive menu, but it’s well worth it because when the drink arrives and the music starts playing you won’t want to leave, unless it’s to try their other bar, Nightjar, another one of the best cocktail bars in the world.
Oriole, East Poultry Avenue, London Central Markets, London, EC1A 9LH
I wasn’t going to write about a restaurant bar, but I just can’t help myself when it comes to what Brutto has to offer. There aren’t many places in London where you can find Select. For those Venice lovers among us, you’ll know what that is. For those who think there are only two red spirits: Aperol and Campari, well, I would like to introduce you to Select. Actually you can get the introduction better at Brutto than from me! Try their Select Spritz or their Brutto Negroni and see if you ever go back to the other red stuff!
They also have owner Russell Norman’s new spirit Nostrano to try in a cocktail or as a digestive! Find out all about it on my Lush Life episode with co-creator Luca Di Vita.
Trattoria Brutto, 35-37 Greenhill Rents, London EC1M 6BN – Negroni
The City of London holds some of the oldest pubs in the city and if you haven’t even taken a glance inside, you have to stop and check them out. The Blackfriar is one of my favorites and a dream. It is right outside the Blackfriars Tube station so you can’t miss this triangular building. It was plonked there in 1875 on the site of an actual monastery. Head instead to see it’s mosaics,
If you are in London, it should be a law that you have to head down to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. It’s one of the oldest pubs in the city and a fave of Charles Dickens. Do I need to stay more! Oh yeah, it was built in the 17th C!
Take a Pub Tour of the City of London
Thanks so much to The City of London for sponsoring this post. Although it’s sponsored, every opinion is my own!
The “Square Smile ” campaign is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of returning to the City and face-to-face interaction as firms increasingly give their staff more flexibility on where they locate through hybrid working. It showcases the City’s vibrant offerings – ranging from world-class culture, heritage, cuisine, entertainment, retail, architecture, BARS, and so much more. Visit www.squaresmile.london for great ideas of places to visit, to see, discover, and drink.