As a lifelong bartender I’m constantly asked for recommendations on where to drink in different situations; from mates over from Australia for the week, to upcoming Christmas parties. The question I am of course most often asked is; where to drink in London in the event of a major zombie apocalypse? And in fact, is it even possible to combine fine cocktails and ambience with a fair chance of survivability in the face of an unexpected biblical plague of the undead?
Having examined the options I am afraid to say I was shocked at the state of readiness of many London drinking establishments. Many were perfect places to hold back the gray tide should it shamble listlessly toward you, but unfortunately their beverage list was woefully inadequate. Others offered a lovely drinks selection but lacked the provisions necessary to survive a prolonged siege. In some sad cases management had taken absolutely no steps whatsoever to prevent a zombie incursion. My most shocking discovery however was that successfully surviving the laboured breathing of the legions of the undead, both well lubricated and in comfort, very much depends on where you are when the dead begin to rise.
The safest bet should you be central at the start of a major infestation is to make your way as calmly as possible to your nearest branch of The London Cocktail Club (sited in several convenient locations such as Oxford Circus, Goodge Street, Covent Garden and Regent Street). Built for the most part in sturdy basements they are near perfect from a purely defensible point of view when tackling an undead foe, and I’m reliably informed this factored heavily in the owners choice of location. Once inside you should be safe enough to ride out the moaning storm until the danger passes, while their outstanding spirit selection means you have an excellent choice of beverages until either help arrives or an unexpected and violent death meets you. With the doors safely barred I would recommend enjoying an Orient Express, an insanely complicated 140 year old recipe of slow cooked fruit, ginger, ginseng and cloves that will keep the bartender’s minds occupied and prevent them panicking and throwing open the doors to the frenzied mob outside. One small downside to this choice of location of course is that you are at the mercy of being hugged by the owner, a bear hug so powerful your internal organs may explode out of your ears thus making you resemble the soulless automatons banging at the doors.
Should you be unable to reach the safety of your nearest branch of the L.C.C or find it unexpectedly full or (unfortunately) already fallen to the groaning multitude then I would recommend instead heading over to Mews of Mayfair (10 Lancashire Court, New Bond Street). Whilst not benefitting from a safe, underground location it is sited in a picturesque alley that you and your fellow survivors may be able to barricade to prevent further attack. It also benefits from a lovely deli so food will not be a problem and should, God forbid, the walking plague breach your carefully manned defenses, you have the option to retreat to their downstairs club, handily soundproofed due to it being in a residential area.
Another option perhaps would be to seek refuge at The Century Club (61-63 Shaftesbury Avenue.) Though hard enough to get into at the best of times without a horde of reanimated corpses chasing you up the street, it does benefit from a roof garden that could be used to make a stab at self sufficiency should an immediate resolution to the crisis not be in sight. You could even perhaps use the space available to cultivate some livestock if you can source a cow and get it up the stairs. I once had to get a drunk, twenty-stone Maori down them and it is no picnic I can tell you. However the views from the top of the ever expanding crowd of the near dead hammering in vain downstairs would be sublime, especially around sunset.
One last option for the geographical centre if you are perhaps celebrating a birthday or important anniversary during an outbreak would be Paramount at the top of the Centre Point tower. It has a superb wine list, though is perhaps a little dependent on New World vintages, offers a wonderful choice of food for your special occasion (if the chefs haven’t already scarpered or been eaten) and at thirty-two floors above the violence there is zero chance of incursion (provided the lifts have been successfully disabled.) Far up enough in fact to make the constant moaning from the rotting swarm below inaudible whist still offering unparalleled 360 degree views of the capital.
If truth be told viable options for surviving the slavering apocalypse whilst still enjoying first rate drinks in East London are, unfortunately in short supply, something I pray a suitable investor with foresight is considering rectifying as we speak.
Should you be in the unenviable position of finding yourself in Hackney during a major outbreak your chances of survival are slim at best as you square off against the Hipster undead, the only thing more pitiful than the regular variety. Remember, have no sympathy for them, they chose to live there so probably had it coming. If you must make your stand and grab a drink in this blighted, blighted region then head for Biddle Brothers (88 Lower Clapton Road E5.) You won’t stand a chance if the dead do find you but at least you’ll have a nice atmosphere in which to enjoy a pint, or glass of wine while you wait for the doors to finally fail. Better yet, run for your life (advice I find sage in Hackney even without an outbreak) and head for Night Jar (129 City Road, EC1) and hope the other survivors will let you in. Its firm outer doors and discreet location makes it a good choice for long term survival and their collection of vintage Stills in up-lit display cases means the option to produce your own alcohol for either consumption or defensive purposes is always open to you in the unlikely event you should run out during your stay. If you are especially lucky the apocalypse might strike on a band night where the management may consider waving the £5 cover charge when taking into account the horde of motivated corpses pummelling at the door, but in all likelihood will just charge you more.
One small warning, Night Jar’s insistence on experimenting with strange, esoteric and lets face it, downright ridiculous ingredients means they may actually be the cause of any potential outbreak, so do approach with caution. Best to send the youngest or least popular member of your group down first, that way you can always beat a hasty retreat if needed to Callooh Callay (65 Rivington Street EC2.) Despite alarmingly poor defensibility you could perhaps seek cover behind the fake wardrobe, where, if you remain quiet enough, the banshee throng may pass you by. There is a small but surprisingly well stocked bar upstairs, often with an excellent guest bartender on hand to see you through the crisis or organise an impromptu militia. If you have any trouble getting past the barricades just tell them you know Sean, they love that. Order an Ale of Two Cities, (Feijoa vodka, Elderflower, Malt Syrup, Lime and Apple) which they don’t make many of so the novelty will be appreciated.
Straddling the East/North border and catagorised here purely by its postcode, the best of the many poor options available for a suitable safe haven is undoubtedly Happiness Forgets (6-9 Hoxton Square N1.) Tactically its dicey as it sits on a lower ground floor and not a full basement, however the steps do create a natural choke point preventing the dead from massing and buying you badly needed time to enjoy a Corpse Reviver Number 2 (Cointreau, Lilet, A good gin for instance Sipsmith’s London Dry, Lemon Juice and just a dash of Absinthe) whilst you consider your next move.
The case of a major and unprecedented outbreak of Zombies craving the taste of your still living and screaming flesh is the only situation conceivable where you should avoid 69 Colebrooke Row (N1) as it is both un-defendable and only big enough for about ten survivors before you need to start feeding the weaker members of your group out the window (unless the owner Tony Conigliaro is in there in which case it might be worth the risk). As an alternative consider Slim Jim’s (112 Upper Street N1) which has a sturdy door, plenty of excellent spirits and once inside it’s impossible to tell if its day or night let alone if the restless dead are outside.
Without a doubt the worst geographical location in the capitol to find yourself for both drinks and a fair stab at riding out the decomposing tsunami is London’s sprawling South. Your best, and in fact only chance of making it through in one piece is the Balham Bowls Club (7-9 Ramsden Road SW12.) They wouldn’t know a cocktail if it reared up and bit them, but the atmosphere is lovely, there’s plenty of space, some good draft beer and firm doors manned by friendly security to hold back the ragged legion of the damned whilst you find a nice aged leather chair to relax in or perhaps check out the comedy club upstairs. I was there during the London riots when the horde outside were teenaged hoodies on their way to pillage a Carphone Warehouse and not the graying, salivating faces of our zombified friends and neighbours but it held up admirably. In truth, security’s tactic of asking the mob if their Mother’s knew where they were, or in one case pointing an accusatory finger and shouting Virgin! VIRGIN! at the groups leader will have little or no effect on a determined pack of the undead, but it did make for a decent beta test of their preparedness and I salute them for that.
Finally, should you find yourself in London’s vast West there are a couple of decent options available. Be sure to avoid wherever possible overpriced Gastro Pubs which are destined to become screaming buffets for the un-departed and cannot justify their prices for so called “Craft Beers.” Instead head to Kensington Roof Gardens (99 Kensington High Street) where the cast of Made in Chelsea may well be cowering (excellent zombie bait if required), or a better, and decidedly cheaper option would be to fight your way to Trailer Happiness (177 Portobello Road W11.) Its basement location, narrow, defensible steps and vintage Japanese bar tools which can double as weapons in case the dead gain the stairs, make it an excellent choice for survivability, while its peerless rum selection make it the only place in London to drink a Zombie (five rums, exotic juices, absinthe, limited to two per person per night, also available in a volcano bowl) and enjoy both the drink, irony and novelty glassware of the experience. Remember however the key to surviving any invasion is to keep a low profile, so keep the bartenders away from the volume controls unless you wish to funk out the apocalypse. This place however does survive the Notting Hill Carnival on an annual basis so a widespread pandemic should not be a problem.
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