London has long been known for its drinking culture, from the oyster bars of the 1800’s to traditional English pubs, serving playwrights and politicians ale by the tankard. One of the world’s premier cities for cocktails, craft beers, fine wines and never seen before concoctions, London is home to many famous name. But aside from the Hoxton and Duck & Waffle, the city has numerous secret bars and speakeasies to offer, hidden in old apothecaries, public service stations and even in other bars. Remember, nothing is what it seems, and that wardrobe in the back may actually be the entrance to a new world.
Head over to The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields to find our first secret bar. On entry, look for the lady with the clipboard and let her know that you’re “here to see the Mayor.” You’ll find yourself ducking in through an old SMEG fridge in the corner, into The Mayor of Scaredy Town, where the bare brickwork and dim lighting pulls you back into the prohibition past.
Cocktails like the ‘Avocoloda” and “Because I’m Worth it” are highly rated, creative and affordable (at an average of £9) and the service is friendly without taking anything too seriously. No bookings required.
Presented as a real Detective Agency, circa 1930, you have to make an appointment to see the Detectives before they’ll let you in through the secret panel in the library. More like a real speakeasy experience than most of the underground bars in London, you’ll find bottles served in brown paper bags, waitresses in cocktail dresses and a very ‘hush-hush’ atmosphere around ordering the cocktails.
It’s relatively pricey; however if you remember to improvise, go with the flow and tell the Detectives your problems, your case will certainly be solved. Book Now.
So Callooh-Callay is pretty cool itself, with some of the best cocktails in London and numerous awards behind its name. If you happen to walk through the wardrobe in the back you’ll find the bartenders version of Narnia. But wait, there’s more! Head up the staircase in the back room and you’ll find yet another secret bar… this is Jub Jub.
The bartender and menu change every two weeks, with cocktails coming in at an even £10. Booking is advisable, especially on weekends. Book here.
Imagine you’ve just arrived in London and some of the city’s coolest cats invite you to their place for a house party of note. That’s what you’ll find behind the Little Yellow Door. Themed as a Notting Hill front-room, on entry you’ll be welcomed by the flats five ‘housemates’, who will proceed to delight and entertain you with 90’s style house music, cocktails based off their favourite TV shows and delicious party snacks- all at affordable prices.
Unless you’re interested in attending the Friday night dinner parties, you can’t book for the Little Yellow Door. Exit the Notting Hill Gate tube station, and look for the man in the bowler hat and yellow bow-tie standing beside a yellow door. If you ask him very nicely, he might let you in.
BYOC- or Bring Your Own Cocktail- is a novel approach at dealing with liquor licenses. Nestled under the Juice People Juice Bar in Covent Garden, this secret establishment requires you to bring your own bottle of alcohol. You may think it odd, but once the mixologists have trundled around with their antique drinking trolley and prepared a cocktail designed exactly for your tastes, armed with everything from fresh juices, spices and fruits to home-made cordials and bitters, you’ll understand.
Booking is essential, and remember you’ll only have two hours in the bar- they’re strict with turnover. Entry is £25, and you can book here.
Whether you stay in at Clink or explore the hidden depths of London bar culture, make sure to visit at least one of these marvelous establishments; you never know when it might become metaphorical midnight and *poof*, they’ll disappear…