Cocktails (+ poss. Bistro/brasserie) in London? like Balthazar (NYC) or Eastern Standard (Boston)
we are looking for a place that serves cocktails (and maybe bistro/brasserie style food) in London, anywhere by Tube. Stylish but not stuffy or formal. Friendly counts more than trendy.
American Bar at the Savoy would be great but 14 pounds per cocktail a bit steep. Were thinking around 10 pounds per cocktail. He knows cocktails, will disapprove of sweet pre-mixers, "toy" flavoured vodkas, etc.
The ideal place we have in mind would be like Balthazar in New York City, or Eastern Standard in Boston, if you are familiar with them.
I'm not much of a cocktail drinker these days, but I think Deux Saisons near Charing Cross would maybe be a place to consider. The surroundings remind me a bit of Balthazar (French bistro etc.), and the food is very nice - a mixture of modern British and French. I loved their Paris Brest dessert. There is also a restaurant called Bistro Bruno Loubet, but I haven't been there... do hear the food has improved since their opening.
69 Colebrook Row near Angel Tube is pretty hard to beat. Food only runs to meat and cheese plates, but for the price probably the best cocktails in London. It's small and ideally you'd want to book.
I quite like VOC near Kings Cross, with its more off-beat drinks list. Again it's small, but a good deal less busy.
Nightjar and Happiness Forgets, both near old street are both great for drinks, and I think Nightjar has some limited food options.
Finally, the various Hawksmoor branches are steak houses with great, grown-up cocktail lists.
All of those options are sub-10 pound per drink and serve serious cocktails, with relatively friendly service, though I can't speak to their similarity with Balthazar etc.
Nothing in the Old Street area is anything like Balthazar or Eastern Standard. Old Street is hip and young where Balthazar is slightly more mature/posh, and I thought ES was soulless (though their hamburger is in my top 3).
Balthazar would be more like Cecconi's, or Les Deux Salon. That said, if you're from the states don't waste your time going to places that seem like they're in NYC -- hit up cool English establishments like the bar at the Dukes Hotel for a martini or some excellent pubs.
i would suggest Mark's Bar under Hix in Brewer Street, Soho. It is steered by Nick Strangeway who is a London coctail legend, having been involved in many of London's famed cocktail bars (including setting up Hawksmoor mentioned above). Very solid bar, comfortable with a great London vibe, it has serious cocktails and Mark Hix's great food. http://www.marksbar.co.uk/
Not certain you will find great coctails in a London French Brasserie like Deux Salons as it is probably more focussed on wine. I didn't mention Meat Liquer as that is a imitation of a US bar and burger place - so not good for a visitor from NYC, Hix is very London.
some good recommendations already - i'd second Colebrook Row (and the Zetter Townhouse branch for a cosier, more eccentric version), Hix Soho, Nightjar and Hawksmoor, in particular the 7 dials branch which offers good food like lobster rolls that you can eat while primarily enjoying cocktails at the bar.
To add to this i'd recommend Purl and Worship Street Whistling Stop - inventive but revivalist cocktails, a sort of fusion between victorian vintage and modern cutting edge, If you want to pay a bit extra head to the bar at Rules. Not as good as it was but still decent enough if you ask for the classics which tend to be served with a slight twist to the recipe.
Could also try the likes of Spuntino - pretty sure they serve cocktails, but i've not been so don't know about quality.