Sometimes your bog standard bar just doesn’t cut the mustard, and you’ve left yearning for something a little more fun, outlandish or cool. Like a bar decked out in your nan’s old furniture or a drinking den in an old abandoned tube station turned air raid shelter (or something along those lines). Luckily, London is home to several weird, wonderful and wacky bars spanning everything from secret speakeasies and public loos to vintage boltholes and theatre-themed hideaways. Here’s our guide to quirky bars in London for those who prefer to be surrounded by things like taxidermy and retro arcade games while sipping on your cocktails.
Guide to quirky bars in London
In this guide
Quirky bars in London
- The Escapologist – A contemporary take on the Victorian era
- Evans & Peel Detective Agency – A bootlegged bolthole
- Tonight Josephine – An ode to a hedonistic Empress
- Brilliant Corners – A slice of Japan in the East End
- Callooh Callay – Named after the Jabberwocky's cries
- Little Nan's Bar – A retro Deptford hideaway
- The Last Tuesday Society – Weird, wacky and wonderful
- TT Liquor – A jack-of-all-trades
- Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town – The cat's pyjamas
- BYOC – Step into a Prohibiton-themed bar
- Ladies and Gentlemen – Not so bog standard (ahem)
- Bobby Fitzpatrick – Retro heaven
- Trailer Happiness – Beachside bliss in Notting Hill
- The Four Thieves – Arcade gaming heaven
- Vaulty Towers – Theatrical, fun and playful
- Cahoots – A vintage tube-themed bar
- The Little Doors – A house party vibe
- Four Quarters – A throwback to the 80s
- Tayēr + Elementary – By two renowned bartenders
- Satan's Whiskers – A neighbourhood favourite
- Mr Fogg's Residence – The home of British adventurer Phileas J. Fogg
- Rhum Tavern – Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
- Garlic & Shots – No surprises here
- The Chocolate Cocktail Club – There's one key ingredient
- Basement Sate – Cocktails and cake
Quirky bars in London
Quirky, unusual, cool and fun London bars
A contemporary take on the Victorian era
This quirky cocktail bar in Covent Garden oozes fun. It’s named after Victorian vagabond Baron Von Took who escaped the death penalty after requesting a final drink in Covent Garden just hours before his sentence. It’s a glamorous subterranean playground with a nod to the upper echelons of a late Victorian society, and it’s filled with weird and wonderful trinkets and treasures. The cocktails are contemporary, with the likes of Tommy’s Margarita and strawberry and watermelon margaritas taking centre stage. The bar comprises the ‘Masonic Lodge’, which leads to a smaller vault where you can dance well into the night.
A bootlegged bolthole
Evans & Peel Detective Agency is a speakeasy-style cocktail bar in Chelsea disguised as a private detective’s office. Upon arrival, convince the detective you have a case worth investigating, and he’ll guide you through a secret door straight into a 1920s bolthole. Relax to the sound of 1920s jazz, swing and blues and enjoy bootlegged cocktails in an atmospheric drinking den away from the eyes of the law.
An ode to a hedonistic Empress
It's all about glitz and glam at this swoon-worthy cocktail bar in Clapham, Waterloo and Shoreditch. It's one of the most Instagrammed bars in London and is an ode to Josephine De Beauharnais, a hedonistic icon who became the Empress of the French after marrying Emperor Napoleon I. She carried herself with sass, making her own rules to get what she wanted in life, living by the motto 'c'est la f**king vie'. The specialist cocktails are aptly named - Sugar Daddy, Hot AF and London Lady - and there's also a selection of wines, shooters, beers and ciders to enjoy.
A slice of Japan in the East End
Step into Japan at this quirky bar in the East End, where the food is inspired by izakayas, which are a bit like pubs in Japan, where you can sit in, drink and enjoy sharing plates. There are regular DJs spinning live tracks and the food comes as a set menu, which can also be made vegan, or à la carte (only available occasionally). Choose from a range of small plates, like Padron peppers and pickled daikon, and a range of larger dishes to share. The drinks range from cocktails and beer from Camden Town and Five Points to sake, European natural wines and mezcal.
Named after the Jabberwocky's cries
This funky bar, named after the cries of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky character, is fun, playful and synonymously British. You'll find mismatched furniture, a mirrored closet leading to another decked-out drinking den, and a thoughtfully crafted cocktail menu. There's also a short menu of small plates and nibbles, like charred corn ribs, Afghan smoked aubergine dip and buttermilk-fried chicken with toasted peanuts.
A retro Deptford hideaway
This super kitsch bar in the grade 1 listed Victorian arches of Deptford Market Yard is as quirky as it gets. It’s kitted out in old-school, grannyish furniture, ornaments, trinkets, and treasures. They have a fully-stocked bar of cocktails, hot mulled apple juice, craft and draft beers and more. As for the food, expect classics like fish finger sandwiches and disco fries.
Weird, wacky and wonderful
The Last Tuesday Society is a wacky cocktail bar above The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities, Fine Art and Natural History on Mare Street. The bar is inspired by the prohibition era, with an entire menu dedicated entirely to absinthe, cocktails crafted with unusual spirits and a selection of beers and wines. The downstairs museum isn't your everyday museum; some might say it's not for the faint-hearted. It's filled with oddities like two-headed kittens, jars of celebrity faeces and a full-sized taxidermied lion sitting at a table.
TT Liquor is an all-rounder, housed a cosy subterranean cocktail bar, a roof terrace with sweeping city views, and a bottle shop stocking a handpicked range of drinks and specialist mixology equipment. The seasonal drinks menu is divided into different concepts, with each drink crafted with specific ingredients to accentuate their components. They also host cocktail-making classes, live music sessions, and film nights at the vintage 52-seater cinema located behind the liquor store.
The cat's pyjamas
If you head into The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane and ask to speak to the mayor, you’ll be led through a Smeg fridge and out into a cosy candlelit cocktail bar, The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. The bar is decked out with vintage furniture and quirky wall art, a world away from the seemingly ordinary restaurant upstairs. The cocktails are fun, like the Chiquita with whiskey, Advocaat, Licor 43, banana, lemon and sugar, and the food is more-ish, think disco fries and cheese boards. They also run a bottomless brunch on the weekend.
Step into a Prohibiton-themed bar
Step through an unassuming door on Camden High Street, pitch up at a vintage blackjack table and slink into the Roaring 20s at this Prohibition-themed casino bar. Bring along a bottle of your choice, pay the entrance fee and enjoy two hours of cocktail-making hosted by your own flat-capped bartender. Your choice of spirit will be mixed with a collection of homemade bitters and syrups, spices, herbs and pressed fruits to craft a selection of bespoke cocktails to suit your palette. Hungry? Pick at an artisan cheese and charcuterie board alongside your drinks.
Not so bog standard (ahem)
This Kentish town cocktail bar isn't your average drinking hole, it's located in a restored public toilet. Yep, really. But don't worry, there aren't really any reminders that it's a former bog once you're inside. Their cocktail selection is excellent and they even make their own gin on-site. Their Kamizake is a favourite, made with vodka, curacao and lemon, and served as a cocktail or, if you’re feeling wild, as four shots.
You'll feel like you've walked straight into your nan's 70s living room at this retro-themed cocktail bar on West Hampstead High Street. The decor includes outrageous wallpaper, throwback televisions and old-school radios. The drinks menu comprises a range of cocktails, rums, wines, spirits and beers, whilst the food features a selection of mouthwatering pizzas.
Beachside bliss in Notting Hill
Trailer Happiness is an award-winning, tiki-themed bar on Portobello Road with a drinks menu centred primarily around rum; think tropical favourites with a tiki twist. The interior is playful, with exposed brick walls, leather chairs, fun artwork and dim lighting. Enjoy a beachside bite from their ‘trailer bites’ menu, featuring everything from sweet potato fries to Jamaican-inspired patties.
Arcade gaming heaven
This isn’t just your average pub, this neon-lit bar is home to a range of retro arcade games, VR booths, karaoke and a Moonshine Raceway. It’s located on the first floor of an old Victorian Music Hall, where it’s filled with vintage arcade cabinets (which all take contactless payments). They serve a Mediterranean-inspired menu and pub food classics, including small plates and larger plates that are perfect for sharing.
Theatrical, fun and playful
This bar in Waterloo is part pub, part theatre, which is unsurprising as it's owned by The Vaults, London's home for immersive theatre and alternative arts. It's super playful, with theatre-inspired props like a huge moon replica, neon lighting and even a bar stool that's deliberately a foot higher than the bar. The cocktails are classic and they have espresso martinis on tap. There's also a small menu of beers and soft drinks to choose from, too.
A vintage tube-themed bar
This 1940s-themed bar is set inside an abandoned train station used as an emergency air raid shelter during the war. Today, it still houses many of the items that were left behind, like tinned foods and old toys, which helps to maintain the post-war spirit they are trying to keep alive. They also serve rations and cocktails and throw themed parties well into the night.
A house party vibe
The colourful Little Doors around London are designed as if you’re showing up to a house party – a house party in a pretty hip flat, that is. You can choose your adventure exploring the place, camping out in a single room, drinking, dancing, dining, whatever takes your fancy. Live DJ events and themed cocktail nights are also a regular feature, alongside cocktails and bottomless brunches.
A throwback to the 80s
Four Quarters has an excellent selection of drinks and a vibing atmosphere and is home to an impressive selection of 80s style arcade games. There’s a bar in Peckham, a bar in Elephant and Castle and a more laid-back version of the bar in Hackney Wick, located right along the canal. Come here for the games, console booths, drinks and bar snacks. It’s a great spot to bring your friends and challenge them to a tense Mario Kart tournament.
By two renowned bartenders
Tayēr + Elementary is an innovative bar located a stone's throw away from Old Street station. It's split into different parts, Elementary: an all-day, walk-in bar which caters to a weekday seasonal bite to eat and drink (their Iberian pork sandwich is legendary). The second part is Tayēr: a drinking den at the back with a menu crafted by two of the world's most respected bartenders. The cocktail list changes regularly, but each is a miniature work of art. There's a reason this bar came second on the list of the best bars in the world in 2022.
A neighbourhood favourite
Those in the know will say you'll be hard pressed to find a more chilled-out neighbourhood bar than Satan's Whiskers. This Bethnal Green-based boozer is a local favourite, and from the outside, it looks like a run-down dive bar. But, head inside, you'll be met with a stylish, relaxed ambience, accentuated by French posters pasted on the walls, hip-hop filtering through the sound system and a sleek, dimly-lit interior. The cocktail menu is updated daily, depending on what the bartenders fancy.
The home of British adventurer Phileas J. Fogg
Mr Fogg’s House of Botanicals is set inside the eccentric Mayfair residence of the famous British adventurer Phileas J. Fogg. You won’t miss this one from the street; a beautiful flower arch welcomes you through the door, only to be met with a plant-filled bar. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream, with wire birdcages dangling from the ceiling and an eclectic range of prints and quirky souvenirs from Phileas’ travels. The cocktail menu is just as adventurous as Phileas himself, crafted using rare spirits and ingredients inspired by his worldwide travels.
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Rhum Tavern, inspired by the early days of the rum trade, features a stunning wood-panelled interior designed to resemble the keel of a 17th century ship. It offers one of the most extensive rum selections in the country, alongside a range of rum-based cocktails. The bar's concise menu of grilled delicacies draws inspiration from the food that was commonly found on sailing ships during that period. Additionally, Rhum Tavern operates a shop where customers can purchase from a collection of approximately 400 rums.
No surprises here
A Swedish export to London, Garlic & Shots does what it says on the tin. At this dimly-lit and gothic bar you can sample global dishes rammed with garlic as well as an extensive menu of shots covering the entire of spectrum of flavours from fruity to spicy and, indeed, garlicky. Cocktails are available too if shots aren't your thing.
There's one key ingredient
The Chocolate Cocktail Club specialises in original cocktails loaded with chocolate. If wine is more your thing but you don't want to miss out, the chocolate-infused red wine is a great alternative. This comfortable venue is full of quirky decor and also serves an afternoon tea just made for chocoholics. Sweet and savoury bar food is served too.
Cocktails and cake
Basement Sate is a subterranean cocktail bar with a USP. This place serves up decadent desserts with cocktail pairings for a unique drinking experience. Original and classic concoctions are served here. Ideal for those with a sweet tooth, the venue also offers cocktail-making masterclasses. The space has a drawing room style.