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A Bartender's Guide to London - Nathan Shearer

No one knows London like its bartenders, chefs and waiters. After all they're asked everyday where to go next...

Nathan Shearer, 25 

Where are you currently working and why there?

I currently work at Swift in Soho, I’m here because no one else will have me… Kidding, two of my close friends own the bar and they asked me if I’d like to come and be their head bartender. I jumped at the chance. 

Were you ever meant to be something else than a bartender?

I originally wanted to be a chef, when I was younger I worked in a lot of high end kitchens and then ended up moving to London for University - I studied computer science at King’s College London and then wanted to work for a tech firm. I fell into bartending as a part time job and got hooked straight away.

What’s the one drink we should order from you? 

Daiquiri, you don’t even need to order it. They tend to just appear…

Where do you go after shift? 

Crobar, El Camion, Milk & Honey and Callooh Callay on a Sunday.

Where do you go on a night off?

It depends who else is off, if you have a good crew of you it’s always good to go and see some friends who are working - Happiness ForgetsDandelyan and The Savoy. If it’s a more chilled out affair I love Sager & Wilde, Bar Termini, Punch Room or Satan’s Whiskers. The Toucan is also always a good idea.

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Sager + Wilde on Hackney Road

Where do you go for late night dirty food?

Polo Bar, there are no limitations. Do Brick Lane Bagels count as dirty food? If so, you cannot beat a salt beef bagel with pickles and mustard - only go to the one with the white sign closest to bethnal green road. If you want something a little different then Hung’s in Chinatown is a great shout.

Where do you go for good late night food?

It depends how late, before midnight it’s got to be somewhere like Balthazar or Dishoom.  If you’re in the mood for great cocktails as well then Opium serves food until 2.30am.

Where do you take dates?

It depends on the date I think, it’s sometimes awkward to go to places where you know the guys behind the bar but it can also be really fun to take a date to a bar where you know everyone - a la Cheers… Anywhere that’s dark and cozy is good - us bartenders look better by candlelight, so Happiness Forgets, Sager & Wilde or Satan’s Whiskers. If you want to go all out baller then the Savoy or the Connaught is brilliant. Sometimes a good pub is all you need too, one that has good food and a nice local atmosphere, for that I’d say The Marksman, The Hops & Glory or The Hemingway.

Where do you wish dates took you?

Wherever is their favourite place to drink, you can learn a lot about someone from where they drink and eat.

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Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square

What’s the most dangerous bar in London for you?

Happiness Forgets, you can pop down for a quick beer and a daiquiri at 5pm and before you know it, it’s 11pm and the stairs seem a lot steeper.

What was the worst flat you had in London?

My first flat in London was a student flat in East Dulwich, we were first time renters and got mugged off properly.  Mice, mould, rotten carpets, no heating, broken windows and a landlord that didn’t care at all.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

Tricky one, I’ve been lucky enough to eat at some amazing places and have enjoyed numerous restaurant experiences immensely. I’d say that my favourite meal was probably recently at the Clove Club - we got treated like royalty, ate everything, drank some of the most amazing wines I’ve ever tried and we then did an overproof beer blind tasting… unbelievable. Close second has to be Per Se in New York, Thomas Keller is an absolute genius and leaves nothing to chance.

What’s the most underrated food spot in town?

Popolo on Rivington Street, amazing tapas and the best octopus in town.

If we’re coming to your bar, where should we go before and after?  

Before you get to Swift you should go to Bar Termini for some amazing aperitif cocktails and some delicious charcuterie and bread. Then afterwards you should take a walk down to the Connaught for a Martini.

What’s your personal bartender’s ketchup?

10ml Fino, 2 dashes absinthe.

What’s the worst drink you’ve ever been served?

Warm. Beer. Or a Daiquiri that’s not a Daiquiri, that’s just heartbreaking.

What’s your favourite spot in London that’s not a bar?

Kyoto Gardens, it feels like a calm oasis in the middle of London.

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Kyoto Gardens in Holland Park

Here’s £500 to spend on a night out – where are you going?

Dishoom, because the Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is £59 a bottle so I could drink that all night.  The food isn’t half bad either.

Here’s £30 to spend on a night out – where are you going?

Gordon’s Wine Bar. Sherry. From the cask. In a beaker. For £5.

Where do you wish you drank at more?

Spaniard’s Inn Hampstead, it’s been there since the 1500s which is pretty incredible. It also has an amazing beer garden, great food and a great selection of wine and beer. It’s just so far from where I live that I don’t get there very much.

What area do you wish you drank in more?

In summertime it’s got to be Wapping, there’s so many awesome pubs right on the river, The Grapes and The Prospect of Whitby are two of my favourites.

We’re buying – what are you having?

Daiquiri, Singapore Sling, Pina Colada - in that order.