We may not have aperativo hour here in London, but we do have some of the best restaurant bars in the world. If you'd like to try a great London restaurant but have left it too late to book or don't fancy sitting down for a full-on meal, here's a selection of some of the bar food menus worth trying in town. Better still, combine any number of the places below and form your own bar food crawl around London.
Hawksmoor may be best known for its steaks but if you're after something quicker, the bar offers many meaty delights as well as certain dishes which aren't on the main menu. The Kimchi burger is highly praised by London's picky burger zealots and the bar here also serves up one of London's best (and most expensive) lobster rolls.
Quo Vadis converted what was originally a segregated part of the main restaurant into a much more appealing bar area, complete with separate menu. We've tried the menu here and can particularly recommend the scotch eggs, complete with bacon dippers, and the crab linguine.
The bar at Viajante is across the hallway from the main restaurant and offers a number of delights such as fish tacos, lobster and bacon club roll and madeleines with clotted cream. However, it's the seasonal cocktail tasting menu that you should really be trying here. Four cocktails along with some of Nuno Mendes' signature creations like the Thai Explosion II make this a bar menu worth travelling for.
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Let's be honest, Mayfair isn't usually the place you'd think of first for a bargain bite, but the bar grazing menu at Atul Kochhars' Benares is pretty amazing value for this area. A sharing platter of three dishes costs just £15 and includes such delights as ginger-infused corn cakes, rabbit skewers with mint chutney and clay oven smoked cottage cheese in a pickling marinade.
While the ZTH bar at the Zetter Townhouse is not strictly attached to a restaurant, the menu is created by Bistro Bruno Loubet which is only just across the courtyard. The food is a more pared down version of the main Bistrot, so expect small dishes like Octopus in ink sauce, olive oil & chilli and supper bowls like Beef daube on mash potatoes. We particularly like the idea of grown up chocolate fudge too.
Thought by many to be one of the finest cocktail bars in London, the Rules cocktail bar also offers an afternoon food selection at a surprisingly good price. So if you fancy some Steak Tartare, wild rabbit on toast or dorset crab salads - all a tenner or less - it's your best chance of trying Rules food without breaking the bank. Although the cocktails themselves will quickly do that...
As with the main restaurant, the bar at the Gilbert Scott is designed by David Collins (with some help from Scott of course) and is one of the most stunning bars in town. It serves a mean bar menu (including some great complimentary spicy popcorn). Highly recommended is the pork pie with piccalilli or the chips with Sarson's mayonnaise - both carrying on the British theme of the main restaurant.
A restaurant that is often picked as a chefs' favourite, the bar at St John is one of our long-standing favourite meeting spots in EC1. The bar menu here changes regularly; expect the most popular items to disappear as the day goes on. But you should be able to get one of the best Welsh Rarebits in London, some smaller nose to tail offerings like Roast bone marrow salad and eccles cake that foodies would die for.
The main restaurant at Massimo has come in for some stick with reviewers of late, but we feel they've all missed the best part of this restaurant - the bar. The menu here focuses on seafood - it is an oyster bar after all - and we were particularly taken with the frozen spagettini with bottarga on our visit. Other bar dishes to try include salt cod omelette, octopus salad and ox tongue and pickle.
While you'll have to dine at the main restaurant to get a seat at the dessert bar, the main bar at Pollen Street Social offers a number of "Social tapas" including lamb chops with aioli, Dingley Dell pork cheeks, and anchovies on toast.
The downstairs bar, Mark's bar, at Hix Soho is a firm favourite of Hot Dinners. Along with cocktails by some of the best mixologists in London, you can also try some of head chef Kevin Gratton's great bar creations such as quail egg shooters, baked bone marrow on toast or chips with curry sauce (really).
The Cafe and Oyster Bar was carved out of the main restaurant at Le Cafe Anglais just last year. Obviously it focuses on oysters, but you can also get the fabulous parmesan custard with anchovy toast fingers here as well as more substantial dishes like grilled lobster with chips or shepherd's pie.
Although you can perfectly well while away an hour or two at the bar at China Tang, downing their excellent Martinis with Thai chilli-crackers, wasabi peanuts and rice crackers, by far the best thing to do is order dim sum at the bar. They're teeny, they're expensive and as an option to snack, they're perfect.