Find the super-glamorous speakeasies, sophisticated restaurants and pub gardens serving up the best cocktails in Kensington and Chelsea
1 Balans Soho Society
Balans Soho Society started life as a sandwich bar on Old Compton Street and quickly made a name for itself thanks to its late night opening hours. And then it found its way to Kensington High Street, where you can still find that Soho/boho vibe from breakfast till midnight… The design – which incorporates a tree into the middle of the restaurant – stems from the vision of Simon Costin, who made his name creating outlandish fashion shows for Alexander McQueen. And the cocktails? Thyme for Tea with wild tea-infused Moskovskaya vodka, elderflower liqueur, ginger and thyme, or the Blueberry Banger with Ron Abuelo rum, blueberry, lime and ginger beer. Yup, we have a thing for ginger…
187 Kensington High Street W8 6SH; 020 7376 0115; balans.co.uk
2 Barts London
Many come to this secret Chelsea drinking den for the 1920s-themed experience – step through a clandestine entrance to find an intimate, plush-red speakeasy adorned with old paintings and antique lights, bar stools and stuffed animal heads – but, great character aside, the real reason to come is for the killer cocktails. The excellent bartenders can hustle you up a fresh concoction using herbs from the bar’s own garden, or try absinthe poured over sugar cubes for a instant fix. For groups, there are sharing beverages like The Mad Hatter (Russian Standard vodka, spiced berries and apple, topped with Prosecco) and cocktails served from large teapots. The Perique Tobacco cocktails are outstanding: the most expensive at £20 is Smoke Screen, which is made with Perique Tobacco liqueur, Dewar’s 18 Y. O. Scotch whisky, Angostura bitters, orange and sugar, served in a Dewar’s Signature box filled with apple-scented tobacco and chocolates or cheese and honey.
Chelsea Cloisters, 87 Sloane Avenue SW3 3DW; 020 7581 3355; barts-london.com
Galante works on so many levels – it’s super-swanky eye candy for one. Evoking an era of Argentina from the 1930s and 1940s, the bar’s shiny art deco style is effortlessly cool: think silver swivel bar stools, mirrored walls, black leather booths and oval chandeliers. An aqua-blue light offsets the darker vibe and gives a sophisticated edge to the interior’s gleaming curves. And as for the cocktails: these are grown-up drink choices, strong and moreish. The bar is inspired by Santiago ‘Pichin’ Policastro, a legendary bartender known throughout Latin America for his distinctive style and extraordinary drinks. Pichin’s talent earned him the nickname ‘El Barman Galante’ and the menu is a combination of his creations as well as contemporary offerings. The signature Galante cocktail is a Rum dry vermouth, cherry brandy and Kirsch, shaken and served straight in a Martini glass; it’s refined with mature notes. The Cha-Cha-Cha is a gorgeous medley of gin, apricot brandy and fresh peach topped with Champagne and served straight up. However, we recommend you go bespoke and ask your bartender for a ‘wild card’ to get the full Galante experience.
87 Sloane Avenue SW3 3DX; 020 7589 4256; bargalante.com
Albert’s is a place for Kensington & Chelsea locals to kick back in. ‘We wanted something here. A lot of people don’t like trekking to Mayfair anymore,’ says co-founder Carlo Carello. ‘I wanted somewhere in the vicinity of South Kensington, I was brought up down the road, so I know the area well – we know most of the residents and businesses.’ To be a part of Albert’s crowd, you will need to pay a £250 joining fee and a £500 annual subscription, with a few local souls (250) being able to become life members at a cost of £2,500. ‘The reason we charge membership is so we can offer a much more personal service. The attention to detail is key. Compared to other clubs we have three times as many staff. We will be the first member’s club to have a Rolls Royce chauffeur driven service.’
92b Old Brompton Road SW7 3LQ; 020 7225 1899; albertsclub.com
5 The Jam Tree Chelsea
This is the place for a bespoke fruity cocktail on a summer’s afternoon. If you’re yet to taste a jam cocktail – where have you been? – start with the classic Jam Mojito: Bacardi Gold rum stirred with fresh mint, lime and raspberry jam. From here, there’s a wide-ranging menu of interesting mixes to further tantalise your tastebuds. Try the The Damson in a Dress in which the Martini Bianco vermouth cuts through the sweet lime jam sublimely . If you’re eating with drinks, skip dessert for the Peanut Butter and Jelly Time, a heady saccharine mix of vanilla vodka and Baileys with strawberry and peanut butter. It’s also worth taking a peek at the Bloody Mary drinks menu, which features a hot-spiced Wasabi Mary and a Bloody Spicy, made with hot pepper sauce, Tabasco, cayenne pepper and fresh horseradish – not recommended for the faint-hearted!
541 King’s Road SW6 2EB; 020 3397 3739; thejamtree.com
6 Kensington Pavilion
These are seriously grown-up cocktails for a discerning crowd. Set in a decadent art deco-style venue on Kensington High Street, Kensington Pavilion’s cocktail bar serves an array of traditional and classic cocktails, focused on modern variations with locally-sourced ingredients. Among the old-fashioned sours, Champagne Bellinis and espresso martinis, you’ll find intriguing choices like the Buttered Julep: a mix of brown-buttered bourbon, mint, sage and bitter.
96 Kensington High Street W8 4SG; 020 7221 2000; kensingtonpavilion.com
If you like your cocktail venues boisterous and busy then this one is for you. Eclipse’s late licence means you’re safe to jump in a taxi and grab a drink here before 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Fresh fruit is a big part of the menu and some of the drinks even come served in hollowed-out fruit. The signature Eclipse cocktail is still the best-selling one: a martini made with Stolichnaya vodka, fresh watermelon and kaffir lime. It makes for a refreshing beverage, especially so when you learn that over 50 tonnes of fresh watermelons are used per year for this one drink. The Cirococo that is made from Ciroc vodka, Koko Kanu rum and coconut cream, fresh lemon juice & cranberry juice is also a good one to sip on the summer terrace for those warm nights, plus there are tasty Asian and Mediterranean snacks to complement your order.
158 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington SW5 0BA; 020 7259 2577
111/113 Walton Street, Chelsea SW3 2HP; 020 7581 0123; eclipsebars.com
8 Beaufort House Chelsea
Indulge yourself with a trip to this stunning venue spread over four floors. The chic Champagne penthouse that is located on the top floor is open to members only, however the ground-floor cocktail bar, which is open to all, has enormous windows filling the room with light make it an inviting space. Although the cocktail list is not extensive it is generous, encompassing champagne and martini numbers, shots, muddles and swizzles, plus a selection of long drinks suitably named ‘tall and handsome’. Signature drinks that you must try include the King’s Road Crush – Finlandia grapefruit vodka, shaken with fresh raspberries, basil and fresh lemon juice – plus the wonderful Spiced Pear Mojito: Captain Morgan spiced rum, pear purée, mint, fresh lime juice and a hint of vanilla sugar, served long over crushed ice.
354 Kings Road, Chelsea SW3 5UZ; 020 7352 2828; beauforthousechelsea.co.uk
9 Chelsea Prayer Room
Hidden away behind a secret door in the upstairs of Goat Chelsea is this small, dimly-lit, members-only bar. Every Thursday to Saturday, the prayer room’s doors open to guys and girls seeking a sexy candlelit setting for an-after hours drink, plus a little redemption – the DJ booth is set in a church pulpit, need we say more? The cocktail menu differs from that of Goat and is experimental in all aspects. The first thing you’ll notice at the bar is that the booze comes served in vintage non-branded medical bottles, adding to the sultry style. There are lots of twists on traditional classics and all bear intoxicating names: Gentleman’s Sour, Sleepless Beauty and Spanish Harlem being just a few to mention. We recommend trying the Gentleman’s Sour – a blend of whisky, Tennessee honey, lemon, apricot and egg white or Jamaican Me Crazy – for a memorable night.
333 Fulham Road SW10 9QL; 020 7352 1384; goatchelsea.com
10 The Botanist
Seasonal cocktails are a speciality at the Botanist, a modern European restaurant in Sloane Square. It’s a good spot to start your night and to people watch too. There is a fabulous rum old-fashioned, an unadulterated number made from Abuelo 12-year-old rum, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Angostura bitters and Demerara sugar syrup. However, opt for a contemporary cocktail and you will be rewarded by a inspired list of choices. The vodka-based Spinbrowka feels almost healthy, being made up of Green Chartreuse, apple juice, lime juice, cinnamon, spinach and pistachio syrup. Fans of sours should try the Piscochio Manzana Sour, a gorgeous aromatic blend of La Diablada pisco, Green Chartreuse, Manzana Verde, lemon juice, egg white and pistachio syrup – it’s tangy with mellow notes and, like many of the cocktails on the list, a fresh, fruity option.
No 7 Sloane Square SW1W 8EE; 020 7730 0077; sloanesquare.thebotanistlondon.com