If you know where to look, there are a number of hidden bars in London.
There’s a speakeasy disguised as a detective agency, a Chinatown parlour serving drinks and dim sum behind a nondescript green door, and even a cocktail bar tucked inside a laundromat.
We’ve put together a list of the coolest secret bars in the city, and how you can find them.
Here are London’s top 17:
1. The King of Ladies Man is hidden in a laundry room.
Located behind a sliding wall in the launderette of The Breakfast Club in Battersea, The King of Ladies Man is like the 1970s revived, with plenty of gold, bartenders dressed in Hawaiian shirts, “Playboy” menus, and pink flamingos dotted about the space.
The drinks — dubbed “disco drinks” — are just as retro, with a list of pina coladas and house cocktails with names like “Goosebumps” (vodka with rosemary, lime, Angostura bitters, and ginger beer) and “Elegantly Wasted” (a blend of tequila, cassis liqueur, kaffir lime leaves, lime, and ginger beer).
2. Doctor Kluger’s Old Towne Tavern requests that patrons make an “appointment.”
To get to Doctor Kluger’s, head down the corridor at The Breakfast Club in Canary Wharf and knock on a wooden door with the doctor’s name on. Inside, the bar looks like a glamorous tavern, with wood-panelled walls, stained glass windows, mismatched furniture, and disco balls.
As well as beer and cocktails — including an entire selection of Aperol-based drinks — the bar offers burgers and poutine, a Canadian specialty of chips smothered in gravy and cheese.
3. The Evans & Peel Detective Agency invites clients to crack open cases (of alcohol).
The Evans & Peel Detective Agency doesn’t take its work too seriously. The central London “agency” — which specialises in “blackmail, missing persons and armed personal protection,” according to its website — is housed inside an unassuming, unnamed building in Earls Court.
Inside, behind a frosted glass door with the agency name, the space even looks like a detective’s office, with exposed brick walls, typewriters, and filing cabinets. Drinks include a range of cocktails as well as portable “detective specials,” like the E&P Cigar Box, a wooden box filled with drinks in apothecary bottle drinks to mix at home.
4. Walk through a fridge to get to The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.
Walk through the Smeg fridge inside The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields and you’ll find yourself at The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town — a dimly lit, brick-walled establishment offering fancy cocktails with quirky names like “A Mary Berry Kinda Gateau” (a gin cocktail with Crème de Mure and chocolate and orange bitters) and “Aloe, Is It Me You’re Looking For” (a vodka drink with aloe vera, lime juice, and mango).
Note: The bar doesn’t take reservations, so turn up early if you want to get a table.
5. Keystone Crescent is for members with a password only.
Keystone Crescent describes itself as “a members club for sociable people who like straightforward drinks until unsociable hours.” Tucked away down the road from King’s Cross, the low-lit, sleek cocktail bar certainly feels secretive, requiring patrons to pay a one-off £35 membership fee for the door code.
6. Kansas Smitty’s is tucked away on Broadway Market.
A discreet, small bar in Hackney, Kansas Smitty’s may not look like much from the outside. But inside the intimate venue, patrons can enjoy some of the best live jazz in East London, courtesy of the bar’s house band — who are often joined by special guests — and Juleps, the establishment’s specialty.
7. 69 Colebrooke Row calls itself “the bar with no name.”
An under-the-radar bar on a quiet street corner in Islington, 69 Colebrooke Row serves skillfully mixed drinks served by mixologists wearing chemist-like white coats. While the space is intimate — it’s so small, you’ll want to book a table in advance — there’s enough space for live music.
Note: If you want a table for more than an hour and a half, you will need to let the venue know ahead of time.
8. NOLA is hidden inside another bar in Shoreditch.
To get to NOLA, a New Orleans-inspired joint in Shoreditch, you’ll have to go to Bedroom Bar and head upstairs.
The bar only takes table bookings so plan a visit to enjoy a range of themed cocktails like the Bourbon Street Blues (a Manhattan made with Makers Mark bourbon, sweet vermouth, and crème de mure) amid Mardi Gras beads and gilded mirrors.
9. Basement speakeasy Purl asks for a password at the door.
Walking past at street level, you might miss Purl, a subterranean speakeasy in Marylebone — but it’s worth a stop. If you do go, make sure you use the password “Hair of the dog” to gain access.
Inside, the underground bar has a glamorous decor, with leather booths tucked inside alcoves and huge chandeliers. But it’s the menu of impressive cocktails — some of which feature fog and foam — made with unconventional ingredients like balsamic vinegar, that steals the show.
10. Find the Punch Room inside a hotel.
At the back of The London EDITION hotel in Soho, Punch Room is a cosy, refined space with oak panelled walls that mimic the style of London’s 19th century private clubs. As its name suggests, the bar’s focus is punch, with 10 types of punch bowls on the menu served in single or group portions.
Remember, there’s a strict reservations-only policy, so don’t turn up without booking ahead.
11. The Discount Suit Company doesn’t sell clothes…
…But it does sell cocktails. The Discount Suit Company in East London’s Petticoat Lane Market looks like a run-down clothing shop — the sign is barely still standing — but behind the black door is a dark, brick-walled bar toting classic cocktails to a soundtrack of Northern Soul music.
12. The Cocktail Trading Company is right underneath Ask for Janice.
Head downstairs at Ask for Janice in Farringdon and just opposite the bathrooms, you’ll find a red curtain. Behind it, the Smithfields branch of The Cocktail Trading Company is in full swing. The little room has kitsch posters on the walls (including one of Winston Churchill), a few tables, and a well-stocked bar where skilled mixologists craft inventive, carefully presented drinks.
13. Opium sits behind a jade door without a number in Chinatown.
Beyond a green door at 16 Gerrard Street, Opium is a secret bar serving cocktails and dim sum in a Chinese-style setting. As well as alcohol, there’s plenty of tea on the menu —for the best of both, try the Opium Cup, a cocktail made with tequila, cactus, pimiento, ginger, and oolong tea.
Patrons are encouraged to book, while tables can only be used for an hour and a half at a time.
14. The Jam Tree has a secret bar behind a bookcase.
The bar behind the bookcase at The Jam Tree in Clapham has sofas, tables, and a table for ping pong and table tennis, as well as all the standard drinks available at the pub on the menu.
While you don’t need a reservation to get in, the space is sometimes rented out for private events.
15. Bohemia Lounge is tucked between a newsagents and chicken shop in Shoreditch.
Bohemia Lounge is an Eastern European themed bar located behind a nondescript wooden door on Great Eastern Street. The appointment-only bar serves creative drinks, including ones with bubbles and foam, along with snacks like prosecco gummy bears and spicy popcorn.
16. Reverend JW Simpson is housed inside a clergyman’s former flat.
Reverend JW Simpson is a speakeasy set up in the former Fitzrovia home of a clergyman, from whom the bar takes its name. The decor follows a somewhat religious theme, with faded tiles on the walls, a stained glass window fitting of a church, and a piano for anyone to play, while the cocktails are popular with the bar’s congregation who book in advance for “spirited sermons.”
17. The passcode to get into Jubjub Bar at Callooh Callay changes each day.
Inside quirky Shoreditch cocktail bar Callooh Callay, the secret Jubjub Bar is accessible via a four-digit code — which you can get by making a booking with the bar over phone or email — that changes every day. At Jubjub, the bartender and the drinks menu differs on a monthly basis. This month, the Lady Grey Ice Milk Punch with gin, Pimm’s, Lady Grey tea, lemon, and vanilla ice cream, is a popular choice.
Article featured in July 2016. Click here to see original article.