>Battersea Rise & Northcote Road

>Babel, Northcote Road
This looked like the most lively bar on the street as we approached, with punters drinking on the street terrace and pretty much standing room only inside, but on closer inspection it was more like an All Bar One clone.
Modern fittings and décor and a reasonable soundtrack made our visit a fairly pleasant one (as did the Olympic men’s 200m sprint heats on the huge TV screens – for me and Sue anyway!) and the people at the next table even attempted a brief but friendly conversation with us! Weird, for London, we thought… Anyway, we reckoned not bad for a quick pre-dinner drink or meet-up point, but not enough style to make us come back.

Holy Drinker, Northcote Road
This little bar was a lot better. The owners describe the place as a grown-up bar for grown-up drinkers. It had a much better crowd, interesting furniture, a weird play list (Sue and I thought it was OK but Orlando was not impressed) and a great vibe.
Orlando even saw Sandy, the Scottish bloke from Big Brother 3, at the bar). We even got talking to the couple beside us (must have been the night for it!). Definitely worth a visit, we would all return. www.holydrinker.co.uk

Iniquity, Northcote Road
This was by far the coolest place we visited. They describe the place as “elegant and louche” and this was exactly what we found inside this black and red interior. My personal favourite was the huge vase of blood-red gladioli on the bar – dramatic and theatrical.
The barman was friendly and helpful, the cocktail list was excellent, the menu looked interesting (sort of tapas from around the world) and the crowd very fashionable. We liked. www.iniquitybar.com

B@1 Bar, Battersea Rise
This sister bar to the popular ones in Richmond and Covent Garden was heaving by the time we got there. We didn’t stay as by this time we were looking for coffees which they did not serve (none of us were drinking and there is only so much sparkling water one can drink!). In any event, the music was excellent, the crowd lively and young, and I reckon this would be a good place to start or end the evening. Definitely worth a second visit. www.beatone.co.uk

>GDP Index – King’s Road

>Simply Nico
This bar, attached to the restaurant of the same name, is part of the Sloane Square Hotel. Both bar and tables were quiet for a Thursday night, and we didn’t stay long. They got the order wrong, then took ages getting the bill, then had the cheek to stop us and ask if we’d paid even though nobody had bothered coming back to get the signed receipt! We won’t be going back.

Mojama
This place was great. Floor-to-ceiling drinks behind the bar, and dark décor topped with a huge chandelier. The crowd was an interesting but well-dressed mix and the music was fantastic. A definite favourite.

Azteca
A couple of doors down from Mojamma, this Latino bar is staffed by cute but non-English-speaking boys (“what is dizzy water please?”). Good cocktail list and the place definitely had possibilities, but there was a gang of after-work office drinkers that lowered the tone somewhat. You know the type, two blokes sniffing around ten girls, lots of tequila, next-morning regrets. Worth a second look, maybe over the weekend. Could be a good lively spot.

Eight over Eight
Should have known this was the sister venue to Notting Hill’s E&O as soon as we walked in. The coolest crowd we saw tonight was in this place, either dining in the sophisticated restaurant at the back, or hanging out in the diner-style seating nearer the street. Excellent service, well-chosen Café-del-Mar music, and the most amazing loos – all black tiles and designer flowers. Looking forward to coming back for dinner! http://www.eightovereight.nu/

>soho and west end bars

>Lab Bar
12 Old Compton Street
London W1V 5PG
020 7437 7820
http://www.lab-bar.com/
We love this famous cocktail bar, run by the London Association of Bartenders. It has a sort of 70s feel, with good music and an interesting mix of clientele. Cute bartenders too, who really know their stuff. The cocktail list runs to a 20-odd page book so be warned!

Pages Bar
75 Page Street
London SW1P 4LT
020 7834 6791
http://www.pagesbar.com/
WARNING – this is a sci-fi hangout, but a lot of fun on weekend nights when they have Star Trek evenings complete with episodes of the various series on the big screen, occasional PAs by obscure stars or producers, auctions and of course, Klingon Blood Wine on sale at the bar! Most of the clientele is dressed either in full Federation uniform or morphed into Bajorans, Romulans, Vulcans or other species which require little stage makeup. Be afraid, be very afraid!

notting hill

>Ion Bar
161-165 Ladbroke Grove
020 8960 1702
www.meanfiddler.com
Excellent live music and DJs in the downstairs bar, and a groovy vibe upstairs with great food. The maitre d’ looks like Uma Thurman from Pulp Fiction.

Osteria Basilico
29 Kensington Park Road
020 7727 9372
www.osteriabasilico.co.uk
Cosy Italian trattoria with food to die for.

Casa Frattini
104a Chepstow Road
020 7221 1821
www.casafrattini.co.uk
Another tiny, crowded Italian with a small but wonderful menu of delights.

Black & Blue
105 Gloucester Road
020 7244 7666
www.blackandbluerestaurant.com
The only place to go for a steak in Notting Hill

north by north west

Hummingbird, 84 Stroud Green Road, London N4 3CV 020 7263 9690
Hummingbird is a small but perfectly formed Caribbean restaurant on the legendary Stroud Green Road. Family-run, this place offers genuine Carribean food from most of the islands, beautifully presented and washed down with excellent run punch. The menu has lots for vegeterians as well as meat-eaters.

La Porchetta Pizzeria, 141 Upper Street, London N1 1QY 020 7288 2488
This is my absolute favourite pizza place in London. Huge delicious thin-crust pizzas, ridiculously low prices, extremely young cute Italian waiters, lashings of house wine by the jug. Be prepared to queue!

Raj Bangladeshi, 146 High Street, Harlesden NW10 4SP 020 8965 6036
This used to be our local Indian takeaway, and what a place. Recently refurbished to a trendy urban feel, it used to be red velvet and Mughal arches all the way. In any event the food never let this place down. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

BeBes, 3 Chignell Place, West Ealing W13 0TJ 020 8840 8322
Bebes serves genuine Caribbean food in a cosy restaurant with gold graffiti on the walls left by grateful customers. The cocktail list is small but majors on rum-based concoctions – I recommend you start here! The curried goat is my favourite, with more than a hint of coconut in the taste. They even have real flying fish from Barbados!

The Spaniard’s Inn, Spaniard’s Road, London NW3 7JJ 020 8731 6571
This lovely pub is very close to the High Gate of Hampstead Heath, and a great place to chill out on a late summer afternoon in the huge garden. Indoors are lots of little rooms to get lost in, ideal for winter evenings. The food is good, lots of Greek and Meditteraneam dishes with a legendary paella served only on Saturdays.

Lemonia, 89 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 8UY 020 7586 7454
This lovely Greek restaurant has a lovely feel about it, with genuine Greek waiters serving you with a twinkle in their eyes. The restaurant is clustered around a covered courtyard, which is a great place to catch a bit of sunlight in winter without dying of cold. In summer the big windows at the front open right up so it feels lovely and breezy. Oh, and the food is sublime too. Don’t do what we always do and order too much food!!!