There’s nothing us Londoners love more than a bar that makes us feel ‘in the know‘ to our out-of-town pals, right? Hidden bars are scattered all across the city, and the triumphant (and mildly smug) feeling of finally sitting down in one of them with a drink in hand makes the fact that it took you 20 minutes to find the entrance totally worthwhile (at least, that’s what I’ll continue to tell myself).
Nestled behind a little jade door in the heart of Chinatown, a door that could be – and frequently is – easily missed if you’re not looking for it (and sometimes even if you are) is Opium, a dim-sum parlour which houses not one, not two, but three bars under its roof – because why have one cocktail bar when you could have three, hey?
Once you’ve eventually located and made your way through the door, you’ll head up an alluringly winding staircase that will quite literally transport you from one of the most chaotic areas in London to the cool, calm and collected 1920‘s Shanghai-themed oasis that is Opium.
The three bars are split across two floors; each serving up eclectically experimental cocktails with a side of delicious dim sum and each giving a truly unique experience. With a menu that changes seasonally, freshness and excitement are always guaranteed.
Let’s start with the Peony Bar, a cosy, candlelit den which is tucked away on the second floor behind an intriguing red curtain. This is the most intimate of the three bars, hosting only 30 people, so it’s the perfect spot to savour a quiet cocktail (or three).
Next up we have the Apothecary Bar; a larger area that features two seating areas and traditional Chinese décor. As its name would suggest, the bar is apothecary-themed so imagine walls adorned with quirky medicinal bottles and mixologists serving up weird and wonderful concoctions. Opt for a seat at the bar or a more dining-style seat in the ‘tea parlour’; both offer a truly indulgent experience.
The final of the three is the Academy Bar which spreads across the entirety of the top floor and is split into two sections. The ‘attic’ area offers a cosy, lounge-like feel with coffee tables and relaxed sofa style seating but continue a little further down and you’ll discover the ‘bartenders table’ where you’ll be treated to a up-close-and-personal view of the bar-wizards working their magic.
Whichever bar you choose; you can guarantee an evening of seductively secretive glamour with mouth-watering food and drink on the side. The low lighting, smoky incense and shadowy corners make it the perfect date spot and a true solace from the hubbub of the Soho streets below. I guess there’s a reason why they are repeatedly featured on the list of the top 50 cocktails bars in the UK, hey?