This is why below you can find 3 recent discoveries of mine that deliver on drinks and atmosphere for a range of budgets, whether you are after a fancy pants cocktail that is worth the big bucks, a happy hour find which comes with snacks (major BONUS in any case) or just a cosy, chilled pub where you can get a decent glass of wine for under a fiver! Your next Wine Wednesday is sorted, thank me later.
GOOD PUB VIBES @ THE EXMOUTH ARMS
It’s taken me a few years (I mean maybe a decade) of living in the UK to “get” the whole pub thing since moving over from Germany. However, I am happy to report that nowadays I have learnt to fully appreciate a cosy, unpretentious pub on a Sunday afternoon, perfect for catching up with friends without breaking the bank and having to worry about splurging on food but so much better than sitting at home.
There are of course hundreds of pubs in London and not all of them are great. There are the smelly ones, the party pubs, the endearing old men pubs which are still a little too rough around the edges for me and the hipster ones in East London, restored to an inch of their life to look “rustic”, and where you’ll end up spending a tenner on a simple Aperol spritz, surrounded by every single bearded stereotype you can think of.
When you find a pub that is the right side of restored without being pretentious, think lots of wood and charming touches, is in a lovely area and has a chilled crowd PLUS cheap wine you have to count yourself lucky and make it your regular ASAP which was exactly the case with the Exmouth Arms.
Bang in the middle of charming Exmouth Market, not too unlike Broadway market with it’s array of great cafes and restaurants but a little less busy and closer to central, this pub ticks all the boxes – lovely staff, plenty of space and a good mix of families, twentysomethings and the occasional hipster (this is still kinda east), which meant that on my first visit I already felt like I had found a little home away from home. A generous glass of wine comes in at under £5 which is fantastic value for London and I am already planning a return visit with the BFF to try their roast dinner offering. Hands down my favourite pub discovery so far in London although I am sure not the last!
APERTIVO HAPPY HOUR @ POLPO
I have written about the tasty tapas style Italian fare that gets served up at Polpo a few times on the blog already. However, if you are on a little bit of a budget, the small plates concept can quickly add up when you dine at one of their 6 London branches, I also recently discovered while on the hunt for an early Saturday evening drink in central, that Polpo offers one of the best value and tasty happy hours around.
Indeed between 4-6pm every day, which unfortunately for me with a 6:30pm finish during the week means this is a weekend only offer to be made use of, their Aperol Spritz’s, negroni's, bellini's and a couple of other classic cocktails will only set you back £5. Not only that but alongside your drink, in true apertivo style like I loved so much on my Rome city trips, you will also be served deliciously juicy green olives as well as my all time favourite truffle crisps, making this basically the ideal drinks and nibble set up at a real steal for London standards!
I’ve been to their Covent Garden branch already twice in the last few weeks but there are drinks to be had at all of their rustic yet chic locations across London and I for one will make this my default happy hour when I can make it before the clock strikes 6pm – heck it doesn’t get much better than cheap Spritz’s and free truffle crisps in my eyes!
SPLASH OUT COCKTAILS WORTH THE ££ @ THE ORIOLEBAR
Oriole is not the sort of place you will spend an entire evening drinking at unless budget really is no consideration. In fact, even if you are feeling plush I’d say start your evening at this decadently decorated, exotically themed bar - think sumptuous gold interiors with palm tree covered wall papers and intriguing trinkets as if collected on an epic journey of discovery around the world, and go for one lavish cocktail, slowly sipped and savoured to really make the most of Oriole and to kick of your night in style.
Indeed this place screams luxe and this is also reflected in the drinks which are divided into three sections: Old World, New World and the Orient, showcased in a menu that resembles more an illustrated novel with it’s detailed descriptions of ingredients, tasting notes and beautiful illustration of the local flora and fauna of Your chosen part of the world. The sheer choice of drinks can make it quite overwhelming to choose a cocktail but fear not because service at Oriole is as impeccable and clued up as you would hope for when paying £15 for a cocktail. Our waitress patiently listened to the alcohols we most enjoy and what we wanted from our ideal cocktail and then suggested what suited this the most from the menu.
In the end I went for the Solomon fizz, a delicate combination of Belvedere vodka, Iranian lime and lavender agricole, satkara lemon and Veuve cliquot champagne served with a stunning dried flower floating in the glass presented to me. I may not know what half the ingredients I just listed were but I do have to say that every sip of this cocktail was complex, interesting and showcasing true bartending skill that justifies the price tag.
Oriole isn’t a place to get drunk or even tipsy at, it’s a place to appreciate the art of cocktail making where every aspect of the drink has been carefully considered, after all you wouldn’t treat yourself to a Michelin star dinner every Friday so go to Oriole for a special occasion, savour every sip and be prepared to be wowed.