1. The Rake
This Borough Market gem claims to be the smallest pub in London, but it’s a fiercely contested title – the Swan & Edgar in Marylebone and the Cask & Glass in Victoria are among the others vying for the honour. The Rake is a hophead’s idea of heaven: this is a pub that has more beers than people (its capacity is about 40, but it has 130 bottled beers in the fridge). 14a Winchester Walk, SE1 9AG.London Bridge.
2. The Dove
‘Guinness World Records’ says The Dove has the smallest bar room in the world, though there is a patio and another larger room. A few famous patrons have squeezed in here: the riverside alehouse was a favourite of literary heroes like Graham Greene and Ernest Hemingway. And further back, Charles II explored its nooks and crannies with mistress Nell Gwynn. Bottoms up! 19 Upper Mall, W6 9TA. Hammersmith.
3. Big Red
Deptford’s Big Red is snug. Well, it is a bus. The owner, local sculptor John Cierach, has turned the vintage Bristol VR double decker into a chic cocktail bar and pizza restaurant, with a large outdoor space for films and comedy nights in warmer weather. Enjoy a vanilla martini or Lynchburg lemonade for a very reasonable fiver, then sit and watch the city not rolling past. 30 Deptford Church St, SE8 4RZ. Deptford Bridge DLR.
Why slum it with a pedestrian pint when you could be sipping gin from a teacup? And in a basement bar that’s as wee and twee as your granny’s living room – although it’s doubtful she could knock you up a perfectly blended Cherry Sidecar. This chintzy nook is unlike anything else in the Charlotte Street area – floral wallpaper, a fireplace and trimmings of lace and china. On weekends B&H is madly popular – so it makes good sense to revive the quaint old-fashioned practice of reserving a table. 28 Rathbone Place, W1T 1JF. Tottenham Court Rd.
London has a knack for converting its Victorian loos into teensy bars, but Cellar Door has a particularly edgy USP: drag queens and alternative performers on stage every night. With a capacity of 60, it’s a cabaret cave fit for the vampiest creatures of the night. The fun and tonguein- cheek frolics extend to CellarDoor’s cocktail list too: try some of its most seductive potions such as a Simone de Beauvoir and the less subtle Starbucks Must Die. Zero Aldwych, WC2E 7DN.Holborn.
6. Lounge Bohemia
Lying low under a kebab shop in Shoreditch, this Iron Curtain-style speakeasy doesn’t let any old trilby in off the street: you have to book an ‘appointment’. It pays homage to 1960s Czechoslovakia, with menus in old Eastern Bloc-era books and an entrance papered with news cuttings. It’s not as bleak as it sounds though. The mixology is creative, from the Bubble Bath Martini to concoctions like the Holy Smoke, made from frankincense and myrrh and served in a carved-out Bible. Sacrilegious but sweet. 1e Great Eastern St, EC2A 3EJ. Shoreditch High St Overground.
Rustic pork sandwiches and ale served out of wooden casks are all highlights of this Dickensian tavern. After work, it can feel as tight as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s pocket. While the vibe is uncannily like being in a BBC costume drama and the premises date from the eighteenth century, it didn’t open as a pub until the 1990s. Still, its cosy olde-worlde decor is almost as intoxicating as the St Peter’s Brewery cask ales on offer. 55 Britton St, EC1M 5UQ. Farringdon.
Despite the punning name, it’s nothing to do with the mega dance brand based near Borough. This is the world’s smallest club. Conceived in a London Fields Lido changing room, it now has a portable boothlike festival version, in which 14 people max at any one time can ‘have it tiny’ on its two-square-metre dancefloor. Lily Allen and Ian Brown have partied here, and it can be hired.
This speakeasy-style members’ club has a genuine history rooted in the gangster underworld. It was once an illegal bar for real, where you could spot notorious crims like The Krays. These days, though, it’s all about period lighting, sumptuous red sofas, dirty martinis served in china cups and a vintage piano that doubles up as a DJ booth. And not a shady character in sight. 50 Frith St, W1D 4SQ. Tottenham Court Rd.
10. Concrete at the Hayward Gallery
Craftily hidden inside a cultural institution, Concrete dupes amateur drinkers by being a sandwich bar by day. Any serious sipper knows that, come evening, these four stools and a bartop morph into the Hayward’s secret drinking den, serving chilled absinthe to the artistically minded. Belvedere Rd, SE1 8XX. Waterloo.
Compiled by Laura Lee Davies, Euan Ferguson, Michael Hodges, Kate Hutchinson, Daisy Stenham