Class awards highlight Britain’s best bars

Black Rock Tavern

The winners of the annual Class Bar Awards have been announced for 2020, answering the question of what are considered to be Britain’s best bars right now. Organised by Class magazine, they were picked by a panel of 70 of the bar industry’s “most influential and knowledgeable” people, scattered evenly across every region of the UK. Here is list of the top bars – nearly all in London despite the regional voting.

Black Rock, London
Black Rock was originally opened in 2016 by leading bartenders Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson, specialising in whisky from all parts of the world. Last year, the small basement bar – which includes a central 5.5-metre long table made of 185-year-old oak – expanded upwards with the creation of the Black Rock Tavern (pictured) on the ground floor, modelled on a Japanese izakaya pub. It also includes the small Black Rock Hotel on the upper floors and the team have also opened a Black Rock in Bristol. Black Rock won the title of Specialist Bar of the Year in this year’s Class Bar Awards – for the fourth year running.
9 Christopher Street, London EC2A 2BS

Kwānt, London
After eight years as head bartender at The American Bar at The Savoy hotel in London, Erik Lorincz launched his own cocktail bar, Kwānt, underneath Mayfair restaurant Momo last year with Momo’s owner Mourad Mazouz. With a bamboo ceiling and leather-clad seating, its interior harks back to the 20th and 19th centuries with tropical elements. Kwānt (pronounced “quaint”) specialises in classic-style cocktails alongside a selection of vintage spirits. It won the title of New Bar of the Year but was also a finalist for Bar of the Year.
25 Heddon Street London W1B 4BH

Swift, London
Since opening in 2016, Swift in Old Compton Street has remained a popular destination for bartenders and cocktail lovers. Its owners Mia Johansson and Bobby Hiddleston ensure the welcome is warm and the service slick, whether in the ground-floor bar or downstairs where the list is longer with a large selection of whiskies. Swift won the title of Bar of the Year.
2 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4TQ

Hawksmoor Spitalfields, London
Restaurant group Hawksmoor has won a string of awards for its stand-alone bar in Commercial Street in Spitalfields – a streak it continued by winning Restaurant Bar of the Year. The cocktails, from highballs and spritzes to original and classic recipes, has been put together by head of bars Liam Davy and cocktail specialist Nick Strangeway. The group was also a runner-up in the same category for Hawksmoor in Deansgate in Manchester.
157A Commercial Street, London E1 6BJ

The American Bar, The Savoy, London
Dating back around 130 years, The American Bar at London’s Savoy Hotel retains its place as one of the world’s best bars by combining innovation with classic style. Its Savoy Songbook menu last year was inspired by the musicians and songwriters associated with the hotel, was launched with an accompanying live album by resident pianist Jon Nickoll. It won the title of Hotel Bar of the Year while Pippa Guy, who was senior bartender before leaving to open a bar in New York City, won Bartender of the Year. The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar was a finalist for Drinks Menu of the Year.
The Savoy, Strand, London WC2R 0EZ

Tayēr and Elementary, London
It was no surprise when award-winning bartenders Monica Berg and Alex Kratena made a huge impact when they opened their own place in Old Street. Elementary offers a short collection of cocktails served to guests sitting at a long communal bar using a bespoke dispense system, with a strong focus on seasonality. Tayēr, from the Spanish word “taller” meaning workshop”, is a “progressive” bar that combines modern and traditional techniques to create cocktails and food that “express purity”. The kitchen is operated by Portuguese and Chinese food specialist Tātā Eatery. Berg and Kratena won the title of Bar Innovators of the Year in the Class Bar Awards while the bar won the award for Bar Food Menu of the Year. Berg was also nominated for Bartender of the Year and the venue was a finalist for Drinks Menu of the Year.
152 Old Street, London EC1V 9BW

Artesian, The Langham, London
After the arrival of a new team led by bar manager Anna Sebastian in 2017, Artesian at London’s Langham hotel has soared back to its place as one of the world’s best bars. Last year, the team including head bartender Rémy Savage (who has since left to pursue new projects) created a minimalist menu in which each of its 22 cocktails was made with only one spirit paired with another ingredient made up of “rare and unusual elements”. The list, which continues under new head bartender Marco Corallo until March 2020, earned Artesian the award for Drinks Menu of the Year. Sebastian herself won the award of Bar Manager of the Year while Artesian was also a finalist for Hotel Bar of the Year.
1C Portland Place, London W1B 1JA

Hacha, London
After years promoting tequila for Diageo Reserve as a brand ambassador, Deano Moncrieffe opened his own bar, Hacha, with Emma Murphy to specialise in agave spirits. The so-called agaveria in Kingsland Road has quickly become a destination for cocktails and Mexican food. It won the award for Cocktail of the Year for its Mirror Margarita – a completely clear fusion of a classic Margarita and a Tommy’s Margarita with a blanco tequila, malic acid, citrus oil and cane syrup. Hacha was also a finalist for Specialist Bar of the Year.
378 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AA

Laki Kane, London
Hospitality is central to the success of Laki Kane, the Islington cocktail bar with an emphasis on tiki and rum. With a fun atmosphere on the ground floor, it has the Spiced Dry Rum Club upstairs for tastings and other events. The high level of hospitality owes a lot to its founder Georgi Radev (formerly at legendary tiki bar Mahiki) who won the award for Front of House Star of the Year.
144-145 Upper Street, London N1 1QY

London Cocktail Club, London and Bristol
Over the past 12 years, London Cocktail Club has expanded to nine locations around London plus one in Bristol. Founded by JJ Goodman and James Hopkins, the good-time, high-volume cocktail bars have continued to thrive over the past two years under group head bartender Sam Boevey who was named Emerging Bartender of the Year in the awards.

Terroir Tapas, Bournemouth
Award-winning bartender and restaurateur James Fowler is behind Terroir Tapas in Southbourne, Bournemouth. Opened in 2017, it is described as an “eco-aware” global tapas bar, with a select list of cocktails and wine. Sustainability is at the heart of the concept, with constant effort to eliminate waste and chemicals and minimise its carbon footprint. For the second year running, it won the Sustainable Practices Award. 
81 Southbourne Grove, Southbourne, Bournemouth BH6 3QX

Complete list of Class Bar Awards 2020 winners

  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Tomas Estes, agave spirit expert, London’s Cafe Pacifico, Ocho Tequila, etc
  • Bartender of the Year: Pippa Guy, formerly The American Bar, The Savoy, London
  • Back Bar Star of the Year: Geovanni Marenco Rodriguez, Sexy Fish, London
  • Social Media Presence of the Year: Cahoots, London (Inception Group)
  • Emerging Bartender of the Year: Sam Boevey, London Cocktail Club
  • Sustainable Practices Award: Terroir Tapas, Bournemouth
  • Hotel Bar of the Year: The American Bar, The Savoy, London
  • Front of House Star of the Year: Georgi Radev, Laki Kane, London
  • Cocktail of the Year: Mirror Margarita, Hacha, London
  • Drinks Menu of the Year: Artesian, The Langham, London
  • Bar Food Menu of the Year: Tayēr and Elementary, London
  • Bar Innovators of the Year: Monica Berg and Alex Kratena, Tayēr and Elementary, London
  • Bar Manager of the Year: Anna Sebastian, Artesian, The Langham, London
  • Specialist Bar of the Year: Black Rock, London
  • Bar of the Year: Swift, London
  • Restaurant Bar of the Year: Hawksmoor Spitalfields, London
  • New Bar of the Year: Kwānt, London

Click here for more information about the Class Bar Awards and a list of all the finalists.

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