“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, famously mused 18th century writer Samuel Johnson. And this from a man who never visited M&Ms World. Yep, London is an eclectic and fun town all right, and if you were in any doubt as to how much, just keep an eye out for all the daring and unconventional drinking spots dotted across its landscape.
Whether it's impressing friends or taking colleagues for an after-work pint with a difference, you'll need to discover haunts with something truly unique going on. So come with us as we present the most unusual bars in the capital...
1. Moonshine Saloon
535 King's Road, SW10 0SZ; Moonshinesaloon.com
One of the city's only immersive bars, Moonshine Saloon combines theatrics with mixology to transport drinkers back to 1904 in the wild, wild West. The scene: part of moonshine smuggler Clyde Cassidy's illicit gang operation, you'll be dressed up in cowboy gear and served cocktails from your own snuck-in drinks. Get involved with old-timey antics like card or dice games and enjoy the fruits of your bootlegging labour - just don't get caught out by the Sheriff, or you'll find yourself behind bars at sister venue Alcotraz in no time...
2. Flight Club
55 New Oxford St, London WC1A 1BS; 2 A Worship St, London EC2A 2AH; Flightclubdarts.com
First rule of Flight Club. You talk about Flight Club. You talk about this ‘social darts’ experience to all who’ll listen, even showing them a photo of the Instagram-baiting Carousel Bar if you must. Golden tip: when taking workmates along ensure you opt for the Team Builder experience, which includes cocktails, pizza and ‘speaker’s corner’, where you can deliver a stirring pep talk - right before Dave from accounts obliterates you with a nine-dart finish.
3. Ballie Ballerson
97-113 Curtain Road, EC2A 3BS; Ballieballerson.com
Where better to indulge in youthful nostalgia than in a UV play-pit filled with one million - yes, one million - balls? At Shoreditch's Ballie Ballerson, you can leave your adult troubles at the door and relive your childhood joy by elegantly flailing about among the plastic bubbles. Then, wash it all down with sweet-themed drinks like Skittle Sours and Dib Dab cocktails for that joyous sugar rush.
4. Tamesis Dock
Albert Embankment, SE1; Tdock.co.uk
Hear the words ‘barge’ and ‘bar’ in the same sentence and you may get flashbacks to the Friday scrum at Wetherspoons. Not anymore though: this converted 1930s Dutch Barge is a neighbourhood bar found bobbing on the Thames around the Embankment and Vauxhall area. With regular live music, outdoor and indoor spaces and stunning views of Parliament and beyond, only a mutiny could stop you giving it 5 stars on Tripadvisor.
5. Plonk Golf
204 Ferndale Rd, SW9; Plonkgolf.co.uk
You know those high-end crazy golf courses perched atop city centre car parks, festooned with people taking selfies? Yeah, this isn’t that. Currently in residence at the lively Duke Of Edinburgh, Plonk provides more of an easy-going mini-golf experience. It's under a heated marquee, with a Tiki Bar for good measure and a BBQ pit on weekends. Channel your inner Rory (McIlroy, not Bremner).
6. The Distillery
186 Portobello Rd, W11, The-distillery.london
A gin hotel. An actual gin hotel, located on swanky Portobello Road and offering different drinking experiences across four floors. Visit the working distillery, have bartenders pour directly from seven recoopered barrels of global spirits, or go up to GinTonica, the plush upstairs bar which pairs the spirit with premium mixtures served in signature Copa glassware. Stay the night, or, you know, just go for a couple.
Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Ave, SW3; Barts-london.com
Speakeasies: nothing new. Al Capone would probably be spinning in his grave if he knew how many were clogging up east London right now, but no matter, because West London is getting in on the act as well. If you manage to uncover the entrance to Barts, just off Sloane Square, you’ll be treated to a world of playful décor, comic book menus, graffiti-clad classical artwork and flaming marshmallow garnishes. Just a standard Friday night then...
8. Last Tuesday Society
11 Mare St, Dalston, London E8 4RP; Thelasttuesdaysociety.org
You know the problem with most bars? Not enough shrunken heads and taxidermied big game, if you ask us. Billing itself as the capital’s most curious cocktail haunt, however, Last Tuesday Society is a drinking spot hidden deep within the weird and wonderful collection of the Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities and frankly one of the best place you’d ever want to take friends.
13 Kingly St, W1B; Cahoots-london.com
Minimal chat, no Wi-fi, rogue accordion players – it’s probably for the best that TFL hasn't yet launched pop-up bars in the Underground. Besides, over at Cahoots in Soho’s Kingly Court, where vintage-styled tube carriages play host to late night parties and swing evenings, you can get a similar effect without the faff of having to tap in. A gem.
Discover more of the capital's best bars, clubs, food spots and local secrets at Keys To Your City London.