Nothing screams sophistication like tucking into a good book with a dram in hand – so we’ve rounded up the best of London’s library bars for a classy and cosy night out. (Going out can now be classed as educational – you’re welcome).
1. Scarfes Bar, Holborn
Named after British caricaturist, Gerald Scarfe, this bar is filled with Scarfe’s own collection of amusing paintings – making it an educational trip for art fans. Cocktail names draw from contemporary events and pop culture figures, and bring the namesake artist’s caricatures off the wall and into your glass. You can be sure that you’re in good hands, too, given that their Arturo Burzio was recently crowned the ‘elit Vodka Martini Master 2022‘. Oh, and there’s books. Lots of them. To fill the shelves, an antique dealer from Portobello Market hand-selected over 1,000 antique tomes. Be still my beating heart!
Keep an eye out for their all-new menu, coming soon, to celebrate ten years of Scarfe’s!
📍 The Rosewood London Hotel, 252 High Holborn, WC1V 7EN. Closest station: Holborn.
2. Library Bar at The Lanesborough, Hyde Park Corner
The outstanding mixology, “liquid museum” of spirits, and warm, vibrant atmosphere make The Library Bar at The Lanesborough a popular choice with Knightsbridge and Belgravia’s locals, as well as hotel guests. While bartenders often hesitate to tamper with classic cocktails, the team at this library bar have re-imagined some old favourites with fantastic results. They also have their own house gin, The Lanesborough London Dry Gin, and an absolute plethora of spirits.
Throughout March they’re running a special pop-up in collaboration with “the world’s leading publisher of the highest quality illustrated books”, Rizzoli. They’ll be displaying their titles throughout the bar, with the chance to sip on special Rizzoli cocktails and even meet some of the featured authors! Find out more here.
📍 Hyde Park Corner, SW1X 7TA. Closest station: Hyde Park Corner.
3. Library Bar at The Ned, Bank
This intimate library bar bills itself as a champagne and martini bar. Now that’s the kind of specialisation that can get behind! Hidden behind a jacquard curtain, the venue boasts a menu of thirty different Champagnes, a martini trolley, signature and vintage cocktails, and a healthy selection of vermouth. Create your own Martini using your choice of spirit and garnishes, and get cosy on a velvet sofa – you’ll feel oh-so suave.
📍 27 Poultry, EC2R 8AJ. Closest station: Bank.
4. Swans Bar at Maison Assouline, Piccadilly Circus
In the heart of Piccadilly and housed in the landmark building that was once a former bank, it would be rude not to have a drink or a spot of afternoon tea in what is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful book stores. Have a sip, have a browse, and maybe even learn more about the drink in your hand.
📍 196A Piccadilly, W1J 9EY. Closest station: Piccadilly Circus.
5. The Cinnamon Club, Westminster
Once the reading room of the old Westminster Library, this Grade II-listed building is now home to contemporary Indian restaurant, The Cinnamon Club. The beautiful restaurant has, however, honoured its history and retained its literary spirit in the book-filled walls. All food is complemented with carefully sourced wines, and their gin trolley offers an exceptionally curated collection of gins. A cocktail menu in both bars promises an exploration of tastes with signature famous cocktails. Eat, drink, and admire the history of literacy!
📍 30-32 Great Smith Street, SW1P 3BU. Closest station: St James’s Park or Westminster.
6. The Fable, Holborn
Inspired by the fantasy world of fairy tales and Aesop’s fables, The Fable (looking out onto Holborn Viaduct) offers tranquil calm in the heart of the city. From the leather bound books to the vintage typewriter, every detail tells a story. Whether you’re just popping in for a drink or sitting down for an evening meal, you’ll quickly spot the venue’s enchanting quirks. This (pictured 👆) is, of course, the best seat in the house.
📍 52 Holborn Viaduct, EC1A 2FD. Closest station: Farringdon or City Thameslink.
7. Electric House, Notting Hill
Now, look, you are going to need to be a member to get into the library at Electric House. But ask around, you’re sure to have a friend who has a cousin who knows someone that can get you in. And given how gorgeous the space is, it’s worth the effort. The library also plays host to live music, complementing the library of not just books, but also vinyl records.
📍 191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED. Closest station: Ladbroke Grove
8. The Phene, Chelsea
This iconic Chelsea pub dates its heritage back to the 1800s, and the three-floor clubhouse-style venue hides a whole host of rooms. It’s equally welcoming throughout the year, with a sunny beer garden for the summer and warm cosy rooms for the cooler months. They also boast “the comfiest chairs in all of Chelsea.” A bold claim. Care to put it to the test? Grab one of the antique books from the shelves (carefully, now!) and settle in. A blue splash is a slight left turn compared to others on this list, but is a welcome one all the same, and makes it one of the library bars in London you need to be visiting.
📍9 Phene St, SW3 5NY. Nearest station: Sloane Square
9. Library Bar at the Bush Theatre, Shepherd’s Bush
During the day, the Bush Theatre’s Library Bar is a relaxing workspace and coffee hub. But by night, it serves up craft beers, bespoke cocktails and great wines. Whenever you choose to visit, there are always plentyyyyy of playtexts in the library, if you’re after a bit of inspiration. To read, or not to read — that is the question!
📍 7 Uxbridge Road, Shepherd’s Bush, W12 8LJ. Closest station: Shepherd’s Bush Market.
Also published on Medium.