Smart Living

Five cosy drinking dens to curl up in this weekend

Looking for a place to put the world to rights? Here are five watering holes made for whiling away a lazy afternoon

Gremio de Brixton, drinking dens, London1. The hip choice: Gremio de Brixton, Brixton

One for the hip-cats among you (can you tell I’ve got all the ‘in’ lingo?) Gremio de Brixton is something of a South London institution: a funky tapas, sherry and cocktail bar nestled in the vaults of St Matthew’s Church. It’s relaxed, good value and good fun – with a warm atmosphere and excellent food. Arrive in the afternoon and relax in the low-lit, vaulted restaurant. Start with a jug of the house Sangria (I don’t care if it is mid-winter – the stuff’s delicious), and some nibbles, before working your way up to the cocktail bar and live DJ sets in the evening.

Clarette, drinking dens, Jackal magazine2. The swish choice: Clarette, Marylebone

For a venue that’s both chic and civilised, Clarette’s just the thing. Tucked away on Blandford Street, this contemporary wine bar has all the trappings of a sophisticate’s go-to: plush dusty blue sofas, mullioned windows, just the right mix of brass and chrome, satisfyingly huge Burgundy glasses – the works. The wine list is intelligently considered with worthy options by the glass of half bottle (tip for you: try the 2012 Château Teyssier, St Emilion – it’s delish), and smart new world choices as well as European favourites. The food’s good too; from juicy gob-stopper sized olives to tasty sharing plates and proper mains. Really, you can’t go wrong.

The Pineapple, drinking dens, London3. The traditionalist’s choice: The Pineapple, Kentish Town

It feels almost unfair to pick one pub from the hundreds of superb locals in this glorious city (we’ll be bringing you our guide to proper pubs – and our take on just what makes a ‘proper’ pub – immanently), but for the purpose of snuggling up by the fire on a grey afternoon, The Pineapple is heaven sent. Passing through the heavy velvet curtain to get into the bar is a little like stepping back into a war-time parlour (which makes sense because The Pineapple’s been around since the mid-19th century) complete with a mahogany bar and Victorian tiled fireplace. In fact, it’s so ‘olde worlde’ it was listed in 2002, when the local community campaigned to save it from redevelopment. Another fun fact, The Pineapple’s conservatory used to be a stable, which on one occasion housed a giraffe when it escaped from London Zoo in the 1890s. Who knew?

Andrew Edmunds, Soho4. The foodie’s choice: Andrew Edmunds, Soho

Now, Andrew Edmunds isn’t technically a drinking den, but it is one of old Soho’s best kept secrets. An independent restaurant nestled on Lexington Street, Edmunds’ unassuming plain black facade is all too easy to pass by, but it hides a homely gem. The menu’s seasonal, simple and changes daily – and it’s charmingly hand-written. Again, the place has won plaudits for its wine list, and even better, it offers a relaxed bar menu between 3 and 5pm. In other words, it’s the perfect place for a mid-afternoon breather when you’re looking to escape the mania of Oxford Street – if you need an excuse for a large glass and a cheese plate, that is.

Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell5. The failsafe choice: The Zetter Townhouse, Clerkenwell

It’s an old favourite this, but with good reason. The Zetter Townhouse is part of the independent Zetter Group, and as the name suggests takes the form of a quirky 13 bedroom townhouse, centred around an award winning, atmospheric cocktail lounge. The decor is plush and eccentric, inspired by the establishment’s fictitious matriarch, Great Aunt Wilhelmina. It’s an underrated choice for afternoon tea, or to curl up with a good book, but it’s also well suited to a spot of civilised day drinking. The cocktail menu was created by cocktail wizard Tony Conigliaro (also of Bar Termini and 69 Colebrooke Row), and really is top notch. Try the Flint Lock for a pick-me-up (it comes with a bang…) or the Köln Martini for a long, smooth drink to reflect with in Auntie’s easy chair.