These days, it’s all the rage to open cocktail bars that are notoriously ‘difficult’ to find. But there is 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 all fall into the traps of!). But once you’ve made your way through a dismal-looking black door and discovered a cocktail lover’s dimly-lit paradise within, you can sip on your Negroni with a 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, we can assume you’re already brimming with swanky knowledge. So we’re sorry for patronising you if you’ve been to these places before…
1. Cellar Door
You can’t help but feel an element of naughtiness as you make your way down into this basement bar. Hidden beneath Aldwych, CellarDoor put on an array of nightly events and entertainment. From live music and film screenings, to a burlesque-style High Tea, you’d be surprised how many people can fit in a space of such an intimate size. And they take the naughtiness even further by selling over the counter ‘snuff’ (ok, it’s not actually naughty – just a flavoured smokeless tobacco).
2. Discount Suit Company
If you were look for a new and reasonably priced suit, you’ve unfortunately come to the wrong place. Based in what was once an old suit company storeroom (for which the original sign remains intact), the Discount Suit Company are far more likely to whip you up a Classic Martini, as opposed to a classic navy two-piece.
BYOC provide the perfect front to make it look like you put your health at the top of your agenda. What lies beneath the healthy facade lies a dimly lit, sultry bar. The deal with BYOC is that you bring the base booze of your choice and let the mixologists behind the bar whip up whatever cocktails you wish. They pride themselves on capturing the true spirit of the speakeasy, putting great flavours at the forefront. There are multiple BYOC’s in well-hidden locations over London, but the bar pictured above is in Covent Garden.
4. The Vault
Behind the fake bookcase within the Soho-based whisky shop, Milroy’s, hides its candlelit cellar bar, The Vault. Naturally, it’s cocktail menu has a strong emphasis on whisky-based recipes, however, they do use other spirits. The bar is open from Tuesday to Saturday. If you choose to make a visit, you may even be lucky enough to meet Chester the Dog, who also features frequently on their Instagram.
3 Greek Street, W1D 4NX
5cc have multiple secretive venues across London, including Farringdon, Exmouth Market and Old Street. One thing they 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. The cocktails are lively and the menu has a large leaning towards whisky-based recipes. For the ultimate caffeine fix, their Espresso Martini’s absolutely nail it.
6. The Mayor Of Scaredy Cat Town
On entering The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields, you must announce to a member of staff that you’d “like to see the mayor”. We promise we aren’t trying to make you look like a fool… Trust us, soon enough the secret doors of the SMEG fridge will be opened and you’ll be making your way downstairs to The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. Order the ‘Honey, I Shrunk The Drink’, for utter citrusy satisfaction.
Make your way to Marylebone, ‘look for the swinging sign and knock three times’… the password is ‘hair of the dog’. Only then will you make inside the decadent establishment, Purl. 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. Head down on a Wednesday night for some live jazz music and true speakeasy vibes.
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