It’s been the rage for a while now to open cocktail bars that are notoriously ‘difficult’ to find. But there’s something to be said about a bar that forces you to seek it out, as if it’s playing hard to get (and that’s one game we love to all fall into the trap of – and we’re not just talking about dating). However, once you’ve made your way through the door and discovered a dimly-lit paradise within, you can sip on your negroni or mojito with a real sense of accomplishment. It’s also an easy way to look sophisticated and ‘in the know’ to all your friends.
But, as you’re reading Secret London here and we’re the go-to-guide for ‘secret’ city tips, we can assume you’re already brimming with all that swanky knowledge. So we’re sorry for patronising you if you’ve been to these secret bars in London before…
Kicking off this roundup of secret bars in London is CellarDoor – an intimate and quirky spot right under One Aldwych which, according to their Instagram page, is where ‘30’s Berlin meets an NY basement dive’. As the entrance suggests, this used to actually be a public toilet, and though it’s small, it certainly still packs an almighty punch. Regularly hosted by drag queens, they’ve got cabaret, burlesque, and live music regularly in the calendar, and they even turn into a cinema here every so often. Now that we can get on board with!
You’ll find CellarDoor at Zero Aldwych, Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7DN. Nearest station is Temple.
2. Discount Suit Company
Looks can be deceiving, you know. You’ll find this rundown suit shop particularly ill-fitting if you’re in the market for a three-piece, but if cocktails are the aim, then you’re really in luck at the Discount Suit Company. The aim of the game here is to serve a range of classically-inspired cocktails – all for around a tenner – against a backdrop of Northern Soul and Vintage Rock’n’Roll.
Harry Styles fans could do worse than going with the ‘Watermelon Sugar’ – a delicious concoction of tequila, mezcal, watermelon, grapefruit aperitif, agave and soda water – or the ‘Kneecaper’ – a strong old mix of bán poitín, lemon, honey and *ahem* absinthe. Oh and to get in, ignore the misleading facade which promises ‘alterations while u wait’, or you’ll be waiting a very long time. Head for the small black door at street level instead.
You’ll find the Discount Suit Company at 29 Wentworth Street, E1 7TB. Nearest station is Aldgate East.
BYOC in Camden not only provides you with the thrill of entering a bar though an inconspicuous unmarked black door right across from Mornington Crescent station, it also gives you the opportunity to indulge in all-you-can-drink cocktails made with a spirit of your choice. A slightly different way to drink, this bar asks you to bring along a bottle of your favourite spirit and pay a flat fee of £30 or £35 on arrival, in exchange for a tailor-made cocktail experience.
Once you’ve got yourself settled you’ll have a series of spirit-specific cocktails whipped up for you by one of their expert mixologists. All while enjoying their vintage blackjack, roulette and poker tables.
You’ll find BYOC at 11-13 Camden High Street, London, NW1 7JE. Nearest station is Mornington Crescent.
5CC have four secretive venues dotted across London – in Farringdon, Bethnal Green, Exmouth Market and Old Street no less. One thing they all have in common is that they are all concealed under seemingly innocent pubs. The Old Street branch, for example, is hidden beneath the Grade II-listed Singer Tavern, whereas the Bethnal Green spot is under the Well & Bucket – one of the oldest pubs in the East End.
The cocktails are lively and the menu has a large leaning towards whisky-based recipes, which is always a good idea in our books. For the ultimate caffeine fix, their espresso martinis absolutely nail it.
You’ll find 5CC at various locations in London. You can find out more here.
5. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town
Next up on this roundup of secret bars in London is a real legend of the London speakeasy scene. Make your way to The Breakfast Club on Artillery Lane in Old Street and inform a member of staff that you are ‘here to see the mayor’. They will then direct you to the normal-seeming Smeg fridge, which you’ll have to walk through to enter the dingy, candlelit speakeasy and underground bar.
It’s filled to the brim with vintage furniture and bizarre wall art, while the cocktail menu is chock-a-block full with weird and wonderful drinks. Plus boozy bottomless brunches are your thing, then join ‘The Mayor’ on Saturday’s and Sunday’s for two hours of prosecco, bloody mary’s, rum punch and sex on the beach – sign us up!
You’ll find The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town at 12-16 Artillery Lane, London, E1 7LS. Nearest station is Liverpool Street.
Make your way to Marylebone, look for the swinging sign and knock three times… and the password is ‘hair of the dog’. Only then will you make inside this decadent hidden barl. Well – it’s not exactly that complicated, but Purl’s unassuming doors on Blandford Street do not prepare you for the lavish and exquisite cocktails inside, which are all designed to satisfy you on a multi-sensory level using fog, aromas, flavoured airs and even liquid nitrogen! Head down on a Friday night for some live jazz music and true speakeasy vibes.
You’ll find Purl at 50-54 Blandford Street, London, W1U 7HX. Nearest station is Baker Street.
7. Call Me Mr Lucky
Another strong addition to this roundup of the best secret bars in London here, Call Me Mr Lucky is a hidden bar tucked underneath The Breakfast Club in London Bridge. Known for its tequila-fuelled cocktails, it’s a fun old spot that’s only entrance is via using the phrase “I’m here to get lucky” a la Daft Punk. You’re then led to the back of the restaurant and down some stairs into the atmospheric and quirky lantern-draped den below.
In terms of drinks, they’ve got everything here from pints of Camden Hells to dragon margaritas, and they whip up some tasty snacks and food too. Best part of all – they’ve got a killer happy hour from 5-7pm, where you can get 2-4-1 beers or seven quid cocktails – every night they’re open! Winner, winner.
You’ll find Call Me Mr Lucky at 11 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RQ. Nearest station is London Bridge.
8. The Blind Pig
Tucked away above the Michelin star-winning restaurant Social Eating House right in the heart of Soho is the cosy and low-lit watering hole The Blind Pig. While it’s not technically secret per se, you’d be forgiven for not knowing it was there. Look for the ‘optician’ sign and you’re on the right track…
Going for a relaxed, speakeasy vibe, it’s got a vintage interior which incorporates reclaimed wooden bar stools, a copper-topped bar and mirrored ceilings – fancy! They also serve a range of technical and creative cocktails, fine wines and beers to boot too – sign us up!
You’ll find The Blind Pig at Social Eating House, 58 Poland Street, London, W1F 7NR. Nearest station is Tottenham Court Road.
Another secret cocktail bar here that’s hidden somewhere in Soho, this underground den invites scoundrels of all stripes and shapes to drink cocktails and dance along to swing music and more. The shadow of war has left Europe, and in Cahoots, rations are shared amongst friends, the liquor flows freely, and music fills every corner. With three separate bar areas for scallywags and rabble-rousers to explore, there’s plenty of room for a jolly ol’ knees up here!
Located in what was once an air raid shelter used during the Second World War, it pays homage to the Blitz spirit with regular sing-a-longs and liquor being handed around. There’s even a space designed to look like a Bakerloo line tube carriage!
You’ll find Cahoots at 13 Kingly Court, Carnaby, London, W1B 5PW. Nearest stations are Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus.
10. Happiness Forgets
‘Great cocktails, no wallies‘ is the mantra of Happiness Forgets, and we have to admit, they do both pretty expertly. Though it may look like an unassuming little place from the outside, the quality of cocktails found here routinely earns it a place on the World’s 50 Best Cocktail Bars list – and for good reason.
All the drinks here are prepared by expert mixologists, and they’ve got a great selection of wines by the glass or bottle here too. Right on Hoxton Square, this snug little basement bar is fairly hard to find, but it’s well worth the effort once you’re there. Get ready to lock in.
You’ll find Happiness Forgets at 8-9 Hoxton Square, London, N1 6NU. Nearest station is Old Street.
Our penultimate addition on this roundup of the best secret bars in London is Opium – a 1920’s Shanghai-inspired bar-come-dim-sum-parlour which is smack-bang in the middle of Chinatown. Featured in the ‘Top 50 Cocktail Bars’, it’s divided into three different sections, but the one we’re really here to talk about is the secret cocktail bar ‘Peony’.
Set behind a red curtain, it’s a the venue’s smallest and most intimate bar – only 30 patrons can frequent it at any given time – and they serve everything from a coconut negroni to ‘Let’s Go Bananas’ – a heady and fruity mix of bourbon, vermouth, banana, absinthe, bitters and chai spice. It’ll no doubt blow your head off!
You’ll find Opium at 15-16 Gerrard Street, London, W1D 6JE. Nearest station is Leicester Square.
12. The Natural Philosopher
Rounding off this list of the best secret bars in London is The Natural Philosopher – an intimate bar which takes residence in the converted storeroom of a Mac repair shop known as ‘The MacSmiths’.
After making your way down some stairs at the back of the shop, you’ll find a charming antique and foliage-filled spot with a sunken bar, quirky artwork and one hell of a unique vibe. With lovely staff, it’s a great underground bar to take a date or meet some mates over a cocktail or two, and an effectively curated line-up of spirits, liqueurs and unusual ingredients allows for classic cocktails and house specials. Cheers!
You’ll find The Natural Philosopher at 489 Hackney Road, Cambridge Heath, London, E2 9ED. Nearest station is Cambridge Heath.
So there you have it – the Secret London roundup of the best secret bars in London. Well where else would you go to get the best ‘secret’ tips hey? So get your explorer’s hat on and we’ll see you there over a drink or two!