London’s underground is not just home to the tube, oh no; get below street level and you’ll find a whole warren of hidden venues. Yes the sky rises might be imposing and impressive, but do they have the charm of a hidden vaulted cellar, the mystery of a bar with no sign and the history of a club which was once a WC? No. Here are 25 of our favourite underground venues.
Taking over the basement that once housed Adventure Bar, Blame Gloria is a retro-inspired drinking den from the award-winning team behind Tonight Josephine, The Escapologist and Bar Elba. The Gloria in question is a former girl about town, she partied with Hendrix, spent her life in hotels, taught Bowie how to do his make up and can make a mean whiskey sour. Now that she no longer has the best legs in Soho, she has moved into the basement and is throwing the best parties.
Below the ground at Waterloo lies more than a network of trains and London’s finest immersive theatre – The Vaults. Beneath Waterloo, The Vaults is its very own labyrinth of rooms where anything and everything goes. Expect flamboyant performances, brilliant supper clubs and immersive fun.
If you thought 116 Pall Mall was impressive above ground then you need to head below street level to check out the cellars. Once the wine cellars of Prince of Wales and the United Service Club, you enter the Wine Bar through a pair of stunning iron gates that served as the original cellar doors. With vaulted ceilings and exposed brickwork, the space is filled with character and is perfect for dinners, wine tastings (of course), film shoots and drinks receptions.
Where: 116 Pall Mall, Westminster, London, SW1Y 5ED, United Kingdom
Nearest station: London Charing Cross (0.3 miles)
Exposed brick work and WW2 era aesthetics, The Stafford has a secret underground wine cellar, which only a special few are privy to. The mid-19th Century saw the wine cellars as home to the famous Madame Prunier wine shipping company and to this day you can still see the last original wine casket and corking machine on display in the main chamber that is used for hosting dinners. Drink by candlelight in the intimate spaces, and forget that life above exists in this nostalgic setting.
Where: 16-18 St James's Place, Mayfair, London, SW1A 1NJ, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Green Park (0.2 miles)
Since opening earlier in 2019, The Leaf and Cane has since become a sanctuary for lovers of cigars and premium rum. You guessed it, as soon as you head down into the underground, you’ll be transported to the subtropical Latin American subterranean terrace and cellars that are set in the 1920s. Stay a while, grab a cocktail or two and boogie the night away to the authentic live Latin bands.
You think of the tunes and let the professionals belt them out at The Piano Works. With one venue hidden below the heart of Farringdon and the other below London’s iconic West End, both venues will have you dancing on your feet to the beat of the drum (or piano).
Shhh! Let’s keep this one between you and us.
Hidden under Flat Iron Square and nestled inside the mysterious COLAB House, The Amber Bar is a quirky secret bar that you need on your radar. Led by London’s leading immersive theatre, COLAB Theatre will be sure to take you on an adventure into the unknown. It’s perfect for those seeking a little adventure this winter.
Hidden beneath Kingly Court lies Cahoots, an underground bar, set in an ‘underground’ station keeping the camaraderie of the Blitz spirit alive. On the ground floor, Kingly Court train station has been taken over by a bunch of Scoundrels, fitted with mismatch furniture, a humongous station clock and a scattering of afternoon tea options (or cocktails if you head after dark). Venture on downstairs to the Control Room, Soho’s newest well known speakeasy, and settle in for an evening of live performances and elaborate cocktails.
You’ll want to be rocking over to Baglioni Hotel London’s chic hidden venue, Clubino. Adorn with intimate booths, wall murals inspired by London’s scenery and neutral tones, Clubino welcomes guests to dine in authentic Italian cuisine or dance the night away with their own private DJ or live entertainment when they book in for a party or work do.
Whether you’ve been graced with the voice of an angel or you just fancy channeling your inner Beyoncé, Lucky Voice is always a prime spot for birthday parties, work do’s and to just get your singing fix in. Find your nearest venue and head on down underground where no one but your friends will hear you screeching your vocal cords…
Manetta’s bar nuzzled inside Fleming Mayfair is soaring with history. Back in the 1930’s, it was the place to hangout for the cognoscenti of the worlds of literature and the arts who mingled with celebrated rakes and aristos. Flash forward to now and this lively atmosphere lives on through the plush velvet, supple black upholstery and polished rose gold.
Where: Flemings Mayfair Hotel, Half Moon Street, London, W1J 7BH, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Green Park (0.2 miles)
If you’re lucky enough to have a membership to The Curtain, or know somebody that does, then you’ll already know about this speakeasy. But if you don’t, you’ll want to get your hands on a tipple from here instantly. Billy’s Bar is a subterranean member’s only drinking den that oozes comfort thanks to its roaring fires and dim candle lighting. Grab a chair and enjoy a cocktail.
Nuzzled below Adam Handling’s notorious restaurant on Hoxton Square, The Frog Hoxton, you’ll find the private events space of dreams. Boasting space for 100 standing or 45 seated, it’s the perfect spot to while away your evening with friends, family or colleagues on a special occasion. Expect luxe interiors and flavour packed food created specially by the chefs at The Frog Hoxton upstairs.
The Café in the Crypt is, as the name suggests, a café in the crypt of St Martin in the Fields. One of Trafalgar Square’s best kept secrets (until we go and include it in this guide), the café has been serving up excellently priced for food for central London for the past 30 years. And it’s got atmosphere in bucket loads with the original brick-vaulted ceilings and historic tombstones lining the floor. It’s going to beat any Starbucks in the area, that’s for sure.
You know how things aren’t always quite what they seem? That’s the deal with Milroy’s whisky shop in Soho. That bookshelf in the shop, it’s not a bookshelf. It’s a hidden door and if you go through it you will come across The Vault. A cosy, little, basement bar, is all exposed stone and wood panelling, the perfect place to hide away from Soho with a cocktail or two.
Hidden below Pimlico’s boutique hotel, The Artist Residence, Clarendon Cocktail Cellar is known by those in the know but a hidden gem for those unaware. The bar serves top notch cocktails with an overriding theme – our favourite at the moment is The Three Musketeers, a mix of brown butter washed Maker’s Mark bourbon, grand brulot, floc de gascogne, lillet rouge, noilly ambré and toasted pecans.
The cleverest name we’ve heard in a long time, WC Clapham stands for Wine and Charcuterie as well as being located in a former ‘water closet’. Small tapas-style plates include beef meatballs with tomato basil sauce & parmesan and baked Camembert with garlic, rosemary & toasted sourdough, whilst slats includes a selection of cheeses and charcuterie to be picked at with a glass, carafe or bottle of old and new world wines.
For an informative and insightful experience, book yourself onto a Hidden London tour. You’ll discover everything from a WW2 bunker 30 metres below the streets of Clapham South to some slightly spooky disused platforms. Different tours are available so read a bit about each before you book – you’ll find Churchill’s Blitz refuge at Down Street, the lost tunnels of Euston, London’s first skyscraper at 55 Broadway and the subterranean shelter at Clapham South.
Burlesque and cabaret is order of the day at Aldwych’s Cellar Door, where city boys and girls go to let their hair down. Describing itself as a New York dive bar meets 30s Berlin, the intimate space sees a programme of drag queens, cabaret, burlesque and open mic nights with Sunday evening turning into an atmospheric piano bar with the spontaneous and talented Pete Saunders on the keys.
An underground venue with a difference, the Brunel Museum celebrates music, theatre and engineering as well as being the oldest tunnel in the oldest underground in the world and the world’s first underground theatre. Dug beneath the River Thames, the tunnel was the first in the world to exist below a river and was used by Brunel for underground fairs and banquets in the nineteenth century. The underground chamber now hosts regular theatre shows, concerts and opera making it a magical and unique venue for a night with a difference.
Next time you go to Brixton then forgo the market and village and instead head to St Matthew’s Church because underneath it you’ll find tapas restaurant, Gremio de Brixton. Walking down the stairs you’ll find yourself in a dimly lit, cavernous room with exposed brick arches. There are nods to Roman Catholicism and Spanish matadors throughout but it’s the tapas that we’re really there for. Well priced and generous portions, make sure you order the chorizo with cider, patatas bravas and chicken skewers with aubergine hummus. At the weekend then dance it all off when the DJs take to the decks – if you’re not too full.
Things you don’t tend to find in a cellar: cocktails and pudding. You do however in Soho’s Basement Sate. Which means when you’re out drinking and suddenly get a craving for peanut butter and Oreo cake (who doesn’t?), you’re craving can be satiated with a quick trip to Basement Sate where puddings come first and cocktails come second. Genius.
If you were to have gone to the site of Bermondsey Arts Club in the past, then you’d have met a very different scene. Now an art deco inspired bar with monochrome tiles, brass panelling, a marble-clad bar and an artsy crowd, it started off life as a WC, not that you can now tell. Just think about that and its past customers whilst you sip one of their brilliant, innovative cocktails…
For your next event take your guests to The Postal Museum, a unique, urban, subterranean venue. The blank canvas space has an industrial feel with vaulted arches and original exposed brick work. We also say unique because how often would you get a miniature train ride at an event? Exactly. Here though you can explore the secret 100 year old Mail Rail tunnels, which for more than 75 years was a vital artery in Britain’s communication network, keeping conversations flowing but all hidden from view.
Where: 15-20 Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DA, United Kingdom
Nearest station: Farringdon (London) (0.5 miles)
You’ll find the Ivory Vaults hidden in the vaulted cellars of the Grade II listed Ivory House at St Katherine Docks. Steeped in history, the impressive 200 year old structure can now be hired for private events and if you want, their immersive theatre company can put on a whole host of events, including Venetian masquerade balls and medieval style banquets. So if you want to see your boss dressed in medieval garb then you know where to book for your Christmas party.
Where: Ivory Vaults Ivory House St Katharine Docks London, E1W 1BP
Nearest station: Tower Hill (0.4 miles)